After the launch of the Now series in November 1983, it wasn’t long before other countries followed the UK’s example. While it wasn’t practical to collect or even gather information about these at the time, all that changed once the internet came along. What’s fascinating about these early foreign releases is the following:
1) The artwork similarities & variations,
2) The inclusion of lesser known singles by both well known artists and cult heroes,
3) The occasional selection of regional hits
I now outline a selection of my favourites from the vinyl era. I really have no interest in documenting recent foreign Now CDs but there is something fascinating about those ’80s LPs. To help people get a sense of how they flow, I’ve included Spotify playlists for each one which – by and large – are accurate as far as possible. Obviously not every 7″ edit is present and correct; in some instances I have had to use album versions or a couple of 12″ mixes while a few tracks are simply unavailable. In those cases, there are no substitutions. While there are a lot of familiar songs on offer, I think that you do get a new perspective when listening to them in these surroundings. Finally as special bonus, I have included a few Now-in-all-but-name compilations that are very similar in design and ethos along with two favourites from “the other side.” Enjoy.
Now That’s What I Call Music (1984)
The opening release in the South African series is a groove-bursting 20 track album. Future volumes would not have as many songs – certainly not in the 1980s and early 1990s. The artwork is similar to the UK issue with the artist photos appearing inside the Now letters. Queen go first and in an identical move to its ancestor, Culture Club get two tracks – in this case It’s A Miracle and I’ll Tumble 4 Ya. The local talent is Tomas Ledin’s Take Good Care Of Your Children and there’s the refreshing inclusion of tunes like The Lebanon, Hanna Hanna and Up On The Catwalk and an epic Chris Rea number from the superb Wired To The Moon. Sadly the 7″ mix of Break Machine’s Street Dance is not on Spotify so it’s the longer album cut – conveniently sequenced last for minimal impact.
Now That’s What I Call Music II (1984)
Again, the UK design is reproduced here with an LP containing exactly half the number of songs (15). It’s a decent round-up of the late summer, early autumn chart action with my favourite Tina Turner 45 of the era, Better Be Good To Me and Roger Taylor’s forgotten gem Man On Fire. And again, Queen start us off with another classic from The Works.
Now That’s What I Call Music 3 (1985)
For the third volume, we get a more generous 18 tracks in a sequence that’s probably my favourite of all the foreign Nows. It’s a killer selection of 1985 classics with a brilliant sequence early on from Sharpe & Numan through Foreigner. We’re deep in Now Dance / Hits 2 / Now 5 territory with the added bonus of the familiar – namely Corey Hart’s epic It Ain’t Enough followed by Chris Rea’s Wistful Stainsby Girls. And what about this for a really nice move in starting with Duran Duran and ending with The Power Station.
Now That’s What I Call Music 4 (1986)
What’s fascinating about Now 4 is the inclusion of forgotten failed pop hit (#74) Here Comes The Man by Boom Boom Room – albeit in 12″ form on the playlist. Other obscurities include Julian Lennon’s Stick Around and Belouis Some’s Target Practice. Meanwhile Sandra’s In The Heat Of The Night brings back memories of Italy 1986 while two massive tunes that missed the UK series, Falco’s Rock Me Amadeus and Sigue Sigue Sputnik’s Love Missile F1-11 are preserved here.
Now That’s What I Call Music 5 (1986)
Queen make it four opening tracks out of five with the epic Friends Will Be Friends while Talking Heads Wild Wild Life is a real treat. The moody obscurity here is Boys Don’t Cry’s I Wanna Be A Cowboy (album version though) while Sigue Sigue Sputnik’s playful Sex Bomb Boogie and Joe Jackson’s melancholy Home Town aren’t exactly a household name. This volume was marketed with a bonus but undoubtedly garish pink vinyl 12″ (keeping the pig theme going) containing David Bowie’s Underground and Jermaine Stewart’s We Don’t Have To. The former contrasts nicely with Now 7’s Absolute Beginners.
Now That’s What I Call Music 6 (1987)
This one also came on pink vinyl. I have seen copies of the South African Now 4, 5 and 6 turn up in Dublin over the years which is somewhat unusual. Highlights include Break Every Rule Tina (completely bypassed in the UK), David & David’s sombre Welcome To The Boomtown and China Crisis marvelous Arizona Sky. The last two are in their longer album versions as is Janet Jackson’s Control. Great to see Glass Tiger here.
Now That’s What I Call Music 7 (1987)
1987 and cry. The pink theme spreads to the sleeve, both front and back and also on the gatefold. There’s Robbie Nevil’s understated Wot’s It To Ya alongside two Culture Club solo vehicles. Boy George’s Keep In Mind has aged well while Heartbeat UK’s Jump To It remains a true one-off. Sadly it’s omitted from the playlist as there’s no trace of it on Spotify. Elsewhere Black’s stunning Sweetest Smile is the album version.
