Now That’s What I Call Music 17 (EMI / Virgin / Polygram, 1990)

Now 17

Now 17 R

“I’ve seen the future and it will be
I’ve seen the future and it works
And if there’s life after, we will see
So I can’t go like a jerk”

The first Now album of the 1990s was released on 23 April. The three balls were still there but had transformed into a large and somewhat garish computer-generated image. We were back to 32 tracks with the artist plugs a curious mix of the old and new – Erasure, Paula Abdul, Phil Collins, UB40, Tina Turner, Beats International, Happy Mondays, Depeche Mode, Technotronic, Bizz Nizz, Candy Flip, Rebel MC “plus many more”.

The first quarter (side 1) is a mixed bag. Erasure’s third single from Wild! was the understated Blue Savannah with its beautiful soaring melody. Master of Ceremonies not Micro Cassette: The Rebel MC established himself as one of Britain’s top rappers in 1989 with two smash hits for Double Trouble – Just Keep Rockin’ and Street Tuff. Better World features the voice of Michelle Jones and is a real roller-skating jam. Reset the Atari! Bust some moves with Paula Abdul’s super fresh funk of Opposites Attract before Lindy Layton’s honeyed voice comes in on the jam hot Dub Be Good With Me.

UB40 went back to labouring for love with a surprisingly decent version of Kingston Town. And now it’s a time for youth: Candy Flip’s steely remake of Strawberry Fields Forever. Candyflipping: simultaneous E + LSD. Purple Ohms and Strawberrys. White doves like a ray of sunshine. Illict dancing under the moonlight. Amen breaks with sunrise. Then there’s a jarring comedown with Tina Turner’s nervous tale I Don’t Wanna Lose You – not saved by a remix. Eric Clapton provides the guitar work on Phil Collins’ dramatic ballad I Wish It Would Rain Down complete with the big choir.

It was a time when two worlds collided. Indie and dance. Side 2 captures the vibe in a similar way that the spirit of house music is preserved on Now That’s What I Call Music 11. Call the cops: it’s the 7″ mix of Step On. The Happy Mondays take John Kongos’ He’s Gonna Step On You Again and twist it into something timeless. Next up is Loaded, Andrew Weatherall’s remarkable remix of Primal Scream’s I’m Losing More Than You’ll Ever Have [originally featured on 1989’s eponymous LP]. Ingredients included samples from The Wild Angels [Peter Fonda] the vocal sample from The Emotions’ I Don’t Want to Lose Your Love, the drum loop from an Italian bootleg remix of Edie Brickell’s What I Am and some elements of the original. It’s really beautiful.

March 1990 was also the time of Violator; Depeche Mode’s masterpiece. They had finally made their Now debut. Enjoy The Silence remains superlatively magnificent and an absolutely haunting performance. No doubt – Right Here, Right Now is probably Jesus Jones most well-remembered song. However Real, Real, Real is thoroughly catchy with a great guitar. Panic at the disco: This Is How It Feels was the Inspiral Carpets’ breakthrough. The taster for Life; the gig at Dublin’s McGonagles took place on the day before the debut LP was released. The crowd were so enthusiastic in their dancing that they broke the floor. A song for those who cannot cope; a Madchester classic.

Shine On was the House Of Love’s debut single. It was released in 1987 and was compiled on NME’s Indie City during 1988. By February 1990 the band were on a high. The eponymous debut LP was very well received and people raved about the previous year’s tour. Destroy The Heart, Christine, Safe and Love In A Car being the performance highlights. A new version of Shine On saw them make Top Of The Pops. The second album had a butterfly on the sleeve and became known as Fontana. Our spirits are then lifted by Faith No More’s epic From Out Of Nowhere before the final curveball of The Quireboys and the rocking tune that is Hey You.

“A little bit of what you fancy doesn’t do you any good at all”.

Disc 2 is the dance zone. This Beat Is Technotronic was their third single and was a comparative chart failure that only reached #14. Vocals by MC Eric. Produced by Jo Bogaert, Artwork by Patrick F Cypen. Photography by Koen Kampioen. When I initially heard the name Lonnie Gordon I thought she was of Dionne / Aretha / Diana / Donna vintage. To an 18 year old Lonnie sounded like an “old” name. Happenin’ All Over Again is one of my favourites SAW productions and the 12″ mix is great too. The 49ers followed up Touch Me with the Jody Watley-sampling Don’t You Love Me while Jimmy Somerville achieves his third solo hit with the defiant disco of Read My Lips (Enough Is Enough). Meanwhile the inoffensive Stronger Than That made it five decades of chart success for Cliff Richard. Re-release this for Christmas 2014 I hear you cry.

