Now That’s What I Call Music 1988: The Millennium Series (EMI / Virgin / Universal, 1999)

Now Millennium 1988

Now Millennium 1988 r

Review
“We’re The Smiths’ fans’ second favourite band.” (David Gedge)

1987 saw the demise of The Smiths and two months later, the release of The Wedding Present’s thrilling debut album George Best. February 1988: the guitar heroes from Leeds up their game with a revealing NME interview and a storming non-album single, Nobody’s Twisting Your Arm, which would eventually peak at #2 in John Peel’s Festive 50. In other news – what an odd decision; in 1988, Julia Fordham released a single called Woman Of The ’80s. It seemed to place her firmly in quicksand – an ’80s artist forever – when in fact, her sound is more ’90s. The inclusion of Happy Ever After here is a welcome treat; immaculately produced sophisti-pop with a melancholy edge and a perfect voice.

It’s a case of familiarity breeding contempt with 33 of the tracks already discussed on:
Now That’s What I Call Music 11: Billy Ocean – Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car, Eddy Grant – Gimme Hope Jo’anna, Joyce Sims – Come Into My Life, Johnny Hates Jazz – Turn Back The Clock.
Now That’s What I Call Music 12: Belinda Carlisle – Circle In The Sand, Hothouse Flowers – Don’t Go, Danny Wilson – Mary’s Prayer, Heart – These Dreams, Bananarama – I Want You Back, Hazell Dean – Who’s Leaving Who, Climie Fisher – Love Changes (Everything), Maxi Priest – Wild World.
The Hits Album 8: Tiffany – I Think We’re Alone Now, Aswad – Don’t Turn Around, Cher – I Found Someone.
Now That’s What I Call Music 13: Phil Collins – A Groovy Kind Of Love, Hollies – He Ain’t Heavy (He’s My Brother), Art Of Noise and Tom Jones – Kiss, The Christians – Harvest For The World, Jane Wiedlin – Rush Hour, The Proclaimers – I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles), All About Eve – Martha’s Harbour, Erasure – A Little Respect, Yello – The Race, Yazz and The Plastic Population – The Only Way Is Up, Womack and Womack – Teardrops, Inner City – Big Fun, Kim Wilde – You Came, Bobby McFerrin – Don’t Worry, Be Happy.
The Hits Album 9: Robbie Robertson – Somewhere Down This Crazy River.
Now That’s What I Call Music 14: INXS – Need You Tonight, Neneh Cherry – Buffalo Stance, Robin Beck – The First Time.

1988 was the year of Bros. Their debut single I Owe You Nothing was released on Monday 31 August 1987, the same day as Michael Jackson’s Bad and also coincided with me starting a part-time job at my local L&N supermarket. The single failed to chart and while When Will I Be Famous reached #62 in December, it felt that a proper er, “push” was required to get them into the national consciousness. Almost immediately, Famous was re-born and climbed to #2 in February 1988. At the Valentine’s Day discos you could spot the Brosettes a mile off. By Easter, Drop The Boy had nearly gone all the way, stalling for a silver while Aswad and then the Pet Shop Boys took gold. The album Push hit the shops at the end of March, a furtive LP purchase. There’s one particularly fond classroom memory of singing Liar with my friend Terence beside me. He knew all the words! Great days.

The remixed I Owe You Nothing finally saw Bros top the charts for a glorious fortnight at the end of June / beginning of July, kick-starting the Summer of Possibility. “Sixteen, clumsy and shy” etc. By the time a fourth single was lifted from the album, we were back at school. I Quit made #4. The year zipped by: 19 shows at Wembley, one at Dublin’s RDS and a Christmas single that went straight in at #2 – Cat Among The Pigeons backed with Silent Night. It could only go one way after that. The force of Robin Beck was too much.
“Yes, Matt was definitely the more accessible of the two. Probably less outgoing, but more accommodating. Luke had a live-in girlfriend, lived out in Surrey and didn’t really hang around chatting with the fans (he did sometimes, but nowhere near as much as Matt). Matt was lonely and really encouraged the fans. I went to Luke’s house a few times, only when Matt was away I think, but I’m pretty sure there was a group of girls at Luke’s permanently, nowhere near as many as there were at Matt’s though.” (Keris)