Now That’s What I Call Music 8 (1988)
A good companion piece to the previous volume and one that really reminds me of my supermarket days. Black’s Everything’s Coming Up Roses is always a welcome blast while Chris Rea’s Que Sera and Bright Blue’s Weeping make for a fine 1-2 punch of a finale. Obscurity knocks for Feargal Sharkey and More Love which is excluded from the playlist due to unavailability. Sophisti-pop a gogo.
Now That’s What I Call Music 9 (1988)
Black’s second album Comedy was a common used LP in the early 1990s. It seems to have vanished from the public consciousness – and accordingly is not on Spotify. So we have to do without The Big One which is side 1, track 4 of the LP. I wasn’t able to find the single mix of The Men They Couldn’t Hang either but the album version works just as well. Other highlights are Sting’s Fragile and Crowded House’s Better Be Home Soon.
Now That’s What I Call Music 10 (1988)
This was the first South African Now to be released on CD. It’s a tough pull. The shiny disc contained 16 tracks as opposed to the LP’s 14. The Spotify playlist is based on the former with the Black track omitted (You’re A Big Girl Now). High point for me is definitely Chris De Burgh’s wistful and very languid Sailing Away.
Now That’s What I Call Music 11 (1989)
And in a twist, this one was not released on CD. Mike Oldfield’s Innocent is a real treat while it’s good to see lesser known hits from Roy Orbison (California One), Macca (This One) and The Cult (Edie). I had to use the Dreamland mix of Ride On Time.
Now Esto Si Es Musica 1 (1984)
The first volume of the Spanish Now series features 25 songs from 1983 and all through 1984. The sleeve is modeled on the UK Now 2 and it’s cut on double vinyl, like all others in the series. This is a welcome move as fidelity is much improved. There are a number of local hits here including decent tunes from Radio Futura and Pistones. Billy Ocean – European Queen and The Explorers – Lorelei are M.I.A. The latter a pity – intriguing.
Now Esto Si Es Musica 2 (1985)
Volume 2 followed a year later and saw them settle on a 24 track double LP format. The sleeve is based on the UK Now 4. Oddities include U2’s A Sort Of Homecoming (possibly to tie in with Wide Awake In America), The Smiths’ That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore and OMD’s Secret. Once again, there’s no Explorers while I’ve also drawn a blank on Michael Cretu’s Samurai. Elsewhere, Propaganda, Madness, Whitney Houston, China Crisis are all the longer album versions – likewise for their inclusion elsewhere.
Now Esto Si Es Musica 3 (1986)
Volume 3 saw the Spanish compilers drop four tracks and instead release an album with 20 songs. The artwork reminds me (partially) of the UK Now 6. Hombres G’s Marta Tiene Un Marcapasos slots nicely into Peter Gunn. Elton John’s Wrap Her Up is the lengthy version from Fire & Ice instead of the 7″ mix. Please note that Tears For Fears’ Shout is also in long form but in this instance, was like that on the original compilation. Finally I have used the 7″ mix of Brothers In Arms; the halfway-house 6:05 “Edited version” was included on this LP but is nowhere to be found.
Now Esto Si Es Musica 4 (1987)
All 24 tracks on the fourth Spanish Now can be found on Spotify, making for an interesting selection of the familiar and obscure. Queen’s One Year Of Love is the opening track, one you don’t hear too often. Other interesting curios include Brother Beyond – I Should Have Lied, Heaven 17 – Contenders and the underrated Ghostdancing from Simple Minds.
Now Esto Si Es Musica 5 (1988)
The sleeve contains shades of the UK’s Now 13, the track selection a decent mix of styles. Unfamiliar numbers from Bruce Hornsby, The Christians and The Housemartins keep things lively while The Church’s Under The Milky Way is pure Donnie Darko / Halloween party ’88 stuff. Eddy Grant’s ongoing absence from Spotify means no JoAnna while Guesch Patti’s Etienne is lost in the mists of time.
Now Esto Si Es Musica 6 (1989)
The final Spanish Now of the 1980s comes in an unfussy design slightly reminiscent of the UK’s Now 15. The first side is quality stuff – the original Shakin’ The Tree and China Crisis’ forgotten St Saviour’s Square. Simple Minds and Mandela Day make a visit later on. The BHH, Ardath Bey & Hor RTB – Bulgarian Hip Hop, Carly Simon – Let The River Run (from Working Girl) & The King Snakes – More are omitted due to unavailability.
Now This Is Music (1984)
Regular readers of this site will know that I have reviewed the entire Dutch Now series of CD releases – check out all of them under this category. The initial volume on CD was Now This Is CD Music in 1985 which selects songs from the first three volumes. The first one, released in 1984, was an 28 track double LP which includes two tracks each from UB40, Queen and Tina Turner. The Blue Nile’s Tinseltown In The Rain is included in its original A Walk Across The Rooftops glory.
Now This Is Music 2 (1985)
A more diverse and less familiar selection here. Billy Ocean’s pelvic powerhouse Lover Boy and The Temptations’ Treat Her Like A Lady for starters. Then there’s Dan Hartman and We Are The Young plus Kim Wilde with The Touch. Those MT USA fans will revel in Don’t Answer Me, a timeless tale from The Alan Parsons Project. Deodato – SOS Fire In The Sky & Chaka Khan – This Is My Night are album versions as the 7″ mixes are not here.
