Now That’s What I Call Music 1984 (EMI / Virgin / Polygram, 1993)

Now 1984

Now 1984 r

Review
“Live those dreams,
Scheme those schemes”
.

Like 1983, 1984 was also a vintage year for pop. The second volume in Now That’s What I Call Music’s 10th Anniversary series does a decent job of capturing the musical highlights with a thoughtful selection of exquisitely sequenced tracks. There were three volumes of Now in 1984 while CBS and WEA’s also got involved by releasing The Hits Album. And don’t forget K-Tel’s 30 killer cuts: Hungry For Hits. Now That’s What I Call Music 1984 includes tracks from all of these along with others that were not anthologised at the time.

There’s no surprises with the opening track. It had to be Queen who featured on the three Nows of 1984. Now That’s What I Call Music 3 gave us I Want To Break Free, the second single from The Works which was promoted by a most amusing video. George Michael’s Careless Whisper was the track that finally broke Two Tribes’ nine week sequence at the top of the charts. What’s Love Got To Do With It became the second mega hit of Tina Turner’s comeback and also the title of her book / film about her life. A remixed version of Paul McCartney’s No More Lonely Nights appeared on Now That’s What I Call Music 4. The curveball of Arthur Baker’s Special Dance Mix. We now get the more sedate ballad. It’s followed by the transatlantic introspection of John Waite’s Missing You. MT USA.

Tears For Fears unleashed the powerful Shout in December ’84. 1985 would prove to be a very big year for them. There’s a move into more romantic territory with Jim Diamond’s hoary #1 I Should Have Known Better, Phil Collins’ epic tearjerker Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now) and Cyndi Lauper’s magnificently maudlin Time After Time. It’s worth noting that Jim’s album at the time was called Double Crossed. He ended up double crossing himself by urging his fans to spend their money on the Band Aid single instead. Meanwhile Sade’s moody Your Love Is King and its parent album Diamond Life could be heard pumping on stereos all over London that summer. Make your soul sing.

U2 were the first band I saw in concert. June 1985. The Unforgettable Fire tour. Pride (In The Name Of Love) was the lead single and sold a truckload of copies in the first week. ZZ Top’s boogie rock was finally getting a wider audience in Ireland and the UK with the Eliminator LP and its legendary videos. Gimme All Your Lovin’ is effortlessly great and doesn’t let up until it’s through. There’s no escaping The Bluebells as the old-before-its-time Young At Heart pops up again [last seen on Now That’s What I Call Music 24]. Next are Madness with Carl Smyth taking a rare lead vocal on the chilling Michael Caine while the Special AKA’s Nelson Mandela remains a powerful plea for freedom.

Sometime in August ’84 The Smiths and Depeche Mode appeared on the same Top Of The Pops. I’ll never forget it. “Marry me” etched on Morrissey’s stomach while the Basildon lads brought out the whips. While William, It Was Really Nothing is eschewed here for the #10 hit Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now, the oblique Master And Servant is present and correct. The mood stays dark with Echo and The Bunnymen’s goth grandeur of The Killing Moon before the Style Council’s breezy and jazz-tinged You’re The Best Thing. Back to The Smiths; I missed the 31 May 1984 Top Of The Pops performance of Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now because I was on a school tour to London. Now I can relive it whenever I want. CD1 closes with Band Aid and Do They Know It’s Christmas? Feed the world.

“On the air America,
I modeled shirts for Van Heusen”
.

The second disc starts with a home run of four tracks from Now 3. There’s Duran Duran’s second #1 The Reflex which was touched by the hand of Nile Rodgers. Wham! go bright and breezy with Wake Me Up Before You Go while both Nik Kershaw and Ultravox touch on our cold war fears and end of the world anxiety. I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me was a minor hit [#47] in 1983 and was reissued after the success of Wouldn’t It Be Good and Dancing Girls. The video for Dancing With Tears In My Eyes portrays a nuclear power plant meltdown and depicts Midge Ure running home after discovering that an explosion is imminent. The video ends with the power plant exploding, and the image of a home movie of Ure, his wife and their child, with the visual effect of a melting film. It was the era of Threads and The Day After with the threat of nuclear annihilation a very real fear.

Together In Electric Dreams was a sublime collaboration between the Human League’s Philip Oakey and synth pioneer Giorgio Moroder. The Steve Barron film Electric Dreams depicts a love triangle between a man, a woman and a personal computer. Skipping quickly past OMD’s nadir Locomotion, we’re faced with one of era’s greatest pop singles: Bronksi Beat’s plaintive cry from the heart, Smalltown Boy. However the mix here appears to be an early fade of the album version. The 7″ can be found on Just Can’t Get Enough 14. Now That’s What I Call Music II gives us Here Comes The Rain Again which became the fifth consecutive top 10 hit for Eurythmics. This is followed by Scritti Politti’s cool Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin) and the naff Too Late For Goodbyes.

