Now That’s What I Call Music 1986: The Millennium Series (EMI / Virgin / Universal, 1999)

Now Millennium 1986

Now Millennium 1986 r

The Year Of The Tiger. A time to remember the following events:
8 January: Reagan freezes Libyan assets in the U.S.
20 February: Plans are announced for a new tunnel linking England and France.
20 March: Actor James Cagney dies aged 86.
25 April: U.S. planes bomb Libya.
25 May: In America, millions form human chain for charity.
29 June: Argentina win the World Cip.
8 July: Coca-Cola’s new formula is dropped after 10 weeks.
25 August: 1,200 people are killed by natural toxic gas eruption in Cameroon.
25 September: 38 prisoners escape from the Maze prison.
10 October: The FBI seizes over two tonnes of cocaine in largest ever bust.
18 November: Insider trading causes major Wall Street scandal.
21 December: 50,000 students protest in call for democratic reforms in China.

34 of the 36 songs on Now That’s What I Call Music 1986: The Millennium Series have already been compiled elsewhere. Take a look at these reviews:
Hits 4: Fine Young Cannibals – Suspicious Minds, Belouis Some – Imagination, Double – The Captain Of Her Heart.
Now That’s What I Call Music 7: Queen – A King Of Magic, Peter Gabriel – Sledge Hammer, Billy Ocean – When The Going Gets Tough (The Tough Get Going), David Bowie – Absolute Beginners, Bananarama – Venus, Sly Fox – Let’s Go All The Way, Level 42 – Lessons In Love, Chris De Burgh – The Lady In Red.
The Greatest Hits Of 1986: Marvin Gaye – I Heard It Through The Grapevine.
Hits 5: Robert Palmer – Addicted To Love, Julian Cope – World Shut Your Mouth.
Now That’s What I Call Music ’86: Gwen Guthrie – Ain’t Nothin’ Goin’ On But The Rent, Jermaine Stewart – We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off.
Now That’s What I Call Music 8: Cameo – Word Up, Steve Winwood – Higher Love, Pet Shop Boys – Suburbia, It Bites – Calling All The Heroes, Huey Lewis and The News – Stuck With You, Status Quo – In The Army Now, Communards – Don’t Leave Me This Way, Kim Wilde – You Keep Me Hanging On, Human League – Human, Debbie Harry – French Kissin’ In The USA, Swing Out Sister – Breakout, Duran Duran – Notorious, Mel and Kim – Showing Out, Cutting Crew – (I Just) Died In Your Arms Tonight.
Now That’s What I Call Music 9: Erasure – Sometimes, Jackie Wilson – Reet Petite, Curiosity Killed The Cat – Down To Earth.
Now That’s What I Call Music 1986: James Brown – Living In America.

“From the front page news to the interviews
Its sink the reds and left the blues
They pretend they’re differing points of view
But it’s only different shades of blue”

After signing with Go Discs, the singles Happy Hour, Think For A Minute and their debut album London 0 Hull 4, propelled The Housemartins into the UK top 10. No student bedsit was quite the same for a couple of years. In December they released an acappella cover of the 1985 Isley-Jasper-Isley soul hit. It reached the summit on 16 December but was deposed by Jackie Wilson’s Reet Petite a week later. The latter was originally recorded in 1957 but reissued in 1986 following the showing of its clay animation video on the BBC2’s documentary series Arena. The video was directed by Giblets, a London-based animation studio. Being almost Christmas Number One was, somehow, entirely fitting for a band with as much self-effacing humour and as many light-hearted sensibilities as they had political and social convictions.

Belouis Some was born Neville Keighley in 1959 and grew up in Forest Hill, sarf London. In 1982 he put a band together and started playing clubs and small venues as Belouis Some. This paid off and he was signed to Parlophone in 1983. While recording his debut album he opened up for Nik Kershaw on the latter’s UK tour. Imagination was initially released in 1985 with a video shot by Storm Thorgerson that caused controversy because of its full frontal nudity. The dance mix was compiled on Now Dance – The 12″ Mixes. A #50 chart position was disappointing although the second single, Some People, did crack the top 40. In January 1986, Imagination was reissued and hit #17. A subsequent slot supporting Frankie Goes To Hollywood in the US and an appearance on the Pretty In Pink soundtrack LP (Round Round) was as good as it got. His greatest song, Jerusalem, peaked at #98 in August 1986. The debut album is a fine example of sophisti-pop and is best heard on the original CD, available on promo only and made in Japan.