“Education In Reverse” is etched in the run-out groove of Morrissey’s Viva Hate LP. A record of two halves; the first side having the edge on the second. Late Night, Maudlin Street is an epic for the ages, a form of Desolation Row or Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands for the 1980s. The song is set in 1972, the year of my birth. Amid a background of power cuts and house moves the narrator faces a private battle against ugliness, pill-taking, family deaths and fantasy love. Paradoxically, the greatest moments of nostalgia are reserved for a place where he failed to experience a single happy hour. The Australian edition was initially titled Education In Reverse and import copies of same were available for £12.99 from Sister Ray. Advertisements in the NME every week.

“We’re The Smiths you can dance to.” (Neil Tennant)

Sadly both Bros and Moz are not here. Despite their polar positions, both are key figures in the story of the year. Nevertheless, this Millennium edition does contain the Pet Shop Boys’ Heart, the fourth and final single from the superb Actually. Their last ever number one single. This supreme slice of pop was strangely absent from every major compilation released during 1988; Now 12 being the obvious resting place. The song was remixed for single release and contains a wah-wah guitar sound which gives it an almost ’70s feel. Sadly the Actually version was included on PopArt. Its music video was shot in Slovenia and is based on Nosferatu – check out Ian McKellen’s hammy vampire.
“As a man who has just this minute given up believing that all good things turn wretched, I am thunderstruck. The gap between my lips is wide. After their lugubrious reading of Always On My Mind, things diminish further with this sour self-parody. Destitute of all light. What happened to the friskiness? This abject surrender, I trust, is temporary. Or there will be trouble at t’mill. You’ve had it too easy my friends. What happened to my admiration? It lies so limp. If Pet Shop Boys are starting to slide, if they continue to frazzle, God help us all. This is lazy thinking. It must stop. Think of irony. Sleep in a hat. Something. wasn’t it Picasso who used to wander off in the middle of sexual intercourse to count his money? Now that’s what we need.”
(Jon Wilde, Melody Maker, 26 March 1988)

“My favourite of the four PSB number ones. Nothing much to add here except that Heart, for me, is one of the great spring pop records. I love the syn drums, the false ending and the whole feeling of upward, onward motion it has. I always tend to dig it out and play it on the first few sunny days of March. And I love I’m Not Scared too. I had no idea it was set in May 1968” (Will)
“I’ve learned to love this over the years. On Actually this is a throwaway, but the single remix is an 8 or 9. Where it really works is between Always On My Mind and Domino Dancing on Discography. Apart from the awesomeness of the sequence, you can see a narrative: he’s comfortable enough with his lover to smirk through the relationship…until the doubt starts to creep in.” (Alfred)

After a very successful 1987, Erasure turned up the heat in ’88. The Innocents and its associated singles made them superstars in the UK and broke the band in the US. Almost 30 years on, it remains their best-selling album, a Stephen Hague production. Ship Of Fools was released in February, a shivering and shimmering synth pop spectacular. The uptempo Chains Of Love came out in May, a heartfelt wish for acceptance. And in September, A Little Respect, a plea for compassion. The Innocents 21st anniversary edition came out in 2009. I highly recommend the limited edition two CD plus DVD set, packed inside a CD-sized 20-page hardback book that includes interviews with Vince Clarke and Andy Bell about the making of the record and their thoughts on all the tracks. The second CD includes various rarities, including the 7″ version of River Deep, Mountain High and US-specific remixes of Chains of Love and A Little Respect. Most of the DVD is taken up by the exuberant Birmingham NEC concert of 15 November 1988.

