After an eight month absence, the 18th volume of Now That’s What I Call Music arrived on 19 November 1990. It had been a busy period with Snap! It Up – Monster Hits 2 hoovering up the late spring and early summer tunes. Elsewhere a variety of dance tracks had ended up on Smash Hits Rave! with 12″ mixes landing on Now Dance 902 and Now Dance 903. There was a radical redesign of the sleeve which is probably the worst of the entire series.
There are six number ones on Now 18 and five of them are frontloaded to the first half of CD1 [or side 1 of the vinyl]. The Beautiful South’s second album Choke was preceded by A Little Time, a nice duet between Brianna Corrigan and Dave Hemingway. The power of the Levis advert rang true once again as The Joker raced to the top for the Steve Miller Band in September. Then there’s Elton John finally reaching Everest with Sacrifice. Five weeks during Italia ’90. It was also a big year for Roxette who had three chart hits. It Must Have Been Love was a pleasant one and reminds me of sober slow sets. . . . But Seriously continued to yield well for Phil Collins as Something Happened On The Way To Heaven shot to #15 amid tons of airplay during April.
Wilson Phillips consisted of Carnie Wilson, Wendy Wilson and Chynna Phillips, the daughters, respectively, of Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys and John and Michelle Phillips of The Mamas and Papas. Hold On is a pop gem, a glorious slice of honeyed girl power brimming with ’60s optimism. Back to the #1s: we have Sinéad O’Connor’s beautiful Nothing Compares 2 U and The Righteous Brothers’ spiritual Unchained Melody [as featured on the tearjerking Ghost]. The hits kept coming for Belinda Carlisle as the supercharged (We Want) The Same Thing. It’s a frankly awesome remix of the Runaway Horses version and the sixth single to be taken from that LP.
There’s an inevitable quality dip with the turgid Anniversary Waltz (Part 1) from Status Quo. A potpourri of naffness. Then there’s INXS’s hard-to-handle Suicide Blonde which is followed by Public Image Ltd’s wilful Don’t Ask Me. There must have been a quid pro quo here. Natural History was Talk Talk’s best of album; it was supported by a remix of It’s My Life. Life What’s You Make It also saw a reissue in 1990. The LA’s lift the mood with the sparkling There She Goes, a track which had been knocking on the door since the autumn of 1988. Down to the the last pair: Tina Turner’s surprising misstep Be Tender With My Baby and the ropey cover of Dylan’s I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight from UB40 and Robert Palmer. Both should have known better.
Once again disc 2 is the dance zone. There’s a cracking start with So Hard, the lead single from the fourth Pet Shop Boys LP – the impeccable Behaviour. All brooding intensity with a synth overload. Perfect for clubs. And what great lyrics:
“I’m always hoping you’ll be faithful,
but you’re not I suppose,
We’ve both given up smoking, ’cause it’s fatal,
so whose matches are those?”
Witness the man who raves at the wall: Fascinating Rhythm took flight in Crouch End, London when golden-eared remixer William Orbit met a vocalist named Sharon Musgrave. A wicked creation. Kym Mazelle guested on Soul II Soul’s sensual and underrated Missing while Suzanne Vega’s acappella Tom’s Diner gets turns inside out by DNA [Nick Batt and Neal Sleatford]. The art of the remix continues with Ben Liebrand’s cool redo of Sting’s An Englishman In New York which made #15. The original 1988 single release was a flop and its urban paranoia is enhanced with this new funkier take. And if that wasn’t enough we get The Cure’s Close To Me mixed up by Paul Oakenfold which surpasses the original. Out of the closet and into the youth club disco. Jazz breaks.
The Red, Hot and Blue project took off in 1989 with the purpose of educating people about AIDS. The accompanying album was comprised of Cole Porter covers. Neneh Cherry’s I’ve Got You Under My Skin is most effective. However Blue Pearl’s Little Brother lacks some fuzz after the ecstatic Naked In The Rain. It stumbled to #31 at the end of November. There’s a welcome return for Kylie Minogue and Step Back In Time from her best LP Rhythm Of Love. Since I Should Be So Lucky’s appearance on Now That’s What I Call Music 11 she had enjoyed nine smash hits – three #1s, five #2s and Never Too Late reaching #4. Step Back In Time is all about hip grooves and amazing hair.
Mel and Kim’s partnership came to a sad end on 18 January 1990 when Mel succumbed to cancer. Kim released her first solo single nine months later – Don’t Worry – which is about her dealing with heartbreak. An inspiring debut. Meanwhile Technotronic signed off a very profitable 1990 with the release of their Megamix at the end of September. It fuses Pump Up The Jam, Get Up (Before The Night Is Over), This Beat is Technotronic, Rockin’ Over The Beat and Move This into a fiery cauldron of molten hip house and new beat. We get 7″ mix; if you want the extended version then look no further than Now Dance 903. Next are Bombalurina with an silly but catchy cover of Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini. Once more with feeling – aw yeah!
Alison Clarkson a.k.a. Betty Boo reached the top 10 for the third time with the super shaker Where Are You Baby? This is followed by the Adventures Of Stevie V and their ingenious fusion of house, hip hop, jazz, soul and rap – Dirty Cash (Money Talks). It was a time when the UK dance scene cranked out jam after jam. Elsewhere MC Hammer covers The Chi-Lites’ Have You Seen Her. Some say he murdered the song in cold blood; I like it and dig those Cosby Show references. We stay on on an interpretative tip for the last number: Jimmy Somerville had just released The Singles Collection 1984 – 1990 and his version of the Bee Gees’ To Love Somebody was the promotional 45. A fabulous rendition.
Pet Shop Boys – So Hard
Belinda Carlisle – (We Want) The Same Thing
The Cure – Close To Me (Closest Mix)
Sting – An Englishman In New York (Ben Liebrand Remix 7″ Edit)
Lest we forget
Kylie Minogue – Step Back In Time
Missing tracks and other thoughts
Your mileage may vary on disc 1 but the second half is pretty strong all the way through. I’d like to seen a few of these make the grade:
The KLF featuring The Children Of The Revolution – What Time Is Love? The 12″ is on Now Dance 903.
Primal Scream – Come Together. Another taste of their new direction. Summer favourite.
Happy Mondays – Kinky Afro. Legendary TOTP appearance with donkey jacket.
Jesus Jones – Right Here Right Now. Should have been massive in the UK.
EMF – Unbelievable. Just about to be released; swap with Blue Pearl as the hot tip.