“Suburbia, where the suburbs met Utopia”

Sign of the times or how I learned to stop worrying and enjoy the music.
April 1986: Sinnott’s, Waterford
Purchased Pet Shop Boys – Please on LP £8 and CD £18.
April 2016: Golden Discs, Newbridge
Purchased Pet Shop Boys – Super on LP €26 and CD €14.
They would go on to appear on seven successive Millennium series editions – from 1985 through 1991. Suburbia is track 13 on CD1. The song’s primary inspiration is the 1984 Penelope Spheeris film of the same name, and its depiction of violence and squalor in the suburbs of Los Angeles where the music video is also shot. The various versions of the song are punctuated by sounds of suburban violence, riots and smashing glass, as well as snarling dogs on the re-recorded single mix.

After Please, came Disco. It turned up in my school’s musical library at the end of November 1986. A stock of approximately 150 albums – equally divided between LP and cassette. I played it at lunchtime every day until I was overruled. It sounded unbelievably fresh, thrilling and wondrous. And still does today. Though not listed as such on the sleeve, the versions appearing on Disco are also known / were previously released as:
2) Suburbia (The Full Horror)
3) Opportunities (Version Latina)
4) Paninaro (Italian Remix)
5) Love Comes Quickly (Pettibone Mastermix)
The versions of In The Night and West End Girls are unique to this album although, the version of West End Girls is similar to West End Dub. The original version of In The Night was the B-side to the first release of Opportunities. Arthur Baker’s glorious Extended Mix of In The Night was used as the theme for the BBC’s The Clothes Show.

Paninaro was Italian slang in the 1980s for young men known for their fashionable clothes, Timberland boots, motor scooters, and fondness for large sandwiches known as “panini”, which which the term derives. Chris mentions several popular brands of men’s fashion popular in Italy (and other places):
Armani – Named for its founder, Italian designer Giorgio Armani,
Versace – Named for its founder, Italian designer Gianni Versace, who was infamously murdered outside his Miami Beach home in 1997.
Cinque – Italian for five, the name of a German company that specializes in Italian fashion. (Thanks to Wayne Studer for these)

Disco testimonials.
#1: “The most timeless CD in my collection. There hasn’t been any other music i have loved as equally now as when i was as young as 8 years old; Pettibone’s mixes of Love Comes Quickly and West End Girls still fill me with awe and pleasure just as they did then.” (Thomas Covenant)
#2: “The tracks take me right back to where I was and the rush I felt as I inhabited this beautiful, exciting and dangerous musical landscape.” (Curve Dare)
#3: “I listened to this so much on cassette back in the day that even now I still expect to hear the XDR tones before In The Night starts.” (Fifty Cent)

“Passion and love and sex and money
Violence, religion, injustice and death”

Let’s talk about #1 Talking Heads: Little Creatures is their most immediately accessible album, with tracks that sound like they were written as pop songs. While the overall vibe is aural ear candy, this is really accomplished stuff with a really confident streak. And She Was is the opening tune and second single released; the sophisti-pop sound of The Lady Don’t Mind was a worthy first course. Thanks to my neighbour Garrett Hussey for making me a taped copy in June 1985:
Look who’s talking #1 David Byrne: “I used to know a blissed-out hippie-chick in Baltimore, She once told me that she used to do acid (the drug, not music) and lay down on the field by the Yoo-hoo chocolate soda factory. Flying out of her body, etc etc. It seemed like such a tacky kind of transcendence… but it was real! A new kind of religion being born out of heaps of rusted cars and fast food joints. And this girl was flying above it all, but in it too.”
Look who’s talking #2 Chris Frantz: “It’s a story about a woman who has the power to levitate above the ground and to check out all her neighbours from a kind of bird’s eye view. And the guy who’s writing the song is in love with her and he kinda wishes she would just be more normal and, like, come on back down to the ground, but she doesn’t. She goes floating over the backyard and past the buildings and the schools and stuff and is absolutely superior to him in every way.”

