Now That’s What I Call Music 1994: The Millennium Series (EMI / Virgin / Universal, 1999)

Now Millennium 1994

Now Millennium 1994 r

The 15th entry in Now’s Millennium series sees Jo Payton’s sleeve notes concentrate on the rising Oasis phenomenon, the consolidation of Blur’s position, the arrival of Pulp and the honouring of Crowded House. Elsewhere there’s mentions for Whigfield, R Kelly, Wet Wet Wet, East 17, Shampoo and the proliferation of reggae-influenced cover versions that seemed to be everywhere that year. Take a bow – Chaka Demus, Pliers, Pato Banton, Aswad, CJ Lewis, China Black, Taxi Gang, Jack Radics, Ali Campbell, Red Dragon, Brian Gold, Tony Gold. . . “To match the stardust in your eye.”

Check out these reviews of mine for more discussion on the following tunes:
Now That’s What I Call Music 27: Enigma – Return To Innocence, Chaka Demus and Pliers – Twist And Shout, Reel 2 Real featuring The Mad Stuntman – I Like To Move It, Meat Loaf – Rock And Roll Dreams Come Through, Primal Scream – Rocks, Dina Carroll – The Perfect Year, Wendy Moten – Come In Out Of The Rain.
Now Dance Summer ’94: Carleen Anderson – Mama Said.
Now That’s What I Call Music 28: Wet Wet Wet – Love Is All Around, China Black – Searching, Eternal – Just A Step From Heaven, Let Loose – Crazy For You, Aswad – Shine, CJ Lewis – Sweets For My Sweet, Salt ‘N’ Pepa with En Vogue – Whatta Man, The Prodigy – No Good (Start The Dance), Gloworm – Carry Me Home, Stiltskin – Inside, Tony Di Bart – The Real Thing.
Now That’s What I Call Music 1994: Gun – Word Up.
The Greatest Hits Of 1994: Oasis – Live Forever (also on Now 33), Suede – Stay Together.
Now That’s What I Call Music 29: Youssou N’Dour and Neneh Cherry – 7 Seconds, East 17 – Around The World, Pato Banton with Ali and Robin Campbell – Baby Come Back, Whigfield – Saturday Night, R Kelly – She’s Got That Vibe, Red Dragon featuring Brian and Tony Gold – Compliments On Your Kiss, Blur – Parklife, Brand New Heavies – Midnight At The Oasis, Shampoo – Trouble.
Now Dance ’95: Baby D – Let Me Be Your Fantasy.
Now That’s What I Call Music 30: Boyzone – Love Me For A Reason.

“Like southern England personified.” (Noel Gallagher on Parklife)
It was originally going to be titled London and the intended album sleeve was to be of a fruit and vegetable cart. Instead we got a shot of greyhounds racing while the majority of the photographs in the CD booklet were taken in Walthamstow Stadium. Stylistically, Parklife is all over the place. The lyrics tell many different stories – “It’s the travels of the mystical lager-eater, seeing what’s going on in the world and commenting on it.” We get the synth pop PSB-ish Girls & Boys, a little bit of punk in Bank Holiday, the stoned Far Out, the weird almost cold wave of Trouble In The Message Centre, some almost-lounge The Debt Collector and the deep trilogy of Badhead, To The End and This Is A Low. The title track features spoken verses from actor Phil Daniels, forever associated with the character of Jimmy Cooper in Quadrophenia. And that 1979 film will forever be a bittersweet memory from my university years. 30 of us packed into a small flat watching it on my VCR. Four of us on the couch, me and three others – all who have since passed.

