The Hit Pack (CBS / WEA / BMG, 1990)

Hit Pack

Hit Pack r

There are different theories on when the Hits series jumped the shark and stopped becoming a serious contender to its Now That’s What I Call Music rival. For some, the lack of a number on The Hits Album 9 was a sure sign that they couldn’t be bothered. For others, the rebrand to Monster Hits was the moment. I disagree with both opinions and have a load of affection for both Hits 9 and the two Monster Hits releases. No – it was The Hit Pack that done it. The album barely reached the shops in time for Christmas and it was only a single CD with cassette buyers benefiting from three additional tracks. I don’t believe the vinyl version exists. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the compilers decide to mix the tracks so there are no gaps between them and the end of the previous song can be heard when the next one starts. Not good for shuffle play.

The opening track is amazing: Deee-lite’s Groove Is In The Heart (Peanut Butter Mix). The shorter take with the rapper. The best one to dance to. It’s followed by Black Box’s remodel of Earth, Wind and Fire’s Fantasy which segues into Snap’s seasonal groover Mary Had A Little Lamb. Next up is Caron Wheeler’s lost house classic Livin’ In The Light while the dance sequence continues with Seal and the perennial space jam Crazy. A quick nod to Madchester: The Charlatans third 45 Then. The swirling organ sound remains intact, the 12″ was mispressed and we drove like maniacs to see them woo The Top Hat in November 1990. Staying Mancunian then – it’s 808 State’s rave belter Cubik. Mantra for a state of mind. The promotional video showed them with their own Bez.

“The past is steeped in shame,
But tomorrow’s fair game”
The late late breakfast show: Aztec Camera joined forces with Mick Jones for the scathing criticism of Good Morning Britain. Politics with melody. Time for The Obvious Child, Paul Simon’s lead track from the underrated Rhythm Of The Saints. Super drums. Gazza and Lindisfarne crash the party with the hoary Fog On The Tyne. England were the best side at World Cup 1990 but came a cropper on penalties against the West Germans. The groove continues with Twenty 4 Seven featuring Captain Hollywood’s likeable hip hop sound of Are You Dreaming. I finally got to see Prince play live in 1990. Cork in July, inexplicably supported by Stockon’s Wing and Mavis Staples. Thieves In The Temple was the main highlight of the rather difficult soundtrack to The Graffiti Bridge.

One for the hipsters – Del Amitri’s Spit In The Rain, their ode to lost love. We stay in Scotland for The Proclaimers’ low-key cover of King Of The Road. There’s a nice nod to Tom Cruise with the next pair: Maria McKee’s show-stopping ballad Show Me Heaven from Days Of Thunder. Dusty summer days in Minch Norton with this on the radio. 25 years on and it still packs a massive emotional punch. Meanwhile Berlin’s Take My Breath Away was re-released in the UK during October 1990 to coincide with the first television showing of Top Gun as well as Peugeot’s new television advertising campaign for the 405 model range. This time around it reached #3 in the charts.

Deacon Blue had a period of consolidation in 1990 with the release of the Four Bacharach And David Songs EP. Their version of I’ll Never Fall In Love Again is lovely and was held off the top spot by Timmy Mallett and Bombalurina. Another track to get a reissue in 1990 was Bobby Vinton’s cover of Blue Velvet. David Lynch-wise, it was also the year of Wild And Heart and on the small screen, Twin Peaks. Julee Cruise’s Falling is wonderful and haunting; a perfect accompaniment to the strange goings-on. Sandwiched between Blue Velvet and Falling are A-ha and their atmospheric cover of The Everly Brothers’ Crying In The Rain. Closing time – New Kids On The Block’s endearing slow/fast Tonight.

