Now That’s What I Call Music 11 entered musical history in 2011. Popjustice creator Peter Robinson nominated it for The Guardian’s My Favourite Album column. Hipsters and chinstrokers seethed, complained, got angry and bawled into their Slint records. I thought it was a brilliantly brave choice.
Like the last Hits album, Now 11 starts with a 1-2 punch of two chart-toppers. The Pet Shop Boys took Always On My Mind to number on 19 December 1987. A grandiose and epic slice of imperial pop. The video takes the form of an excerpt from It Couldn’t Happen Here. Neil and Chris sit in the front of a taxi; a rather strange passenger gets in – played by Joss Ackland. He stays in the cab for the duration of the song and then alights. The car drives away. He mutters to himself:
“You went away. It should make me feel better. But I don’t know how I’m going to get through”.
Always On Mind was deposed by Heaven Is A Place On Earth. Killer guitar. Former Go-Gos singer Belinda Carlisle was my dream pin-up in 1988. This was her first UK hit and many more memorable 45s would follow. Billy Ocean tore down the walls and motored to #3 with the jovial Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car. There’s a dip in quality with the watery Say It Again from Jermaine Stewart while Eddy Grant’s well-meaning anti-apartheid number Gimme Hope Jo’anna grates more than it thrills. This season’s oldie as brought to you by Levis is from Eddie Cochran – C’mon Everybody – does not outstay its welcome. The sleevenotes proudly state that “it’s the shortest track to ever appear on any Now album”. Morrissey’s first solo single is next – the sublime Suedehead before the live-in-Australia version of Elton John’s Candle In The Wind. During 1988, the Prince and Princess of Wales visited Thailand and also toured Australia for the bicentenary celebrations.
Like the previous volume, the second half of disc 1 [or side 2 of the double LP] comes with a rock flavour. Wet Wet Wet make it three out of three with the silky Angel Eyes while Johnny Hates Jazz turn on the misery with the mournful Turn Back The Clock. T’Pau’s Valentine is equally self-indulgent but also great in a marvellous overwrought way. So sickened now. Billy Idol and Whitesnake reprise their roles from Now 10 with the bleach-rock of Hot In The City [seems to be a unique version as outlined on the Now Music fan blog here] and Give Me All Your Love. Late 1987 also saw the arrival of Sinéad O’Connor. Mandinka was her first breakthrough – a spiky tour-de-force – but make sure to check out the debut single Troy. The goths get a tune too; the earthy Tower Of Strength from The Mission.
Disc 2: Pop. I Should Be So Lucky. Exquisite. The third and final number one to appear here. Kylie would not feature again until Step Back In Time [Now 18]. She would go on to to release nine 45s during that period.
Non-album single time: That’s The Way It Is by Mel and Kim. A grower not a shower and an anthem for Dublin ticket touts. And there’s another SAW tune – Bananarama’s slowly rising star I Can’t Help It. A maturity beyond their years and Siobhan’s swansong. In between this joy is Jellybean ably assisted by Elisa Florillo on Who Found Who.
Oh look! here’s Joyce Sims and the confident strut of Come Into My Life. Slick, rhythmic and blue. Follow the money as Dollar give us a competent cover of Erasure’s Oh L’Amour. It’s no Videotheque. Regular readers of this blog will know how I dig the Euro hits on those foreign compilations. Very few of them hit the mark in the UK and Ireland. Joe Le Taxi was an exception and still stops me in my tracks. The song emphasises the notion that Joe seems is an expert on Paris including knowing the whereabouts of all the little bars, all of the streets, the Seine, and the bridges. Some record for a 14 year old.
Comedy record time: Stutter Rap (No Sleep Til Bedtime) by Morris Minor and The Majors. Splendid Beastie Boys parody. No need for shouting.
I didn’t buy the CD version of Now 11 until early May 1988. Between the release date [21 March] and then, I made do with a vinyl copy from our school’s music library. Nobody missed it. So I gorged myself on house all through Easter. Side 4: The pinnacle of Now. The house side.
It starts with a bomb. An incendiary studio production from Tim Simenon. Samples include Afrika Bambaataa, James Brown, dialogue from Car 54, Where Are You?, EPMD, Hashim, Kurtis Blow, the theme from Dragnet, Prince and Public Enemy. Say Kids, What Time Is It? and Beats and Pieces were two early Coldcut 12″s that I enjoyed; Doctorin’ The House stayed true to its title – a buoyant beat-filled tune sung by Yazz and The Plastic Population. Ones to watch.
House Arrest is brought to you by Krush. Super. Bug on out. Play on headphones; then on a ghettoblaster. A party starter. Looking for that perfect beat? Try Jack ‘N’ Chill. The Jack That House Built and its shadowy dancers video. A superb slice of out-of-your-nut acid. The fourth successive tune with the word “house” in the title is Rok Da House from the Beatmasters and featuring Cookie Crew. That’s hip house with some deadly piano. A pair of leftfield choices to end but both keep the vibe alive. Two Men [from Fine Young Cannibals] A Drum Machine And A Trumpet make for a wicked combination. And we end with Climie Fisher and Rise To The Occasion. It’s not the regular 7″ though – we get the hip hop mix with loads of funky bits. A perfect sign-off.
“Your whole world is tumbling down, can’t get your feet on solid ground”.
And the music plays forever.
Pet Shop Boys – Always On My Mind
Krush – House Arrest
Bomb The Bass – Beat Dis
Jack ‘N’ Chill – The Jack That House Built
Lest we forget
Climie Fisher – Rise To The Occasion (Hip Hop Mix)
Missing tracks and other thoughts
Probably the greatest Now of the 1988 – 1991 era and in the top five of the whole series. I wouldn’t change any of the aforementioned house side but these other tunes could have played their part.
New Order – Touched By The Hand Of God. The start of a new chapter after Substance.
INXS – New Sensation. Kick buzz in full effect. A Crosbie’s favourite.
The Fall – Victoria. Not as a big a hit as There’s A Ghost In My House but more fiery. Jack.
The Christians – Ideal World. Soaring soulfulness.
Erasure – Ship Of Fools. First fruits of innocence.
Communards – For A Friend. Poignant tribute that remains their finest drops.