Now That's What I Call Music! 20
Now That's What I Call Music! 20
With NOW 18 and NOW 19, the NOW people had been experimenting with artwork, with some very basic colours and designs. So basic were they that it was quite difficult to even see which edition was which. A decision was clearly made that a stock, recognisable logo needed to be created and so the release of NOW 20 saw exactly that. The NOW lettering, underlined, with the number neatly fitting under the line. This logo remains pretty much unchanged to this day. So, we had a shiny new logo, but the artwork itself is a shitty browny colour. Yep, for the launch of their new emblem, NOW decided on a dung-brown background with a burnt orange/gold lettering suspended in a murky nothingness. Nice…
01 – Vic Reeves & The Wonder Stuff – Dizzy (#1)
Since it was originally recorded and released by Tommy Roe in the late 1960s, 'Dizzy' has been covered on numerous occasions by acts as diverse as Boney M and Bob The Builder. Here though, we have one of the better and most successful alternatives courtesy of one Jim Moir – AKA Vic Reeves. Reeves was at the time enjoying success with Bob Mortimer on Channel 4 with their delightfully surreal 'Big Night Out' show. This saw elements of Vic as a singer and from this came some actual releases. Reeves stated that he didn't want to make a comedy LP and so what we had was the serious, but ultimately fun album, 'I Will Cure You'. The first single from said LP was a cover of Matt Monro's 'Born Free', which hit No6 around Easter. Following this was 'Dizzy' which went five better and hit the top spot, knocking U2 off in the process. Reeves spent a fortnight at No1 before the sinister, bed-sharing goon Michael Jackson appeared with his overly-hyped hypocrisy about it not mattering if you're black or white if you want to be his baby – despite every boy and woman he was linked with being white of course. A third and final single followed – a rather dancey reading of the hymn 'Abide With Me', which reached a probably-deserved No47 that Christmas, leaving 'Dizzy' as the project's high point. It has to be said, that it is a pretty faithful rendition of Roe's original, but Reeves' accent and delivery gives it a unique appeal. Joining Reeves on the single were Stourbridge indie-rockers The Wonder Stuff who helped to give 'Dizzy' some sort of credibility. It's easy to dismiss 'Dizzy' as a novelty record but by taking a more pop approach as opposed to being silly, it works as a decent piece of playable pop-rock. For my money it's the definitive version and deserves more party-play than it receives these days.
02 – Belinda Carlisle – Live Your Life Be Free (#12)
The perpetually-perfect Ms Carlisle returned to the charts in September 1991 with the title track from her fourth studio album. As a lead single it's a very strong and anthemic slice of rocky-pop and perhaps should have done a little better than its No12 peak. The song sees our Belinda issuing some sort of plea to an object of her desire who is clearly – in her opinion at least – trapped in a dead relationship and informing him that he should “live his life” and “be free”. But then adds that “you should be with me” – so not really being free then. Just free to come to her. Still, it almost made the Top 10 and the album of the same name actually did, peaking at No7. A second single followed, 'Do You Feel Like I Feel', which I deem to be even better than 'Live Your Life...' and one of Belinda's best singles. It's another of hers that deserved to chart much higher than its No29 placing, but when radio stations and wedding DJs refuse to play any other record of hers apart from 'Heaven Is A Place On Earth' its hardly surprising. What is surprising is the fact that 'Do You Feel...' was the last time Belinda reached the Billboard 100 in her homeland. That was better though than 'Live Your Life Be Free', both single and album, as neither charted there. Belinda was for some reason much more popular in the UK than the US and it's the same to this day. 'Live Your Life Be Free' almost returned to the charts - of sorts - when a resung-sample was used as the hook in Pianoman's 'Party People (Live Your Life Be Free)' which made No43 in August '97. It was again sampled by US production duo in early 2002 - 'Be Free' fared better than Pianoman, peaking at No26. As for the rest of the album's releases, sweet ballad 'Half The World and sweet, but not a ballad 'Little Black Book' both charted inside the forty, but a return to the Top 10 singles chart would have to wait until 1996.
