The Now series reached another milestone with the release of its 40th volume on 3 August 1998. 20% of its songs reached number one on the UK chart and we get treated to a double whammy from rising pop stars All Saints. My opinions on this set of a dozen tunes can be read from the following:
New Hits ’98: Natalie Imbruglia – Big Mistake.
Smash Hits Summer ’98: The Tamperer featuring Maya – Feel It, Aqua – Doctor Jones, Steps – Last Thing On My Mind, Janet Jackson – I Get Lonely, Massive Attack – Teardrop, Perpetual Motion – Keep On Dancin’ (Let’s Go), Imaani – Where Are You?
Fresh Hits ’98: Bus Stop featuring Carl Douglas – Kung Fu Fighting, Lutricia McNeal – Stranded, Catatonia – Road Rage, Baddiel, Skinner & Lightning Seeds – Three Lions ’98.
The Grease Megamix first reared its ugly head in December 1990. This ghastly staple of weddings and bad discos was put together by PWL’s Phil Harding and Ian Curnow. It was released in 1998 when the film turned 20 and in case you’ve been living under a rock, features the three biggest hits from the Grease soundtrack: You’re The One That I Want, Greased Lightnin’ and Summer Nights. Of more artistic merit is Viva Forever, a tired and emotional ballad from the Spice Girls. Yahoo: “A tear-jerking flamenco guitar and lush strings weave into this break-your-heart, I Will Always Love You ballad with a touch of Madonna about it.” Shades of Like A Prayer’s Spanish Eyes. In its wake, Karen Ramirez’s evocative cover of Everything But The Girl’s Looking For Love and then Billie Piper’s cheeky call ‘n’ response pop classic Because We Want To. #1 at 15 years old.
“Do you want to sleep with me tonight?” is a translation of a French question asked by Eleventh Hour, Labelle, Sabrina and now All Saints. A passable entry. Stay smutty with the relentless grind of Mousse T vs Hot ‘N’ Juicy – Horny. And now for one of the most inspired Now sequences ever: The Groove Generation featuring Leo Sayer – You Make Me Feel Like Dancing followed by Bus Stop’s reboot of Kung Fu Fighting. The GGs are CP, Kipper and Carlos and they revamp the ’70s disco classic with a choice rap and extremely funky grooves. Kung Fu Fighting sees the main man, Carl Douglas, get into the action himself. Staying with glitter are Ultra Nate and their string-soaked New Kind Of Medicine.
Postcards From Heaven begat Lost In Space, a relaxed, soulful jam from the Lighthouse Family – complete with heavily religious iconography in the video. Also ploughing a downbeat furrow are Boyzone on All That I Need; additional production by Rude Boy, Andy Bradfield, Trevor Steel, and John Holliday. Elsewhere All Saints second number is a superb take on the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Under The Bridge while K-Ci & Jo-Jo’s All My Life is pure gorgeous, an awesome bump. Sticking to R&B, Sparkle sounds like its name, a stripped-down cautionary tale. Closing the first half is Peter Andre and Kiss The Girl, taken from Disney’s The Little Mermaid; a cloying and uninteresting effort.
CD2 starts with a throwback to 1985: Don Henley’s nostalgic and elegiac look at lost youth and aging, The Boys Of Summer. It won best video of that year at the MTV Music Awards. Shot in monochrome, it shows the main character of the song at three different stages of life (as a young boy, a young adult and middle-aged), in each case reminiscing about the past relationship. The crucial line: “A little voice inside my head said don’t look back, you can never look back.” at which point, each of the three people look back in turn. He also has a pop at Grateful Dead stickers on a Cadillac; an automobile that apparently is a right wing status symbol. The video is absent from YouTube, otherwise it would be first in line.
I can’t get excited about The Mavericks and their turgid timex texmex country Dance The Night Away. Next is the gentle strum of Eagle Eye Cherry’s Save Tonight – “Fight the break of dawn” always gets me. Big anthem spot: Embrace’s deadly serious Come Back To What You Know followed by The Verve’s Sonnet – described in the booklet as “the single that never was.” Not quite. In early 1998, Hut asked The Verve to put out another 45 from Urban Hymns. The band disagreed. Unusually, Hut pressed them on this matter, and so the band finally agreed to release Sonnet, but only in a format that would make it ineligible for chart recognition. It ended up coming out as part of a set of four 12″s (the other three being Bittersweet Symphony, The Drugs Don’t Work, Lucky Man). A cardboard mailer held ’em all. However, sales of an imported format resulted in it charting at #74.
Straight out of Chester came Mansun with a half dozen top 40 hits in just over 12 months. Legacy sounds almost immortal now, built on an amazing riff and a rather creepy promotional video. Back to football, time to score one more – Vindaloo was the work of a Britpop side project called Fat Les AKA Damien Hirst, Keith Allen and Alex James. Watch out for a young Lily Allen in the video. Unofficial piss up anthem. Yes, oh yes: The Rockafeller Skank featuring the repeated line “Right about now, the funk soul brother / Check it out now, the funk soul brother”, a truncated vocal sample of rapper Lord Finesse on the Vinyl Dogs’ Vinyl Dog Vibe. Also added: Just Brothers – Sliced Tomatoes, The Bobby Fuller Four – I Fought the Law, John Barry and his Orchestra – Beat Girl, Art of Noise featuring Duane Eddy – Peter Gunn.
Banger time: David Morales presents The Face – Needin’ U. Perfect summer holiday blaster. In step, Lucid’s I Can’t Help Myself, the sound of a thousand house parties. KAM decks carried down basement steps and placed on the kitchen worktop. Also caned in those sunny months was Barbara Tucker’s uplifting Everybody Dance (The Horn Song). You’ve never too far away from a bad disco cover; this time its star of the Saturday Night Fever stage production, Adam Garcia murdering Night Fever. Lastly, a pair of glorious failures. 1) Kerri-Ann’s likeable Irish #1, Do You Love Me Boy. All the airplay in the world didn’t help. 2) Los Umbrellos – No Tengo Dinero. Catchy in the worst possible way.
Spice Girls – Viva Forever
Lighthouse Family – Lost In Space
Embrace – Come Back To What You Know
Mansun – Legacy
The Verve – Sonnet
Lest we forget
The Groove Generation featuring Leo Sayer – You Make Me Feel Like Dancing
Missing tracks and other thoughts
Now 40 is a lot better than I remember with some crackers and impeccable sequencing from the maestro Ashley Abram. Even the rubbish is placed together. Some more songs:
Bluetones – If… Classic single from their enigmatic second album.
Air – Kelly Watch The Stars. Retro electronics and table tennis.
Cornershop – Sleep On The Left Side. Low, fat grooves.
Beastie Boys – Intergalactic. The triumphant return and Hello Nasty prelude.
Hanson – Thinking Of You. Lost in the sands of time, a beautiful noise.