TV Cream’s countdown to Now! That’s What I Call Music number 100 continues as we continue to examine the first half of the century with a jeweller’s eyepiece. Every week we feel the quality, just like they asked, of five more of the back catalogue, pick three tracks out, invite a knowledgeable guest to choose another, and then put them to the reader vote from Friday morning via our Twitter account @tvcream
Before we begin, let’s check up on what won the popular vote for Now!s 6 to 10 last week:
Now! 6: Kate Bush – Running Up That Hill
Now! 7: Peter Gabriel – Sledgehammer
Now! 8: Pet Shop Boys – Suburbia
Now! 9: Erasure – Sometimes
Now! 10: M/A/R/R/S – Pump Up The Volume
Onto volumes 11 to 15, and joining our panel this week is the host of Absolute 80s’ cult hit show Forgotten 80s (Sunday 9pm-11pm) and now Disco Dancing 80s on South Manchester and Cheshire’s Imagine FM (Saturday 7pm-9pm), Matthew Rudd:
Now! That’s What I Call Music 11 (released March 1988)
The cover’s high-rise glass-fronted effect reflecting not just the clouds but also the grandiose aspirations of the jetsetting Big Bang 1980s lifestyle. Or something. Track one caused a minor stir, Neil and Chris having wanted Always On My Mind to be held off so they could put it on Introspective. Eddie Cochran’s C’Mon Everybody, thanks to the obligatory Levi’s advert, is the shortest track ever to appear on a Now! Despite that this, as covered in the selections, is very much a changing of the guard type Now!, which may explain why Popjustice’s Peter Robinson once nominated it as his favourite album of all time.
Bomb The Bass – Beat Dis
The first track of Now! 11’s most famous feature, in which LP2 side 2 is almost entirely given over to house, dance and so forth. The tracklisting in full: Bomb The Bass, Coldcut, Krush, Jack ‘N Chill, The Beatmasters Featuring The Cookie Crew, Two Men A Drum Machine And A Trumpet and… the other we’ll get to. Coming a few months after Pump Up The Volume and with a Now! 12 track forming a kind of unofficial huge hit triptych of sample stews, Tim Simenon and an estimated 72 different samples, including what we’re fairly sure is an alarm clock as hook, produced the kind of remarkable record that while not too far removed from what the likes of Coldcut, Steinski and Negativland were doing on the underground would likely never have charted a year earlier, much less at number two.
Kylie Minogue – I Should Be So Lucky
Corky O’Reilly! Sea change part two – we’ve had SAW before but Kylie’s debut is where they really motor into the popular conscious, as well as being the introduction to the twin concepts of Australian pop stars having hits and, well, the titular chameleonic force of nature. Interestingly it’s also a cameo appearance as she won’t appear again until Now! 18, skipping Especially For You, Hand On Your Heart, Je Ne Sais Pas Pourquoi, Better The Devil You Know, Tears On My Pillow and four others. Chris Lowe: “A ‘classy’ dance track – they’re all there, readers! I like the two videos for this – the BBC one where she’s looking out of the roof of a car is one of the best videos of the year.”
Vanessa Paradis – Joe Le Taxi
It’s about a taxi driver. Called Joe. Who loves rum, plays in a Latin jazz band and namechecks the cult exotica singer Yma Sumac. Sung by a fourteen year old, fifteen when she turned up on British TV in outfits that caused some amount of alpha male confusion. Us, we were more fascinated by the formation sax-playing duo behind her and silhouetted in the video, a necessary anchor to the odd slow jam Gallic rumba going on behind them. Incidentally, if you were under the impression that not every song could be given a John Lewis Christmas advert-style slow, gossamer-thin acoustic interpretationhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Vf0SceP6tU…
MATTHEW’S CHOICE: Climie Fisher – Rise To The Occasion
“The last song on show, and clearly the concession to ending with some kind of ballad, yet it sticks out far more like a sore thumb than most track 30s and 32s in the series because it follows half a dozen newfangled house anthems (including Morris Minor and the Majors) It’s almost as if side four was designed for the last half hour of a fourth year disco. And it wasn’t even that interesting or erotic a record.”
Now! That’s What I Call Music 12 (released July 1988)
It’s summer! So here’s the logo as a springboard or sun lounger, it’s unclear, and beach balls. Among the debutants are strange bedfellows Iron Maiden and the Timelords, though you feel someone like Bruce Dickinson with his sense of the absurd would come to appreciate the presence of Drummond, Cauty and Ford Timelord. In fact its sleevenote is worth revisiting: “Glasgow, J.A.M.M., Dagenham, Hayes (Middx), The BBC Stereophonic [sic] Workshop, Banbury, Enfield… Put ’em all together & you get “Doctor in’ the Tardis”.” OK…
Morrissey – Everyday Is Like Sunday
You can imagine the fun Bruno Brookes had with that title on both the top 40 countdown and its shortlived preceding new singles show Chartbusters. An evocation of slow English seaside towns in the way you’d imagine prime, pre-Mexican interlude, pre-“problematic” Mozza would do. Billie Whitelaw and Carry On clips in the video, because it’s still Morrissey. And it’s got the sometime Raymond Sinclair on drums.
