Now That’s What I Call Music 1983: The Millennium Series (EMI / Virgin / Universal, 1999)

Now Millennium 1983

Now Millennium 1983 r

After three excellent volumes from the non-Now years, the 1983 instalment sees a move into more familiar territory as we now overlap with both the main Now series and its 10th Anniversary editions. Key events of the year include the following:
1 January: ZTT Records is founded.
8 January: The UK singles chart is tabulated from this week forward by Gallup.
2 March: Compact discs go on sale in the United States. They had first been released in Japan the previous October.
1 September: Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon issue a press statement announcing that Mick Jones has been fired from The Clash.
25 December: Marvin Gaye gives his father, as a Christmas present, an unlicensed Smith & Wesson .38 special calibre pistol so that he could protect himself from intruders. A few months later, Gaye Sr would use it to shoot his son dead.

The stories of 1983’s pop tunes have been told in reviews of the following records:
Raiders Of The Pop Charts: Madness – Our House.
Hotline: Joe Jackson – Steppin’ Out.
Chart Runners: U2 – New Year’s Day.
Chart Encounters Of The Hit Kind: Eddy Grant – Electric Avenue.
Chart Stars: Fun Boy Three – Our Lips Are Sealed, Heaven 17 – Temptation*.
Hits On Fire: Freeez – IOU, Mike Oldfield – Moonlight Shadow*.
Headline Hits: Yazoo – Nobody’s Diary, KC and The Sunshine Band – Give It Up*.
The Hit Squad Chart-tracking: Bananarama – Cruel Summer, New Edition – Candy Girl*.
The Hit Squad Hits Of ’83: Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes – Up Where We Belong.
Now That’s What I Call Music: UB40 – Red Red Wine, Culture Club – Karma Chameleon, Duran Duran – Is There Something I Should Know, Human League – (Keep Feeling) Fascination, Tina Turner – Let’s Stay Together, Peabo Bryson and Roberto Flack – Tonight I Celebrate My Love, Kajagoogoo – Too Shy, Tracey Ullman – They Don’t Know, The Cure – The Love Cats. NB – songs marked with an * above were also included on this first Now album – 13 in total.
Chart Trek: Tears For Fears – Pale Shelter.
Now That’s What I Call Music II: Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Relax.
Now That’s What I Call Music 3: Nik Kershaw – I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me.
Now That’s What I Call Music 1983: Elton John – I’m Still Standing, The Jam – Beat Surrender, Level 42 – The Sun Goes Down (Livin’ It Up), Spandau Ballet – True, Siouxsie and The Banshees – Dear Prudence, Style Council – Speak Like A Child.

“For information only. These were the other number ones of 1983.
Michael Jackson – Billie Jean.
David Bowie – Let’s Dance.
Spandau Ballet – True.
The Police – Every Breath You Take.
Billy Joel – Uptown Girl.”
(Blurb on original Now That’s What I Call Music sleeve)

Two down (Spandau Ballet, The Police) so three to go. Two more are here. The first of these – Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl – also kicks off the first CD. Inspired by Frankie Valli and The Seasons with the subject of the lyrics centering on two supermodels. Either / or Elle McPherson and Christie Brinkley. The parent album – An Innocent Man – traces Joel’s musical history through his teenage years in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Doo wop and soul provide the DNA and the album cover artwork was taken on the front steps of 142 Mercer Street, just north of the intersection of Mercer and Prince Street in the SoHo neighborhood in New York City. While it’s somewhat overplayed today, I still have a huge fondness for its retro feel that seemed so out of step back in 1983/1984. Seven singles were released from the LP, so it’s effectively Joel’s Bad / Hysteria equivalent.

After a relatively quiet 1982 (two singles: Cat People and Little Drummer Boy), 1983 saw David Bowie return with a new album on a new label (EMI). Let’s Dance was co-produced by Nile Rodgers with the remit to create a record that had “an original party-funk cum big bass drum sound greater than the sum of its influences.” Listening to it today – in the wake of absorbing myself in the recent A New Career In A New Town box – it sounds very different to the previous home run of classic LPs. A slick production with a commercial feel, it’s a rather radical departure what saw the usual hipster critics turn up their noses – then and now. I really hate elitist pop snobbery like this: “The record had a great deal in common with Wham! and Phil Collins.” (Ed Power, Irish Examiner)

The music video for Let’s Dance was filmed in Australia namely a bar in Carinda (New South Wales) and the Warrumbungle National Park near Coonabarabran. In the beginning it featurs Bowie with a double bass player inside the one-room pub at the Carinda Hotel and an Aboriginal couple dancing “to the song they’re playin’ on the radio”. Bowie’s calling “put on your red shoes” recalls the Hans Christian Andersen’s tale. The singer later confirmed “The red shoes are a found symbol. They are the simplicity of the capitalist society and sort of striving for success – black music is all about ‘Put on your red shoes’.” Stevie Ray Vaughan played guitar and it topped the UK charts for three weeks.

