The autumn of 1988 was a strange time. A whacked-out Halloween party that went on all night. Soundtracked by The Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode, S’Express and Morrissey. A girl falling through a window. A guy mooing like a cow. Dozens of teenagers cutting loose. Third level options becoming an unwelcome spectre; four days work secured in an accountants’ office during mid-term. I started a couple of hours after that party ended. First impressions. And a couple of weeks later saw the release of the third Now album of the year. 1985, 1986 and 1987 saw a rotation with Hits [two volumes of each alternating during spring / summer with a Christmas face-off]. Now it was time to up their game.
The Only Way Is Up was produced by Coldcut. Topping the pops all through August. House anthem; seminal trumpet blast. Wanted. Jim Fitz on the decks. White socks and stonewashed jeans. Suppers. Easily the best of the three gold medallists here. The footsteps stayed on the dancefloor for Teardrops; not Bobby but Cecil on the super soul tip. Linda’s nonchalant stance looking like Ray Charles or Stevie Wonder. To Erasure and A Little Respect – a beautiful song about love – before The Christians smash it up with a cover of the Isley Brothers’ Harvest For The World. From Liverpool to Glasgow; Hue And Cry’s Ordinary Angel kept the sophisti-pop flame alive. All the way to #42. That sitar!
We veer off course for a while. The nasal-finger reggae of Breakfast In Bed still sounds rubbish while Robert Palmer’s She Makes My Day is tough to love with its odd time signatures. You’ll get there in the end as it all makes sense 26 years later. Peace, love and all that jazz; raise your Hands To Heaven with Breathe. Smooth like Phil Collins and the mindbending success of A Groovy Kind Of Love. Slow sets (go on) forever. I’m not so blue. Skip past Bobby McFerrin to a further brace of covers. the Art of Noise collaborating with Tom Jones on Kiss; Bryan Ferry’s raucous Westside ’88 update of Let’s Stick Together. Maximum headroom. Sure to move the crowd. “Hold me in the darkness”.
Ashley pulls a rabbit out the hat for track 13. The Queen of Pop. The Grand Dame. Kim Wilde right in the midst of her imperial phase.
“You came, and changed the way I feel
No one could love you more
Because you came and turned my life around
No one could take your place”.
Oddly it’s followed by Bomb The Bass [surely more at home on side 3 a.k.a. the first half of disc 2]. Don’t Make Me Wait was ahead of its time. The Hit Factory continued the sawing with Brother Beyond’s lightweight but super-catchy The Harder I Try. Just can’t get enough – it’s Miller Lite time as The Hollies finally get to the end of the long, long road some 19 years later.
We come to dance. But first we gotta twist. Twice. The Fat Boys featuring Chubby Checker [or Freddie Krueger if you’re going by the inlay]. It’s no Wipeout. Salt ‘N’ Pepa’s Twist and Shout is desperately formulaic. Stuck in the middle are the Wee Papa Girl Rappers and the cloying Wee Rule. This ain’t no vintage house side. We are saved by Yello and The Race. Nuns On The Run. In the fast lane to Detroit and Inner City. The debut single from Kevin Saunderson’s mob and sung by Paris Grey. A self-proclaimed acid anthem is next; We Call It Acieed from D-Mob with ex-club boss Gary Haisman on the mike. The link to the 60s is preserved by The Beatmasters who get PP Arnold to guest on the calorie-shedding Burn It Up. Sweat Dance. Sweat II. Girl You Know It’s True is slick R&B – same as it ever was.
Old stalwarts Level 42 released their eighth LP Staring At The Sun in ’88 and Heaven In Their Hands rocks. Belinda’s Go-Go mate Jane Wiedlin’s Rush Hour is gorgeous and immortal. One of the most-requested wedding songs is I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) by The Proclaimers. Four in a row for T’Pau and the rage-filled Secret Garden. Now for some delightful sequencing. Tranvision Vamp make it second time lucky with the piledriving I Want Your Love. The Duran Duran give us the big funk treatment – I Don’t Want Your Love – while the Human League’s obligatory new-track-on-our-greatest-hits is the underrated Love Is All That Matters. The last tune is more famous for its Top Of The Pops performance. So motionless baby. All About Eve got asked back the following week to properly mime Martha’s Harbour. Julianne Regan’s see-through white dress would mesmerise me the following summer. “Stow away, stow away”.
Kim Wilde – You Came
Jane Wiedlin – Rush Hour
The Beatmasters with PP Arnold – Burn It Up
Human League – Love Is All That Matters
Lest we forget
Hue and Cry – Ordinary Angel
Missing tracks and other thoughts
The obligatory video selection is bookended by love – Duran Duran and Phil Collins. I haven’t changed my original Christmas 1988 stance. The Hits team released the better album but Now 13 won the sales battle. A case of self-sabotage perhaps. This was the last one to top the album charts; from January 1989 compilations had their own game. So what could have made this better? These for a start:
Def Leppard – Love Bites. Hysteria’s juggernaut-style power continued during 1988.
Kylie Minogue – Je Ne Sais Pas Pouquoi. I’m wondering why.
S’Express – Superfly Guy. Ghetto highs.
Pet Shop Boys – Domino Dancing. All day, all day. Curiously absent from Nows 12 and 13.
U2 – Desire. Bring down the beast; Rattle and Hum.
Bananarama – Nathan Jones. Another winning cover. You’ve been gone so long.