If there was Hits before Hits

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While the primary remit of this site is to publish weekly reviews of compilations from the distant past, I thought it might be fun to rewrite history and create some re-imagined or fantasy editions. This project works on the premise that the Hits series started in June 1980 (instead of December 1984) and released two volumes per year. Just as I outlined with If there was Now before Now, I have assumed that the usual licensing restrictions applied in the majority of instances. So that means a high concentration of artists on the following labels: CBS, WEA, RCA, Arista, Atlantic, Epic etc. Obviously there are exceptions – as Now started in April 1980, they managed to nab the Pretenders’ Brass In Pocket for their own compilation with Hits only getting off the ground two months later. Playlists for each album are now on Spotify – links below – and a couple of track substitutions were required – denoted by an asterisk in the listings. The originally-intended song will be mentioned underneath. In an ideal world, every 7″ mix would be on Spotify but there is a tolerance for album versions once they’re not excessively lengthy. While there’s one less volume per year this time, you get slightly more bang for your buck in that each one consists of 32 songs over four sides of vinyl. Please take the side breaks into account when listening. As always, I encourage people not to use the shuffle option as sequencing and track flow is key. Feel free to add your suggestions or comments below.

Hits 1980.1
Record 1 Side 1
01 The Nolans – I’m In The Mood For Dancing
02 David Bowie – John I’m Only Dancing (Again)
03 Chic – My Feet Keep Dancing
04 Liquid Gold – Dance Yourself Dizzy
05 The Spinners – Working My Way Back To You
06 Average White Band – Let’s Go Round Again
07 Lipps Inc – Funkytown
08 Sheila & B Devotion – Spacer

Record 1 Side 2
09 The Clash – London Calling
10 The Undertones – My Perfect Cousin
11 Regents – 7 Teen
12 Pretenders – Talk Of The Town
13 Lambrettas – Poison Ivy
14 Shakin’ Stevens – Hot Dog
15 Ramones – Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio
16 Cockney Rejects – I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles

Record 2 Side 1
01 Michael Jackson – Rock With You
02 Jermaine Jackson – Let’s Get Serious
03 Change – A Lover’s Holiday
04 Prince – I Wanna Be Your Lover
05 Donna Summer – On The Radio
06 Fern Kinney Together We Are Beautiful
07 James Last Band – The Seduction (Love Theme)
08 KC & The Sunshine Band – Please Don’t Go

Record 2 Side 2
09 ABBA – I Have A Dream
10 Barbara Dickson – January February
11 Dollar – I Wanna Hold Your Hand
12 Fleetwood Mac – Sara
13 Jefferson Starship – Jane
14 Christopher Cross – Ride Like The Wind
15 Booker T & The MGs – Green Onions
16 Johnny Logan – What’s Another Year

Released June 1980. No issues sourcing any of these. Side 1 is seriously frantic with the focus firmly on the disco dancefloor. Side 2 sees a punk and new wave vibe, around the time I first noticed the television advert for Ronco’s Street Level. You’ll notice that the brand new Pretenders single is included. I would like to assure everyone that sequencing Michael Jackson after I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles was purely unintentional.


Hits 1980.2
Record 1 Side 1
01 Adam & The Ants – Dog Eat Dog
02 AC/DC – You Shook Me All Night Long
03 Motorhead – Ace Of Spades
04 Thin Lizzy – Killer On The Loose
05 Judas Priest – Breaking The Law
06 Status Quo – What You’re Proposing
07 Stray Cats – Runaway Boys
08 Shakin’ Stevens – Marie Marie

Record 1 Side 2
09 Odyssey – Use It Up And Wear It Out
10 Teena Marie – Behind The Groove
11 Diana Ross – Upside Down
12 Ottawan – D.I.S.C.O.
13 Stacy Lattislaw – Jump To The Beat
14 Change – Searching
15 Geraldine Hunt – Can’t Fake The Feeling
16 Tom Browne – Funkin’ For Jamaica (N.Y.)

