“All the promises we break from the cradle to the grave,
When all I want is you”.
The last stand of the decade. Now That’s What I Call Music 16 was released a few weeks after the fall of the Berlin wall. Once again it doesn’t feature any tracks from The Fall and most unusually there are no chart-toppers. While Monster Hits got three #1s, the Now compilers decided to omit chart-toppers and instead give CD purchasers three extra tracks. More about them later.
An epic beginning: Tears For Fears return with their first material since 1986 [and that was Everybody Wants To Run The World]. Sowing The Seeds Of Love was a widescreen production, a grandstanding I Am The Walrus for the late 1980s. It was the also the time of Belinda Carlisle’s daring Runaway Horses LP from which the storming Leave A Light On is taken. It is her magnum opus and I swear she is singing it directly to me. Drama was another success story from Erasure, the lead 45 from Wild! while Debbie Harry’s I Want That Man chugs along at a pleasant pace with no surprises – sadly like Blondie’s Electric Picnic performance of 2014.
Sydney Youngblood breaks for love with If Only I Could, a fondly-remembered tale of unity while Curiosity Killed The Cat return after a well-deserved rest and give us the mildly funky sophisti-poptastic Name And Number. De La Soul would thank them for it. Ex-Housemartins Paul Heaton and Dave Hemingway teamed up with Brianna Campbell for the emotional You Keep It All In before a rather overblown triple play of pomp and circumstance. In other words that’s Wet Wet Wet’s Sweet Surrender [like a syrup overdose], Queen’s Breakthru [I don’t believe in miracles] and Tina Turner’s The Best.
The ship is steadied by Transvision Vamp’s minor hit Born To Be Sold. Nice list Ms James. To another Wendy and her mate Lisa; Waterfall (’89 Remix) stalled at #69 [the 1987 original reached #66] which is a shame as it’s a decent bass-driven tune.
Mmmmm yes – Kate Bush’s The Sensual World is a most welcome inclusion; the gorgeous title track from her sixth album. CD purchasers got their money’s worth with the first of three extra tracks. I’m Not The Man I Used To Be has been overshadowed by the behemoths of She Drives Me Crazy [Now 14] and Good Thing [Now 15] – yet it packs a powerful kick. Time for some ballads of the streets. Then Jerico’s Sugar Box sounds like Marillion gone wrong while Living In A Box’s Room In Your Heart was a beloved slowburner in my new nightclub The Bridge Hotel. Disc 1 ends with Richard Marx’s phenomenally successful dirge Right Here Waiting. I hated it in 1989; it scares me now.
By now the second disc was the dance arena. However it still felt like we dancing cheek-to-cheek when Milli Vanilli’s smooching Girl I Gonna Miss You faded in. It’s wonderful but not exactly what the doctor ordered. Street Tuff was better as The Rebel MC returned with Double Trouble and plenty of yo rhymes. Ghostbusters II helped Bobby Brown almost reach the US summit with the likeable On Our Own while Technotronic’s samey-but-fun Pump Up The Jam had a similar near miss on the UK charts. CD bonus track #2 was Lil’ Louis and French Kiss. We know nothing more. Bass, beats and moans. Seminal. The stop / start inconsistency continues with Adeva’s ordinary I Thank You before we get our first taste of Cathy Dennis as she livens up D-Mob’s C’Mon And Get My Love.
Steely Dan’s Peg [from 1977’s peerless Aja] provides the sample that makes De La Soul Eye Know one of the year’s greatest ever jams while Inner City’s Whatcha Gonna Do With My Lovin’ burns a steady BPM. A pocketful of dreams. 17 and in the wide world. Big Fun’s infectious Can’t Shake The Feeling helped break down the barriers. SAW took a scalpel to Cliff Richard’s I Just Don’t Have The Heart while Jimmy Somerville struck out on his own [again – not at a swimming pool] with June Miles-Kingston and the understated Comment Te Dire Adieu. The French lyrics work surprisingly well.
Brother Beyond’s Drive On is the third bonus track; it’s rather sparkling and deserves to be remembered more than it is. Siobhan Fahey’s Shakespear’s Sister had their first taste of success in August ’89 with the stylish and sardonic You’re History. A German trio rolled back the years to Peter Green’s era with a weird and unexpected dance version of Oh Well [the original was the theme for Dave Fanning’s Rock Show on RTE Radio 2]. Elsewhere there’s the urgency of Neneh Cherry’s fresh and fruity Kisses On The Wind which is followed by Do The Right Thing, a flaming groover from Redhead Kingpin and The FBI.
The closing track on the final Now album of the 1980s is somewhat of a hidden gem.
Fresh 4’s cover of Wishing On A Star was produced by Smith and Mighty and dropped by Graeme Park as the last tune in the Hacienda one night in late ’89. Lizz E on vocals with Suv and Krust from Roni Size’s Full Cycle crew. Samples James Brown’s Funky Drummer and Faze O’s Ridin’ High. Still rockin’ the Bristol vibes over 25 years on. Big up.
Kate Bush – The Sensual World
Belinda Carlisle – Leave A Light On
D-Mob introducing Cathy Dennis – C’Mon And Get My Love
Brother Beyond – Drive On
Lest we forget
Fresh 4 featuring Lizz E – Wishing On A Star
Missing tracks and other thoughts
This compilation is probably the weakest of 1989’s Nows. The series would drop back to two volumes for 1990 and 1991. The following 45s could have made it as good as its CBS / WEA / BMG rival.
Depeche Mode – Personal Jesus. 16 volumes in and still no sign of the Basildon boys. They’d finally succumb in 1990.
Lightning Seeds – Pure. Perfect pop project.
Rolling Stones – Mixed Emotions. Adventures on the steel wheels.
The Cure – Lovesong. 1989 and The Cure: forever in time.
S-Express – Mantra For A State Of Mind. Brutal, wicked, bad.
Phil Collins – Another Day In Paradise. Not here? You cannot be serious.