“If ever there was an album designed for listening to alone in your room it was His ‘n’ Hers.” (Rosie Swash as recounted for My Favourite Album, The Guardian)
Some might say that Pulp were gauche when Britpop was at its height. They were but when compared to their pre-1994 incarnation, the His ‘n’ Hers era looks positively swish. The best way to listen to early Pulp is via the Peel Sessions album where the first four tracks all date from 1981 – a beautiful swan in a decade of ugly ducklings. After the weedy debut It, their second album, Freaks, is a stilted and unpleasant affair while 1992’s Separations is uneven and grotesque in parts. Things picked up with the original release Babies in October 1992 and built steadily over the following 12 months with a slew of impressive 45s like Razzmatazz, Lipgloss and Do You Remember The First Time? The album was real navel-gazing stuff, but with the melodies and tunes to match. Like a secret diary of indeterminate age set to music. Babies bounces back again – a remix – as part of The Sisters EP; a record always associated with cramming for English second year exams. Video features Selina from Foxbase Alpha sleeve. Late night sessions fortified by Jolt Cola.

Crowded House released Together Alone in late 1993. Its reputation grew in stature on the college campus and I eventually picked up a copy three months later. Around the same time Pavement played the Rock Garden (ticket number 001). The LP was released on the Capitol label and came from Freebird Records, Eden Quay. I was served by the inimitable Jon Dee; loads of Marlboro Reds and discussions about Sebadoh and Archers of Loaf. Together Alone is a perfectly structured rock record that – despite the tribal atmosphere – oozes pop songs, ripe with choruses and harmonies. Locked Out is on this Millennium entry, all rock energy. Elswehwere there’s the beautiful Walking On The Spot with its laidback piano, the mandolin-driven Pineapple Head and the percussive Private Universe. The album finishes with the spiritual title track which uses a Maori choir. As Neil Finn sings in Distant Sun “I don’t pretend to know what you want, but I offer love.”

“You are entrenched in suede.” (Glam Racket)
1994 saw Suede top the dizzy heights of the previous year. Valentine’s Day brought us a brand new single; the epic Stay Together which ran for over eight minutes. The single edit is included here – half the length. The 12″ – itself an opulent artistic statement with its splendid gatefold sleeve – also contained two blindingly brilliant B-sides, The Living Dead and My Dark Star. It was the last single released while Bernard Butler was still in the band. Fast forward to 21 October when I bought Dog Man Star and went to see Pulp Fiction late on that evening. The album sounded instantly magnificent, grandiose, ambitious and heavily orchestrated. Side 4 consisted of just two tracks, both immense: The Asphalt World and Still Life. Other highlights included the sweeping Wild Ones and The Power. Meanwhile Tarantino’s second film continued to build his legend, a multi-layered classic with a killer soundtrack. At the time, Reservoir Dogs was still banned on VHS while True Romance was also held back. Natural Born Killers had just opened in the US and some J1 students hyped it up. “You know, the only thing that kills the demon… is love.”

“I’m Joe Totale
The yet unborn son
The North will rise again
The North will rise again”

As I write this, I have just learned of Mark E Smith’s death. The end of a 33 year chapter of my life. The Fall have been my favourite band for a long time. I knew MES was in poor health but yet there was an air of invincibility about him; they’d being going for so long that I thought that there were many more years to come. Look at The Fall’s singles entry on The Official UK Charts website, there are just two top 40 entries: There’s A Ghost In My House (#30 in 1987) and Victoria (#35 in 1988). However in 1994, MES guested on the Inspiral Carpets single I Want You which went all the way to #18 and also appeared on Top Of The Pops. He read his lyrics from a piece of paper:
“There are already all those rumours circulating around
I think you should remember whose side you are on”

“The Dutch East India Company and the U.S.A. of A
Think they can fool with their sincere use of your ear”

I first heard The Fall on the John Peel show – where else? – sometime during October 1985. Cruiser’s Creek was the single, a meandering six minute jam. While it was left off their then-new album, This Nation’s Saving Grace, it has been included on subsequent reissues – but in a shorter edit that also crops up on various compilaton albums. “It’s a party lyric with a party twist.” (MES in an interview with Andy Strickland, Record Mirror, 26 October 1985). The promotional video was directed by Cerith Wyn Evans, who also worked with Michael Clark. Cruiser’s Creek reached #3 in John Peel’s Festive 50 for 1985. I ended up getting This Nation’s Saving Grace for Christmas that year. It was a gift from my parents that I had casually asked for a few weeks earlier. My mother went to great lengths to pick me up a copy. Many years later, I learned that she went up to Dublin on 8 December and traipsed around numerous shops until she found the record.