Record 2 Side 1
01 Olivia Newton John / Electric Light Orchestra – Xanadu
02 Bruce Springsteen – Hungry Heart
03 Billy Joel – It’s Rock ‘n’ Roll To Me
04 David Bowie – Ashes To Ashes
05 Stevie Wonder – Masterblaster (Jammin’)
06 The Clash – Bank Robber
07 Boomtown Rats – Banana Republic
08 Generation X – Dancing With Myself

Record 2 Side 2
09 ABBA – The Winner Takes It All
10 Michael Jackson – She’s Out Of My Life
11 Manhattans – Shining Star
12 Randy Crawford – One Day I’ll Fly Away
13 Stephanie Mills – Never Knew Love Like This Before
14 Air Supply – All Out Of Love
15 Barbra Streisand – Woman In Love
16 Frank Sinatra – Theme From New York, New York

Released December 1980. The opening quarter is centred around the NWOBHM with a little help from friends in Australia and Ireland. If that doesn’t scare you, then there’s a disco treat next with some familiar big names popping up on side 3. The final furlong is somewhat sentimental and morose; even Ol’ Blue Eyes drops in at the very end.


Hits 1981.1
Record 1 Side 1
01 Adam & The Ants – Stand And Deliver
02 David Bowie – Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)
03 Teardrop Explodes – Reward
04 Landscape – Einstein A Go-Go
05 Talking Heads – Once In A Lifetime
06 Pretenders – Message Of Love
07 The Undertones – It’s Going To Happen
08 Susan Fassbender – Twilight Café

Record 1 Side 2
09 ABBA – Super Trouper
10 The Nolans – Attention To Me
11 The Jacksons – Can You Feel It
12 Quincy Jones – Ai No Corrida
13 Sugar Minott – We Got A Good Thing Going
14 Champaign – How ‘Bout Us
15 Grover Washington Jr & Bill Withers – Just The Two Of Us
16 Kate Robbins & Beyond – More Than In Love

Record 2 Side 1
01 REO Speedwagon – Keep On Loving You
02 Keith Marshall – Only Crying
03 Status Quo – Something ‘Bout You Baby I Like
04 Graham Bonnet – Night Games
05 Saxon – And The Bands Played On
06 Slade – We’ll Bring The House Down
07 Adam & The Ants – Kings Of The Wild Frontier
08 Chas & Dave – Rabbit

Record 2 Side 2
09 Star Sound – Stars On 45
10 Bucks Fizz – Making Your Mind Up
11 Stray Cats – Rock This Town
12 Shakin’ Stevens – This Ole House
13 Dire Straits – Romeo & Juliet
14 Christopher Cross – Sailing
15 George Harrison – All Those Years Ago
16 John Lennon – Imagine

Released June 1981. As with its Now equivalent, the death of John Lennon is felt on this one. While Now 1981.1 got the Double Fantasy singles, this Hits instalment pulls off the trick of licensing 1971’s Imagine (which had returned to the summit earlier in the year) prefaced by George Harrison’s plaintive tribute. Oh, and Adam & The Ants get two songs. Please note that side 4 has four #1s.


Hits 1981.2
Record 1 Side 1
01 Rolling Stones – Start Me Up
02 Julio Iglesias – Begin The Beguine (Volver A Empezar)
03 Diana Ross – Why Do Fools Fall In Love
04 Barry Manilow – Let’s Hang On
05 B.A. Robertson & Maggie Bell – Hold Me
06 Bruce Springsteen – The River
07 Foreigner – Waiting For A Girl Like You
08 Star Sound – Stars On 45 Volume 3

Record 1 Side 2
09 Adam & The Ants – Prince Charming
10 Altered Images – Happy Birthday
11 Dollar – Hand Held In Black & White
12 Haircut 100 – Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl)
13 Rod Stewart – Young Turks
14 Bucks Fizz – The Land Of Make Believe
15 Pretenders – I Go To Sleep
16 David Bowie – Wild Is The Wind

