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.
Promotional poster courtesy of the Now That’s What I Call Music Collectors Group UK.
This will always be one of my favourite entries mostly because it brings back memories of the summer of 1990. It still baffles me that they went with Little Brother as the Blue Pearl song, sure Naked in the Rain had been out a while but it was one of the great summer hits. I know it’s not the usual type of song you find on Nows (with a few exceptions) but I think Nessun Dorma should have been on here. As much airplay as Sacrifice and World in Motion had that summer, Pavarotti belting that out was probably the sound of 1990 and with the possible exception of MC Hammer, I don’t recall hearing anything as much. Although, being the anthem of the World Cup might have played a small part!
Yes, Nessun Dorma was very memorable. I had mentioned it as a missing track on The Greatest Hits Of 1990 but it would have been equally welcome here. I’d like to see it on one of the future Now spin-offs. They’re releasing enough of them anyway!
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I suppose the trouble with putting ‘Nessun Dorma’ on would be that you’d have to stick it at the end of a disc, because nothing else (that was a hit in 1990) would follow it without sounding jarring. And as much as ‘Unbelievable’ might have been welcome at the time, it’s so overplayed now I wouldn’t miss it. I’m sure I have about four or five copies of it on other compilations.
I do quite like Now 18, which has the honour of being the most expensive individual Now I’ve ever bought (£2:99).
Nessun Dorma would have slotted in well at the end of disc 1. Those missing tracks suggestions are generally taken from what I felt at the time, rather than now. As it happens I didn’t have too long to wait for Unbelievable – it ended up on Awesome!! 2 which will be featured on the 30th. £2.99 is a bargain; I paid full price…..
I only buy them if they’re cheap – I kind of made that decision when I realised I’d started collecting an ongoing series that was already onto more than 70 albums. It’s why I have most of them up to 81 and then only 83 (won it!) and 86 (£1:99 from a charity shop in Chiswick less than a year after release) after that point.
Forgot to mention ‘It’s My Life’ the other day. I know some sources say it was a remix in 1990 but I have that 7″ (paid 29p for it!) and it has the 1984 copyright date. Doesn’t sound different to me either, though I don’t have an original 7″ to compare it with.
That makes sense – you could start collecting via Ebay / Discogs / Amazon but the prices are steep especially for Nows 8 – 20 or so. Demand jumped after the ITV documentary in May 2013 as well. What about Zoverstocks on Amazon Marketplace for the later volumes? [they’ll probably go down to £0.19 or less there]. Was playing Natural History CD in the car earlier and the version of It’s My Life is indeed very like the 1984 version.
I did actually get Now 77 and 65 for 1p (plus postage) on Amazon so I look up 81 and 82 every couple of days to see how cheap they are, but I feel like it spoils the fun a bit to get everything that way.
I’m starting to pick up these earlier volumes on CD now, I had 1-20 on vinyl and the rest on CD. I stopped buying sometime in the early 60s, just didn’t want to spend £15 a time on a CD that I was buying to keep up with a series. Maybe I’ll get the ones from the last eight years or so eventually just to have them all. I picked this up on Amazon the other day for a couple of quid, it says it’s the original CD and everything so fingers crossed, it’s actually the fatbox. If it isn’t, it shall be winging its way back.
Fatbox is crucial; if not it means that the front inlay has been ditched. Accept no substitutes! Have you Now 4 on CD?
No. Maybe one day when I have a few hundred quid to spare.
Same here; the one that got away. Some day. . .
Update. It was the fatbox and even came with the old foam inserts! Other than a slight crack on the front, it’s in basically perfect condition.
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Remember being really impressed by “Have You Seen Her” the first time I heard it (October 2001 after I acquired a cassette copy of “Please Hammer Don’t Hurt Em”) and being quite surprised when I later found out it was a cover version. Surprising that “U Can’t Touch This” never made it onto a main Now album though.
Heard Beautiful South’s debut album for the first time a few years ago and was really impressed with it. Started listening to “Choke” and switched it off after the first track. If you have heard it all the way through, how do you think Choke compares to Welcome To The Beautiful South?
I understand “Sacrifice” was included on “Sleeping With The Past” but seem to remember on Now 18 it’s stated as being taken from “The Very Best Of Elton John”. Does that suggest the track was released to promote his greatest hits compilation or was it simply released to promote ‘Sleeping’ and Now just made reference to the Greatest Hits album?
U Can’t Touch This should have been on Now 17.
Welcome To The Beautiful South is a masterpiece. The Japanese reissue from 2004 is the best version – https://www.discogs.com/The-Beautiful-South-Welcome-To-The-Beautiful-South/release/3556881
Sacrifice was released as a single in 1989 and bombed. As was Healing Hands. The two were combined on a double A-side around May 1990 – and it was number 1 at the time of the World Cup. The Very Best Of came out in October so it wasn’t used to promote that. Instead they used You Gotta Love Someone to give the compilation a push – that song was also on the Days Of Thunder soundtrack. God, 1990 was a great year. If you’re looking for an Elton retrospective I also recommend To Be Continued (4CD set from 1990).
Once again thanks for responding. I had no idea “Sacrifice” was No1 at the time of the 1990 World Cup.
That Elton John compilation you mentioned sounds intriguing. Had forgotten that “You Gotta Love Someone” was on the Days Of Thunder Soundtrack too.
That Japanese Beautiful South CD also looks intriguing.
Referring back to the Talk Talk track on this compilation (“It’s My Life”), there’s a further NOW connection to this song as we go along…
No Doubt (who we will meet on Nows 36 and 37) had a minor UK Top 20 hit in November 2003 and then again in March 2004 (as a double A-side with a remix of “Bathwater”) with their cover version of that tune. BTW, the Talk Talk track on NOW! 18 is one of those songs that sound far better in my humble opinion as a cover version (i.e. in this case, Talk Talk’s tune sounds better as a cover by No Doubt)…
Just wanted to bring that useless fact up.
Thanks Stephen. The Divine Comedy also covered it. Talk Talk are one of my favourite bands – their three album run from The Colour Of Spring to Laughing Stock is fantastic. Think I prefer the original although it is one of their lesser singles.
Hi Paul, I wonder if ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ is a contender for the oldest number one to be featured on a Now? Having hit the top in February, this should really have been on Now 17. Having said that, it seems to fit well where it is on Now 18, 9 months after hitting the top.
UB40’s ‘I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You’ was superceded at the top by Gabrielle and Freddie Mercury. ‘Dreams’ and ‘Living On My Own’ made Now 25 while UB40 had to hang on to open Now 26, some 5 months later.
Steps ‘Tragedy’ could also be a contender, though the A-side did feature on Now 41. Of course, this was a late bloomer due to ‘Tragedy’ becoming a party classic.
Hi Andrew, I think Phil Collins – You Can’t Hurry Love is also a contender. Reached the top on 9 January 1983.