31 August 1987: Supermarket sweep. The key part-time job of my youth. £1.20 an hour rising to £1.45 during the spring of 1988. The maximum permission was 20 hours per week; it was frequently exceeded. Result – enough money to afford expensive double CD sets like Now 10 and Hits 7. I was happy to pay the extra once equal rights had been attained. But back to London and Newcastle: many of the tracks on both compilations are now burned into my brain; playing over and over again in time with the brush strokes.
Steaua Bucharest’s Helmut Duckadam was the hero of Seville as he saved four Barcelona penalties in the 1986 European Cup Final. The worst decider I have ever seen. The following year Barcelona was chosen as the host city for the 1992 Olympic Games. Freddie Mercury and Spanish opera singer Montserrat Caballe came up with the eponymous tune – an overblown yet likeable epic.
“I’ve always imagined it’s about a kept woman, and I always imagined it set in America”. (Neil Tennant on Rent).
The 7″ improves on the meandering Actually version and was their third top 10 smash of the year.
Never Can Say Goodbye was another autumn cover for The Communards. I would have chosen Tomorrow instead but the former remains in my good books – mainly because of the outrageous disco vibes. The hits just keep coming with Pump Up The Volume – the 4AD dust-up between AR Kane and Colourbox with its overflowing box of samples. Criminal Element Orchestra – “Put the needle on the record”. Alas by the time you buy this record, the Roadblock sample will be removed. To some Glaswegian sophisti-pop next with Hue and Cry’s Labour Of Love. A side of catchy funk-lite from Jellybean. Johnny Hates Jazz smoothness belies the anti-war sentiments of I Don’t Want To Be A Hero while the Style Council make more enemies with the misunderstood Wanted. Persist with The Cost Of Loving. You’ll thank me some day.
The rest of CD 1 or side 2 [if you’re listening to the double LP] is all about the rock. T’Pau’s China In Your Hand is immense; a beautiful transformation of the ugly duckling Bridge Of Spies take. Heart’s Alone is similarly fantastic – a gut-wrenching performance from Ann Wilson. There’s a double fistful of metal from Kiss [Crazy Crazy Nights] and Whitesnake [Here I Go Again] with a live version of Billy Idol’s Mony Mony the meat in the hairy sandwich. And a sedate double punch of bad weather to finish the disc – the gentle Rain In The Summertime from The Alarm and Fish’s almost-swansong Sugar Mice. The parent LP [Clutching At Straws] remains Marillion’s most sinister sleeve.
Wet Wet Wet’s pop / soul kicks off the second half. Sweet Little Mystery is no John Martyn cover. Curiosity Killed The Cat hit #7 with the slow-burning Misfit while Los Lobos went all the way to heaven with their overplayed interpretation of Richie Valens’ La Bamba. Unfortunately it’s now the only track that people remember from them. Elsewhere The Fat Boys’ self-titled first LP from 1984 is a minor hip hop classic but by 1987/1988 they were stepping back in time with The Beach Boys [Wipe Out] and Chubby Checker [The Twist – see Now 13].
There’s a remarkable burst of quality in the next sequence. Love In The First Degree equalled Bananarama’s best ever chart-placing [#3] and remains one of SAW’s finest productions. Hey Matthew: He was born Karel Francis Fialka in Bengal, India, to a Scottish mother and Czech father. A spooky synth and drum-machine tune about television through the eyes of young boy. Airwolf. Road Runner. Dallas. Dynasty. Tom And Jerry. The A-Team. No escape from television as Crockett’s Theme peaks at #2 in October 1987. Miami Vice’s fourth season was getting into the groove. In the midst of this is our saviour Cliff Richard with the delightful My Pretty One. “Only you can set me free.”
The Chanel No. 5 factor saw Nina Simone’s My Baby Just Cares For Me hit the upper reaches of the chart at Halloween. It’s also included on Hits 7. The title track of Erasure’s fine second LP, The Circus is here as is Build, the third single from The Housemartins’ follow-up to London 0, Hull 4. A quality pair. Popular funeral tune It’s Over by Level 42 is still mournful today; the morose piece of the Running In The Family jigsaw. Then there’s some pop revival from ABC’s Smokey Robinson tribute [their biggest hit since All Of My Heart in 1982] and Squeeze’s Hourglass.
The compilers took a chance with the closing track. It wasn’t due out until 23 November. The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl. It was a winning gamble that reached #2 and frequently gets cited amongst the greatest Christmas songs.
A chipper, Christmas Eve. Two teenagers. “It’s not you, it’s me”. Fairytale of New York playing quietly in the background. Always On My Mind stopped it from reaching #1. I was thankful for small mercies.
M/A/R/R/S – Pump Up The Volume
Bananarama – Love In The First Degree
Pet Shop Boys – Rent
Jan Hammer – Crockett’s Theme
Lest we forget
Karel Fialka – Hey Matthew
Missing tracks and other thoughts
The inlay has advertisements for the spin-off Christmas and Smash Hits compilations. The video selection included no strays. Now 10 was better than its immediate predecessor but lacks the depth of later editions such as Now 11, Now 12, Now 14 and Now 17. Here’s five songs that would have beefed it up.
Def Leppard – Animal. First blood from Hysteria.
New Order – True Faith. Stupendous career highpoint.
The Smiths – Girlfriend In A Coma. The single released just as the band came to an end.
The Cure – Just Like Heaven. Gorgeous goths.
Black – Wonderful Life. The quintessential autumn walk down South Street tune.
Promotional poster courtesy of the Now That’s What I Call Music Collectors Group UK.