03 – U2 – The Fly (#1)
'The Fly' is the second of four No1 hits to appear on NOW 20 and the Irish irritants' second of six No1 hits to date*. It is perhaps extremely telling that pretty much all of these have been songs that were the first to be released from a new LP, therefore they were No1 due to the fact that lots of U2 fans buy them as new product, rather than them being strong and worthy hits on their own. As is always the case, you could release any of the album's singles before the LP and that one would be the No1 hit. In the case of 'Achtung Baby' it was this one, 'The Fly'. Had 'Mysterious Ways' been the first, it would've been No1 and not No13 when it was released after U2 fans had all bought its parent LP. That aside, the song in question isn't one of the band's classics despite No1 status. Rather than rock, the guitars just drone their way through as Bono drawls his way through like some sort of Michael Hutchence impersonator before turning all Jimmy Somerville for the chorus. It just isn't a No1 type of record, simple as that really. In fact the only good thing I can say about this grating electro-rock dirge is that it was the record that finally knocked Bryan Adams off the No1 spot, after the Canadian cock had spent a suspiciously long sixteen weeks atop the UK hit parade. And for that at least we should be thankful.
*Not including LMC Vs U2
04 – Pet Shop Boys – Where The Streets Have No Name/I Can't Take My Eyes Off You (#4)
From a not-very-good U2 record we move straight onto a much better U2 record. 'Where The Streets Have No Name' had been a No4 hit for U2 back in 1987 and not long after, whilst Pet Shop Boys were writing and producing 'I'm Not Scared' for Patsy Kensit's Eighth Wonder, the daring duo had the idea of pairing 'Streets' with The Boystown Gang's arrangement of 'Can't Take My Eyes Off You'. They had at first mooted it as a follow-up single for Patsy, but revisited the idea in '91 when looking for something to be a sure-fire hit. 'Being Boring' – the second single from the LP 'Behaviour' - had not performed to expectations and doubts were raised over the success of potential third single 'How Can You Expect To Be Taken Seriously'. Said song was subsequently remixed, but then given the role of AA side with this new rock/disco medley as the main A side. In their own words, the boys' plan was to turn a “mythic rock song into a stomping disco record” and thanks to the inclusion of 'Can't Take My Eyes Off You' they pretty much achieved it - not that I've ever heard it at a disco mind you. Sniffy musos will say it doesn't work, but the way the songs interchange so effortlessly shows that it does and the U2 classic lends itself well to the upbeat, synthpop treatment. Of course, U2 weren't amused and put out a twatty press release slagging it off, although I for one find it amusing when Bono is annoyed. What's extra funny is the AA side of the release is a song about pretentious pop-stars preaching to people about charity – remind you of anyone? Despite U2 being dicks about it, the song gave the pair another Top 5 hit when it peaked at No4, matching the peak of the original U2 track and spookily, the No4 peak of Boystown Gang's version of 'Can't Take My Eyes Off You'. It's a shame it didn't go higher than #4 as that would've annoyed Bono even more, which is never a bad thing.
05 – Erasure – Love To Hate You (#4)
I might be giving the NOW compilers a bit too much credit here, but we move from a highly successful British synth-pop duo to a highly successful British synth-pop duo. Not only that, but both songs feature parts of old disco hits – although unlike Pet Shop Boys, Erasure's is uncredited. A quick listen to the chorus sees the song burst into a buzzing synth recreation of the melody from Gloria Gaynor's now tiresome disco/karaoke stalwart 'I Will Survive'. I say chorus, but the song is in fact more a case of verse, bridge and refrain – the aforementioned 'interpolation' making up the refrain. Having made No3 with the single 'Chorus' from the album 'Chorus', Clarke and Bell took things up a gear a little with this slightly camp, slightly over-the-top, synth-pop banger. A banger which tells the tale – loosely – of someone relishing the fact that they now hate someone whom they had previously been in love with. And clearly still are. It's a simple enough theme to relate to and alongside an upbeat and catchy backing it all added up to a perfect pop record and Top 10 hit. Not following 'Love To Hate You' and 'Chorus' into the Top 10 however was third 'Chorus' single 'Am I Right' - a rather lacklustre affair which wasn't really single material. Released as an EP, the single made a slightly disappointing No15 (a further 'remix' EP charted at No22 in early '92). That didn't dissuade record label Mute from issuing a fourth single though, namely a refreshed version of 'Breath Of Life'. You'll have to wait until NOW 21 to find out about that one.
