After a ride on Now’s coat-tails in 1987 with Now That’s What I Call Music – Smash Hits, the fortnightly magazine released their own spin-off compilation in October 1988.
Smash Hits Party ’88 was compiled by Ashley Abram for Box Music Limited while the original conception came from the Cokell brothers. The sleeve with its casual-footwear-in-motion is a good indicator of the content therein – it’s all about pop and tunes you can dance too. And best of all were the sleevenotes – informative, funny, irreverent and written in that unique Smash Hits style.
The compilers settled on 28 tracks which was a good decision. That meant there were no early fades unlike the recent Hits 7 and Hits 8 which had a whopping 33 shorn songs between them. Inevitably there was crossover with other rival compilations; the label – Dover Records – was a subsidiary of Chrysalis who had a certain degree of pulling power but they were not invincible. 75% of the tracks – 21 out of 28 – had already appeared on that year’s Now and Hits albums while one more would end up on Now 13 [not released until November 1988]. That just left six songs with which to draw in the casual buyer.
We start with a band who were originally known as Gloss. Twins Matt and Luke. Plus their mate Craig who was sucked in after lending Matt 50p in the school dinner queue. The changed their name to Bros, released When Will I Be Famous in December 1987 and it became a self-fulfilling prophecy reaching #2.
I Should Be So Lucky is next, top of the mountain for what seemed like ages for the Neighbours star. Brother Beyond’s The Harder I Try is touched by the hand of SAW and also reaches the #2 spot thereby becoming massive pop stars. Love Changes (Everything) from Climie Fisher; we sang it like we meant it. From the bottom of our hearts. Oh to be 16 again. I wish I could Turn Back The Clock to 1988: the year that Johnny Hates Jazz consolidated their early promise and released one of the decade’s most compelling LPs.
Ship Of Fools by Erasure was on my Now That’s What I Call Music 11 wishlist. The first fruits of innocence. From The Innocents; a more mature sound. A pair that did make the cut were Angel Eyes [Wet Wet Wet] and Valentine [T’Pau]. Smooth silk soul boys vs the fiery Decker. No contest as Carol romps home. To the ex-boxer, ex-journalist, army deserter and genius: Terence Trent D’Arby and the bluesy Sign Your Name which was on Hits 8 but ended prematurely. Not so here. Also appearing in full 7″ glory are Five Star and their Friday night let-it-all-hang-out dust up Another Weekend. We get another dose of SAW with Rick Astley’s big sound of My Arms Keep Missing You and the frentic high-NRG of Hazell Dean’s Who’s Leaving Who. The gentle comedown is provided by Mr Haircut Jermaine Stewart and Glenn Medeiros who had never worn a grass skirt. Time to re-fuel the batteries for the second half.
The Smash Hits team were a clued-in bunch. They saw the acid house revolution unfold and were canny enough to have their own dance side [side 3 of the vinyl; tracks 1 to 7 on CD2]. Push It comes first; revitalised by their television appearance at the Nelson Mandela concert. What time is it? It’s time for house! Acid yellow and black vinyl. Doctorin’ The House was ahead of its time in more ways than one. You’d hear more of Yasmin Evans as the year progressed. S’Express next; inspired by 70s disco [the Rose Royce and TZ samples] and the crazy flares in the video.
Sample ‘N’ glue together was the mantra for the state of Simenon aka Bomb The Bass. Beat Dis was immense, a glowing dancefloor anthem, a journey into sound. Which brings me neatly to Eric B. & Rakim. I Know You Got Soul stiffed in ’87 and only became a hit when Norman Cook and Danny D got their mitts on it. The Double Trouble remix complete with I Want You Back samples. The success story continues and new records continued to be created. There’s Krush, a trio from Nottingham, who knew we were “gonna dig this” – their party anthem House Arrest. Madonna’s ex wraps up the party. Jellybean and his hypnotic Just A Mirage with the delectable Adele Bertei on vocals. Not just a passing fantasy.
There’s echoes of Hits 8 during the final quarter. Aztec Camera’s big moment in the sun Somewhere In My Heart is again followed by Prefab Sprout’s silly but catchy King Of Rock ‘N’ Roll. The latter was written in a mere 20 minutes. There’s a classic quip about Billy Idol: “Hot In The City was first released years ago and was a big hit in America. Most people here refused to buy it. Then, of course, Britain realised that Billy Idol was a rock ‘n’ roll genius and it was a hit”. INXS’s Kick kept shifting copies all through 1988; the choppy New Sensation was their big UK breakthrough. Tracy from The Primitives also lived in Australia and Crash caused riots in my local youth club disco. I write this on the eve of the Scottish referendum; by the time you read this the result will be known. The party ends with two local groups; Danny Wilson [with the memorable Mary’s Prayer] and The Proclaimers whom I caught supporting The Housemartins the year before. I mopped a lot of floors to the beguiling Letter From America. This is the story.
Eric B. & Rakim – I Know You Got Soul (Double Trouble Remix)
Five Star – Another Weekend
Hazell Dean – Who’s Leaving Who?
Prefab Sprout – The King Of Rock ‘N’ Roll
Lest we forget
Bros – When Will I Be Famous
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I’ve got a feeling I first acquired a second hand copy of this in July/August 2002 whilst I was still collecting the Now albums.
At the time I enjoyed this compilation as it contained some tracks I recognised from Now albums and some which I hadn’t heard before. Admittedly it was my first introduction to “Letter From America” and got rather into the track after that.
My original copy was on cassette but I subsequently managed to track down a CD copy. Nowhere near as difficult as getting the earlier Now CDs I might add.
Hi Martin, the Smash Hits compilations are excellent – really capture the years. Love 1988-1990 and 1992
Remember acquiring this on tape from a car boot sale sometime in mid-late 2002 and being quite pleased with it. At the time a lot of the tracks were new to me.
Out of interest which of the tracks on this release weren’t compiled anywhere else?
Hi Martin, the “rare” track here is Eric B. & Rakim– I Know You Got Soul
Thanks for confirming this.
Not sure if you are aware but that track WAS actually included on a promo compilation released by Telstar on behalf of BP called “Hits Hits Hits 2”. It only has about 8 tracks on it.
I used to have it on cassette and it was actually where I first heard this track.