“No Elvis, Beatles, or The Rolling Stones in 1977”.
Now That’s What I Call Music 19 remains the worst-selling volume of the entire series. It was released on 25 March 1991 in another somewhat garish sleeve – the colours of my county with the shade of purple a dead ringer for my birthday present shirt. The number of tunes increased to 34 with an 18 / 16 split across the two discs. There are five chart toppers included out of a possible nine.
In a curious twist there’s a Queen track here but it’s used as the closing song. Instead we lead with The Clash and Should I Stay Or Should I Go. They had disbanded five years beforehand but Levis used the 1982 track for yet another jeans advert and a number one hit was born. Their one and only. The rest of disc 1 is largely focused on beats. Scritti Politti and Shabba Ranks make for unlikely bedfellows as they cover The Beatles’ She’s A Woman. It’s an overproduced mess but retains a certain charm. Now for The Source and Candi Staton’s You Got The Love; a 1986 vocal and a 1989 John Truelove bootleg mix re-invented for ’91. The story would continue in 1997 and 2006. Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond had their second #1 with the crucial 3AM Eternal (Live At The S.S.L.). This version had a rap by Ricardo da Force and the crowd noise was fake – made in the studio. S.S.L. = Solid State Logic mixing desk.
C&C Music Factory’s Gonna Make You Sweat built up a reputation during late 1990 and crossed over from the clubs to the charts in early 1991. Weather Girl Martha Walsh is the diva but does not appear in the video. Nomad consisted of Bristol rapper Mikee and vocalist Sharon Dee Clarke and were produced by Damon Rochefort. (I Wanna Give You) Devotion still gives me goosebumps, a Wednesday night classic for me as I turned 19.
“It is odd that, at the moment this was featured, we didn’t really realize how happy we were. At 19 you sense a first taste of freedom, it floods in like pure gold, by 27 you got used to it, and than you sort of ‘don’t care’, minding your matters earning money at 32-37, suddenly at 40 someone refers to you as ‘getting on a bit’, and now the 40s don’t crawl anymore, they flash by. A year feels like 7-8 months, compared to a 20 yo. I wonder how 65-70 feels, or 88”. (John Callaghan)
We laughed when EMF released their follow-up to Unbelievable. Reason – it had the word ‘believe’ in the title. I Believe was a frantic piano pounder and rumour had it that single #3 would be I Don’t Believe Anything. The choons continue with 808 State and the apocalyptic In Yer Face. Opening chords like New Order. It’s followed by Massive Attack’s epic Unfinished Sympathy from one of the decade’s most vital LPs Blue Lines. As the single was released in the midst of the Gulf War, the word “attack” was temporarily dropped from the group’s name at the advice of their record company and management. The BBC thought that the name Massive Attack was unpatriotic so the amendment was carried out to ensure airplay. When you turn on the radio and this is the first song you hear, you know it’s going to be a good day. Unfortunately it’s the album version rather than the Nellee Hooper 7″ mix but we can’t have everything.
The winning sequence comes to an end with MC Hammer’s rather perfunctory Pray. Nice When Doves Cry samples but it’s no Have You Seen Her. Kim Appleby’s second 45 was the catchy G.L.A.D. [Good Lovin’ And Devotion] while Kylie made it a dozen smash hits with the funky What Do I Have To Do proving that the Rhythm Of Love era was her zenith. Now 19’s nadir is undoubtedly The Stonk, 1991’s Comic Relief single. Hale and Pace are the guilty ones with Brian May acting as an accessory. It has not aged well. Mid-table respectability is regained with 2 In A Room’s bouncy Wiggle It and Vanilla Ice’s slick Play That Funky Music. The latter was based around Wild Cherry’s 1976 dance monster.
The compilers still had faith in Boy George. The yet-to-be-released Victims was included on Now That’s What I Call Music. Now his new pop vehicle Jesus Loves You saw their Bow Down Mister make Now 19 with the comment “is destined to climb”. #27 was the end result. Its blend of Hare Krishna chanting and club beats complement disc 1’s final pair of tracks. First is Enigma’s Sadness Part 1 which combines gregorian chants, dance rhythms, spoken word and eerie keyboards. The man behind the mask was a Romanian producer called Michael Cretu. The chilled out new age vibe continues with Praise and Only You which was initially featured on a Fiat Tempra advertisement. Praise consisted of a London-based trio of accomplished composers/instrumentalists Simon Goldberg and Geoff McCormack and vocalist Miriam Stockley. Only You is almost tribal in execution but the ultimate feeling of one of contemplation and relaxation. Let the sunshine in.
