Now That’s What I Call Music 1987: The Millennium Series (EMI / Virgin / Universal, 1999)

Now Millennium 1987

Now Millennium 1987 r

Review
30 years on and the music of 1987 looms large. Sitting beside me is the Super Deluxe Edition of Whitesnake’s self-titled album. Out for delivery: INXS – Kick (30th Anniversary Edition) while I’ve already gorged myself on boxes from Fleetwood Mac (Tango In The Night), U2 (The Joshua Tree), George Michael (Faith), Def Leppard (Hysteria) and T’Pau (Bridge Of Spies). I’m still waiting for Sign Of The Times to get the same treatment. 1987 was also the first year that CD singles were considered for inclusion in the UK charts. The first #1 being Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me).

A sizeable number of these songs have already been discussed in the following reviews:
Now That’s What I Call Music 9: Robbie Nevil – C’est La Vie, Hot Chocolate – You Sexy Thing (Remix), Pepsi and Shirlie – Heartache, Boy George – Everything I Own.
The Hits Album 6: Living In A Box – Living In A Box, Mel and Kim – Respectable, Labi Siffre – (Something Inside) So Strong, Whitesnake – Is This Love, Johnny Hates Jazz – Shattered Dreams, Bruce Willis – Under The Boardwalk.
Now That’s What I Call Music – Smash Hits: Hue and Cry – Labour Of Love (Now 10 too).
Now That’s What I Call Music 10: Los Lobos – La Bamba, ABC – When Smokey Sings, Communards – Never Can Say Goodbye, Bananarama – Love In The First Degree, T’Pau – China In Your Hand, Heart – Alone, M/A/R/R/S – Pump Up The Volume, Fat Boys – Wipe Out, Squeeze – Hourglass, Jan Hammer – Crockett’s Theme)
The Hits Album 7: LL Cool J – I Need Love.
Now That’s What I Call Music 11: Belinda Carlisle – Heaven Is A Place On Earth, Krush – House Arrest.
Smash Hits Party ’88: The Proclaimers – Letter To America.
Now That’s What I Call Music 1987: Pet Shop Boys – It’s A Sin, Was (Not Was) – Walk The Dinosaur, Level 42 – Running In The Family, Steve Winwood – Valerie, Black – Wonderful Life.

To the roof: there is no street with no name. There is only somewhere far away. The 1987 Millennium series begins with the single edit of U2’s Where The Streets Have No Name, omitting the ghostly wall of sound introduction. At the time of release, The Joshua Tree felt like a record that would gradually reveal its secrets after many listens. 30 years on, I’m still getting more from it – thanks in no small part to Daniel Lanois. There’s Running To Stand Still, the devastating ballad about a couple in the throes of heroin addiction.
“I see seven towers,
But I only see one way out.”

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For has a gospel feel, a real spiritual yearning. It’s perfect for that 6.00am feeling – when you’ve been up all night and the buzz is coming to an end. I read a quote on the YouTube comments that says: “Happiness is for the ones who live in the struggle, happiness is not something you can achieve. Happiness is something you live.”

New Order’s True Faith appears in 12″ format, just as we got it on Substance. It’s hard to imagine it now but back in summer 1987, I got a phenomenal buzz when Factory Records announced their intention to release this singles compilation. So much so, that I bought it on vinyl, cassette and CD. I haven’t done that with any other album. Naturally, it has flaws – omissions and differences from the original single releases:
1) Ceremony is the version recorded after Gillian Gilbert joined the band. The original trio version – the first New Order recording following the dissolution of Joy Division — would not be re-released until the Singles collection in 2005.
2) Temptation and Confusion were re-recorded in 1987 specifically for Substance and neither original version appears.
3) The Perfect Kiss (CD version only), Sub-culture, Shellshock and Hurt are all edited down from their original 12″ recordings.
4) Cries and Whispers is incorrectly labelled as Mesh on all versions, and only on the cassette version does the original Mesh actually appear, itself mistitled as Cries And Whispers. To add to the confusion, the iTunes Store release, based from the CD version, labels the Cries And Whispers as Mesh (Cries And Whispers).
5) The standard tape version, due to the extra space befitting the format, also contains extra tracks – Dub-vulture, Shellcock, and Bizarre Dub Triangle, as well as the actual Mesh. Only on the limited edition cassette version does True Dub appear, as the last track on the second tape. On all cassette versions, Murder is after Thieves Like Us on the first cassette, whereas on the CD / DAT versions it appears on the second half of the album.

