“Give me the food and let me grow
Let the Roots Man take a blow”
Now That’s What I Call Music 35 hit the shops on 18 November 1996 and contains five singles that reached #1 in the UK chart. It was also the last one to get a vinyl release. I remember two copies sitting in the racks of Dublin’s Virgin Megastore for some weeks prior to being sold. That shows the level of demand. The LP format really does justice to the striking sleeve; a comforting nighttime neon vibe. Nowadays it’s the most highly sought-after LP in the series and was featured in a recent edition of Record Collector.
Ashley Abram shows that he means business by lining up four chart toppers in the first five tracks. The Spice Girls went straight in at #1 with Say You’ll Be There. Production duo Absolute incorporated a mix of pop and R&B into the song, which includes a harmonica solo played by Judd Lander. The music video was inspired by the films Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! [Russ Meyer] and Pulp Fiction [Quentin Tarantino] and features the group as a band of female techno-warriors capturing a hapless male. Both films were on heavy post-midnight VCR rotation at the time; rented from the sadly-missed Laser [Ranelagh] and Late Night Movies [Rathmines].
We go back to April for George Michael’s edgy Fastlove, an energetic tune about the need for gratification without commitment. A re-sung chorus of Patrice Rushen’s Forget Me Nots features. And we get the rare-ish Forthright Edit. Nice. Another #1: Peter Andre’s Flava bridging the gap before the next two smashes. East 17 team up with Gabrielle on the pleasant If You Ever while Texans Deep Blue Something give us Breakfast At Tiffany’s, the ultimate so-90s-it-hurts tune. And the Pet Shop Boys broke a three year silence with the underrated Bilingual LP; the breezy Se A Vida É was its second 45. That’s the way life is.
The inlay tells us that Stephen Jones has written hundreds of songs since 1988. Goodnight was a minor hit, reaching #28 in June after it was recorded with a full band. You’re Gorgeous was the monster breakthrough, a well-deserved albatross. The Beautiful South’s bleakest album, Blue Is The Colour, yielded the bittersweet Rotterdam. Unusually downbeat is Dodgy’s If You’re Thinking Of Me while Crowded House’s Recurring Dream best of justified the reissue of Don’t Dream (It’s Over) which finally got the charts success that it was denied in 1987. Flying the British popular music flag are The Bluetones and Ocean Colour Scene. Marblehead Johnson and The Riverboat Song are both hard rockers that complement Sheryl Crow’s swampy blues of If Makes You Happy, a global smash.
It was a very good year for Garbage. The eponymous debut album gave up five singles, with Milk being the last. Remixed for a duet with Tricky and correctly here as the Wicked Mix. The spooked atmospheric continues on Neneh Cherry’s epic Woman with the Lighthouse Family’s Goodbye Heartbreak maintaining the melancholia. Elsewhere Pulp’s Different Class was still providing new thrills in 1996; in this instance, the deep blue soundscapes of the thought-provoking Something Changed. Likewise for Cast’s All Change and the cosmic Flying, the biggest success to date. Just getting into the 45 stride for the Coming Up songs were Suede with the cool dandy groover Beautiful Ones. Finally – and fitting like a glove – is Belinda Carlisle’s steely go-go dancer Always Breaking My Heart.
“Take a short, take a short change
Taking time, time to rearrange”
A different drum, slowdown time: Dina Carroll’s comeback single that September was the dramatic Escaping. Next come Boyzone with a passable cover of the Bee Gees’ Words. Eternal continue the ballad sequence with the help of Eric Clapton on Someday. It’s smooch central as the Backstreet Boys harmonise it up on I’ll Never Break Your Heart, followed by Londoners Damage on the soulful Love II Love. Clock cover the Four Seasons; the world stops turning. Louise spices up our lives on the sultry Undivided Love but Ant and Dec disappoint on When I Fall In Love. 911’s Don’t Make Me Wait sadly doesn’t hit the mark either and Strike’s cover of Paula Abdul’s My Love Is For Real is merely mediocre.
Saved: Faithless and the blissed-out Insomnia. Quickly followed by the Ibiza anthem Seven Days And One Week from Italian producers B.B.E. Plus eight – Stretch ‘N’ Vern’s scorching I’m Alive and its samples of Earth, Wind And Fire. Back to the island for Healy and Amos’ hard-hitting Stamp! Livin’ Joy’s European dance Follow The Rules fits in well before Wildchild’s expressive Jump To My Beat. Underworld’s Pearl’s Girl was nabbed by The Greatest Hits Of ’96; total killer of relentless BPMs and paranoid rhythms.
