The first Now album of 1998 was released on 6 April and included five number ones. You’ll already have read about the following tracks which originally appeared on:
Smash Hits ’98: Robbie Williams – Angels, Louise – Let’s Go Round Again, Bamboo – Bamboogie.
Big Hits: Natalie Imbruglia – Torn.
New Hits ’98: Catatonia – Mulder And Scully, Steps – 5, 6, 7, 8, Aqua – Barbie Girl, Run DMC and Jason Nevins – It’s Like That, Cornershop – Brimful Of Asha (Norman Cook Remix), Lutricia McNeal – Ain’t That Just The Way, Backstreet Boys – All I Have To Give.
CD1 begins with the devastating Never Ever, a work of advanced maturity from All Saints. The story of a break-up which focuses on what the protagonist did wrong, set to 67 BPMs and based upon the overlay of the hymn New Britain. Sales figures were 1,200,000+ – the second highest for a British girl group after the Spice Girls’ Wannabe. It also picked up best British single and best British video at the industry’s awards ceremony. Forever You And Me: the Lighthouse Family drop another smooth number with the addictive rush of High. Get a groove on with Janet Jackson’s uptempo yet sombre memorial to a friend Together Again while the Spice Girls take us on a Motown spin with the poptastic Stop.
“Hello, can you hear me?” began Billie Myers’ signature tune, the moody tale of growing pains, Kiss The Rain. Remember it from Dawson’s Creek. Not aged 13 and 3/4. In close proximity is the star-studded (including Lou Reed) Perfect Day, all proceeds to Children In Need. Christmas number one in Ireland, 1997. Background: originally used by the BBC in a lengthy corporate promotion of its diverse music coverage. “Whatever your musical taste, it is catered for by BBC Radio and Television. This is only possible thanks to the unique way the BBC is paid for by you. BBC. You make it what it is.” Reap what you sow.
Roll call: Lou Reed, Bono, Skye Edwards, David Bowie, Suzanne Vega, Elton John, Boyzone, Lesley Garrett, Burning Spear, Thomas Allen, Heather Small, Emmylou Harris, Tammy Wynette, Shane MacGowan, Sheona White, Dr John, Robert Cray, Huey Morgan, Ian Broudie, Gabrielle, Evan Dando, Courtney Pine, Andrew Davis, Brett Anderson, Visual Ministry Choir, Joan Armatrading, Laurie Anderson, Tom Jones.
Shades of pop abound: Boyzone’s heartfelt Baby Can I Hold You gives way to a surprising cover version of a Sundays’ album track. I remember the bracing cold Monday morning in January 1990 when I walked from Waterford RTC to the KG Discs at Lisduggan Shopping Centre. Reading, Writing and Arithmetic was the vinyl prize. Back to reality: Tin Tin Out’s version is a form of electronic dream pop and quite pleasant. Next the inspired pairing of Cerys from Catatonia and Space indulging their mutual passion for Tom Jones in the form of a quirky ballad. And for their fifth single from White On Blonde, Texas serve us up the brooding Insane. Equally downbeat are Hanson with their all grown-up Weird. Respect.
We continue to drift along. LeAnn Rimes’ soul-searching How Do I Live, a song with serious chart staying power – 34 weeks in the UK. Elsewhere Shania Twain starts to make it big with the impressive ballad You’re Still The One while the 007 franchise gets another memorable theme – Sheryl Crow’s Tomorrow Never Dies. OK Computer has just turned 20; its third single the mournful No Surprises is a thing of beauty. Childlike guitars and a Pet Sounds vibe. This mini Brit pop section continues with another third 45, The Verve’s melancholy urban hymn Lucky Man. The end of the line: Pulp’s This Is Hardcore which reached #1 in my annual top 50. A epic soundtrack to a dark fantasy. A hell of a show.
Robbie Williams still has the record for the most appearances in the Now series. Easy when you get a few double appearances. Let Me Entertain You is a slamming track, although desperately over-familiar now. The remainder of the second disc is primarily geared towards the club zone. Back once again – Wildchild’s Renegade Master was already compiled on 1995’s Now That’s What I Call Music 32. The new mix is courtesy of Norman Cook, man of the moment. On the upside: Ultra Nate’s Found A Cure, Sash’s sensational holiday banger La Primavera and Camisra’s twisty techno Let Me Show You. And now for the unessential selection: Chumbawamba’s Amnesia.
It’s a turkey shoot for DJ Quicksilver as the melancholy trance of Planet Love storms the charts. Rest Assured’s Treat Infamy comes with the familiar strings from the Rolling Stones’ The Last Time. Also heard on Bittersweet Symphony. Classical meets hip hop on Warren G’s intricate Prince Igor. More royals: Prince Buster’s Whine And Grine (a 1967 skanker) gets revived on foot of a Levi’s advert. A blue breakbeat via a sweet exorcist: the All Seeing I’s sampling delight Beat Goes On (Buddy Rich vs Sonny & Cher). In other news, Goldie returnz with undercooked Believe which is not quite all that. Last orders on Now 39 go to Barnet’s Vanilla and the hilarious No Way No Way. A Reynolds Girls for the 1990s generation or a Poundland Spice Girls?
“You’re living in a dreamworld.”
Natalie Imbruglia – Torn
Sash! – La Primavera
Pulp – This Is Hardcore
Radiohead – No Surprises
The Verve – Lucky Man
Lest we forget
Hanson – Weird
Missing tracks and other thoughts
The first disc is a top selection of pop, both uptempo and reflective. CD2 is solid but pales in comparison. Here are some alternative options which could have helped:
Portishead – Over or Only You. Both equally excellent singles from their second LP.
The Prodigy – Smack My Bitch Up. Wicked, violent, crucial.
U2 – If God Will Send His Angels. Another fifth single. This from the underrated Pop.
Bernard Butler – Stay. Grandiose debut single, one of Britpop’s underrated tunes.
Ian Brown – My Star. Unfinished monkey business with a lot to offer.
Air – Sexy Boy. After three killer 12″s came this poppy lounge stunner.
Hurricane #1 – Only The Strongest Will Survive. Unsung classic, not landfill indie.
Promotional poster courtesy of the Now That’s What I Call Music Collectors Group UK.