Duran Duran’s Skin Trade hit the racks in January. The title was derived from the Dylan Thomas book Adventures in the Skin Trade which John Taylor had on him during recording of the album. The lyrics reflect on how everyone is selling themselves, and “there’s a little hooker in each of us.” The single was quite a departure for the band. You get Simon Le Bon sounding like Prince with a cool falsetto while there’s a prominent horn section. There’s a great 1985 – 1986 melting pot of atmospheric Duran Duran associated tunes. John Taylor – I Do What I Do, Andy Taylor – When The Rain Comes Down, Arcadia – The Promise, Power Station – Lonely Tonight, Duran Duran – Winter Marches On. Donald Guarisco on Skin Trade: “The music lends contrast to the angry tone of the lyrics by creating a sultry, mellow melody that juxtaposes verses with a soft, hypnotic ebb and flow with an ever-ascending chorus that revs up the song’s inherent drama.”

Jackie vs Jack: I Get The Sweetest Feeling dates from 1968 and was recorded during his Chicago period when he replaced lost energy (not sure if Lucozade was a help) and started to record again. The track was written by Van McCoy and Alicia Evelyn. The orchestra was directed by Willie Henderson with Motown’s in-house band Funk Brothers performing the instrumental track with The Andantes providing the background vocals. It peaked at #3, doubtless helped by another video from the mysterious Giblets. Meanwhile 30 years on – and sadly not here – the #1 that shouldn’t have been. Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley’s brilliant Jack Your Body was released on a 12″ that was over 25 minutes long, exceeding the maximum time for a record to be classified as a single. Instead it should have been treated as an album. If so, during the two weeks it spent at number one, Jackie Wilson’s Reet Petite would have been topped the charts for a fifth week while I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me) would then have hit the summit seven days earlier.

12 months ago I was busy promoting Shattered Dreams. 1987 was a key sophisti-pop year and there are half a dozen tracks here that fall into that category. The Christians’ gorgeous Ideal World is an inspired selection, solid and soulful with a social conscience. Then ABC’s When Smokey Sings, an obvious choice even though I’d rank it behind The King Has Lost His Crown and The Night You Murdered Love. They were on their fourth album, Alphabet City, yet another different direction. Tim Robinson-Ayer makes a very valid point:
“ABC’s mis-step was that they released the equivalent of Roxy Music’s Avalon and followed it up with Flesh + Blood, both of which are killer LPs in their own regard. Now if ABC had released Beauty Stab first they would have made an initial splash and been a band to watch and then Lexicon would have solidified their reputation. The follow up of Zillionaire wouldn’t have been that much off-kilter in that progression, too.”

My next big mix project is 1980s soundtracks with the emphasis firmly focused on the lesser known tracks that appeared on the decade’s films. It’s coming in early 2018 and could be in 10+ parts. Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild and Married To The Mob are two classic examples of a quality curated aural accompaniment. In March 1987, the Fine Young Cannibals’ storming cover of the Buzzcocks’ Ever Fallen In Love reached the UK top 10. It polarised opinions everywhere with truculent old punks aghast at Roland Gift’s vocal. I love it and so did Mr Demme as it’s one of 10 tracks (43 were used in the movie) that made the Something Wild soundtrack LP. In a circular twist, there’s a unique version of New Order’s Temptation also included. “I can hardly wait, Charlie.”

Favourite tracks
Pet Shop Boys – It’s A Sin

Whitesnake – Is This Love

Fine Young Cannibals – Ever Fallen In Love

Squeeze – Hourglass

Lest we forget
Level 42 – Running In The Family

Missing tracks and other thoughts
The Millennium Series 1987 improves upon the previous year’s edition and is on a par with any other retrospective from that year. Kicking off with U2 sets the scene before three successive number ones follow and then a brace of Stephen Hague belters. The SAW 1-2 punch at the end of CD1 is a nice touch; I never get tired of Respectable and Love In The First Degree. The second half has a number of neat mini-sequences like China In Your Hand – Alone – Is This Love and then acidic passages like Pump Up The Volume – House Arrest. As stated earlier, sophisti-pop fans are well catered for with Hue & Cry, Johnny Hates Jazz, The Christians and Black all getting a run out. And it’s a chilled finale with the moody Crocketts Theme, some moonlighting from Bruce Willis and the evergreen LL Cool J still needing love. 1987 saw the trend for truncated CD compilations initially continuing with Now 9 and Hits 6 both coming out as single discs. Two survivors from the Hits 6 double LP are Shattered Dreams and Under The Boardwalk.