Let’s talk about #2 Talk Talk: Filmed at Wimbledon Common, London, the promotional video for Life’s What You Make It shows the band performing during the early hours in a natural history setting. The video, directed by Tim Pope, enjoyed heavy rotation on MTV. Artist James Marsh created the single’s cover illustration. The song was one of the last to be conceived for The Colour of Spring, following concern from the band’s management at the lack of an obvious single. Initially unwilling, Mark Hollis and Tim Friese-Greene, the principal source of original material for the band, accepted the task as a sort of challenge. “I had a drum pattern loosely inspired by Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill and Mark was playing Green Onions organ over the top.” remembers Friese-Greene. The Colour Of Spring is their great leap forward, a wonderful song cycle which follows the emotional ups and downs of relationships and ponders life in general. For many people in 1986 it was the gateway to another world. The production is nothing short of mind-blowing with complex rhythms and beautiful orchestration. Then there’s Happiness Is Easy with its children’s chorus that floats off into a superb hypnotic groove.

Rocky IV opened in Ireland on 24 January 1986 and played at my local cinema, The Ritz, for what seemed like weeks. It was a massive event with practically all of the town’s youth in attendance. I saw the film on Saturday 22 February and my most vivid memory is of extra wooden chairs (courtesy of our local Youth Centre, which would become home to many badminton triumphs) all laid out on the ground floor behind the regular sets. And bottles being flung off the balcony. James Brown’s Living In America plays like a US national anthem and was my first introduction to the Godfather. It still feels good.


Favourite tracks
Pet Shop Boys – Suburbia

Belouis Some – Imagination

Curiosity Killed The Cat – Down To Earth

James Brown – Living In America

Lest we forget
Talking Heads – And She Was

Missing tracks and other thoughts
The Millennium Series 1986 falls slightly short of the high standard set by the previous volumes. There are plenty big tunes during the first half of CD1 with the inclusion of I Heard It Through The Grapevine a nice touch. It’s good to see the Hits team getting a run out – Suspicious Minds is a great cover, while Imagination and World Shut Your Mouth are always welcome. However CD2 is more predictable with few surprises and ends with the wretched Lady In Red. 1986 saw the introduction of CD compilations with Hits 5, Now 8 and Now ’86 all appearing in time for Christmas. Once again, 10 of the latter’s 16 tracks are on this compilation – the same ones that also ended up on the 10th Anniversary set – while all bar one (Human) of the Now 8 entries had already received a digital release (either on the Now 8 CD or Now ’86). However it’s good to get three songs from the non-CD Hits 4 along with Julian Cope from the Hits 5 double LP and Erasure who did not make the CD version of Now 9.

So how does it compare with Now’s 10th Anniversary? Well there are 23 overlapping tracks between the two sets – Queen, Peter Gabriel, Billy Ocean, David Bowie, Sly Fox, Level 42, Bananarama, Chris De Burgh, Robert Palmer, Gwen Guthrie, Jermaine Stewart, Cameo, Steve Winwood, Huey Lewis and The News, Status Quo, Communards, Kim Wilde, Swing Out Sister, Mel and Kim, Cutting Crew, Erasure, Jackie Wilson, James Brown. Meanwhile Curiosity Killed The Cat’s Down To Earth was included on Now That’s What I Call Music 1987. There were two regular Now albums released in 1986 and 22 of their tracks are featured on this Millennium entry with two more being sourced from the CD-only Now ’86 spin-off. PS: three songs here would first appear on 1987’s Now 9.

20 songs reached the top of the UK charts during 1986. Just three of them are here (all are predictable) whereas the 10th Anniversary set had seven. The first new chart topper of the year, West End Girls, was already included on the 1985 Millennium edition. So yes, I feel short-changed by this. The omission of Wham! and George Michael, while unfortunate, is compensated somewhat by both being on the 10th Anniversary release. However The Sun Always Shines On TV plus Caravan Of Love are conspicuous by their absence. I’d also make a case for the joyous Living Doll from Cliff Richard and The Young Ones. Other missing #1s were called out in my 10th Anniversary review. More, more, more: Samantha Fox’s delightful Touch Me (I Want You Body), Nick Kamen’s epic Each Time You Break My Heart, anything by Genesis and maybe the Jesus and Mary Chain’s breakthrough Some Candy Talking. Last call: Sigue Sigue Sputnik’s Love Missile F-11.