CD2’s second half contains a remarkable black music sequence that begins with Chaka Khan’s spellbinding I Feel For You. Written by Prince with harmonica by Stevie Wonder. The Weather Girls pelted up the charts with It’s Raining Men with the Pointer Sisters’s Automatic was the second of Breakout’s seminal singles. On the week of my London trip it occupied the #2 position in the UK chart with the next track, Deniece Williams’ sweet soul of Let’s Hear It For The Boy right behind it. The Reflex was #1 and I purchased all three 7″s from Virgin in Oxford Street. Meanwhile Billy Ocean hits paydirt on the second attempt: as European Queen it flopped but a quick change in lyrics to the more exotic Caribbean Queen meant going all the way to the top of Billboards’s Hot 100.

When originally released on Sugarhill, White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It) was credited to Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel. This was done to mislead the general public into believing that Flash participated on the record when in fact he played no part and had already left the label. It entered the UK top 75 in November 1983 and peaked at #7 the following July, spending 43 consecutive weeks on the chart. And Sister Sledge’s belated issue of Thinking Of You [a 1979 album track] saw a revival in their fortunes culminating in a #1 hit with Frankie in ’85. Elsewhere Kool and The Gang funk had mellowed by the release of the gentle Joanna, another Fab Vinnie memory. We end with two tracks that featured on Hits 1: Miami Sound Machine’s panic at the disco Dr Beat and Laura Branigan’s theatrically overblown but marvelous Self Control. “The night is my world”.

“Envy will hurt itself
Let yourself be beautiful”
.

Favourite tracks
Eurythmics – Here Comes The Rain Again

The Smiths – Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now

Pointer Sisters – Automatic

Sade – Your Love Is King

Laura Branigan – Self Control

Lest we forget
Echo and The Bunnymen – The Killing Moon

Missing tracks and other thoughts
1984 was a year of several huge selling releases, including at the time the biggest selling single ever. Six singles from 1984 sold over a million copies including two from Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Relax and Two Tribes – while they had a third number one with The Power Of Love. The omission of all three songs is baffling and is a major gap. Two Tribes dominated the summer and Relax climbed back up to the chart to keep it company at #2. Welcome To The Pleasuredome was one of the most eagerly awaited albums ever and a major event for me when I picked up a copy in early November.

23 of the 40 tracks are taken from 1984’s Nows: two from Now II, 16 from Now 3 and five from Now 4 [including Macca]. Now 3 was bound to dominate given that it was released in the summer and is a smashing snapshot of the preceding four month period. Two is a poor return from the second Now volume while it’s telling that The Hits Album outscores Now 4 by 7-5. Other contributors include the aforementioned Hungry For Hits [Sade and note that The Special AKA and Weather Girls songs are on both this and Now 3], while we look to the future for The Hits Album 2 [Jim Diamond] and The Greatest Hits Of 1985 [Band Aid]. Seven tracks are classified as strays: Shout, Master And Servant, The Killing Moon, Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now, Wood Beez, Automatic and Joanna.

15 tracks held the #1 position in 1984 but just six of them are included here. However Only You can be found on Now That’s What I Call Music 1983. Of the others, it’s surprising not to see 99 Red Balloons and Hello given that they had already been compiled on the Now albums of the time. I Just Called To Say I Love You was always going to be difficult to license but Wham’s Freedom would have been more welcome than Wake Me Up Before You Go Go. Or even Last Christmas, the sixth best selling single of the year despite peaking at #2. I would have preferred Girls Just Wanna Have Fun instead of Time After Time. And maybe a novelty tune – Nellie The Elephant, We All Stand Together, Hole In My Shoe or the greatest of them all – Rat Rapping by Roland Rat Superstar. “Scratch!”

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10 Responses to Now That’s What I Call Music 1984 (EMI / Virgin / Polygram, 1993)

  1. cosmo says:

    It would have been really good if they could have included Down on the Street by Shakatak as well.

  2. Feel the Quality says:

    I hate the version of White Lines that’s on here (and the Millennium Series 1984 too). It takes about two minutes before we get any lyrics that aren’t “don’t do it” or “baby”.
    Ghostbusters is one I would add to this volume as that song was everywhere towards the end of the year. Last Christmas would have been a good addition (IIRC, it’s still the best selling UK single that never reached the top) but seeing as we got the under-played (and absolutely brilliant) other A-side, Everything She Wants on the next instalment, it more than makes up for it.

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      For White Lines the full 12″ is the best; the shorter versions don’t work as well. Good call on Ghostbusters, the Hits Album / Now 4 straddler. Now that you mention it, Last Christmas would have been welcome too (even at Freedom’s expense) although Band Aid was a shoe-in.

  3. Chris Brown says:

    If I had to name the problems facing the world today, I don’t think insufficient opportunities to hear ‘Last Christmas’ by Wham would be among them… Personally I don’t really like having Christmas songs on general compilations anyway.

    The Depeche Mode/Smiths “Marry Me” TotP was the same episode where they raced a train from London to Bristol trying to break the speed record. Last time I looked, it was all on YouTube except the DM performance, but we probably won’t be seeing it on TV anytime soon because of one of the presenters.

  4. Pingback: Now That’s What I Call Music 1985 (EMI / Virgin / Polygram, 1993) | A Pop Fan's Dream

  5. nlgbbbblth says:

    Cheers Chris – just checking it out now. Thanks.

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