The Fall’s 17th studio album, Middle Class Revolt, was released on 3 May 1994. In the weeks beforehand, Dublin’s Comet Records took a pro-active approach and had a sign displayed on the counter which detailed the upcoming release date and how to reserve your copy of the LP, cassette or CD. This was in contrast to the previous album, The Infotainment Scan, which I picked up in Borderline on release date. They got in one vinyl copy with a slightly dented corner and no other shop seemed to stock the LP for ages afterwards. Despite the fanfare, Middle Class Revolt, just spent one week in the album chart and enjoys a less than stellar reputation within The Fall community. It was preceded by two singles, Behind The Counter and 15 Ways, both which appear here – along with several of their B-sides such as M5, War, City Dweller (formerly Cab Driver), The $500 Bottle Of Wine and Hey! Student. While the majority of these single tracks appear in alternate versions, there was a sense of over-familiarity by the time the album came out.

In recent days, I have revisited Middle Class Revolt, both the original 1994 LP and also the 2006 double CD reissue. The album still feels somewhat unconvincing: “7/10 by their own standards, 8/10 by everyone else’s” (NME) but there’s plenty to enjoy, not least the three cover versions. Henry Cow’s rather humourless War is totally reinvented and was one of the key selling points of Volume 8 (the 192 page magazine and CD combination). Then there’s the bristling almost-grunge sound of The Groundhogs’ Junk Man. Little did MES know that the Seattle scene would have its own implosion that April. And then, old favourites The Monks get dissected on the trash classic Shut Up! Football fans will savour the surreal Symbol Of Mordgan where guitarist Craig Scanlon and John Peel discuss Manchester City with a twang in the background. The reissue is beefed-up with all the Behind The Counter and 15 Ways EP tracks along with Peel session #17 (December 1993) plus some remixes of Middle Class Revolt. Another gem from the era (and only found on one of the many rip-off Receiver compilations, Oxymoron) is Brix Smith’s August 1994 vocal take on the storming Glam Racket. I’ll leave you with a quote from The Reckoning:

“And you’re sleeping with some hippie half-wit
Who thinks he’s Mr. Mark Smith


Favourite tracks
Pulp – Babies

Blur – Parklife

Enigma – Return To Innocence

Baby D – Let Me Be Your Fantasy

Lest we forget
Primal Scream – Rocks

Missing tracks and other thoughts
The 1994 Millennium edition does a pretty good job, albeit with a little too much reggae spice. Love Is All Around is the most logical place to start. Released in May and charting 4 – 2 – 1 where it stayed for 15 weeks. Four Weddings And A Funeral hit the cinemas on 4 June and both are permanently associated with that summer. “We did everybody’s head in then . . . I still think it’s a brilliant record. Its strength is its sheer simplicity. Any band would give their eye teeth to have a hit record like that. I’m very proud of it.” (Marti Pellow). 7 Seconds and Return To Innocence work well in tandem while Let Me Be Your Fantasy is a welcome conclusion to CD1 after much skanking. The second half throws up some decent Britpop memories, rocks out with Primal Scream and Stiltskin and drops dance bangers from The Prodigy and Gloworm. It must be said that I really dig the mellow closing pair of Dina Carroll and Wendy Moten.

Once again, comparisons with the 10th Anniversary series are fairly redundant given the somewhat pointless timing of the latter’s 1994 release. History will record that there there were 17 common tracks – Enigma, Chaka Demus and Pliers, Reel 2 Real featuring The Mad Stuntman, Meat Loaf, Dina Carroll, Wendy Moten, China Black, Eternal, Aswad, CJ Lewis, Salt ‘N’ Pepa with En Vogue, The Prodigy, Stiltskin, Whigfield, Red Dragon featuring Brian and Tony Gold, Shampoo, Gun. There were three regular Now albums released in 1994 and 27 of those songs are featured on this Millennium entry while Boyzone’s Love Me For A Reason came from 1995’s Now 30 – also on Now That’s What I Call Music 1995.

