Now That’s What I Call Music 1993: The Millennium Series (EMI / Virgin / Universal, 1999)

Now Millennium 1993

Now Millennium 1993 r

1993 was the year when vinyl sales reached their lowest ebb – after four bleak years of diminishing returns. A total of 300,000 new LPs were sold in the US. In 2017 that figure was 14,320,000. It wasn’t unusual for record shops (both independent and chains) to just order in ONE vinyl copy of a particular album. On a number of occasions, I was the lucky buyer: The Fall – The Infotainment Scan with a slightly dinged corner from Borderline being one such example. U2’s Zooropa, Kate Bush’s The Red Shoes and Neil Young’s groove-busting Unplugged (65 minutes on one LP) also found their way onto my shelves that year. Curiously Suede’s self-titled debut sold a healthy number on vinyl in Dublin over the first week or so – helped greatly by a triumphant Saturday night concert in the Tivoli two days before the UK release date. As was the custom in Ireland then, new albums were in the shops the previous Friday. Something special for the weekend.

Check out the following to see what I said about these songs when they first appeared:
Now That’s What I Call Music 23: Heaven 17 – Temptation (Brothers In Rhythm Remix).
Now That’s What I Call Music 24: Duran Duran – Ordinary World, East 17 – Deep, Shaggy – Oh Carolina, Ugly Kid Joe – Cat’s In The Cradle, Stereo MCs – Step It Up, Sub Sub featuring Melanie Williams – Ain’t No Love (Ain’t No Use), Robin S – Show Me Luv.
Now That’s What I Call Music 25: 4 Non Blondes – What’s Up?, Chaka Demus and Pliers – Tease Me, Gabrielle – Dreams, Tina Turner – I Don’t Wanna Fight, New Order – Regret.
Now That’s What I Call Music 1993: Suede – Animal Nitrate.
Now Dance – The Best Of ’93: The Shamen – Phorever People, House Of Pain – Jump Around, Aftershock – Slave To The Vibe, Arrested Development – Mr Wendal.
Smash Hits ’93: Shara Nelson – Down That Road.
Now That’s What I Call Music 26: UB40 – Can’t Help Falling In Love, Eternal – Stay, Dina Carroll – Don’t Be A Stranger, Bjork and David Arnold – Play Dead, Meat Loaf – I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That), Pet Shop Boys – Go West, The Goodmen – Give It Up, Cappella – U Got 2 Let The Music, Apache Indian – Boom Shack-A-Lack, Crowded House – Distant Sun, James – Laid.
Brit Awards 1994: Paul Weller – Wild Wood, U2 – Stay (Faraway So Close).
Now That’s What I Call Love: Roxette – Almost Unreal.
Now That’s What I Call Music 27: Bee Gees – For Whom The Bell Tolls.

“I’m looking for a partner regardless of expense”

In July 1986, the Alternative 7″ Mix of the Pet Shop Boys’ Opportunities was included on Now That’s What I Call Music 7. As Ashley Abram recalled in my recent Classic Pop feature “I think on Opportunities, PSB didn’t mind which mix we used but when they found out we’d used the alternative version they asked EMI for a couple of boxes of samples of Now 7 as they thought it might become sought after at some point because of the alternative mix!” 13 years later – another anomaly – as the version of Go West used on this 1993 Millennium set is the previously unreleased Mark Stent original 7″ version. This mix was originally completed in late 1992 and the plan was to release it before Christmas. However the feedback given to Neil and Chris was that it sounded too Erasure-ish so, feeling that it was pointless in its current state, they redid the track with Stephen Hague for the Very album. The single emerged on 6 September 1993.

“Neil: Derek Jarman was having an exhibition for local AIDS charities in Manchester and asked us to do a concert for him at the Haçienda. We were rehearsing in Nomis and we wanted to do a cover version. We were going to do The Fool On The Hill by The Beatles, and then Chris came in the next morning and said, ‘I’ve looked through my records and decided we’ll do this song called Go West.
Chris: Which Neil didn’t know.
Neil: He played it to me and I said, ‘This is ghastly.’ I thought it was ghastly beyond belief. Awful. Anyway, Chris just carried on regardless.
Chris: Neil just couldn’t hear it.
Neil: Then Chris enticed me into it by pointing out that it was the same chord change as Pachelbel’s Canon. And that indeed worked.”