Record 2 Side 1
01 Earth Wind & Fire – Let’s Groove
02 ABBA – Lay All Your Love On Me
03 Four Tops – When She Was My Girl
04 Trevor Walters – Love Me Tonight
05 Hi-Gloss – You’ll Never Know
06 Randy Crawford – You Might Need Somebody
07 Pointer Sisters – Slow Hand
08 Lobo – The Caribbean Disco Show

Record 2 Side 2
09 Laurie Anderson – O Superman
10 Tom Tom Club – Genius Of Love
11 Modern Romance – Ay Ay Ay Ay Moosey
12 Bad Manners – Walking In The Sunshine
13 Shakin’ Stevens – Green Door
14 Electric Light Orchestra – Hold On Tight
15 Stray Cats – Stray Cat Strut
16 The Tweets – Birdie Song

Released December 1981. The first side harks back to a much earlier era (the 1960s) with successive cover versions and The River. Foreigner’s Waiting For A Girl Like You is the hot tip. Wild Is The Wind was issued to promote the second ChangesBowie LP. The cheese factor is heavy especially the closing tracks on the two Record 2 sides. But there’s a nice counterbalance or ruffling of feathers with O Superman leading into Genius Of Love.


Hits 1982.1
Record 1 Side 1
01 Joan Jett & The Black Hearts – I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll
02 Adam Ant – Goody Two Shoes
03 Bow Wow Wow – Go Wild In The Country
04 Haircut 100 – Love Plus One
05 Altered Images – I Could Be Happy
06 The Clash – Rock The Casbah
07 David Bowie – Cat People (Putting Out Fire)
08 Dollar – Give Me Back My Heart

Record 1 Side 2
09 Bucks Fizz – My Camera Never Lies
10 Associates – Club Country *
11 The Quick – Rhythm Of The Jungle
12 Adam & The Ants – Ant Rap
13 The Go-Gos – Our Lips Are Sealed
14 The Cars – Since You’re Gone
15 Shakin’ Stevens – Oh Julie
16 Chas & Dave – Ain’t No Pleasing You

Record 2 Side 1
01 D Train – You’re The One For Me
02 Diana Ross – Work That Body
03 Patrice Rushen – Forget Me Nots
04 Four Tops – Don’t Walk Away
05 Stevie Wonder – Do I Do
06 Daryl Hall & John Oates – I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)
07 Bardo – One Step Further
08 Nicole – A Little Peace

Record 2 Side 2
09 Goombay Dance Band – Seven Tears
10 ABBA – One Of Us
11 Barbra Streisand – Memory
12 Christopher Cross – Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)
13 Foreigner – Urgent
14 Meat Loaf – Dead Ringer For Love
15 AC/DC – Let’s Get It Up
16 Mike Post & Larry Carlton – Theme From Hill Street Blues

Released June 1982. Side 1 holds huge personal memories as I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll was my first 7″. There were endless permutations of the lyrics sung in the school yard. I wanted to include PhD’s I Won’t Let You Down but whatever version is on Spotify – a most dodgy soundalike – sounds a bit off so the Associates slot in. A triple play of Don’t – Do – Do precedes Eurovision 1-2 while the final side a mawkish graveyard with an uplifting finale.


Hits 1982.2
Record 1 Side 1
01 Michael Jackson & Paul McCartney – The Girl Is Mine
02 Boystown Gang – Can’t Take My Eyes Off You
03 Carly Simon – Why
04 Kool & The Gang – Ooh La La La (Let’s Go Dancin’)
05 Raw Silk – Do It To The Music
06 Evelyn King – Love Come Down
07 Odyssey – Inside Out
08 Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five – The Message

Record 1 Side 2
09 Irene Cara – Fame
10 Daryl Hall & John Oates – Maneater
11 Donna Summer – State Of Independence
12 Dionne Warwick – Heartbreaker
13 Marvin Gaye – Sexual Healing
14 Barry Manilow – I Wanna Do It With You
15 Modern Romance – Best Years Of Our Lives
16 Bad Manners – My Girl Lollipop (My Boy Lollipop)