There were 15 number ones in 1994 with seven appearing here. They should have sprung for D:Ream’s Things Can Only Get Better and Prince’s The Most Beautiful Girl In The World while once again, it’s a Take That-free zone. Other tunes that I’d like to see here include the following: Jimmy Nail – Crocodile Shoes, The Beautiful South – One Last Love Song (remember the success of Carry On Up The Charts?), All-4-One’s soulful I Swear and Ace Of Base’s floor-filling The Sign. There’s a host of Euro dance jams also missing: MC Sar and The Real McCoy – Another Night, Corona – The Rhythm Of The Night, Culture Beat – Anything, Maxx – Get-A-Way. Give us more from Now 29 and less from Now 27 – that means shout outs to Lisa Loeb’s Stay (I Missed You), the Crash Test Dummies and Kylie Minogue’s Confide In Me. Last call (it’s a banjo one): The Grid’s Swamp Thing.

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7 Responses to Now That’s What I Call Music 1994: The Millennium Series (EMI / Virgin / Universal, 1999)

  1. cosmo says:

    (Guilty pleasures:)

    Agreed that 94 was a year high on reggae.

    For one, I’ll say that the “original”/”Anniversary” version is better here, it give a more “wholsesome” picture of what went on that year. But not to diss this one, as it has some “lost nuggets” (again mainly plucked from the Now Dance albums of that year) that distinguishes it.

    Especially Carleen Anderson’s Mama Said.

    And the final combo of Dina Carroll and Wendy Moten was a shrewed move, as you say.

    Prince, MC Sar, Corona and Culture Beat are ommissions I agree with you with. Along with R. Kelly (She’s Got That Vibe) and Doop (ditto). And I would have swapped Parklife for Girls & Boys, but since that appeared on the previous version, I guess that’ll have to be passed.

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      Cheers Cosmo, some nice guilty pleasures there. For Blur, I prefer End Of A Century than Girls & Boys and Parklife but can see why they went for latter. Yeah, Doop was a total earworm back then.

  2. Feel the Quality says:

    This is probably my favourite of the 90s ones, mainly due to that Oasis/Suede/Blur/Prodigy opening to Disc 2. They’re all classics but special mention must go to Stay Together, which is a masterpiece. (Suede were the unsung heroes of Britpop IMO). I could make an argument that Whatever would be the better choice for the Oasis track (and back then it was still pretty rare for it to appear on any album and would have been a bit of a coup) but you can’t really argue with Live Forever getting the nod here.

    Other favourite songs are Crazy for You (shame about the version used here though), 7 Seconds, Inside and anything by Dina Carroll is worthy of my attention (always thought she should have had a bigger career with that voice).

    I think you nailed the omissions, especially the Now 29 ones. Maybe I’d add Big Mountain to the list as that song was seemingly nailed onto every Radio playlist for the whole year but as this one is pretty reggae-heavy as it is, I could see why it’s not here.
    Get rid of weedy crap like Tony Di Bart (how did that get to #1?), Meatloaf and Sodding Compliments on your sodding bloody Kiss and replace them with the missing tracks you listed.

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      Yeah, I was thinking about Whatever – would have worked just as well and also non-album like Stay Together. Crazy For You seems to be the Reg Mix (I think) that’s on the CD single. The regular 7″ with the piano intro is much better, I agree – at least it’s on Now 28. Big Mountain was everywhere – certainly better than the Golds!

  3. andynoax says:

    I was not a fan of the musical output of 1994 in general, barring lots of dance and alternative stuff that either isn’t or was never going to be on here. So it’s difficult to have a strong opinion either way, though it’s good that Crowded House get another great song on.

    The single version of ‘Stay Together’ contains one of the clunkiest edits ever, the kind that only Eurodance songs seem to indulge in!

    You forgot about another hit by The Fall – just….’Free Range’ spent one week at No.40!

  4. Pingback: Volume Two (Volume, 1991) | A Pop Fan's Dream

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