Late 1986 was a busy time for compilation albums. Hits 5 was released on 10 November, Now ’86 would follow a week later with Now 8 coming out on the 24th. RCA and Ariola were now on board with CBS and WEA. The promising artwork from the previous volume had been jettisoned in favour of a massive die but the number of tracks increased to 32. And at last there was an option for CD fans – a single disc that included exactly half of the songs. But more about that later.
For the third time in a row a Hits album starts with A-ha. I’ve Been Losing You was the lead single from their superior second LP Scoundrel Days and is notable for its soaring chorus and false ending. Walk Like An Egyptian was yet another single from A Different Light and was their second top three hit of the year. Things take an odd swerve with Don Johnson and his rather nondescript Heartbeat. I just can’t warm to it and neither did the British public as it stalled at #46 despite Epic’s best efforts. At the time Miami Vice season 3 was on our screens with its downbeat plotlines and killer soundtrack. Also struggling a little was Paul Young and his lovely Wonderland – reached #24 but the lower reaches of the chart were beckoning [also see Howard Jones and Nik Kershaw whose careers both nosedived after their third albums].
The first side continues in this stop-start vein with Julian Cope’s angry but compelling World Shut Your Mouth. Personally I’d have stuck it on side 4. The tinkling ivories of The Way It Is are next; a genuinely memorable track from Bruce Hornsby and The Range that reminds me of playing pool in the local golf club’s bar. There was no jukebox but they would turn up the radio for us and that track seemed to be on every day. Hollywood Beyond’s inoffensive What’s The Colour Of Money was also difficult to escape while Essex boy Nick Kamen keeps his jeans on and brings the first quarter to a close with the iconic Madonna-penned (!) and produced Each Time You Break My Heart.
You Can Call Me Al announced the return of Paul Simon and was the forerunner to the eclectic and controversial Graceland album. I returned from a school trip to Italy on 31 August 1986 and was struck with the massive marketing and airplay that greeted me. As it stands it’s probably my least favourite song on that album, primarily because of over-familiarity. Thorn In My Side maintained the Eurythmics’ impressive singles run while the inclusion of The Stranglers’ melancholy Always The Sun is a masterstroke. The Pretenders also came back with a back that summer – the spirited Don’t Get Me Wrong. The remainder of the side is a mixed bag – wicked soul from Five Star [the shimmering Rain Or Shine] and Haywoode [the classic Roses] before the rather uneventful Dead Or Alive and Real Thing tunes. Or lack of.
Time for romance. Four tracks on side 3 contain the word ‘love’ in the title. The other four are about love. Top of the pile is George Michael and the magical A Different Corner [the compilation’s only #1 single]. A sign of great things to come. Cyndi Lauper’s True Colours is pretty decent too – a fiery ballad. However the Boris Gardiner and Shakin’ Stevens tracks are genuinely baffling choices that really go nowhere while Whitney Houston and Lionel Richie slug it out with The Greatest Love Of All and Love Will Conquer All. There is no winner. Chicago singer Peter Cetera serves up a slushy treat [The Glory Of Love] from the second Karate Kid film while Every Beat Of My Heart showed us that 1984 Rod and 1986 Rod were stuck in the middle of a very dull road.
The final furlong sees a redemption of sorts. Red Box show that they’re no flash in the plan with the hypnotic For America while Prince’s Anotherloverholenyohead cements his place as funk maestro. Frankie Goes To Hollywood also came out of hiding with the beguiling Rage Hard and against all the odds pulled off a decent follow up album in Liverpool. It’s also great to see The The with the flop that is Infected [title track of their second album] and a fine Psychedelic Furs track that nobody remembers [Heartbreak Beat]. Then the momentum comes to a standstill with a brutal Meat Loaf song, one of Spandau Ballet’s worst efforts [Fight For Ourselves] before redemption arrives in the form of Robert Palmer, his ladies in black and the seminal Addicted To Love.
Red Box – For America
Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Rage Hard
A-ha – I’ve Been Losing You
Five Star – Rain Or Shine
Lest we forget
The Stranglers – Always The Sun
While truncation is never ideal, the release of Hits 5 on CD was a welcome decision. It includes 16 tracks with six of these coming from the love side of the house. I’ve always been curious about the choices and sequencing on these abridged compilations [particularly this, Hits 6, Now 8 and Now 9] and wonder what exactly were the deciding factors.
It starts powerfully – You Can Call Me Al, Don’t Get Me Wrong, For America and I’ve Been Losing You are all driving and uptempo tunes. Once again the Don Johnson track is desperately plugged but quickly forgotten about in a pop maelstrom of Thorn In My Side, Each Time You Break My Heart and Rain Or Shine. The second half of the selection is heavy on the aforementioned romantic numbers [although to be fair, we do get the best two] and ends in a nice understated fashion with The Stranglers’ Always The Sun and Paul Young’s Wonderland.