1990: time of the dance cover. Jam Tronik’s version of Another Day In Paradise by Jam Tronik hit the top 20 less than six months after Phil’s original complete with the drum loop from Raze’s Break 4 Love. JT And The Big Family’s Moments In Soul is a strange one; building on the Art Of Noise’s Moments In Love while chucking in elements of Soul II Soul and Milli Vanilli. It’s followed by Mantronix and the furious beats of Got To Have Your Love. And then it’s down to Bizz Nizz with the formulaic Don’t Miss The Partyline. Much better is Everything Starts With An E from the E-Zee Possee and MC Kinky. Produced by Jeremy Healy and a slowburner from Ibiza ’89. Banned from the airwaves. Nicked Robinson Crusoe theme. Also rhyming and stealing were D-Mob – grabbing the O-Jays’ Put Our Heads Together for the uptempo house of Put Your Hands Together.

“It’s the loneliness that’s the killer”.

Killer was Adamski’s breakthrough single and also introduced us to Seal. It was just released as Now 17 was going to press and ended up at #1 during May. A belter just before Italia ’90, now clubbed to death. They said that Orbital were mysterious and had close links with the M25 motorway. Chime saw the Hartnoll brothers appearing on Top of the Pops wearing Anti-Poll Tax T-shirts. Not even an attempt at miming. Tomorrow was Tongue ‘N’ Cheek’s anodyne follow-up to the club smash Encore. It’s followed by some “deep house, trance dance and hypnotic soul” – Electribe 101’s marvellously memorable Talking With Myself. Billie Ray Martin provides the haunting vocal. True chill. And the end comes with Sydney Youngblood’s heartfelt I’d Rather Go Blind.

“Love is a promise, love is a souvenir
Once given never forgotten, never let it disappear”

Favourite tracks
Primal Scream – Loaded

Candy Flip – Strawberry Fields Forever

Orbital – Chime

Electribe 101 – Talking With Myself

Lest we forget
Lonnie Gordon – Happenin’ All Over Again

Missing tracks and other thoughts
Overall it’s a fairly winning selection by the Box Music team. Side 2 captures the Madchester zeitgeist and could possibly have been improved if the final two tracks [Faith No More and The Quireboys] were replaced. The first candidate has to be the Stone Roses. They need to be there. Take your pick from Fools Gold, Elephant Stone or Made Of Stone – all three charted during the November 1989 to March 1990 period. Alternatively the AA side What The World Is Waiting For could also be considered.

Pick from one of these two for the other indie side slot:
Electronic – Getting Away With It. Beautiful and literate.
The Farm – Stepping Stone. Somewhat clunky now but a groover then.

And three other midfield generals:
Tears For Fears – Advice For The Young At Heart. Wish I had listened.
Belinda Carlisle – Runaway Horses or La Luna. Her third solo album unleashed six 45s.
The Cure – Pictures Of You. Neat single edit of longing.


Promotional poster courtesy of the Now That’s What I Call Music Collectors Group UK.
Now 17 poster

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35 Responses to Now That’s What I Call Music 17 (EMI / Virgin / Polygram, 1990)

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  9. Andrew Chinnock says:

    Amazed no-one has commented on this yet! The 2nd cd is one of my all time favourites, up there almost with Now 11 cd 2. Pity Cliff is on there. In terms of sequencing, I think it hits the spot. Some Nows can feel similar to other compilations. This disc is pretty unique. The 49ers track, to me, is an improvement on Touch Me and Tomorrow is a grower. Great disc.

  10. Andrew Chinnock says:

    Hi! Here’s my attempt at the mid point between Now 17 and 18. This was a much tougher proposition than the one a year later. Sony and Warner enjoyed a very fruitful middle of 1990 and with Snap It Up! being released at the beginning of August, I doubt there would have been much love lost between them and the Nows for licensing. I included Snap’s The Power as Snap It Up went it Oops Now. For the second disc I thought the last part (side 4 if you like) worked well like this, harking back to the scheduling of Now 11. It’s not a particularly strong Now, though fills some gaps. It was also noticeable that Now 18 took quite a lot of material from June-August 1990. It appeared to me that they didn’t bother with a summer album because they couldn’t create one strong enough.