S’Express – Theme From S’Express
The third wheel of the sampledelica huge hit trio, in which a Rose Royce backing is copied almost wholesale onto an undulating acid house beat, cut-up scat vocals and apparently a hi-hat sampled from an aerosol. If it sounds like it should have been accompanied by close-ups of lava lamps and cartoons of hippies in flares and silver platform boots, as was the visual shorthand at the time, that’s likely the idea, turning the rave kids onto disco. All music wouldn’t sound like this soon, but it’s a very short step synthesizing this and Jack Your Body into what was to come. Yes, including Sesame’s Treet.
Salt ‘n’ Pepa – Push It
Because they know how to become number one in a hot party show.
MATTHEW’S CHOICE: Danny Wilson – Mary’s Prayer
“Great pop song, great singer, then you realise a) it’s a band, not a solo act; and b) they only got a re-issue in their homeland because the Americans liked them. Sometimes the 1988 crowd didn’t help itself. People who equally loved music and football could make all sorts of wild claims to fool non-football lovers in the playground or common room that Danny Wilson had formed a band to celebrate scoring a goal for Luton in that season’s League Cup final. Heaven only knows what kind of stick he took from Mick Harford and Steve Foster that summer.”
Now! That’s What I Call Music XIII (released November 1988)
The logo’s meant to be a spaceship, right? The march to the dancefloor continued apace with We Call It Acieed’s presence baiting the tabloids, though release came only a month after Steve Wright had introduced the video while sporting a smiley face T-shirt on Top Of The Pops so maybe Ashley Abram just ended up a slave to events. The end of an era as the other labels got their way on the upstart compilers and this luck-baitingly titled chapter was the last Now! to feature on the full album chart before everything was moved off permanently to the compilation chart of its own come the start of 1989.
Jane Wiedlin – Rush Hour
Here’s a fun quiz question – which band produced two members with UK top 20 solo singles without having one themselves? We could have extended it to top 40 had a 1994 comeback single not ruined the fun, but Wiedlin’s own Our Lips Are Sealed at 47 (and 52 on the album chart) was as far as the Go-Go’s got this side of the pond, but a few months after Belinda Carlisle struck it as big as possible Wiedlin’s big brassy drivetime power-pop cut allowed her a moment to look awkward alone on the big TOTP stage.
Wee Papa Girl Rappers – Wee Rule
Ooh, the arguments this nominee caused amongst the TVC office panel. Were Total S and TY Tim a much needed pop filter in the nascent UK hip-hop community or just inspiration for Fresh ‘n’ Fly? And where does being the inspiration for the Singing Corner’s first sketch come into it? Whatever, it’s a very British record of its time, both in that it brings in other influences – it’s a very ragga-sounding track in a way that wouldn’t be met until Louchie Lou & Michie One showed up years later – and how it reflects the sisterly spirit of Bananarama-style messing about in a bedroom but in a recording studio instead.
Womack & Womack – Teardrops
Cecil (Bobby Womack’s brother) and Linda (Sam Cooke’s daughter) by name with a song that’s on the verge of being over-covered – Sugababes, the XX, Lulu, obviously a cheap dancefloor smash, even Cliff’s had a go – but as it stands still retains its low-key magic, all lyric structure repetition and glossy heartbreak. Paul Heaton has cited Womack & Womack as to why the Beautiful South had to have a female singer, and Linda’s ineffable soul cool demonstrates why there’s far worse influence to take. Shades surely off in the studio, though.
MATTHEW’S CHOICE: Duran Duran – I Don’t Want Your Love
“‘Forced and clunky’ was how one of the inkies retrospectively described late 80s Duran, when comparing it to the effortless groove pop that made them so appealing at all levels in the early decade. But this comeback single had worn well, with a decent chorus and Warren Cuccurullo’s harder guitar giving them a more ‘alternative’ edge. While having Duran Duran on a Now album was hardly uncommon – this was their sixth appearance, not counting spin-offs – the main reason for including them was to shove the song alongside I Want Your Love by Transvision Vamp and give everyone something to conspire about.”