Let’s compare it with Now’s 10th Anniversary. There are 23 overlapping tracks between the two sets – Boy George, Los Lobos, ABC, Communards, Bananarama, T’Pau, Heart, M/A/R/R/S, Squeeze, Hue and Cry, Jan Hammer, Belinda Carlisle, Living In A Box, Mel and Kim, Labi Siffre, Whitesnake, LL Cool J, The Proclaimers, Pet Shop Boys, Was (Not Was), Level 42, Steve Winwood, Black. There were two regular Now albums released in 1987 and 15 of their tracks are featured on this Millennium entry (including Hue and Cry’s Labour Of Love which first appeared on the Now Smash Hits spin-off). PS: two songs here would first appear on 1988’s Now 11. Almost one third – 11 – tracks did not appear on any of the canon compilations of 1987 although five of these are on the 10th Anniversary CDs.

Aside from Reet Petite which was the Christmas #1 for 1986, 19 songs reached #1 on the UK charts during 1987. Six of them are here while the 10th Anniversary set had 12. The first new chart topper of the year, Jack Your Body, is sorely missed and should have joined M/A/R/R/S and Krush. The ongoing omission of George Michael is also a negative while I would have gladly put the Bee Gees instead of Los Lobos. Also MIA: Curiosity Killed The Cat’s Misfit, Atlantic Starr’s immoral tale of Secret Lovers, Johnny Logan’s heartfelt Eurovision winner Hold Me Now, Terence Trent D’Arby’s Dance Little Sister, Fleetwood Mac’s Big Love and Def Leppard’s Animal. In an ideal world, you’d get three Genesis tracks but even Tonight, Tonight, Tonight on its own would have been nice. And the absolute long shot: The Fall. Draw lots for Hit The North or There’s A Ghost In My House.

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14 Responses to Now That’s What I Call Music 1987: The Millennium Series (EMI / Virgin / Universal, 1999)

  1. cosmo says:

    I actually prefer this to the Anniversary version. Mainly because it features New Order, Duran Duran’s Skin Trade (underrated! Both back then and now.), the Fine Young Cannibals’ cover of the Buzzcocks and the Christians (though peaked in the January of the following year).
    Here is the 7″ version of True Faith (from the US 45):

    Agreed on Steve “Silk” Hurley, George Michael (or his duet with Aretha), Atlantic Starr, Fleetwood Mac (Big Love, yes!), Curiosity, and Genesis (make mine Land of Confusion with its legendary Spitting Image-themed video. Peaked on the first week of that year.) being unfair omissions. To which I would add Alex O’Neal’s Criticize, The Housemartins’ Build, Crowded House’s Don’t Dream It’s Over (on the 96 volume, though!), anything by the Smiths (Sheila, Take a Bow would be the obvious choice, although I would plump for Last Night I Dreamed Somebody Loved Me!). Taking it a little bit further, Almaz by Randy, No More the Fool by Elkie, Is This Love? by Alf, and Hymn to Her by the Pretenders (all on the Telstar 87 compilation).

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      I thought the 1987 10th Anniversary was very well done too – hard to chose between it and this. Nice other suggestions too. The single edit of Last Edit… would be a great final track. What is the Telstar 87 compilation? Is it The Greatest Hits Of 1987? Elkie is on that but Is This Love and Hymn To Her are on Hits 6 and Now 9 respectively.

  2. andynoax says:

    87 is when I started getting back into music and listening to the charts properly so I have more of a fondness for this collection than the previous year’s and it does a very good job indeed. I’m another one who absolutely loves ‘Skin Trade’ and it’s great to have it here despit not exactly being a massive hit.

    The last 2 tracks on Disc 2 are by far the biggest duffers – in an ideal world there would be some George Michael, Fleetwood Mac or Jacko there instead of those.

  3. Feel the Quality says:

    Not a bad edition but it does suffer from some dull 87 songs that always seem to appear on compilations: Whitesnake, Living in a Box and Black. And then there’s that woeful remix of You Sexy Thing.

    A few missing songs: It Doesn’t Have to be this Way – The Blow Monkeys, Sweet Little Mystery – Wet Wet Wet, anything by The Beastie Boys, Five Star and something by The Housemartins (I know it’s become “cool” to exclaim your appreciation for that band in recent times, but damn, they were brilliant).
    Throw in one of the best one-hit wonders of the 80s, Sonic Boom Boy. And end it with the song that probably got more airplay than any other song in the last part of the year (and the first month of 88), Got My Mind Set on You.