You can read more about the evolution of Go West here.
The song also included a new introduction which made it sound like a Soviet marching anthem and a fairly radical reworking of the instrumental components. Plus Neil and Chris decided to expand on the Village People original and wrote a new verse:
“There where the air is free,
We’ll be what we want to be
Now if we make a stand,
We’ll find our promised land”

Behaviour had been considered the Pet Shop Boys’ “downer” album; now Very was seen as the opposite. The “upper”, a pounding dance trip with none of the subdued vibes of its predecessor. Until the release of Elysium in 2012, I considered it their worst album. Of more interest – then and now – was the accompanying Relentless, a six track 35 minute album of intense beats that came with initial copies of the CD.
My Head Is Spinning: Heavy, great build-up.
Forever in Love: Euphoric, the only one to survive (differently) on Further Listening.
KDX 125: Totally, er, relentless. No words.
We Came from Outer Space: Moody with a Lowe vocal.
The Man Who Has Everything: Dark, unsatisfied, questioning.
One Thing Leads to Another: A tale in reverse chronology.

Both Sides Of The Story was the lead single from Phil Collins fifth solo LP. It runs for over six and a half minutes and its the album version that’s here. The radio edit ran for about 66 seconds less. The video was primarily filmed in New York and features scenes of homeless people, an arguing couple, children spray-painting a wall and a ghetto kid pulling a gun on a adult male. It reached #7 in the UK and is most welcome here. The parent album, Both Sides, is a deeply personal and most introspective work and over time, has become my favourite of his records. The stories are troubled and unsettling with a haunting and pained emotional vibe running all the way through. Collins made it entirely on his own, without the usual collaborators like Huge Padgham etc. For the first and only time in his career, Phil played all the instruments himself as well as taking care of the primary production duties. High points of the 2016 reissue are few and far between with the most disappointing aspect being the omission of stellar B-side For A Friend.

Laid saw James work with Brian Eno for the first time. By 1993, the band were a big ticket item, playing large venues and supporting Neil Young on a US tour. Gold Mother saw them ride the Madchester train while 1992’s Seven was an excursion into Waterboys Big Music territory. It was time to relax and on Laid, we get a lengthy and relaxed stream of coherent tunes with beautiful melodies and complex arrangements. The title track and Low, Low, Low are catchy and witty songs while Skindiving and Lullaby retain a dreamy edge. Meanwhile Sometimes is spectacular; an intense masterpiece where the cadence of Tim Booth’s voice competes perfectly with the plaintive strumming of the instruments. The overall vibe is haunting and atmospheric which is primarily down to Eno’s superb production. “If you like catchy tunes, good singing (some nice harmonies), interesting drumming, wicked lyrics, spot on production, and grown men dressed in skirts eating bananas: buy it and help James get the recognition they deserve.” (N Connolly)

“It’s not over yet”
Higher And Higher: The Best Of Heaven 17 ended up being one of my most played LPs during 1993. It’s a remarkable collection of singles, new remixes and a couple of album tracks. It was preceded in 1992 by a storming remix of Temptation courtesy of the Brothers In Rhythm. As Gregory remembers: “Temptation was written in a grotty little basement flat I had in Ladbroke Grove, west London. We dubbed it the South Yorkshire embassy. I remember sitting on the sofa howling with laughter when Martyn walked in and said he had this great idea for a song based on the Lord’s Prayer with a never-ending chord structure. He already knew it was going to be called Temptation, and the line “Lead us not into temptation” was in there from the start. But the rest of lyrics, as always with Heaven 17, resulted from us sitting there debating every line.” Equally essential are the CD singles for (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang (The Rapino Brothers Remixes) and Penthouse and Pavement (The Tommy D Remixes).

“They’ve reinvented themselves in the image of their youth… it’s the Village Green Preservation Society come home to find a car park in its place.” (Paul Moody, NME)

Modern Life Is Rubbish was Blur’s great leap forward. One of the most essential Britpop LPs was released approximately six weeks after another cracker – Suede’s self-titled debut. The seeds were sown in the spring of ’92 with the standalone single Popscene. This super punky 45 featured heavy guitars, a drum sound reminiscent of Can and brass from session players the Kick Horns. The band went onto tour the US for two months – Rollercoaster – and gradually became more and more homesick. Modern Life saw Blur engage XTC’s Andy Partridge as producer but after just four songs, they parted ways and replaced him with Stephen Street (who had already produced There’s No Other Way). Three tracks from the Partridge sessions can be found on Blur 21. The end result is a landmark album that’s heavily influenced by the past: The Small Faces, The Kinks, The Who, The Jam. And not forgetting the sleeve: an evocative painting of the steam locomotive Mallard.

Most of the album was conceived during that 1992 Rollercoaster tour. Graham Coxon looks back “We were just fighting for our life as a group. We were just writing about everyday life, which was basically pretty awful.” SBK were Blur’s US label and persuaded them to record Chemical World as they felt the album lacked a strong commercial punch. On the other side, Food Records were equally sceptical when a draft format LP was provided to them at the end of ’92. So Damon wrote For Tomorrow on St Stephen’s Eve. 45 #3 Sunday, Sunday has a bustling busy charm. The heart of the LP is the stunning Blue Jeans, a melody that’s both super melancholic and crackling with a kind of weird energy. When the US version finally did come out on SBK, the sequencing had been altered. Popscene was now wedged in-between what had been the album’s two closing tracks, while the demo version of Chemical World was swapped in for the Street-produced version. In addition, a couple of hidden songs — B-sides When The Cows Come Home and Peach — were thrown onto the CD as tracks 68 and 69. “I want to stay this way forever.”