Record 2 Side 1
01 Chicago – Hard To Say I’m Sorry
02 Asia – Heat Of The Moment
03 John Cougar – Jack And Diane
04 Pretenders – Back On The Chain Gang
05 Bauhaus – Ziggy Stardust
06 Survivor – Eye Of The Tiger
07 Lynyrd Skynyrd – Free Bird
08 Bucks Fizz – Now Those Days Are Gone

Record 2 Side 2
09 Clannad – Theme From Harry’s Game
10 Dire Straits – Private Investigations
11 Adam Ant – Friend Or Foe
12 Toto Ceolo – I Eat Cannibals (Part 1)
13 Fashion – Love Shadow
14 Men At Work – Who Can It Be Now
15 Dollar – Videotheque
16 ABBA – The Day Before You Came

Released December 1982. Most of record 1 focuses on soul and dance numbers with the first fruits of Thriller starting us off. Things get rocky on side 3 – nice to see the revived Free Bird – while side 4 begins all moody with the Harry’s Game theme before a quick look at some new wave hopefuls that while peaking outside the top 40, have good staying power. Videotheque and The Day Before You Came make for a magnificent final pairing.


Hits 1983.1
Record 1 Side 1
01 Michael Jackson – Billie Jean
02 Irene Cara – Flashdance… What A Feeling
03 Laura Branigan – Gloria
04 Mtume – Juicy Fruit
05 Prince – Little Red Corvette
06 George Benson – Lady Love Me (One More Time)
07 Patti Austin & James Ingram – Baby Come To Me
08 Dionne Warwick – All The Love In The World

Record 1 Side 2
09 Bucks Fizz – When We Were Young
10 Bonnie Tyler – Have You Ever Seen The Rain
11 Fleetwood Mac – Oh Diane
12 Electric Light Orchestra – Rock ‘n’ Roll Is King
13 Def Leppard – Photograph
14 Daryl Hall & John Oates – Family Man
15 Toto – Africa
16 Mark Knopfler – Going Home (Theme From Local Hero)

Record 2 Side 1
01 Eurythmics – Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)
02 Thompson Twins – Love On Your Side
03 JoBoxers – Boxerbeat
04 Modern Romance – High Life
05 Flash & The Pan – Waiting For A Train
06 The Stranglers – European Female
07 Freur – Doot-Doot
08 H2O – Dream To Sleep

Record 2 Side 2
09 ABBA – Under Attack
10 Men At Work – Overkill
11 Altered Images – Pinky Blue
12 Echo & The Bunnymen – The Cutter
13 Roman Holliday – Don’t Try To Stop It
14 Nick Heyward – Whistle Down The Wind
15 Clannad – Newgrange
16 The Beat – Can’t Get Used To Losing You

Released June 1983. The glorious weather of that late spring and early summer had many memorable songs. Prince makes another appearance; while 1999 was more successful, it did turn up on a “real” Hits album. There’s a rare compilation appearance for Def Leppard while Mark Knopfler’s Local Hero theme never fails to stir the emotions. The second half of side 3 gets really moody with a quartet of sleeping-on-train tunes. Whistle Down The Wind -> Newgrange brings make memories of ghost stories, scary despite the bright light.


Hits 1983.2
Record 1 Side 1
01 Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson – Say Say Say
02 Billy Joel – Uptown Girl
03 Yes – Owner Of A Lonely Heart
04 Paul Young – Come Back And Stay
05 The Kinks – Come Dancing
06 Shakin’ Stevens – Cry Just A Little Bit
07 Slade – My Oh My
08 Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton – Islands In The Stream

Record 1 Side 2
09 Herbie Hancock – Rockit
10 Wham! – Club Tropicana
11 Mary Jane Girls – All Night Long
12 David Grant – Watching You, Watching Me
13 Michael Jackson – Wanna Be Startin’ Something
14 Ryan Paris – Dolce Vita
15 Michael Sembello – Maniac
16 Lionel Richie – All Night Long