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      I’m fond of all three! 🙂 You Sexy Thing is something I’d gladly never hear again. Good call on the Blow Monkeys, Five Star and The Housemartins. And once again, Got My Mind Set On You gets called out – we’ve discussed this before – it really does take me back to / and defines the winter of 1987.

      • Feel the Quality says:

        Oh yeah, if memory serves I was lamenting the lack of it on Now 11. It really was the defining song of winter that year.
        Of course, the Christmas #1 battle between The Pet Shop Boys and The Pogues/Kirsty Maccoll gets a lot more attention (especially at this time of year) but George Harrison was being played the most before and after Christmas, it was just that few weeks of festivity it wasn’t on top.

  4. Matt Hayes says:

    My favorite year in music! Alas, I think the track listing on the Millennium series is lacking. Mine would be (and we’re bumping it up to 20 tracks per disc):

    1. RICK ASTLEY – NEVER GONNA GIVE YOU UP
    2. MADONNA – WHO’S THAT GIRL?
    3. GEORGE MICHAEL – FAITH
    4. LOS LOBOS – LA BAMBA
    5. FATBACK BAND – I FOUND LOVIN’
    6. ALEXANDER O’NEAL – CRITICIZE
    7. FLEETWOOD MAC – LITTLE LIES
    8. T’PAU – CHINA IN YOUR HAND
    9. U2 – WHERE THE STREETS HAVE NO NAME
    10. DEF LEPPARD – ANIMAL
    11. KISS – CRAZY CRAZY NIGHTS
    12. SCARLET FANTASTIC – NO MEMORY
    13. HEART – ALONE
    14. STARSHIP – NOTHING’S GONNA STOP US NOW
    15. NEW ORDER – TRUE FAITH
    16. PAUL MCCARTNEY – ONCE UPON A LONG AGO
    17. GEORGE HARRISON – GOT MY MIND SET ON YOU
    18. A-HA – THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS
    19. ARETHA FRANKLIN & GEORGE MICHAEL – I KNEW YOU WERE WAITING (FOR ME)
    20. WHITNEY HOUSTON – I WANNA DANCE WITH SOMEBODY (WHO LOVES ME)

    1. M/A/R/R/S – PUMP UP THE VOLUME
    2. STEVE ‘SILK’ HURLEY – JACK YOUR BODY
    3. JAN HAMMER – CROCKETT’S THEME
    4. BEE GEES – YOU WIN AGAIN
    5. ERASURE – THE CIRCUS
    6. PET SHOP BOYS – IT’S A SIN
    7. BELINDA CARLISLE – HEAVEN IS A PLACE ON EARTH
    8. BANANARAMA – LOVE IN THE FIRST DEGREE
    9. FIVE STAR – THE SLIGHTEST TOUCH
    10. TAFFY – I LOVE MY RADIO
    11. COMMUNARDS – NEVER CAN SAY GOODBYE
    12. MICHAEL JACKSON – I JUST CAN’T STOP LOVING YOU
    13. BILL MEDLEY & JENNIFER WARNES – (I’VE HAD) THE TIME OF MY LIFE
    14. ATLANTIC STARR – ALWAYS
    15. JANET JACKSON – LET’S WAIT AWHILE
    16. JOHN FARNHAM – YOU’RE THE VOICE
    17. BOY GEORGE – EVERYTHING I OWN
    18. WET WET WET – SWEET LITTLE MYSTERY
    19. MEL & KIM – RESPECTABLE
    20. THE POGUES FT. KIRSTY MACCOLL – A FAIRYTALE OF NEW YORK

    Honestly, I could easily expand it to 3 discs and include The Firm, Boogie Box High, Pepsi & Shirlie, Ben E. King, Eric B & Rakim, Spagna, Bon Jovi, Sinitta, Westworld, and many others. Such a fantastic year for music.

  5. Martin Davis says:

    On the whole I don’t think there’s anything in it between this and the 10th anniversary edition. However it does feel there is more of an emphasis on the pop hits of the year rather than the rock ones.

    For example tracks such as “Final Countdown” and “Over The Hills and Far Away” from Now 9 and most of Side 2 of Now 10 are absent from this compilation. Am guessing that both this and the 10th anniversary volume were able to span across the whole year and take advantage of tracks that didn’t make it onto a main “Now”.

    Do you think it’s likely any of the tracks that didn’t make it onto a volume from the main series would have done if a summer Now had been released that year?

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      Definitely Martin – they missed a trick by not having a summer volume – especially when there was no Now Dance. Mel & Kim, Whitesnake and Johnny Hates Jazz should all have featured on a summer Now.

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