Now That’s What I Call Music 36 (EMI / Virgin / Polygram, 1997)

Now 36

Now 36 r

“What would you do if you saw spaceships over Glasgow?
Would you fear them?”

Now That’s What I Call Music 36 hit the racks on 24 March 1997 and was the first volume not to receive a vinyl release. Sign of the times. For the third time in succession, the Spice Girls take pole position. But instead of including their December chart topper, 2 Become 1, Box Music decided to choose the forthcoming Mama, the official single for Comic Relief ’97. Mama is a sweeping ballad and banished any remaining doubts regarding the quintet’s musical ability. It was released as a double A-Side with Who Do You Think You Are?

White On Blonde: Texas return with the tearjerking and beautifully sung Say What You Want. Equally emotional are the Bee Gees and the rambling Alone. Still amazing after all those years. The Beautiful South come next, the desperate Don’t Marry Her. Naturally it’s the clean version. Sunny Sundays in the garden. Not Madonna, No Doubt’s radio staple, the rocky Don’t Speak. And from the bedroom to the top of the charts, White Town or Jyoti Mishra and Your Woman. A muted Al Bowlly sample, a pop song with numerous perspectives, a true one-off. Also riding the sample wave, The Blueboy, drilling Marlena Shaw’s Woman Of The Ghetto vocal onto the addictive Remember Me. Belgrave Square.

We go way back to autumn ’96 for Jamiroquai’s sparkling Virtual Insanity with Robert Miles making it three from three One On One. Another summer smash, George Michael’s ultra groovy Spinning The Wheel remixed by Forthright. This ushers in the R&B section with Mark Morrison’s catchy Horny, Peter Andre’s smooth Natural and the anodyne Love Guaranteed by Damage. Ladies night: Eternal’s spooky Don’t You Love Me [their best post-Louise] and Gabrielle’s Walk On By. Kavana’s I Can Make You Feel Good pales against the Shalamar original but East 17’s Hey Child is a expertly sung ballad. Rivals Boyzone drop the impressive slice of exotica A Different Beat complete with stern voiceover but the Backstreet Boys and 911 ensure that CD1 ends with empty slickness.

“And time is a string of pearls
Your blue room
Once again
See the future just hanging there”

Pop. U2’s return. The heavy techno sound of Discothèque and the remixes keep flowing. The most common version was the 5:08 12″ cut, included here. The sound and the fury continue with The Prodigy’s Breathe. Meanwhile The Chemical Brothers are out for round 2: Block Rockin’ Beats. The drums are sampled from Them Changes by Bernard Purdie while the vocal belongs to American rapper Schoolly D. The narcotic breaks continue on Placebo’s gritty shaker Nancy Boy. Remember the boy with the oversized red jumper? From Revenge to Monaco; Peter Hook’s new venture. The chugging What Do You Want From Me is about his failed relationship with Caroline Aherne. Ruined in a day. In the melting pot comes Sheryl Crow and her rousing rocker Everyday Is A Winding Road.

Some might say 1997 was the last party for Britpop. Blur had a #1 at the end of January with Beetlebum; neatly distilling the essence of 1992’s Rollercoaster era into a track that sounded quite like Pavement. Even better are James, veterans of The Smiths’ first Irish tour. The dazzling She’s A Star is one of their career highs, an immersive experience. Next comes the pulsating Wide Open Space from guitar heroes Mansun with Cast’s new 45 Free Me bearing psychedelic tinges. Elsewhere Dark Clouds is yet another building block for Space, nice trumpet touch. Cathy Dennis pulls off a unlikely cover of Waterloo Sunset. And the Divine Comedy’s caustic window opens wide on Everybody Knows (Except You).

From Essex dogs to Essex girls: Alisha’s Attic and Indestructible. A wonderful harmony sound. They even make Ant and Dec’s Shout look great. That just leaves five club tunes to see us home. Once again, You Got The Love gets a reboot; the New Voyager Mix with the timeless vocal of Candi Staton. Inspired by Faithless, Sash! blasts off with the massive Encore Un Fois. Then it’s time for DJ Quicksilver and his European dancefloor trance anthem, Bellissima before B.B.E.’s slamming follow-up to Seven Days And One Week, the intense Flash. End with Amen UK’s Passion. Muzik, Mixmag and Ricky Butcher’s stag.