So what about the 16 tracks that didn’t make the CD?
Well the good news is that they can be located on the following CD compilations*.
* NB – this is a guideline only and I cannot guarantee 100% accuracy.
** I haven’t come across The Real Thing, Boris Gardiner, Shakin’ Stevens, Prince, The The or Meat Loaf tracks but I am sure that their own compilations will probably include them.
Bangles – Walk Like An Egyptian. The Hits Album 5 (Dutch).
Julian Cope – World Shut Your Mouth. Now Millennium Series 1986.
Bruce Hornsby and The Range – The Way It Is. Now This Is Music 5: Volume 1.
Hollywood Beyond – What’s The Colour Of Money. Blitz 2.
Dead Or Alive – Brand New Lover. Smash Hits ’87 (Australian).
Haywoode – Roses. A Kick Up The Eighties 10.
Psychedelic Furs – Heartbreak Beat. ’87 Hits Out.
Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Rage Hard. Now This Is Music 5: Volume 2. ZTT experts should satisfy themselves.
Spandau Ballet – Fight For Ourselves. Pop Music Sensation ’87. This also includes the Dead Or Alive and Psychedelic Furs tracks but both are longer versions than the ones on Hits 5.
Robert Palmer – Addicted To Love. Now 10th Anniversary Series 1986. Same version as on Hits 5. The 4:04 7″ is on Super Hit Sensation 1986 (Ariola) which will be reviewed on this blog at a future date.
Missing tracks and other thoughts
With a little more thought in the sequencing, Hits 5 could have worked a lot better. The Stranglers and Julian Cope tracks would have made more sense on side 4 while it’s fair to say that The The’s Heartland would probably have been more familiar to listeners than Infected. Likewise for Psychedelic Furs and Pretty In Pink. The Brat Pack were in full swing in the mid-1980s with Molly Ringwald melting my heart. Pretty In Pink keeps that crush and memory alive to this day. However side 3’s love shoe-in / bed-in is probably impossible to salvage.
Otherwise I’d like to have seen
Madonna – Papa Don’t Preach. Or True Blue. Or Live To Tell. It was another good year for her.
Cock Robin – The Promise You Made. As some radio DJ said ‘Too good for the charts’.
Jesus and Mary Chain – Some Candy Talking. Kick out Meat Leaf and replace with this.
Michael McDonald – Sweet Freedom. Happy song.
The Mission – Stay With Me. For the goths.
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Only album distributed by the RCA-Ariola alliance, before both labels were fully folded into BMG.
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Hits 5 is arguably the worst in the entire series, at last during their first era (up to and including The Hits Album in 1991). A few gems on here but most compilations can make that same claim. Unfortunately, the sloppiness is evident from the start with the cheesy cover art and track listing on the back that is hard to read. The designers tried to get around that by switching from white track names to black further down the cover but it makes it look even worse. As for the track listing, once again we run into sequencing issues – and once again a-ha get a plum position despite “I’ve Been Losing You” only making #8. Hits 5 only contains one number one – “A Different Corner” – but when compiling a comp you’ve GOT to front load it. The first track should always be a #1 unless there’s a good reason otherwise…but the only two reasons I can think of is if the album contains zero number ones or if the only number ones on there are very old. Anyway, we do of course get a few delights such from Five Star, Dead Or Alive, Paul Simon and the Eurythmics… but it’s all a far cry from the two superb albums that bookend Hits 5 (I regard 4 and 6 as being among the best in the series).
I’ll try and rank the first 14. Here goes
01 – Hits 2
02 – Hits 10
03 – Hits 4
04 – Hits 6
05 – Hits 9
06 – Monster Hits
07 – Monster Hits 2
08 – Hits 1
09 – Hits 8
10 – Hits 7
11 – Hits 3
12 – Hits 5
13 – The Hits Album (1991)
14 – The Hit Pack
The bottom two are there because of the partial mixing.
You make some very relevant points re sequencing; the #1 should lead – although it is very sedate and that is possibly the reason why.
For me, Hits 6 is hands down the best… it’s not even close. Six number ones and an all around superb selection that really captured the first half of 1987. Admittedly, my opinion is somewhat biased because 1987 is my all time favorite year in music – not the best objectively but still my favorite. Nostalgia of course plays a huge part in that. For that reason, I would put Hits 7 much higher too not to mention it contained the biggest hit of the year (“Never Gonna Give You Up”) and for me really captured the SECOND half of 1987 very nicely. It’s not as good as it’s rival Now 10 but I don’t think it’s a million miles away either (the dreadful Shakin’ Stevens song notwithstanding).
I’d forgotten about The Hit Pack. I don’t really regard it as part of the original run of Hits Albums, although technically I suppose it is.
The CD version of Hits 6 is the best single-disc compilation of its type. All killer. Really well sequenced with three rare 7″ mixes (Five Star, Madonna, George Michael) all in a row.