“I’m standing alone”.
Sign of the times: the first two songs on Now That’s What I Call Music 1989 were originally compiled on the rival Hits series. The Hits Album 10 yielded Simply Red’s faithful cover of If You Don’t Know Me By Now which haunted every slow set and graduation ball that summer. Fast forward six months to November and Monster Hits from where Lisa Stansfield’s dreamy All Around The World sprang. She Drives Me Crazy with its insistent riffage and Tina Turner’s empowering The Best continue to rack up considerable airplay today while the Four Tops’ Loco In Acapulco is a fun hangover from Buster.
Donna Summer’s This Time I Know It’s For Real ended an 11 year run outside the UK top 10. One of SAW’s best. We slow things down with Wet Wet Wet’s syrupy Sweet Surrender before Sam Brown’s magnificent ballad Stop. And there’s more: Natalie Cole’s sweeping Miss You Like Crazy and the angelic melancholy curveball Don’t Know Much, a duet from Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville. As an aside, the Daniel Lanois-produced Neville Brothers LP Yellow Moon comes highly recommended – especially the Bob Dylan covers [The Ballad Of Hollis Brown, With God On Our Side]. It was also the year of Mr Zimmerman’s No Mercy which was touched by the hand of Lanois. Remarkably one of the out-takes, the apocalyptic Series Of Dreams remains one of his strongest ever tracks.
We switch to club tunes from track 11: Soul II Soul’s stunning summer pitch Back To Life, Chaka Khan’s 10 year update of I’m Every Woman and Black Box’s massive floor-filler Ride On Time. After Technotronic’s addictive Pump Up The Jam and Bobby Brown’s groovy mover My Prerogative, there’s a triple play from Now That’s What I Call Music 14: Neneh Cherry’s wondrous debut 45 Buffalo Stance, Inner City powerful house tune Good Life and Paula Abdul’s R&B smash Straight Up. One-hit wonder time: Boy [George Merrill] meets Girl [Shannon Rubicam] and they wait for their star to fall. Love the major sax break. CD1 ends with Sydney Youngblood’s righteous If Only I Could. Strings of life.
“I’m watching you all”.
Jam(tronik) on it: Phil Collins opens the second disc; the dramatic, over-sentimental, excessive yet utterly brilliant Another Day In Paradise. A plea for concern towards the homeless. Inexplicably excluded from Now That’s What I Call Music 16. We’re joined by two from the Hits 10 team: The Bangles’ tear-jerking Eternal Flame and Mike and The Mechanics’ gut-wrenching The Living Years. I close my eyes and I’m back in the hot summer of ’89; it’s 12:30am and the first slow set is underway. The pressure is on. Back to reality with Tears For Fears’ epic Sowing The Seeds Of Love (5:04). Anything is possible.
Could Electronic be described as a supergroup? The wonderful Getting Away With It featured New Order’s Bernard Sumner and The Smiths’ Johnny War with Pet Shop Boy Neil Tennant guesting. The Beautiful South keep the sardonic vibe flowing with the deeply cynical Song For Whoever while I Don’t Want A Lover remains Texas’ most perfectly-realised cruising number. Open up those windows and hit the accelerator with Roy Orbison and the air-punching You Got It before the brooding Road To Hell (Part 2). The menace continues with Richard Marx’s scary and voyeuristic Right Here Waiting. Dark.
We now switch to more hi-octane thrills. INXS released Kick in October ’87; it was still selling loads well into 1989. Need You Tonight is an atmospheric rocker with a heavily-synthesised lick. The version on Now 14 was inadvertently edited and unfortunately the error is repeated here. The Millennium series 1988 edition is your friend for “you’re one of my kind”. Belinda Carlisle had a great year, Leave A Light On is a go-go rush. Next is Debbie Harry’s driving I Want That Man before a brace of dramatic dancefloor garage nuggets from the somewhat overlooked Now That’s What I Call Music 15: Transvision Vamp’s riotous Baby I Don’t Care and Roxette’s steamroller-schlock The Look.
Shakespears Sister’s debut 45 Break My Heart bombed. See ALF’s Super Hit Parade. You’re History was a different story; a gothic marvel with deadly high notes. Crackers. Meanwhile Erasure made it eight top 20 hits with the succinct Stop. Finally in a neat sequencing trick it’s a Stock, Aitken and Waterman 1-2-3 punch to finish with. All three tracks missed out on being compiled on any other of the main UK series during 1989 despite each one reaching #1. Kylie Minogue’s joyful Hand On Your Heart is followed by Jason Donovan’s sad yet upbeat Too Many Broken Hearts. And the icing on this most sweet of cakes is their smooth duet Especially For You. The Hit Factory marches on.
“I’m seeing you sinking”.
Phil Collins – Another Day In Paradise
Chris Rea – The Road To Hell (Part 2)
Linda Ronstadt featuring Aaron Neville – Don’t Know Much
Shakespears Sister – You’re History
Jason Donovan – Too Many Broken Hearts
Lest we forget
Electronic – Getting Away With It
Missing tracks and other thoughts
On and off and on again: Now That’s What I Call Music 1989 is a cracker with plenty of variety and more great sequencing. Once again the house music success stories are limited to more familiar names like Black Box, Technotronic and Inner City with R&B and soul getting a larger slice of the pie. Both CDs set out their stall with bigger, well-known numbers that work well as an epic wall of sound before ushering in more subtle material. 1989 was SAW’s biggest year; just when you thought Donna Summer was going to be your lot, then in comes the closing triple whammy. Although I think they could have included more PWL material: The Reynolds Girls [I’d Rather Jack], Big Fun [Can’t Shake The Feeling] and Sonia [You’ll Never Stop Me Loving You] being prime candidates.
22 of the 40 tracks were compiled on 1989’s Nows: eight from Now 14, five from Now 15 while Now 16 gave us nine. The Hits series was represented with eight songs; five from Hits 10 with three lifted off Monster Hits. Other contributors were Smash Hits Party ’89 [My Prerogative, Especially For You] and The Awards 1989 [Loco In Acapulco]. Seven numbers missed out on being included on the canon UK compilations of the year: Don’t Know Much, I’m Every Woman, Another Day In Paradise, Getting Away With It, I Don’t Want A Lover, Hand On Your Heart, Too Many Broken Hearts.
18 tracks held the #1 position in 1989 but only seven of them are compiled here. The major omissions are Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart and You Got It (The Right Stuff). Bros were waning; New Kids On The Block stepped right up. The two charity chart-toppers, Ferry Cross The Mersey and Band Aid II have been dealt with elsewhere while Madonna’s Like A Prayer was off the pitch due to licensing. In other news, Madchester raved on in November and it’s a pity not to see at least one of Hallelujah or Fool’s Gold getting a place. Or even Pacific State. Other chart pacemakers during ’89 included Jive Bunny and The Mastermixers with three #1s. At a push I’d have included Let’s Party as that never gets a look in due to the inclusion of Christmas songs. Mood: swinging.