Favourite tracks
Blur – Chemical World

Phil Collins – Both Sides Of The Story

Bjork with David Arnold – Play Dead

Dina Carroll – Don’t Be A Stranger

Lest we forget
Pet Shop Boys – Go West (Original Mark Stent Mix)

Missing tracks and other thoughts
The 1993 Millennium edition maintains the strong run of form. What’s Up and Ordinary World are a powerful opening pair which are followed by a neat run through the year’s pop highlights typified by UB40 and Gabrielle. The glorious trilogy of Snow, Shabba Ranks and Shaggy is reduced to Oh Carolina which allows for decent soulful vibe during the second half of CD1. I could have done without the rather garish finale of Ugly Kid Joe and Meat Loaf but CD2 immediately makes amends with a fantastic array of club bangers – many of them euphoric memories from The Cellar Bar. Robin S paving the way for the whistles of The Goodmen and the storming U Got 2 Let The Music. The closing stretch of indie hits is snappy and melodic – Distant Sun from Crowded House’s magnum opus Together Alone, the stunning Laid and a knockout 1-2 punch from Suede and Blur. And getting yet another Pet Shop Boys rarity is a wonderfully old skool touch.

Comparisons with the 10th Anniversary series are somewhat pointless given the strange turn that the latter took in 1993. By rights, 1992 should have been the final volume but there was a decision made to release another end of year volume in September – some three months before the year actually ended. In case you’re interested, there were 14 overlapping tracks – Suede, The Shamen, Aftershock, 4 Non Blondes, Gabrielle, Tina Turner, Heaven 17, East 17, Duran Duran, Shaggy, Ugly Kid Joe, Stereo MCs, Sub Sub featuring Melanie Williams, Robin S. There were three regular Now albums released in 1993 and 23 of the songs are featured on this Millennium entry while 1992’s Now 23 and 1994’s Now 27 also provide a track each. Elsewhere the second Now Dance album of the year, Now Dance – The Best Of ’93 supplies four while Roxette’s Almost Unreal was originally compiled on the first spin-off since 1987, Now That’s What I Call Love.

There were 15 number ones in 1993 with just four appearing here. Most notable by their absence: Take That (either Pray or Babe), Culture Beat’s Mr Vain and 2 Unlimited’s No Limits. The continuing marginalisation of Mr Blobby also gives rise to disappointment. In terms of the Boom wars we get Shack-A-Lack but not Shake The Room. I’m pining for Ace Of Base’s edgy All That She Wants, Haddaway’s plaintive What Is Love, Urban Cookie Collective’s utterly brilliant The Key, The Secret, West End and Sybil’s wistful The Love I Lost and M People’s euphoric Moving On Up or One Night In Heaven. Hanging over from 1992, REM’s Automatic For The People and its quartet of ’93 singles: The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite, Everybody Hurts, Nightswimming and Find The River. Into the gap: anything from Sting’s Ten Summoner’s Tales, Nirvana’s Heart-Shaped Box, Janet Jackson’s That’s The Way Love Goes and a pick of Prince – Pink Cashmere or Peach.

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14 Responses to Now That’s What I Call Music 1993: The Millennium Series (EMI / Virgin / Universal, 1999)

  1. cosmo says:

    What’s Up? was a song I remember being quite ubiqutous that year. So I thought it the prefect song to start this compilation. (Followed by one of Duran Duran’s finest moments.)

    This one is also neck-to-neck with the Anniversary version (although you’re right that the 93 Anniversary version was a “last minute decision”, I guess comparisions could still be just about valid). I also enjoyed the soul selection on CD1.

    And the dance selection on CD2.

    Agreed that Take That, Culture Beat, Ace of Base, M People, Sybil (When I’m Good & Ready) and Janet Jackson are noteworthy omissions. And if it was me, I would have swapped Can’t Help Falling in Love for Higher Ground (presonal opinion, though, as I much prefer it!).

  2. nlgbbbblth says:

    Thanks Cosmo, Higher Ground nice choice too!

  3. andynoax says:

    Amazing that Ace Of Base aren’t present given that they were NOW regulars. Culture Beat weren’t though, I guess. No mention of Freddie Mercury yet – his No.1 song should have been on here, again given Queen and Freddie’s regular appearances that omission is a real surprise.