    CD 1
    1 World In Motion Englandneworder
    2 The Power Snap
    3 Better The Devil You Know Kylie Minogue
    4 U Can’t Touch This MC Hammer
    5 Turtle Power Partners In Kryme
    6 Venus Don Pablo’s Animals
    7 Papa Was A Rolling Stone Was (Not Was)
    8 Doin’ The Do Betty Boo
    9 I’m Free Soup Dragons
    10 One Love Stone Roses
    11 The Only One I Know Charlatans
    12 Policy of Truth Depeche Mode
    13 All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You Heart
    14 Listen To Your Heart Roxette
    15 Something Happened On The Way To Heaven Phil Collins
    16 Nessun Dorma Pavarotti

    CD 2
    1 Hear The Drummer (Get Wicked) Chad Jackson
    2 Won’t Talk About It Beats International
    3 Close To You Maxi Priest
    4 A Dream’s A Dream Soul II Soul
    5 Take Your Time Mantronix feat Wondress
    6 Thinking Of You Maureen
    7 Wash Your Face In My Sink Dream Warriors
    8 Treat Me Good Yazz
    9 Thunderbirds Are Go F.A.B feat MC Parker
    10 The Only Rhyme That Bites MC Tunes vs 808 State
    11 Rockin’ Over The Beat Technotronic
    12 Naked In The Rain Blue Pearl
    13 Infinity Guru Josh
    14 Hardcore Uproar Together
    15 Tricky Disco Tricky Disco
    16 LFO LFO

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      Friday 25 May 1990
      Finished first year college exams.
      Knocked back 13 pints of Guinness in a little over three hours (8.30 – 11.30pm approx). Courtesy of Henry Downes fine establishment.
      Went into a nightclub. Feel asleep in the toilets within a few minutes.
      Got thrown out by bouncers.
      Lay on footpath till 2.30am repeatedly puking and then half-lying in it.
      Friend comes out and decides the best place for me is a house party.
      Blacked out in an armchair at some point.
      Got up around 8.00am and walked about three miles across the city to get the bus home (15 miles away).
      Discover I have no money left.
      Start to hitch home. Every car flies past as I look a right state – clothes torn, stained, eyes bloodshot.
      After about half an hour, a car beeps me from across the road. It’s my father – on his way to play in a golf competition.
      He has to turn around and drive me home. A drive conducted mostly in silence.
      My mother starts to cry when she sees me come in the back door.
      Don’t drink again for six months.

      • nlgbbbblth says:

        Hi Andrew,
        The above is why I remember the summer of 1990 so vividly – it was booze free. Have to say your tracklist is pretty spot on and nails that time. Kicks off with a monster and doesn’t let up for the rest of CD1. Very important to get Pavarotti on – and neatly bookends the football vibe. I like the clusters of styles too. Although just one thing – the Phil Collins track is on Now 18 – do you have a substitute?

        CD2 is just wall to wall dance bangers. If I went to a club and they played in that sequence I’d be on the dancefloor for the night. What an epic finale – Tricky Disco, LFO etc. Thanks very much – I am off to recreate on iTunes later this week.

        • nlgbbbblth says:

          In trying to re-create, I cannot locate digital single mixes for LFO or Heart. Own both on 7″ but don’t fancy doing a vinyl rip. Also Mantronix / WordPress – is the album version the same as the radio edit? Almost identical times.

          • Andrew Chinnock says:

            Thanks for your positive comments about this. Feeling quite chuffed! The Phil Collins track was a cock up. Every Now around that time has a Phil Collins track, so I had put down That’s Just The Way It Is, then had cerebral failure and put a duplicate in!

            I’m going to have a go at cd 2, though I haven’t got the Mantronix track. Might see if I can pick up a cheap cd single on ebay. I tried to build it to a bit of a crescendo. Now 11 does that so well and there’s arguably none better to follow.

            The more I’ve thought about this, the more it fits. I felt I was scraping the barrel a bit last night, but this would have done quite nicely.

            Pavarotti was terribly neglected by compilers, wasn’t he? Maybe they thought having a classical piece (romantic really, but being pedantic!) would spoil a pop album? In the same way I would love to have heard Faure’s Pavane as used by the Beeb for the World Cup in 98. Another thought – a football compilation…

  11. nlgbbbblth says:

    That’s Just The Way It Is works perfectly as a “hot tip” – came out end of July which is ideal

    Agree, disc 2 really builds.

    Tried to do on Spotify but quite a few gaps – Turtle Power, Venus, Rockin’ Over The Beat – all there but not the right versions.

    Some sources from memory. Have excluded Snap It Up tracks.

