It was August 1990. Just like 1987, the Now main series took a break for the summer. It had been a busy year for them with two volumes of Now Dance released on either side of April’s Now That’s What I Call Music 17. Once again the Hits team stepped into the breach with their 12th release – and in a brief show of consistency – the Monster Hits name was retained. The crocodile was still there – Snap! It Up.
The dancefloor is calling from the off with a neat selection of beats and rhythms. Yazz’s Treat Me Good was her final top 20 hit and is a pleasant groover from “one of the most distinctive looking singers to emerge from the late 80s”. The Affection LP continued to yield super 45s for Lisa Stansfield: What Did I Do To You is a passionate slice of soul from a lady who had picked up Brit and Ivor Novello awards in the previous 12 months. 60 – 66 – 6: The Chimes finally hit paydirt with a heartfelt cover of U2’s I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. Elsewhere Diana Ross’ 1971 solo hit gets a new lease of life with an awesome remix from Phil Chill.
En Vogue met an audition held by US producers Denzil Foster and Thomas McElroy. The group has won more MTV Video Music Awards than any other female group in its history; a total of seven, along with five Soul Train Awards, six American Music Awards, and seven Grammy nominations. Hold On was were it all started, a super fresh workout. While the 12″ cut of Bobby Brown’s Freestyle Megamix can be found on Now Dance 902, it’s the 7″ edit that appears here. Rita Liebrand is the mixer and blends On Our Own, Every Little Step, My Prerogative and Don’t Be Cruel into a spacey jam. There’s a subtle nod to indie dance with The Beloved’s dreamy Hello while The Family Stand’s emotion-laden Ghetto Heaven remains of the year’s finest soul classics.
The second half of disc 1 sees a switch to pop and rock. Alannah Myles’ Black Velvet is the perfect pole-dancing tune, an Elvis-inspired dark blues number. The mood is lightened with The B-52s party-out-of-bounds anthem Love Shack from their sixth LP Cosmic Thing. The Aussie soap invasion continues with Neighbours star Craig McLachlan and the energetic Mona before They Might Be Giants and Birdhouse In Your Soul’s earworm awesomeness as it manages 18 key-changes in three minutes. Flood was their third album, released on Elektra during January 1990 and a major step-up in profile after the low radar They Might Be Giants  and Lincoln .
Aztec Camera sing “You only get one hit” in The Crying Scene. This rather lacklustre track is a far cry from Oblivious or We Could Send Letters. A #70 flop. Far more interesting is “the debut UK single from incandescent new four piece An Emotional Fish”. Over here, Jerry Fish and the lads had received plenty of airplay during the summer of 1989 when their debut single Grey Matter was put out by Mother Records. Celebrate sounds weirdly prescient now, a pre-Celtic Tiger singalong that’s permanently entwined with Italia ’90 and Roddy Doyle’s writings. It’s followed by Rod Stewart’s epic take on Tom Waits’ Downtown Train. The original had featured on Rain Dogs. Meanwhile the tragic tribute to Annie Lennox’s aunt – Angel – brings the first half to a close. I remember it soundtracking a couple of late night drives during the dry summer of 1990.
De Kassière: Teenager Lily works as a checkout girl at the local supermarket. She becomes pregnant, but before the child is born, the black father is attacked by guys and killed. Following his death, she flees to the city, where she soon finds herself under the wings of a pimp, Ted. Escaping Ted, she commences a one-woman spree of thefts, culminating in running from the police and the press. In the end, Lily is forced to choose between freedom and her baby. The Eurythmics’ David A Stewart asked Candy Dulfer to play saxophone while he strummed the guitar on the evocative instrumental Lily Was Here.