Comedown: Space’s spidery Neighbourhood. Sounds better. Then Bjork’s Possibly Maybe, wonderfully sparse and calming. Bath music. Check out the brilliant performance from Jools Holland’s show on YouTube. 1 November 1996. So there’s time for one more. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Britpop’s perennial underachievers – York’s Shed Seven. Watching This Life and chainsmoking. Firing up the turntable after every episode. Chasing Rainbows is magical, chord and lyric perfection with a wistful and misty-eyed quality.
“Well, I tell you, that boy
He stopped up at the station
He must be on a mission of passion
Couldn’t make out whether he was from
Salford or Manchester”
Spice Girls – Say You’ll Be There
Garbage – Milk
Pulp – Something Changed
Bjork – Possibly Maybe
George Michael – Fastlove (Forthright Edit)
Lest we forget
Shed Seven – Chasing Rainbows
Missing tracks and other thoughts
A tale of two discs and for the last time, four sides. CD1 is mostly perfect but the second half doesn’t really get going until Faithless join the party. Inspired “Going For Gold” due-for-release final pick though. And this quartet would have certainly livened up things:
Phil Collins – Dance Into The Light. Welcome back and great horns.
Everything But The Girl – Single. Downtempo breakbeat spectacular.
Chemical Brothers – Setting Sun. Noel Gallagher making his presence felt.
Future Sound Of London – My Kingdom. Light years ahead.
I’ve never worked out why they were included the remix of Fastlove other than it maybe being a problem clearing the original version. The original mix is one of the finest moments in George Michael’s career (and that’s saying something) IMO.
As you say, the first disc is pretty damn good. Woman is a song that should have got much higher in the chart. Beautiful Ones is one of my favourite Suede tracks and I always enjoyed The Bluetones, even if Slight Return was their peak. Dina Carroll had an amazing voice and released some great ballads during the nineties, whilst Escaping doesn’t hit the heights of Don’t be a Stranger, it’s still a fine song.
Oh and just to be pedantic, Peter Andre doesn’t bridge the gap between number ones, Flava was a number one, it’s Gabrielle and East 17 that didn’t reach the summit.
Forthright edits seemed to become flavour of the month afterwards. Ta for the correction: it was the year that one week chart toppers became common so the memories can get muddled.
Another excellent entry in the series. Agreed that Fastlove is among George Michael’s best.
Se a Vida É sees the Pet Shop Boys tackle the Latin sound with style:
Deep Blue Something reference Audrey Hepburn’s best-known role:
You’re Gorgeous, indeed that is the word to describe it, by Babybird:
Is this Rotterdam or Liverpool? So ask the Beautiful South:
Agreed re Woman by Neneh Cherry – another career-defining moment with a genuinely tragic and heartfelt tune.
Fatihless with the hypnotic Insomnia:
Eurodance and Dream House continue to make inroads in the British and Irish charts. Of the Eurotracks on Disc 2, BBE come up tops with Seven Days & One Week.
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Obviously, this has got to be one of my all-time favourite NOW albums for sure because I have all three formats of this – CD, cassette and the much-sought after vinyl. As you mentioned, the vinyl version really does justice to the nighttime neon vibes of the sleeve design. But I personally have an observation to make:
– The NOW compilers should’ve at least put the original version of “Fastlove” on here instead of the Forthright edit (we did get the original on NOW 96 as a tribute to George Michael though).
About songs that could’ve been included, we missed out on The Chemical Brothers’ only NOW appearance on vinyl with “Setting Sun”. We do meet them a volume later with the addictive “Block Rockin’ Beats”.
I know I may be probably biased, but to refer to NOW 65 ten years later with Meat Loaf’s version of “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” as the closing track, it would’ve (personally for me, at least) been more appropriate had the NOW compilers ten years earlier begged for Sony Music to allow them to put Celine Dion’s version of “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” on there, maybe in place of “Don’t Dream It’s Over” by Crowded House (although “Don’t Dream It’s Over” is a pretty decent enough song).
All round aside from the observations, this is possibly one of my personal favourites in the Now series, alongside 18, 28, 29, 30, 31 and 54.
Thanks very much for your comment.
Good call on Celine Dion. Forthright Edits were the *in* thing at the time.
Have played this volume again and have to say it’s part of a great sequence of quality volumes which started with Now 26 and ran until at least Now 36.
Were you buying the LPs at time of release? I only know of one other person in Ireland who kept on buying the vinyl editions.
I wasn’t born at the time, but I bought the LP on Discogs two years ago. Cost me around 116 euro plus shipping from Italy, in pristine mint condition.