Now! That’s What I Call Music 14 (released March 1989)
The cover and advert design seem to have come from two different starting positions here. Abram’s getting unnecessarily but gloriously clever again with Stop! and Help! next to each other – and on the first side too, and while he gives five tracks of leeway between Erasure’s and Sam Brown’s Stops the latter is preceded by Kim Wilde’s Four Letter Word. Ends, oddly, with Michael Ball’s Love Changes Everything, and in a different version to the single release to boot.
Fine Young Cannibals – She Drives Me Crazy
So after their first single was a hit Roland Gift and his bendy-limbed friends couldn’t get another if it wasn’t a cover so took three years off, during which Two Men, A Drum Machine And A Trumpet happened and Gift appeared in Sammy And Rosie Get Laid. Then they made The Raw & The Cooked and had an international number one, except in their home country. Funny how it works. Anyway, falsetto art-funk produced by the man who did a lot of Prince’s imperial phase work and a video nobody would be surprised to learn was made by the same director as New Order’s True Faith.
Neneh Cherry – Buffalo Stance
Please don’t take this as blanket approval of the “WOT is ‘E like?!” bit, that’s not aged well. Born from the ruins of Looking Good Diving, a failed Stock Aitken Waterman-produced single by Morgan-McVey (Cameron McVey was, and is, Cherry’s partner and ‘Buffalo’ was the self-appointed name for the trio and their mates), an extraordinary groove of the type that had never been conceived this fully before by someone who’d been around since the early part of the decade thanks to Rip Rig & Panic but didn’t sound it at all. Gleefully jumping between dance-pop and hip-hop while namechecking her old Bristol running mates the Wild Bunch (which begat Massive Attack, whose Mushroom is in the video, and Tricky) and having gone on Pops seven months pregnant to some minor furore, this is followed on the album by Inner City’s Good Life for full dancefloor fulfilment.
Paula Abdul – Straight Up
This could have backfired badly as it was the debut single by someone almost entirely promoted as a choreographer made good and hadn’t been released at press time, but fortunately it was inside the top ten by the time this came out. Fortunate, as it’s the best example of that particular type of American dance-pop production that Janet Jackson had already ridden to fame on – burbling keyboards, weedy horn synths, vocal style the charisma of which bulldozes its limitations. Abdul would later attempt to rap in the apparent belief that it could sound more contemporary than this. It couldn’t. Especially when her foil was an animated cat.
MATTHEW’S CHOICE: Living In A Box – Blow The House Down
“It had Brian May playing the guitar solo, y’know.”
Now! That’s What I Call Music 15 (released August 1989)
A summer at the seaside with an ominously large shadow and… well, look carefully at the prints at the bottom right of the cover. The whole album is loosely sequenced in fact – side 1 rock, side 2 quieter and overtly melodic, side 3 dancey, 4 for everything else closing with rap suite into the neatly comedown ending of the Cure’s Lullaby, but also Jive Bunny. Oh look, Queen are first up again.
De La Soul – Say No Go
Posdnous, Trugoy and Maseo believed in the D.A.I.S.Y. Age (“Da Inner Sound, Y’All” – well, OK…) and sounded like the approaching form of pop hip-hop had developed sunstroke already. Here, among many more obviously funky samples, they build upon I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do) well before namedropping Hall & Oates was hip and make being against crack sound like the most party fun.
Neneh Cherry – Manchild
Not great form in a public survey such as this to put the same artist in for two albums in a row knowing you could end up with an awkward juxtaposition but it’s prime Neneh Cherry, what are you going to do. Neneh had borne her child by now and took her to a badly CGI’d beach for the video. People who know this kind of thing say the chord changes are all over the place, which would explain why, like the video’s pendulum swing, it’s melodically slightly queasy just as it’s emotionally imprecise. Unfortunate that she’d never reach these heights critically or commercially again, but what an opening double salvo.
Paul McCartney – My Brave Face
Thumbs aloft here as Macca’s on the album twice, the first his appearance on the Hillsborough fundraising cover of Ferry Cross The Mersey (which also means Holly Johnson doubles up) After Give My Regards To Broad Street Paul was at a creative low ebb. That led to him seeking out working partners to push him forward, which primarily meant a fractious but fruitful writing partnership with Elvis Costello which led to Elvis’ own Veronica and this prime slice of timeless pop of a type he’d rarely achieve again.
MATTHEW’S CHOICE: The Beautiful South – Song For Whoever
“The return of Paul Heaton brought with it an apparently unique approach to songwriting topics, as the first hit of the Beautiful South was a satire of lyricists who just crowbarred in popular girls’ names in order to guarantee a few sales. The line “I love you from the bottom of my pencil case” is wonderfully quirky and baffled everyone on first hearing, especially as Dave Hemingway was clearly trying to deliver it as straightly as possible, but once the subject matter was obvious, it became a vintage opening line.”