Now This Is Music 3 (1985)
The second 1985 instalment is just as good as the first. Some caveats: Propaganda – Duel, Scritti Politti – The Word Girl, Baltimora – Woody Boogie are all the longer album versions as the 7″ mixes are not on Spotify. Tavares – Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel is the 1985 12″ remix (as opposed to the 7″) while Don’t Take The Music is the original 7″ not the 1985 Ben Liebrand version. Otherwise there’s brilliant sequencing with All Fall Down (Five Star) followed by All At Once (Whitney Houston) and the show ends with Welcome To The Pleasuredome – sure to be #1 by the time you read this.
Now This Is Music 4 (1986)
Released in the spring for 1986, this had a truncated CD release and has been reviewed here. Johnny Nash – Rock Me Baby & Anya – Moscow Nights are omitted due to unavailability. Feargal Sharkey – You Little Thief, Chris Rea – It’s All Gone & Paul Hardcastle – Don’t Waste My Time are the longer album versions as the 7″ mixes are not on Spotify. In A Lifetime followed by Cloudbusting = priceless.
Wow That’s What We Call Music (1984)
In Sweden they do things differently. Their first Wow album – with a “We” rather than I was released in 1984 with a sleeve quite similar to the first UK LP with a a number of tracks from its follow up. Most rewarding are rarities from Industry (State Of The Nation) and Mike Oldfield (Crimes Of Passion). It’s also good to hear Many Rivers To Cross, Union Of The Snake and Speed Your Love To Me. Local talent from Gyllene Tyder.
Wow That’s What I Call Music 2 (1985)
This one is modeled off the UK Now 3 sleeve with a strong Now 5 vibe. It’s missing Michael Cretu but +1 – Nevermore is great and Sandra is always fantasic.
Wow That’s What I Call Music 3 (1986)
The third Swedish volume uses a faded scan of the UK Now 4 artwork and is chiefly remembered for Katrina & The Waves’ underrated follow-up Sun Street, Pet Shop Boys – Love Comes Quickly (truly magnificent) and the superbly melancholic Every Time I See You, courtesy of the enigmatic Fra Lippo Lippi.
Top ’84 (1984)
When it comes to Greece, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. The cover of Top ’84 is based on the UK Now 1 and it came with 24 tracks over two pieces of vinyl. Eartha Kitt – Where Is My Man & Mel Brooks – To Be Or Not To Be (Hitler Rap) are omitted due to unavailability. Otherwise it’s an intriguing run through 1984 with oblique melodies from Toni Basil, The Motels, Socrates, George Kranz and a Men Without Hats track that isn’t The Safety Dance. Throw in Gang Of Four and World’s Famous Supreme Team and you’ve got a classic alternative look at the year. Definitely worth a listen.
Top ’85 (1984)
Top ’85 was released late in 1984 and the pig has been replaced by an elephant. Sinister! Peter Wolf – Lights Out, Jeff Lynne – Video, Costas – Lost In The Night, Scraptown – Viva Sahara are omitted due to unavailability. Talking Heads, Propaganda, Jermaine Jackson are the longer album versions as the 7″ mixes are not on Spotify. Thompson Twins are here with The Gap while Sunglasses At Night followed by Dynamite makes perfect sense.
Top ’86 (1985)
Another forward-looking compilation which emerged towards the end of 1985. Two omissions: Saphir – Shot In The Night & Iron Maiden – Running Free (Live). High points are Thompson Twins Dr Dream followed by Propaganda’s P-Machinery. Plus Tina, Aretha and Whitney all in a row. Another Corey Hart gem too – Boy In The Box.
AND OVER TO THE OTHER SIDE
The Hits Album (1985)
The first bonus playlist is the Dutch Hits Album from 1985. It has some crossover with UK debut but we get a Prince-related series of treats in that there’s a double whammy from Sheila E and the Purple One along with The Time’s Jungle Love. Everly Brothers – On The Wings Of A Nightingale, One Two – No Song To Sing, Apollonia – Sex Shooter are omitted due to unavailability. Sheila E’s The Glamorous Life is the 12″ mix while The Belle Of Saint Mark is the LP version. And Sister Sledge’s Lost In Music is the 1984 12″ rather than the unremixed 7″. Nevertheless, a fun trip and it’s also got Madonna.
Super Hits ’85 (1985)
And as a final bonus, here is a Greek compilation called Super Hits ’85. While Costas – New York New York & The Sunday Club – Lies are omitted due to unavailability, there’s a lot of classics on offer here – a most rewarding two hours. Mike Oldfield’s Killing Fields Theme, Culture Club’s bonkers live B-Side Melting Pot, Time Zone’s World Destruction followed by Iron Maiden’s 2 Minutes To Midnight, Sheena Easton’s Sugar Walls, Kim Carnes’ Invitation To Dance and all finished off by the lavish Stay from The Blue Nile.
Paul, Could you do 90s Now albums from foreign countries?