So we had a spring Now album for the first time since 1984. Hits 2 had stolen a march on 1985 and Hits 4 hoovered up early 1986 but come March 1987 it was the Now mob that vied for my hard-earned cash. I was just finished my mock exams for the Intermediate Certificate [Irish equivalent of O Levels] so needed some pop relief. The number of tracks had dropped back to 30 [after 33 and 32 on the previous two volumes] but Now 9 contained seven chart toppers. That was the most since the first one. But they were still trying to flog the warm sweatshirts. Chinese jade and electric blue.
‘This offer is available again due to exceptional demand‘.
We start with some festive cheer. Jackie Wilson’s Reet Petite was originally a hit some 30 years beforehand. The song was reissued in 1986 following the showing of a clay animation video [directed by Giblets] on BBC’s Arena. It went head-to-head with the Housemartins’ Caravan Of Love for the all-important Christmas number one. Caravan Of Love hit #1 on 20 December with Reet Petite knocking it off for the 27 December chart. I always considered the former to be a more seasonal number.
Mental As Anything came from Down Under. Live It Up was massive in almost every country and is fondly remembered today. Otherwise I am not sure if I’d describe Simply Red’s The Right Thing as a Balearic classic but the funk is definitely there. Erasure moved into second gear and The Circus era with Sometimes while Robbie Nevil’s C’est La Vie remains a soulful jam that caught the January ’87 wave of optimism. You Sexy Thing was remixed by Ben Liebrand and primarily used to promote The Very Best of Hot Chocolate. It’s lukewarm now. But the Blow Monkeys were made of hotter stuff and It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way hit #5 proving that Digging Your Scene was no fluke.
Boy George replicated Ken Boothe’s success by taking Everything I Own to the summit just as the compilation was released. The reggae vibe continues with UB40’s sinking ship. Rat In Mi Kitchen was not one of their finest moments. The first of a mini dance sequence gets underway with the Gap Band’s funky Big Fun and yet another quality single from Five Star – the edgy Stay Out Of My Life. Former Wham! backing singers Pepsi and Shirlie had struck out on their own by January; Heartache is a pop classic. As if that wasn’t enough Bananarama put a bid in for most “under the radar” SAW tune with the wistful Trick Of The Night. The second side ends with a juggernaut from Top Gun. Berlin’s monster ballad Take My Breath Away that continued to feature in slow sets for the remainder of the decade.
Solo Freddie can be divided into good [Love Kills, Barcelona], mediocre [Living On My Own] and tosh [The Great Pretender]. Move on. Stand By Me was another popular film that I caught in The Ritz cinema. Ben E. King’s tear-jerking soul that was the title track played over the credits as I contemplated the wise words about one’s companions in childhood adventure.
‘I never had any friends later like the ones I had when I was 12’.
Very true. But it was the jeans that did it as Stand By Me 501ed its way to number one in March.
‘A poor man’s Johnny Hates Jazz’ – such faint praise for Curiosity Killed The Cat. The timelines are wrong however as Down To Earth predated Shattered Dreams by about four months. It’s enjoyable blue-eyed pop that sits uneasily beside the eastern-mystery of The Communards’ and their window-watching So Cold The Night. From jazz to jack. It’s hard to quantity how important Jack Your Body was to me. I was one of the thousands who purchased that January – a pioneering record that reached #1 with little or no promotion. The foundations of house were well and truly laid. It’s well sequenced with Katherine Quaye [in Taffy guise] and her Italo beats of I Love My Radio (Midnight Radio). Then there’s the Nick Kamen track that nobody remembers – the Four Tops cover – before A-ha’s epic Manhattan Skyline. Quiet / loud.
Giblets #2: he directed the video for Westworld’s Sonic Boom Boy. Best described as ‘Sigue Sigue Sputnik minus the outfits’. A female Pop Will Eat Itself fronted by a massive Wonderstuff fan. For those about to rock we give you Livin’ On A Prayer and The Final Countdown. Slippery When Wet was one of the most popular albums in my school’s music library. Europe got hired out too but most people said it was crap. The filling in this hair metal sandwich is Land Of Confusion; possibly the weakest of the five singles pulled from Invisible Touch.
We’re down to the last 10% and it swings low and high. Gary Moore’s Over The Hills And Far Away is sometimes confused with his summer 1985 collaboration with Phil Lynott which was called Out In The Fields. The latter is much better song with Gary’s solo effort ploughing a turgid furrow. To Barnsley then and The Ward Brothers. Dave, Derek and Graham. Cross That Bridge was produced by Don Was and reached the heady heights of #32. It’s the most forgotten song here [totally undeserved] and could have appeared in any number of US television shows – Remington Steele, Moonlighting, Sledgehammer, Wiseguy etc. A Ward Brothers track Madness Of It All did subsequently feature in Miami Vice. The grand finale is Hymn To Her, a gloriously spine-tingling ballad from The Pretenders. I played it in the art room one day and everybody stopped painting.