Hi Paul, totally agree with Stephen Emmett’s comments about this. One of my favourites after the early fade and edit fest of Now 34.
Garbage’s Milk is my track of the album, though Wildchild’s Jump To My Beat comes close, despite being a bit of a chart failure. Great sample of M-D-Emm’s Get Down. It deserved better.
Agreed about Setting Sun. Also, despite being licensed to Virgin, Future Sound of London never appeared on a Now, despite some decent chart placings and some very good tracks.
Maybe FSOL seen as too leftfield possibly? Really would have enhanced a couple of volumes.
Inner City Life made the dizzy heights of no. 39 but made Now 32. I love the track but it was perhaps an odd one for a middle of the road hits compilation. That seems to be the exception, though. Back in 1991/92 when the rave scene was in full flow, there was almost a deliberate avoidance of using rave on the Nows. On A Ragga Tip seemed a bit out of place on Now 22 after Ugly Kid Joe!
I’m surprised the likes of Nirvana or Pearl Jam never made a Now. Cartoons featured on more than The Happy Mondays. Who am I to criticise the greatest compilation series in history, but there are lots of quirks!
Agree; some strange omissions over the years. Do like Now 32 a lot despite the lack of Vicks action.
Whilst we’re on the regard still of the missing tracks that could’ve made it onto NOW 35, I feel that there would’ve been a proper fitting finale to CD 2 (and for the final time, Side 4) of the compilation: that being the somber and mellow “Flowers in December” by Mazzy Star – considering that at the time of pressing, the single had just spent a week in the UK Top 40 at Number 40 on 27 October 1996 and quickly vanished. But considering that the length of the song is 4 minutes and 57 seconds (three seconds away from 5 minutes) in its’ album version, it would’ve been really difficult to put on there in place of “Chasing Rainbows” by Shed Seven, but it would’ve been some treat for the kids who were a part of the Paisley Underground scene… just saying. Although at least, it would either be that or keep “Chasing Rainbows” by Shed Seven as the finale to this compilation.
Good call Stephen, it’s a nice tune. There is a radio edit of it which runs at 4:15 which could have been used. They used the album version of Possibly Maybe which is one and a half minutes longer than the concise single mix. A bit of reshuffling and Mazzy Star could easily fit in.
I must say I was always surprised when I found out they continued releasing the series on vinyl as late as Now 35.
Its clear that the vinyl version of this is now one of the most sought after in the series and one most collectors are unlikely to obtain without paying a small fortune.
Fast forward 9 years and remember all but ignoring the last few cassette releases as cassettes were clearly on their way out and paying for both the CD and cassette versions felt like a waste of money.
Of course like the later vinyls, the last few Now cassettes go for a small fortune on Ebay.
I honesty thought they’d stop at Now 28/29 as the sales had fallen off a cliff by then. As more & more tracks got included, it was a major error not to have a 3LP set which would have at least made it more attractive. The sound quality of Now 30 – 35 double LPs is awful.
I assumed for ages Now 26 was the last one purely due to the “From CD/Tape” text that appeared on the track descriptions from Now 27 onwards. To be honest have not really thought about the sound quality of later Nows but it sounds as though it was quite poor.
I half expected Now 50 to be the last one to get released on cassette given that by the end of 2001 cassettes seemed to be well on the way out and other compilations eg TOTP, Hits and even Now Dance had gone CD only and as such I was quite surprised when they continued for over 4 years and another 13-14 volumes.
Would you say the demise of cassettes was sudden or a more gradual one that maybe took place over a few years from 2000/2001 onwards?
Cassette peak was 1988. Four out of every six new albums sold was on cassette.
CDs overtook them in 1992. It was a gradual drop-off until around 2002 or so. My car (purchased new in 1999) had a cassette player.
Once again thanks for this really interesting information.
My understanding was that the popularity of cassettes really declined during 2001. In the earlier part of the year “Top Of The Pops 2001-Volume 1” and “Music, The Definitive Hits Collection Volume 1” both got a cassette release but their follow up volumes in the summer didn’t.
Woolworths seemed to stop selling most albums on cassette in about mid 2001 and where I lived there was no HMV or Virgin so the option for purchasing cassettes became much more restricted. There was a smaller record shop which from memory continued to sell some cassettes but not to the same degree as the larger chains.
I remember going into our record shop one day in about 1996 to find that whilst it had previously been full of vinyl, it was instead full of CDs with only a couple of racks of vinyl. Have no memory of whether or not the later Now albums were sold there.