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12 Responses to Now That’s What I Call Music 1986: The Millennium Series (EMI / Virgin / Universal, 1999)

  1. cosmo says:

    Of course, the Anniversary version was better, but then again, this one is a bit more “off-beat” that other volumes.
    Actually, CD1 gets rather quirky. The “surprise” tracks on this albums are Belouis Some, It Bites, Talking Heads, Talk Talk, and Double.
    I have a soft spot for Absolute Beginners (Madness producers Langer & Winstanley):

    And also The Captain of Her Heart;

    Notable omissions here are, once again, Wham! and George Michael, as well as Invisible Touch by Genesis (which would fit well among the other “dad-rock” tracks here) and The Sun Always Shines on TV by A-Ha.
    I would also have added anything by Five Star (also on the Anniversary album), Bad Boy by the Miami Sound Machine, and Who’s Zoomin’ Who by Aretha Franklin to the dance selection on CD2.
    Lady in Red I can take or leave.

  2. Feel the Quality says:

    This might be the weakest of the 80s Millennium Series but still has a few surprises.
    Missing songs: Stan Ridgway – Camouflage, The Blow Monkeys – Digging Your Scene, Nu Shooz – I Can’t Wait, Doug E Fresh – The Show (which could have been on 85), Whitney Houston – How Will I Know, Pete Wylie – Sinful, Amazulu – Too Good to be Forgotten, The Damned – Eloise and LaBelle/McDonald – On My Own.

    I’d also substitute Suburbia for Opportunities and throw in a guilty pleasure of mine in Holiday Rap (if you can’t get Madonna, settle for a couple of Dutch rappers instead).

    86 was a banner year for the “one hit wonder” chart toppers yet they’re all absent here (yeah I know in some cases they had more than than one hit): Boris Gardiner, Berlin, Doctor and the Medics, Europe, Falco… But if I had one pick from them then I’d go with the rarely compiled, The Chicken Song.

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      Hi there, I think you’re correct. Of all the 80s ones, this gets the least plays in my house. You’ve listed quite a few others that are sadly missed. Certainly the Holiday Rap or The Chicken Song would have been fun inclusions. Spot on about the one hit wonders- it’s all established (ish) acts

  3. andynoax says:

    86 is my least favourite year of the decade, but this collection gets some things right (I’d gladly never hear the Boris Gardiner, Berlin or atrocious Dr & The Medics chart toppers ever again) while missing a few key artists: I’d agree with a-ha and Wham (‘The Edge Of Heaven’ is possibly the finest track of the whole year) Definitely Stan Ridgway’s brilliant ‘Camouflage’ should be on there, and Five Star too. Basically, most of the tracks from NOW 7 that aren’t already here!

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      Hi Andy – yes, the slight lean towards Now 8 drags this one down a little; much prefer Now 7 and would have liked to have seen more from it here. It got a #12 placing in the top 15 pop compilations chart from my Classic Pop feature.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Apologies for pre-empting things but I know it’s going to you a while to get round to Now 1998 and I’ve been trying to find out the answer to this for ages. I have never been able to get hold of a copy of this with the proper second disc. Were there any that were printed with the correct songs on the disc. The copies I have had have always had the songs from one of the 1999 discs on it.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Sorry, I was mistaken, and it is CD 1 that is the wrong one. In all of the 3 copies of Now 1998 I have had CD 1 is actually CD 1 of Now 1999. I’ve always wanted to know if anyone did actually get a copy with the correct CD 1.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for letting me know. i can’t believe how badly I’ve lucked out on this. I’ve seen copies for sale online, but none under £20.00, so I don’t think I’d risk buying another copy in case that was the same.

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      That’s unfortunate, must have been a batch or pressing run that was at fault. Maybe open an account on Discogs and add it to your wantlist – then ask the sellers to double check before you commit to purchase.

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