Steve “Silk” Hurley – Jack Your Body
Taffy – I Love My Radio (Midnight Radio)
Bananarama – A Trick Of The Night
Pretenders – Hymn To Her
Lest we forget
Ward Brothers – Cross That Bridge
You’ll notice that the Now 8 CD contained ’17 Top Chart Hits’. Well Now 9 contains ’16 Top 20 hits’; a subtle difference which entails selecting the most of the cream and eschewing the mavericks. The flow isn’t as good either as it basically follows the vinyl and cassette sequence, cherrypicking along the way. However this method contains some madness as three of the seven number ones are not on board [Caravan Of Love, Jack Your Body and The Final Countdown].
Six tracks from side 1 set the scene with Erasure and The Housemartins getting the chop. The exclusion of Caravan Of Love is most surprising; it may have cleared the home dancefloor but could have just been included at the very end. Tracks 7 to 11 consist of five from the LP’s second side; the reggae pair are both present with the dance sequence falling under the ‘two out of three ain’t bad’ category [Yes to Stay Out Of My Life and Heartache; no to Big Fun]. In a lazy burst of lift and shift the opening 1-2-3 blast of side 3 is teleported to CD songs 12 to 14. To the end: two randomers from the final quarter get their day on the shiny disc – Genesis and The Pretenders. Good call on the last track Ashley.
So what about the 14 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.
Erasure – Sometimes. Super Power Hit Sensation.
Housemartins – Caravan Of Love. Now This Is Music Volume 6: Part 2.
Gap Band – Big Fun. Now Dance Volume 2 (Dutch).
Bananarama – Trick Of The Night. Hitbreaker 3/87.
Communards – So Cold The Night. Fiete Sagt: Das Isses: 16 Internationale Top Hits
Steve “Silk” Hurley – Jack Your Body. Now This Is Music Volume 6: Part 1.
Taffy – I Love My Radio (Midnight Radio). The Dance Chart.
Nick Kamen – Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever. The Rock Collection: Rock Dreams
A-ha – Manhattan Skyline. Formel Eins: Wild Hits.
Westworld – Sonic Boom Boy. A Kick Up The Eighties 8.
Bon Jovi – Livin’ On A Prayer. Maxi Power: Hot News From L.A.
Europe – The Final Countdown. Now 10th Anniversary Series 1986.
Gary Moore – Over The Hills And Far Away. Now This Is Music Volume 6: Part 2.
Ward Brothers – Cross That Bridge. Now This Is Music Volume 6: Part 2.
Missing tracks and other thoughts
Is this the weakest Now album to date? Despite almost a quarter of the songs topping the charts there’s a nagging feeling that this could have been better. 27 years on and my fondness for the selections has grown – so much so that I think it’s skipped past Now 4 in the rankings.
Obligatory video selection comment: one ‘never on a Now’ track. It’s nothing to worry about – just another dull Gary Moore number called Wild Frontier.
Four months had elapsed since the release of Now 8. Chart-wise this was a busy period and there’s a few notable tunes that could have been considered. Let’s rack ’em up.
Spandau Ballet – Through The Barricades. It’s all about the wasteland.
Simple Minds – Ghostdancing. Milking Once Upon A Time.
Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Warriors Of The Wasteland or Watching The Wildlife. The death throes. Wildlife is better but Warriors would have been easier to licence.
Eurythmics – The Miracle Of Love or Missionary Man. Take advantage of the Hits absence.
Oran ‘Juice’ Jones – The Rain. A proper one hit wonder.
Freeez – IOU. Beef up the dance quotient.
The Smiths – Shoplifters Of The World Unite. Plugged on Megamix with Kevin Sharkey.
Level 42 – Running In The Family. The Wembley years.
Duran Duran – Skin Trade. Don’t need to explain.
Mantronix – Who Is It? Hip hop don’t stop.
Janet Jackson – Let’s Wait A While. Control slays all.
Peter Gabriel – Big Time. Make it three in a row.
Fine Young Cannibals – Ever Fallen In Love. Earnest but effective Buzzcocks cover.
And if that wasn’t enough I’d really liked to have seen Swing Out Sister’s Surrender. However they were also on Now 8 so perhaps Ashley Abram wanted to mix it up a bit. Never fear – I was saved by Ronny’s Pop Show 9. Watch this space.