New Order’s Blue Monday was released on 7 March 1983 and subsequently became the greatest selling 12″ single of all time. Running for 7:29 and a crucial link between disco and house, its influences come from five primary sources:
1) Arrangement: Klein + M.B.O. – Dirty Talk.
2) Signature bassline with octaves: Sylvester – You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real).
3) Beat: Donna Summer – Our Love.
4) Choir sound: Kraftwerk – Uranium
5) Long keyboard pad on intro and outro: Kraftwerk – Geiger Counter.
In 1999 it was my favourite song of all time. The throbbing synth bass line, the dead pan vocals, the melody that sounds out of sync, the glorious outro. The sleeve was designed by Peter Saville and resembles a 5.25 inch floppy disc. The inner was silver and die-cut. The money facts: It cost so much to produce that Factory Records actually lost money on each copy sold. Matthew Robertson remembers that “due to the use of die-cutting and specified colours, the production cost of this sleeve was so high that the single sold at a loss.” Tony Wilson noted that it lost 5p per sleeve “due to our strange accounting system.”

This Is What You Want… This Is What You Get is one of the most unpleasant albums of all time. It’s definitely a blot on PIL’s copybook and one I try to actively avoid listening to. It contains a re-recorded version of This Is Not A Love Song, probably the most palatable song on the LP. And that’s what is included, not the original 7″. Thankfully normal service would be resumed in 1986 and 1987 with Album and Happy? There’s no Squeeze but we do get Orange Juice. Rip It Up is synth meeting disco with a choppy Chic guitar effect. The Roland TB-303 makes its chart debut here. The 7″ sleeve depicted a US P-40 Warhawk fighter plane (decorated with eyes and teeth) partially submerged, tail first, in the sea. It was drawn by Edwyn Collins. Zeke Manyika bangs the drums. When I was younger I used to confuse him with The Police album Zenyatta Mondatta.

Two of the biggest stars of 1984 were Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Nik Kershaw. To accommodate appearances on this edition and the next one, two of their hits which originated in 1983 but peaked the following year are included now. Relax was released on 24 October and finally reached #1 three months later. ZTT initiated its ad campaign with two quarter-page ads in the British music press. The first ad featured images of Rutherford in a sailor cap and a leather vest, and Johnson with a shaved head and rubber gloves. The images were accompanied by the phrase “ALL THE NICE BOYS LOVE SEA MEN” and declared “Frankie Goes to Hollywood are coming … making Duran Duran lick the shit off their shoes … Nineteen inches that must be taken always.” The second ad promised “theories of bliss, a history of Liverpool from 1963 to 1983, a guide to Amsterdam bars.”

Relax came in a variety of formats and versions:
7″ (Move) ZTAS 1. The standard one. Came in a non-picture sleeve too.
7″ Picture disc (Move) P ZTAS 1.
12″ (Sex Mix) 12 ZTAS 1. Over 16 minutes of action.
12″ Picture disc (Sex Mix) P 12 ZTAS 1. This actually plays the US Mix.
12″ (US Mix) 12 ZTAS 1. Also known as the Long Mix.
MC (From Soft To Hard – From Dry To Moist) CTIS 102.
12″ (Disco Mix). Greece only.
12″ (Long Version). US only. Plays the US Mix.

I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me was originally written as a folk song but Kershaw’s manager signed him up to Peter Collins and Pete Waterman’s Loose Ends production company, so it became a pop anthem in the studio. Although released in mid-September, the song was written during the latter part of the Cold War period when nuclear war between Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States was still a very real concern. It was the era of films like The Day After and Threads. The lyrics reflect a satirical view of politics and the threat of war with lines such as “old men in stripey trousers, rule the world with plastic smiles”, and “forefinger on the button, is he blue or is he red?”
I’ll leave the last word to Nik:
“It’s probably not immediately obvious but I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me is about The Bomb, or rather about people taking responsibility for what they do generally. It’s saying that it probably won’t do much good for one person to shout about these things but I’m going to anyway.” (Number One magazine, September 1984)

Favourite tracks
David Bowie – Let’s Dance

Billy Joel – Uptown Girl

Orange Juice – Rip It Up

The Jam – Beat Surrender

Lest we forget
New Order – Blue Monday

Missing tracks and other thoughts
The Millennium Series 1983 is another well-sequenced volume. Massive pop classics like Uptown Girl and Karma Chameleon give way to new wave and synth pop with a mini dance ‘n’ funk selection at the end of CD1. The second half begins on a romantic vibe before settling into pop gems like Cruel Summer, Too Shy and They Don’t Know. The last third or so is taken up with an alternative set that – PIL aside – is a cracker. Comparisons with its 10th Anniversary rival are inevitable. There are 22 overlapping tracks between the two sets – UB40, Culture Club, Duran Duran, KC and The Sunshine Band, Human League, Heaven 17, Tina Turner, Mike Oldfield, Kajagoogoo, New Edition, Tracey Ullman, Elton John, U2, The Jam, Joe Jackson, Freeez, Level 42, Yazoo, Spandau Ballet, Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes, Siouxsie and The Banshees, Style Council. The Nik Kershaw track can also be found on Now That’s What I Call Music 1984. There was just one Now album released in 1983 and 13 of its tracks are featured on this Millennium entry.