Record 2 Side 1
01 Altered Images – Don’t Talk To Me About Love
02 JoBoxers – Just Got Lucky
03 ABC – That Was Then And This Is Now
04 Eurythmics – Who’s That Girl
05 The Assembly – Never Never
06 Modern Romance – Walking In The Rain
07 Nick Heyward – Blue Hat For A Blue Day
08 Care – Flaming Sword

Record 2 Side 2
09 The The – This Is The Day
10 The Smiths – This Charming Man
11 Aztec Camera – Oblivious
12 Bruce Foxton – Freak
13 Stray Cats – (She’s) Sexy And 17
14 Adam Ant – Puss ‘n’ Boots
15 The Creatures – Right Now
16 Pretenders – 2000 Miles

Released December 1983. Here’s where things get complicated – as competition, there’s the first *real* Now album which hoovered up most of the year’s #1s – including those on rival labels like CBS. So there is scope to include tracks that they ignored in their pursuit all killer, no filler. Things like The Assemby’s Never Never and Wham! – traditionally split between the two compilations anyway. Like 1982.2 we start with Macca & Jacko; this one has been obtained by special arrangement from Parlophone. A quid pro quo. Both All Night Longs appear while sides 3 & 4 are given over to a mix of synth pop, new romantics and couple of indie smashes. Like Maniac & Flaming Sword, This Is The Day didn’t do the business chart wise but was an Epic push. Spot the four animals and who remembers the Rice Krispies 7″ pairing of Rockit with Club Tropicana, now preserved here.


Hits 1984.1
Record 1 Side 1
01 Shannon – Let The Music Play
02 Evelyn Thomas – High Energy
03 Ollie & Jerry – Breakin’ There’s No Stoppin Us
04 Rufus & Chaka Khan – Ain’t Nobody
05 Pointer Sisters – Automatic
06 Phil Fearon & Galaxy – What Do I Do
07 Change – Change Of Heart
08 Michael Jackson – P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)

Record 1 Side 2
09 Madonna – Holiday
10 Jocelyn Brown – Somebody Else’s Guy
11 The Jacksons featuring Mick Jagger – State Of Shock
12 Prince & The Revolution – When Doves Cry
13 Dennis Edwards & Siedah Garrett – Don’t Look Any Further
14 Matt Bianco – Sneaking Out The Back Door
15 Sade – Your Love Is King
16 Lionel Richie – Stuck On You

Record 2 Side 1
01 Spandau Ballet – Only When You Leave
02 Elton John – Sad Songs (Say So Much)
03 Billy Joel – Tell Her About It
04 Rick Springfield – Human Touch
05 Shakin’ Stevens & Bonnie Tyler – A Rockin’ Good Way
06 Status Quo – Marguerita Time
07 Julio Iglesias & Willie Nelson – To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before
08 Clannad – Robin (The Hooded Man)

Record 2 Side 2
09 Paul Young – Love Of The Common People
10 Nena – Just A Dream
11 Wang Chung – Dance Hall Days
12 The Smiths – Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now
13 Echo & The Bunnymen – The Killing Moon
14 Swans Way – Soul Train
15 ABC – S.O.S.
16 Howard Jones – Hide And Seek

Released June 1984. By this stage you could easily drive yourself mad with overthinking label politics, indie label affiliations and the presence of two more *real* Now albums released on either side of this fantasy Hits. Side 1 is geared towards the clubs with this vibe continuing on the flip with the first appearance of Madonna and a Prince track that was shortly released before this compilation went to press. Spandau Ballet’s Parade era wasn’t captured by anyone at the time; it is now while the duets of spring ’84 are also featured. Nena’s follow-up to 99 Red Balloons deserved much more than #70 while we end with WEA’s Howard Jones and his spectral Hide And Seek. Thank you for making it this far.