U2’s Rattle and Hum arrived in October 1988 with a companion rockumentary less than three weeks later. The project captures their continued experiences with American roots music on the Joshua Tree Tour, further incorporating elements of blues rock, folk rock, and gospel music into their sound. It’s a rag-bag collection of new studio tracks, live performances, and cover songs. Many of the criticisms stemmed from a view that band were trying to place themselves on a pedestal alongside rock legends such as The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, BB King, Billie Holiday etc. I see it more as a homage or tribute; certainly there’s quite a bit to savour across the four sides. Lead single Desire is a short ‘n’ sharp rock shock. The sweetly sung Angel Of Harlem refers to various New York City-area landmarks, including JFK airport, WBLS radio and Harlem. It also focuses on jazz history with references to John Coltrane , Miles Davis and Billie Holiday.
“Rattle and Hum was conceived as a scrapbook, a memento of that time spent in America on the Joshua Tree tour. It changed when the movie, which was initially conceived of as a low-budget film, suddenly became a big Hollywood affair. That put a different emphasis on the album, which suffered from the huge promotion and publicity, and people reacted against it.” (The Edge)

Favourite tracks
Pet Shop Boys – Heart

Erasure – A Little Respect

INXS – Need You Tonight

All About Eve – Martha’s Harbour

Lest we forget
Julia Fordham – Happy Ever After

Missing tracks and other thoughts
The Millennium Series 1988 is almost on a par with the 1987 edition. The opening 1960s throwback at the beginning works really well despite the ubiquitous nature of both songs. Belinda Carlisle’s Circle In The Sand is always welcome and it’s good to hear Need You Tonight without the last couple of seconds being cut off like they were on Now 14. Props to Ashley Abram for giving us Jane Wiedlin’s supreme Rush Hour and All About Eve’s touching Martha’s Harbour. Dragging it down: Don’t Turn Around, Gimme Hope Jo’Anna, Don’t Worry Be Happy. And possibly Wild World. CD2’s pairing of Heart and A Little Respect is very clever ushers in a dance-heavy sequence of welcome end of year classics like Buffalo Stance and Big Fun. Although we could really do with more acid house. Ending with Robin Beck’s nostalgic pull First Time is a nice touch. There were two official videos but the song plays best with the Coca-Cola advertisement.

I much prefer the 1988 Millennium edition to Now’s 10th Anniversary. There are 20 overlapping tracks – Billy Ocean, Eddy Grant, Joyce Sims, Hothouse Flowers, Danny Wilson, Heart, Bananarama, Climie Fisher, Phil Collins, Hollies, Art Of Noise and Tom Jones, Erasure, Yello, Yazz and The Plastic Population, Womack and Womack, Inner City, Kim Wilde, Bobby McFerrin, Aswad, Tiffany. Note: INXS and Neneh Cherry were included on Now That’s What I Call Music 1989 (albeit Need omits “You’re one of my kind”). There were three regular Now albums released in 1988 and 26 of their tracks are featured on this Millennium entry. PS: three songs here would first appear on 1989’s Now 14.

Aside from Always On Mind which was deservedly the Christmas #1 for 1987, 19 songs reached #1 on the UK charts during 1988. While Heaven Is A Place On Earth turned up on the 1987 Millennium series, seven other chart toppers are here while the 10th Anniversary set had 12 (Belinda’s signature song would also appear on the 1987 10th Anniversary). Missed: S-Express, The Timelords and Whitney’s One Moment In Time. More: Michael Narada Walden’s soulful Divine Emotions, anything from Kylie Minogue (two #1s and three #2s in ’88), Brother Beyond’s The Harder I Try and Taylor Dayne’s Tell It To My Heart. More, more: Jason Donovan – Nothing Can Divide Us, Sabrina – Boys, Milli Vanilli – Girl You Know It’s True, Breathe – Hands To Heaven, George Michael – One More Try, Deacon Blue – Dignity, Voice Of The Beehive – Don’t Call Me Baby. “It was a good lay.”