17 songs reached the top of the UK charts during 1983. Nine of them are here while Phil Collins’ You Can’t Hurry Love can be found on the 1982 edition. Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean is notable by its absence – a legacy of the difficulties in licensing his music – while Rod Stewart’s Baby Jane, Paul Young’s Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home) and Men At Work’s Down Under are the three others that fail to appear on either annual round-up. Elsewhere I’d like to make plugs for Ryan Paris – Dolce Vita, The Beat – Can’t Get Used To Losing You, Herbie Hancock – Rockit and take your pick from JoBoxers, Nick Heyward and the Thompson Twins. And as an finale, The First Picture Of You by the Lotus Eaters would have been a perfect sign-up to an absolutely brilliant year of pop.

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9 Responses to Now That’s What I Call Music 1983: The Millennium Series (EMI / Virgin / Universal, 1999)

  1. Feel the Quality says:

    Not a bad compilation by any stretch but following the “non-Now years” editions was always going to be a bit “meh” by comparison. Still, a pretty good job is done here and it’s nice to see Uptown Girl finally get on a Now album.

    As a huge Duran Duran fan, I count Is There Something I should Know as one of their most vanilla tracks. I wasn’t a fan back in the day and time hasn’t softened me on it. I’ve said before that going with the bigger hit is normally the better way to go but Union of the Snake wasn’t exactly a flop and wouldn’t go amiss here. I might even say it’s more recognisable (even if the other was their first chart-topper).

    Dear Prudence is IMO the best cover of a Beatles song ever. It sounded great all those years ago and has improved over time.

    Missing songs: You mentioned Michael Jackson and the potential licensing issues but maybe Say, Say, Say could’ve been included instead as it was on Parlophone and therefore EMI (I think). It certainly was a big enough hit even if it isn’t the best song ever. Love of the Common People would have been welcome if they decided to go with one of the other big Paul Young 83 hits. Although they were included on the 10th Anniversary editions, Eurythmics are missng from The Millennium Series (I think) and anything by them would fit here. Wham! were another casualty of this series and so Club Tropicana is overlooked. And finally, the should have been Christmas #1, My Oh My by Slade.

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      Hi there,
      Yes – the law of diminishing returns sets in a bit. Good suggestion re Union Of The Snake – would certainly fit much better than Is There Something I Should Know. I always found it odd that the latter was inserted onto some pressings of the debut album.

      Some of your suggestions made my 10th Anniversary series wishlist – Say, Say, Say and My Oh My. Totally agree re Wham! – a real pity they’re not here – although Young Guns (Go For It) did make 1982.

      Mari Wilson Cry Me A River is on the stereo as I type this. A possibly maybe?

  2. Feel the Quality says:

    Just thought of another missing track, Sign of the Times by The Belle Stars. That song was everywhere for seemingly the entire first half of the year.

    Now 84 is the edition that is really missing some huge songs. It’s only got about three number ones on it IIRC and that year really delivered some truly gigantic hits in both sales and presence. Hello, Wake me up Before you Go-Go, Careless Whisper, Ghostbusters, 99 Red Balloons, Freedom, I Just Called to say I Love You, I Feel for You, Purple Rain, Like a Virgin, Last Christmas/Everything she Wants and Do They Know it’s Christmas are all missing there. Even Agadoo for all its naffness could be included.

    Sorry for jumping the gun before you put out your review of it but there’s just so many songs missing from 84, I needed to start now!

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      Yes – Sign Of The Times another missing classic. I like the 1984 edition but yes, three number ones out of 14 isn’t good enough. Agadoo would have been a real curveball but welcome….

  3. andynoax says:

    I think it says a lot that there are only a couple of years where the tracks unique to each edition were good enough to warrant me buying the 10th anniversary AND Millennium versions, and this is one of them! (and the only instance where I played something close to full price for each)

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      Yes, despite the overlap each one has its own strong points and unique tunes. The six year gap definitely helped. Nowadays the spin-offs are at a furious rate and being re-done within two or three years e.g. Reggae, Musicals, Million, Love. R&B….

  4. cosmo says:

    Although from now on, there is always going to be some “overlap” with the Anniversary series, this one, is also excellent. What further lifts this are New Order, PIL (You don’t like it? It may not be their best, but I think it’s pretty good), Level 42, New Edition (guilty pleasure!), Tears for Fears and the Cure. Agreed with you too on the “missing” numbers, especially Ryan Paris and Jo Boxers. It would have been nice to see Booker Newberry too (I know he’s already on the 10th Anniversary volume). And Madness’ Our House is a corker, but that peaked in the November of the previous year. Probably I would have preferred The Sun and the Rain, and put Our House on the 82 volume. And swap Speak Like a Child for Long Hot Summer for the Style Council.

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      Nice one Cosmo. I do like PIL but not a huge fan of This Is Not A Love Song. Madness make it five appearances in a row as Michael Caine is on the 1984 edition. Yes, The Sun And The Rain would have been cool. Once of the understated tracks on the first Now.

  5. Pingback: And All Because The Lady Loves… (Dover, 1989) | A Pop Fan's Dream

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