11 Responses to If there was Hits before Hits

  1. Junior Junior says:

    Your posts are fantastic !!!! CONGRATULATIONS!!!! My dream is to see the relaunch of this series on CD as well, as they are doing with NOW.

  2. antster1983 says:

    For anyone wondering why ABBA are on this theoretical HITS series and not on NOW, it’s because they were signed to Epic (a CBS label) in the UK. Polar Music only operated in Scandinavia and licensed their artists out to other labels such as Polydor (across most of Europe), Atlantic (in the US & Canada), RCA Victor (in Australia & New Zealand) or Epic (in the UK & Ireland). Obviously this is no longer the case since the acquisition of Polar Music by PolyGram in 1989 and all previous licensing deals expired by 1992, just in time for PolyGram to release the best-selling ABBA Gold compilation.

      • antster1983 says:

        You’re welcome Paul. Also noticed, as PolyGram were not part of either series until NOW 8 (and would only enter into the compilation game with Out Now! as the distribution partner for Chrysalis & MCA) you’ve split their artists between the two series largely by their labels, with NOW getting most of Polydor’s artists while you give Casablanca and Vertigo’s artists to HITS, and only a smattering of songs from Mercury’s roster between the two.

  3. Andrew Chinnock says:

    Bloody marvellous! Well done again 🙂

    On a personal note, lovely to see The Beat’s ‘Can’t Get Used To Losing You’ as an end track – I’ve compiled a few ska albums over the years just for my own amusement and that was always my end track!

    Do you find it easier to make 4 eight-track sides instead of 2 long cds? I think there’s more of a craft to it.

    It’s really interesting to compare this with the Now minuses you’ve done. There’s something quite distinctive about each compilation, all equally reflective of those time capsules and echoes that, for several years, both Nows and Hits Albums arguably complimented each other rather than acted as competition. Of course, back in the early 80s there were fewer single releases than a decade later, but the format of 2 albums a year of 32 tracks works so well. Fast forward to 1998, 3 Nows, 3 Hits Albums, Telstar’s Box Hits trilogy and they were all a bit samey, all trying to get a piece of the action. Less is more sometimes. Nowadays the Now series has everything wrapped up. It’s not what it was.

    I’m not signed up to Spotify (surprisingly), but I think I’ll have to be now to listen 🙂

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      Many thanks Andrew. Yes – The Beat works well as a closer, always did. Sometimes played it last when DJing.

      It makes me focus a bit harder when doing an eight track side – but generally with mixes I try and group similar tracks together in bunches. But with side breaks, it makes it a bit easier; the curveball can go at the end.

      Definitely agree that a less crowded market makes for better compilations – a guy on PopJustice said that the Nows are more parochial and the Hits translatlantic. Which is pretty accurate.

  4. Jens Arne Kristensen says:

    I do miss ‘Mirror mirror ( Mon amour) / Dollar.

  5. Ben says:

    Such a great idea to imagine these before the time Now and Hits albums, I’d snap most of them up if they ever got a physical release! One artist I couldn’t see on any of them is Eddy Grant-not on Spotify, or did you reckon the compilers of both series couldn’t have licensed him?

    I’ve called elsewhere for the real early Hits albums to be reissued on CD, but with the hash that Sony are making of the Now reissues I’d now qualify that with, only if they can be bothered getting them right. The very first volume had Thriller and Purple Rain cut in half but also a lot of early fades which could easily be restored. Perhaps one of us should offer to do the A&R!

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      Thanks for the feedback Ben, much appreciated. Yes, I did consider Eddy Grant and think he would have been licensed back then – unfortunately not on Spotify, just soundalikes. Agree re Hits reissues – interestingly, their 4CD Hits Album gets a lot more right than the Now “re-imaginings” do. The Purple Rain version on Hits 1 is the 7″ edit; not a great version but is authentic. Thriller seems to be an early fade (and not that well done). Hits 1 is the only place to compile Neil Hole In My Shoe single version (very slightly different to the album take).

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