    The 4 Non Blondes song I loved at the time whereas now (like most people my age I think) would gladly never hear again, though it is very 93 so I can understand why it’s here. CD1 goes downbeat very early on and some songs I could do without – Phil Collins for one.

    Hard to argue with much of Disc 2, top marks for Crowded House & James, neither of which were massive hits. Less so for Blur as I would’ve picked the superior ‘For Tomorrow’. Roxette’s track is also very rarely compiled though it’s also not that great. Aftershock is a strange one – I bought it when it came out but radio must have had a different mix as none of the ones on the CD single were as good. Then it got compiled regularly despite it not being a Top 10 hit.

    Omissions not already mentioned: Sweet Harmony by The Beloved, Jump They Say – David Bowie, East 17’s Deep, You’re In A Bad Way – Saint Etienne.

  4. Feel the Quality says:

    I’m not really a fan of this edition but there’s not much I would change with the tracklisting that hasn’t already been mentioned other than adding the brilliant version of Somebody to Love, which remains just about the only good thing Queen have done from 93 onwards (not including any of the unfinished Freddie stuff).

    But then there’s Tease Me. Which was up until this point easily the winner of the “worst song on the Millennium Series” so far award. Fortunately for Chaka Demus,1994 saw fit to include Compliments on Your Kiss and that held onto the prize. Which in a series that includes Lolly, Cartoons and The Vengaboys is impressive.

  5. Pingback: Now That’s What I Call Music 1996: The Millennium Series (EMI / Virgin / Universal, 1999) | A Pop Fan's Dream

  6. Martin Davis says:

    Never owned this album but after reading this review am rather suprised at the fact a number of tracks that you would normally associate with 1993 are absent.

    As well as the absence of Take That, Snow, Ace Of Base, 2 Unlimited, Culture Beat and Freddie Mercury further omissions are Sweat (A La La La La Long) by Inner Circle and It Keeps Raining by Bitty McLean. Plus “Young at Heart” by The Bluebells. Yes I know these tracks are all compiled elsewhere but given this compilation is meant to represent the best of the year its suprising they weren’t included.

    Rubberband Girl by Kate Bush would have worked well on here too.

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      Agree re Kate Bush, Martin. Instead of maybe Ugly Kid Joe. Not a fan of the Bluebells track – somewhat overplayed – but Culture Beat, Ace Of Base and Take That also surprising omissions.

  7. Andrew Chinnock says:

    Hi Paul, There seems to be a bit of a theme going on with these Now Millennium releases. No Take That, Haddaway or M People here or on any others. For the 1994 release I notice you make suggestions for Crash Test Dummies, The Grid, Lisa Loeb, Kylie, Real McCoy etc. All of these were licensed to BMG (at the time).

    Is it me or are these millennium compilations BMG free zones? There also seems to be a lack of Warner and Sony tracks as well. All of these albums rely quite heavily on EMI/Virgin/Universal tracks yet I’m struggling to find any from those other 3 big labels. There’s little doubt these were done on a far smaller budget than the 10th anniversary series and I can guess that the cost of licensing tracks from BMG/Warner/Sony was too great.

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      Hi Andrew – yes, I noticed that. Very much a narrower field and totally restricted in terms of selection. I imagine that licensing costs increased significantly between 1993 (when CD had just become the market leader) and 1999 (pretty much the zenith for the format)

      • Andrew Chinnock says:

        You’re surely right in that. I wonder if the decision was made not to bother at all in getting BMG etc tracks? In 1998 Telstar/Universal had their Box Hits series. BMG/Warner/Sony had Hits. EMI/VIrgin/Polygram had the Nows. There seemed to be a greater allowance by companies to use their tracks on a rival’s next compilation. The Nows were certainly not a BMG free zone at the time. I also cannot imagine BMG etc being particularly difficult with rights to older tracks as they had no similar compilation series of their own in the pipeline.

        Around that time Global released a Dance Tip Decade of Dance triple cd. There wasn’t a single EMI/Virgin/Polygram track on it. Telstar released ‘The Greatest Dance Album Ever Made’ in 1997 which featured no tracks from any of the big 6 labels, making a mockery of the title even if it was a decent album in its own right. It would seem that independent labels would license their tracks for less and that the expense of getting tracks from the big labels wasn’t worth the expense for the expected sales. This millennium Now 1993 would hardly have sold loads more copies if it had M People and Haddaway on it. In a way it was good that you could pick up a few tracks that weren’t ‘regulars’.

        Maybe we need a 1999 working of the Hits Album 1980-1999……

        • nlgbbbblth says:

          Seems like there was a fixed segregation going on in then. Probably a policy decision not to approach BMG for this series. In terms of budget, it did have sleevenotes – wonder what the outlay was there. It’s a fair point that sales would probably not have been much higher had a few more well known dance tunes been included. Even then, the Nows were appealing to many who would collect regardless (the magpie effect)

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