Disc 2 pales in comparison to the first half. It’s a lot more restrained and fewer chances are taken. A romantic beginning: Oleta Adams was discovered in the US by Tears For Fears and featured on their 1989 album The Seeds Of Love. Get Here is a lyrical and beautiful R&B slow jam. Rick Astley’s hits the high notes and proves that he doesn’t need SAW on Cry For Help, a gospel-flavoured epic. Robert Palmer’s amalgamation of two Marvin Gaye numbers is less pleasing: Mercy Mercy Me / I Want You proves to be a rather plodding listen. The power of terrestrial debuts struck for a second time in three months during Christmas 1990 when Dirty Dancing’s UK premiere saw a reissue of Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes’ (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life. The previous instance was in October when Top Gun got its first showing and Berlin’s Take My Breath Away ended up on The Hit Pack.
The Righteous Brothers’ Unchained Melody was the best selling single of 1990. Its appearance in the film Ghost was the primary reason why. The momentum continued with the re-release of their 1965 hit You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’; A Phil Spector production and a worthy example of the Wall of Sound. There’s a brief dance revival with Seal’s doom-laden Crazy and Banderas’ Balearic groover This Is Your Life which was produced by Stephen Hague. Unfortunately their album Ripe failed to hit the mark and remains er, ripe for rediscovery. Elsewhere Stevie B, The King of Freestyle dropped a love ballad and owned the Billboard charts. Appropriately enough, Because I Love You (The Postman Song) was released in the UK just before Valentine’s Day. At the time I was full of disdain towards it, now not so much.
“This day is for loving your own life
Don’t let this world capture your heart
Your passion lost to a thousand themes
Surrendered to the screen”.
Chris Rea’s first album of the 1990s was the solid Auberge. The rocking title track kicks off side 4, the final quarter. Chris Isaak returned to the top 20 with his Wicked Game follow-up, Blue Hotel – sounding like a Trip Advisor review sung by the gloomy ghost of Elvis. The adverts strike again as Free’s 70s rocker All Right Now gets a Bob Clearmountain remix as a chewing gum plugger while INXS continue in their ordinary world with the anonymous Disappear. Belinda Carlisle continues to ride her juggernaut with the sixth single from Runaway Horses. Summer Rain is my favourite – a heartbreaker that will never die:
“Oh my love, it’s you and that I dream of
Oh my love, since that day
Somewhere in my heart I’m always
Dancing with you in the summer rain”.
The Railway Children formed in 1985 with Brighter emerging on the Factory label during 1986. They moved to Virgin four years later and released Every Beat Of The Heart – a fantastic slice of guitar pop. We then switch back to rock with Thunder’s pedestrian Love Walked In. Finally we have Queen. And given that the end was near and the final countdown was imminent, it’s appropriate that they’re occupy the last slot. Innuendo runs for 6:30 and comes with a flamenco guitar section, an operatic interlude, some sections of heavy metal, and lyrics partly inspired by Freddie Mercury’s illness. At the time the media was beginning to run stories about his failing health but these were denied. The accompanying music video is equally impressive: animated representations of the band on a cinema screen along with creepy plasticine stop-motion. A superb finale.
“We’ll tread that fine line
Oh we’ll keep on tryin’
Till the end of time
Till the end of time”.
Belinda Carlisle – Summer Rain
808 State – In Yer Face
Banderas – This Is Your Life
Queen – Innuendo
Lest we forget
The Railway Children – Every Beat Of The Heart
Missing tracks and other thoughts
Now That’s What I Call Music 19 was the first not to feature a video selection. It’s another memorable entry with a few weak moments [mostly on disc 2]. Suggested replacements:
Iron Maiden – Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter. Hit the top after Christmas and not really compiled anywhere.
Patrick Macnee and Honor Blackman – Kinky Boots. Quality lounge action.
The Simpsons – Do The Bartman. A Gulf War #1. The programme hitting its stride.
My Bloody Valentine – To Here Knows When. Check your needle for fluff.
Ride – Unfamiliar. The fourth EP gets ’em on Top Of The Pops.
Ned’s Atomic Dustbin – Happy. A glorious grebo moment.
Happy Mondays – Loose Fit. Don’t mention the war.