The sense of melancholy continues with Gloria Estefan’s Here We Are. It’s a moving tale of messed-up romance from Miami’s golden girl. Paul Young makes a return after a three year lay-off with a fabulous cover of The Congregation’s 1971 single, Softly Whispering I Love You. And now it’s time for the next big thing: Halo James. This London band became best known for their #6 hit single Could Have Told You So which was released just after Christmas 1989 and became a major success all over Europe. It’s more uptempo that the previous two tracks but yet there’s a wistful side to it with themes of lost and unrequited love. Next up are The Pasadenas with the smooth Love Thing before the surprisingly mature and jazzy You’ve Got A Friend [a Sonia and Big Fun collaboration for Childline].
Erasure milked Drama for a fourth single; the jaunty Star. Remixes came courtesy of William Orbit, Daniel Miller, Bob Kraushaar and Mark Saunders. And now for something completely different: Ilona Staller [widely known by her stage name, Cicciolina] was elected to the Italian parliament in 1987 with approximately 20,000 votes. While in office, and before the outset of the Gulf War, she offered to have sex with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in return for peace in the region. She was not re-elected at the end of her term in 1991. Touched By The Hand Of Cicciolina was written by Pop Will Eat Itself as a celebration of the World Cup. It also doubled up as an attempt to persuade FIFA to allow Cicciolina present the Jules Rimet trophy to the winners. Unfortunately it was unsuccessful and Italian Head of State Francesco Cossiga ended up handing over the cup to Lothar Matthäus.
The final quarter sees a return to funkier pastures. Black Black’s third single was Everybody Everybody, a fine house sound. Back on the pitch: New Order’s #1 single World in Motion drags the often-derided football song onto the dancefloor. Nobody can rap better than John Barnes:
“You’ve got to hold and give
But do it at the right time
You can be slow or fast
But you must get to the line
They’ll always hit you and hurt you
Defend and attack
There’s only one way to beat them
Get round the back
Catch me if you can
Cos’ I’m the England man
And what you’re looking at
Is the master plan
We ain’t no hooligans
This ain’t a football song
Three lions on my chest
I know we can’t go wrong”.
So does anybody remember ITV’s Capital City? Investment bankers working for Shane-Longman. The women wore big hair and shoulder pads. The dealing room computers used a DOS operating system. Mobile phones were the size of bricks. The primary methods of long-distance, “instant” communication were still the phone, fax and telex. Everybody smoked. For some reason Guru Josh’s Infinity reminds of this time; the girl with the flowery hat in the official video. What was she saying? Where is she now? The hedonistic work hard / play hard vibe. I was there. A time for raving like crazy. The endless energy. Wake up 24 years later and wonder where the time has gone.
October 1989: Alison Clarkson walks into the offices of Rhythm King records. She wants a job as a receptionist. She gets hired but with a difference. Rapping on The Beatmasters’ Hey DJ. Doin’ The Do followed a few months later. Boomania was in the house. The BHF team produced Venus by Don Pablo’s Animals, wicked piano action. Hot on the heels of The Power was Ooops Up; Snap made hay with their nifty take on The Gap Band. We finish with two from Manchester. Chad Jackson had already produced records for Mantronix, De La Soul, Run DMC and Beats International. Hear The Drummer Get Wicked was inspired by The 45 King’s 900 Number. A debut single to close: MC Tunes brought in fellow-Mancunians 808 State to provide the backing for his staccato vocal delivery on The Only Rhyme That Bites. The North at its height. Dance yourself to death.
Guru Josh – Infinity
Pop Will Eat Itself – Touched By The Hand Of Cicciolina
Big Fun and Sonia featuring Gary Barnacle – You’ve Got A Friend
David A Stewart featuring Candy Dulfer – Lily Was Here
Lest we forget
An Emotional Fish – Celebrate
Missing tracks and other thoughts
It’s another solid entry for the Hits team and a decent mop-up of the late spring / early summer chart action. What should they have done differently?
Pat and Mick – Use It Up And Wear It Out. Elaborate disco cheese.
Wonder Stuff – Circle Square. Baggy rhythms.
Hothouse Flowers – Give It Up. Uptempo Celtic sounds from the underrated Home.
New Kids On The Block – Step By Step. Can’t put a foot wrong.
World Party – Message In The Box. Put a smile on your face.