“Child of Eva – your Christianity
I had a dream it was the end of the Seventies”

Favourite tracks
Spice Girls – Mama

U2 – Discothèque

Chemical Brothers – Block Rockin’ Beats

James – She’s A Star

Boyzone – A Different Beat

Lest we forget
Alisha’s Attic – Indestructible

Missing tracks and other thoughts
This volume is just like Now That’s What I Call Music 35 – a game of two halves. Disc 1 starts promisingly but runs aground with a interminably long loop of somewhat colourless R&B and boyband tunes. The second CD is a cracker all the way. Even better would be:

Depeche Mode – Barrel Of A Gun. Just like U2, back after a four year hiatus.
Erasure – In My Arms. Heavenly pop hit.
Suede – Saturday Night. The Coming Up comedown.
The Orb – Toxygene. Ideal for playing backgammon to.
LL Cool J – Ain’t Nobody. Straight in with a bullet, Going Underground-style.
Daft Punk – Da Funk. Boombox bassline house.


Promotional poster courtesy of the Now That’s What I Call Music Collectors Group UK.
Now 36 poster

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23 Responses to Now That’s What I Call Music 36 (EMI / Virgin / Polygram, 1997)

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  12. Martin Davis says:

    Out of interest can you remember feeling disappointed and/or surprised when Now 36 didn’t get a vinyl release or do you think it wasn’t that unexpected?

    I remember thinking Now 50 would be the last one that ended up coming out on cassette given that other compilations of the time such as the relaunched “Hits”, “Top Of The Pops”, “Smash Hits” and even Now Dance seemed to go to being CD only during the course of 2001 so I was quite surprised when the cassettes ended up continuing until Now 63 although I did wonder whether each volume would be the last one.

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      I was surprised they kept up the vinyl releases until the end of 1996.
      A couple of dog-eared copies of Now 35 sat in the shops here for months. Think they were sold off at 4.99 or less in the end. There was a similar pattern for the last few – hardly anybody was buying them. The sound quality was atrocious.

      • Martin Davis says:

        Thanks for another interesting response. Amazing to think that these later Now vinyls got sold off for something like £4.99 when new and nowadays would cost the earth on Ebay.

        Remember getting a cassette version of Now 54 for a similar price from a motorway service station less than a year after it had come out. Best one was acquiring Now 59 on cassette for only 50p at a car boot sale less than a year after it had come out.

        • nlgbbbblth says:

          I was one of small minority who kept buying new vinyl all through the 1990s and 2000s – although I drew the line at compilations as feel they naturally belong on CD.

          It’s one of the more annoying things about the vinyl resurgence. People who turned up their nose at vinyl during the lean years of the 1990s now becoming the biggest know-it-alls. They’re the ones who constantly diss CDs now and throw a tantrum if a multi disc box set doesn’t get a vinyl release.

          • Martin Davis says:

            I respect you for sticking with vinyl all that time.

            The vinyl revival has had some positives but it has probably made some albums more expensive than they otherwise would have been as die hard enthusiasts snap them up.

  13. Martin Davis says:

    I do think Mama works well as the opening track for the album but maybe one alteration could have been to have also included “2 Become 1”, perhaps at the end of the album.

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      Would have certainly gone for that – their profile was so big that two tracks would have been warranted.

      • Martin Davis says:

        Glad to hear you approve. Back in 1997 I seemed to be forever hearing The Spice Girls as my sister played it on repeat and it always seemed to crop up at school discos, birthday parties etc. In fact I remember one disco where the DJ literally played the whole album.

        We only had a recorded copy of the album (a friend copied it for us in exchange for a copy of 100% Kids) and I always remember my sister moaning about how her friend’s copy of the album had an inlay with lyrics whereas ours didn’t. I got an original copy around 2000/2001 time but of course ky sister was no longer interested by that time.

        What did you think of them out of interest? Have you ever heard their albums?

        • nlgbbbblth says:

          Bought both albums on vinyl at the time. Both reduced to £3.99 – two copies (one to play, one sealed). Proved to be a lucrative investment. Iconic pop band.

          • Martin DavisÒ says:

            Were the Spice Girls albums originally released on vinyl then? I’m aware they’ve been rereleased in recent years but was never sure as to whether they came put on vinyl to start with.

  14. Toto paniagua says:

    Maria sempre a la vanguardia de las posiciones y cantidades de Boys entrando desdevilla hasta el molusco partuzero. Good life

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