Favourite tracks
Deee-lite – Groove Is In The Heart (Peanut Butter Mix)

Paul Simon – The Obvious Child (Single Mix)

Maria McKee – Show Me Heaven

Lest we forget
Aztec Camera and Mick Jones – Good Morning Britain

Missing tracks and other thoughts
Despite everything, The Hit Pack is an enjoyable trip. The opening dance sequence is excellent while the leftfield choices are thoughtfully dotted throughout. The run of tracks from Spit In The Rain to Falling is particularly moody. However just giving us one CD was a crazy idea and screamed of skimping and cheapness. The cassette had three extra tracks – The Chimes’ Heaven, Dimples D’s Sucker DJ and More by The Sisters Of Mercy. I’d have added a further six to bring the total to an even 30 and enough for a fatbox:

Madonna – Hanky Panky. Some breathless action.
Janet Jackson – Black Cat. Superb Rhythm Nation 45.
George Michael – Praying For Time. Deathless ballad.
Londonbeat – I’ve Been Thinking About You. Hopelessly devoted to you.
AC/DC – Thunderstruck. Rarely licensed but we can dream.
Wedding Present – (Make Me Smile) Come Up And See. Dang dang dang.

And sequenced it like so:

Disc 1
Madonna – Hanky Panky
Deee-lite – Groove Is In The Heart (Peanut Butter Mix)
808 State – Cubik (Original Mix)
Black Box – Fantasy
Snap – Mary Had A Little Lamb
The Chimes – Heaven
Dimples D – Sucker DJ
Caron Wheeler – Livin’ In The Light
Seal – Crazy
Janet Jackson – Black Cat
Twenty Four Seven featuring Captain Hollywood – Are You Dreaming (Radio Edit)
Prince – Thieves In The Temple (Album Version)
Londonbeat – I’ve Been Thinking About You
George Michael – Praying For Time
New Kids On The Block – Tonight

Disc 2
AC/DC – Thunderstruck
Wedding Present – (Make Me Smile) Come Up And See Me
Sisters Of Mercy – More
Charlatans – Then
Aztec Camera and Mick Jones – Good Morning Britain
Paul Simon – The Obvious Child (Single Mix)
Gazza and Lindesfarne – Fog On The Tyne (Revisited)
Del Amitri – Spit In The Rain
Proclaimers – King Of The Road
Maria McKee – Show Me Heaven
Berlin – Take My Breath Away
Deacon Blue – I’ll Never Fall In Love Again
Bobby Vinton – Blue Velvet
A-ha – Crying In The Rain (LP Version)
Julee Cruise – Falling (Edit)

Blink and you’ll miss it – starts at 1:11.

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14 Responses to The Hit Pack (CBS / WEA / BMG, 1990)

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  4. Martin Davis says:

    I own both the CD and cassette version of this. Rather amusing that the cassette has 3 extra tracks given that a year earlier Now 16 did the opposite and had 3 extra tracks on the CD version.

    Am pretty sure that the running order on the tape is changed slightly too with “Fog On The Tyne” being the last track.

  5. Andrew Chinnock says:

    I think this was a Mark Arthurworrey compilation. God, he was responsible for so many butchered compilations in the early 90s, all for no reason at all.

  6. Andrew Chinnock says:

    I can only wonder at what damage his compiling skills did to the brand and as to whether that had an impact on it finishing for a while?

  7. Colin Hoad says:

    Ah, I had this on cassette as a Christmas present from a well-intentioned grandparent. I must have worn the tape out listening to it over and over again on my old Walkman. It is a bizarre mix of tracks, no doubt… but I still have a lot of affection for it! Never realised having it on cassette meant that I benefited from three extra tracks, though – win!

  8. Andrew Chinnock says:

    Thought I’d revisit this album this morning. I might be mistaken about Arthurworrey’s involvement – it sounds like one of his yet he’s not credited on the cd or on Discogs. There are no similarities between this and Monster Hits 2 in compilation style or design. It feels like a totally new invention. It doesn’t even have a Hits catalogue number.

    I agree with you totally that this was the point where the Hits Series jumped ship. It was the last to be compiled by CBS/WEA/BMG with Warner pulling out. I think that’s quite significant as well.

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      Do you have the cassette version Andrew? I enjoy this despite everything – although sales must have been poor. Yes, Warner pulling out is a clear sign of direction.

      • Andrew Chinnock says:

        I don’t even have a cassette player any more. It was the first casualty when I bought myself a minidisc deck.

        It stayed at no. 2 in the compilation chart for 5 weeks, so that was tidy enough, then it fell away. I see what you mean about an odd time to release it., though there were 2 other releases in the top 20 of the compilation chart the same week! It never outsold Now 18 over any period.

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