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7 Responses to Now That’s What I Call Music 1988: The Millennium Series (EMI / Virgin / Universal, 1999)

  1. cosmo says:

    Another good one. In this case, I very slightly prefer the Anniversary version, because it featured Fairgroud Attraction, Deacon Blue, Aztec Camera, and Everything but the Girl – all of which ought to have been here.
    But this is still very good too. Probably the best volume of those covering the second half of the 80s. But then again, as I’ve mentioned before, I may be biased here! In fact, I’d agree with you with ALL of the missing tracks you mention!
    To which I’d add: Four Tops with Loco in Acapulco (on the Anniversary version), anything by the Miami Sound Machine, anything by Jellybean, New Order with the Blue Monday remix (despite the original being on the 83 volume), Londonbeat with 9am, Mac Band with Roses and Red, Sinitta with Cross My Broken Heart…
    Too, much, in fact! 🙂
    The welcome rarities than appear here are Robbie Robertson, Jane Wiedlin, All About Eve, and Julia Fordham.
    I would have swapped Groovy Kind of Love for Two Hearts, and Angel of Harlem for Desire. Both of which are on the Anniversary version.

    Of course, this and the Anniversary version both feature what was one of the best songs to reach the Top 5 that year: Mary’s Prayer by Danny Wilson.

    And a big-up for Johnny Hates Jazz with Turn Back the Clock – good to see it here, as it peaked in the second week of that year.

  2. Feel the Quality says:

    One of my favourites of the series. The track listing is pretty damn good. As many problems as I have with U2 and particularly the massive bell-End that is Bono, I really like Rattle and Hum and Angel of Harlem is my favourite song on that album (and possibly my favourite song of theirs) and I’m glad to see it here instead of Desire on the 10th Anniversary counterpart.

    It’s a touch choice but Heart is my favourite PSB #1 (or at least sharing that honour with It’s a Sin). The rarity of it on compilations makes its inclusion very welcome indeed here.
    Martha’s Harbour is another lesser compiled track and a personal favourite too.
    Love Changes Everything is four minutes of pop perfection. I don’t care if it’s been compiled a million times, I’ll never skip a song that good.

    There are a few omissions that a 40 track playlist could have rectified (you already mentioned One More Try which still sounds breathtaking today) : Beat Dis – Bomb The Bass, Angel Eyes – Wet Wet Wet, Sign Your Name – Terence Trent D’Arby, Crash – The Primitives.
    I know they’ve understandably gone with the bigger Tiffany hit but I would’ve loved to see Could’ve Been instead.
    I’d even say as it was part of such a huge pop culture event here, Angry Anderson should be here (if you can’t have Kylie or Jason, why not their wedding song?)

    And finally, although they were on the 10th Anniversary, no 1988 compilation should be without Prefab Sprout.

    • cosmo says:

      I forgot Prefab Sprout! Silly me! And I had it in mind when I began to write my reply!

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      Hi Feel The Quality, thanks – agree with those suggestions. Prefab Sprout Cars And Girls would have been a nice inclusion. Totally love Suddenly and Could’ve Been. In a row would be spectacular.

  3. andynoax says:

    Considering 1988 is one of my favourite years for music ever, this couldn’t be perfect unless it somehow had about 100 tracks. Most of the suggestions above are very good (though I detest The Mac Brothers song I’m afraid!) and I would add ‘Fine Time’ by New Order & Ofra Haza’s ‘Im Nin’Alu’.

    What is great about this one is that there’s very little I would lose from it. Cher, Eddy Grant, Joyce Sims (all her songs now sound terribly dated) and the utterly hateful Bobby Mc Ferrin. Other than that, I can’t argue and I’m another who is pleased at ‘Angel Of Harlem’ being here rather than ‘Desire’.

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