    2 The Power Snap – Smash Hits 1990
    3 Better The Devil You Know Kylie Minogue – Now 1990
    4 U Can’t Touch This MC Hammer – Wet Hits
    5 Turtle Power Partners In Kryme – Wet Hits
    7 Papa Was A Rolling Stone Was (Not Was) – Now Millennium 1990
    9 I’m Free Soup Dragons – Slammin
    10 One Love Stone Roses – Brit Awards ’91
    11 The Only One I Know Charlatans – Indie Top 20 Vol 10
    12 Policy of Truth Depeche Mode – Singles 86-98
    13 All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You Heart – CD single
    14 Listen To Your Heart Roxette – Neue Hits 90
    15 That’s Just The Way It Is Phil Collins – But Seriously
    16 Nessun Dorma Pavarotti – The Essential

    2 Won’t Talk About It Beats International – Alf’s Hit Parade
    3 Close To You Maxi Priest – Wet Hits
    4 A Dream’s A Dream Soul II Soul – Alf’s Hit Parade
    5 Take Your Time Mantronix feat Wondress – ? Album or CD single
    6 Thinking Of You Maureen – Slammin
    7 Wash Your Face In My Sink Dream Warriors – Slammin
    9 Thunderbirds Are Go F.A.B feat MC Parker – Greatest Hits 1990
    11 Rockin’ Over The Beat Technotronic – Ronny’s Pop Hits / Smash Hits 1990
    12 Naked In The Rain Blue Pearl – Slammin
    14 Hardcore Uproar Together – Hardcore Uproar Dino comp
    15 Tricky Disco Tricky Disco – Slammin
    16 LFO LFO – ?

  12. Andrew Chinnock says:

    Rockin’ Over The Beat also features on Slammin’. It’s a better copy than Smash Hits 1990, which lops off a tiny fraction of the start. LFO maybe on Deep Heat 8. A Dream’s a Dream is on Best Dance Album in the World 4.

    Thinking of Hardcore Uproar, that must be the only compilation ever named from the title of the last track on it!

  13. Andrew Chinnock says:

    Another observation about Now 17 regarding Moments in Soul by JT and the Big Family. I picked the 7″ up ages ago, forgot all about it and just got round to listening to it this evening. It’s a different edit to the one on Now 17. The CD single is no clue either as there’s only what seems to be an extended version of it on there.

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      Hi Andrew, I have the 7″ and never spotted that. It’s correctly compiled on the West German compilations – High Life Sommer Hits and Formel Eins Double Fun. Now 17 edit might be unique then?

      • Andrew Chinnock says:

        I’ve solved the Moments in Soul riddle. The version on Now 17 is the same as on the cd single, which I presume is the full length version of the track (not the 7″ version), but faded early. I thought the Now 17 version seemed to end a bit suddenly.

  14. Martin Davis says:

    Am surprised Nothing Ever Happens by Del Amitri didn’t feature on this album.

  15. Andrew Chinnock says:

    Hi Paul, one for you about Happy Monday’s ‘Step On’. I think this is the only place you can get the 7″ version of it on cd.

    The cd single has the Stuff It In mix as the lead track, which is an extended version of it. On all Happy Mondays Greatest Hit albums it appears as a mix of around 5:17 in length. There’s a differently edited version on Smash Hits 1990. One on Deep Heat 7 is different again and Telstar used it on the Greatest 90s Dance Hits in 1996 and that is different again. Now 1990 has an extended version.

    It does appear on The Best…In The World Ever in 1996 but it’s a few seconds longer than the version on Now 17, so I wonder if it is the same, considering the Now 17 version never appeared anywhere else.

  16. Martin Davis says:

    Always feel that the contents of this album really sum up the transition from the late 80s to the early 90s just by the bands and style of music on there.

    One further suggestion would maybe be “I’ll sail this ship alone” by Beautiful South.

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      Great track which bridges the transition – single version with added drums is great

      • Martin Davis says:

        I will be honest I slightly prefer the album version but the single version is still a good track.

        Have just seen your earlier comment about how a Del Amitri track may have been difficult to license for this compilation. They subsequently turn up on Now 22 and Now 31 and I’m sure A&M weren’t involved with Hits so what issues might there have been here which didn’t occur later?

        • nlgbbbblth says:

          Nothing Ever Happens doesn’t appear to have been compiled anywhere in 1990 so the label must have been reluctant to license for some unspecified reason. Obviously things were more relaxed later on in the decade.

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