06 – Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – Sailing On The Seven Seas (#3)
I seem to be mentioning comedian Rob Newman with every edition, and so it continues. During cult youth comedy show 'The Mary Whitehouse Experience', Newman asked viewers – in fact just one would suffice – to go up to the lead singer of OMD and say “YOU CAN'T DANCE” - then just walk away. “YOU LOOK LIKE A GEOGRAPHY TEACHER AT A SIXTH FORM DISCO”. A quick look on YouTube at Andy McCluskey performing 'Sailing...' on Top Of The Pops confirms Rob was spot-on with his analysis. I'm sure the rhythmically-challenged front-man wasn't too fussed as 1991 saw something of a renaissance for the Liverpool-based synth icons. The last time OMD had seen the Top 10 was way back in 1984 when 'Locomotion' – featured on NOW 3 - hit No 5. Come the latter part of the decade however and singles were falling around the fifty mark and most of the band members had called it a day – including co-founder Paul Humphreys. That left McCluskey to carry on as OMD, and in search of new musicians, acquired the talents of a fellow Liverpool-based band known as Raw Unlimited. 'Sailing On The Seas' was the first release from this new-look OMD and features a distinctive rolling drum pattern, elevating/cascading pianos and moody synths – as well as a catchy vocal refrain. It reached No3 in Spring '91 - equalling highest charting single – 'Souvenir', from some ten years earlier. New LP 'Sugar Tax' also hit the magic number '3' and second single, the Pet Shop Boys-esque 'Pandora's Box' hit No7. For the third and fourth singles things weren't so rosy. The rather wet and not very catchy 'Then You Turn Away' and the Eurodance-flavoured '' - Call My Name' – which sounded a lot like this single here in places - both flopped, returning the new Manoeuvres to the fifties.
07 – Simply Red – Something Got Me Started (#11)
The eighties had seen flame-haired, Labour-loving Mick Hucknall and Simply Red rise to stardom via a number of Top 10 singles and albums. The red's first release of the new decade was this rather funky, upbeat piano-led number. With its title featuring as the lead to the verses, the song relied upon the 'I'd give it all up for you' line for its hook. There's a passing resemblance to 1985's 'Money Too Tight To Mention' but not so much that it's worth complaining about. The accompanying video shows a variety of sweeping shots of good-looking people dancing about in Seville, with Hucknall delivering his lines whilst being trapped inside a lift that has been painted by Picasso during a monochrome phase. He does get let out later on mind you, only to find himself wrapped in a deck chair. Despite all this, it failed to make the Top 10, finishing just short at #11 in late September. It remained there for two weeks with neither the Utah Saints or Julian Lennon letting Mick past. Still, the lack of a Top 10 single was of no consequence to Mick and the gang as parent album 'Stars' hit the top of the album chart and subsequently resided in the run-down for a whopping 134 weeks, achieving 12 times platinum status. The title track became its highest-charting single and as luck would have it, it stars on the next NOW.
08 – Lisa Stansfield – Change (#10)
For me, Ms Stansfield’s rather middle-of-the-road sound was never awful, but also never really set my pulse racing either and ‘Change’ is very much a prime example of her brand of soulful and jazz-infused pop. ‘Change’ has a rather simplistic premise, in that she’s informing her significant other that if she was able to change her life, she wouldn’t because it seems that with him in it it’s perfect. Which is nice. The one-time Coronation Street checkout operator however turns this rather basic idea into a very slick and deceptively upbeat piece of pop. One does get the impression though that they’ve tried to echo all-around-the-world-hit ‘All Around The World’ and at times the verses feel like they could easily segue into her signature song – that’s not a criticism, merely an observation. The track entered the charts at No14 in mid-October before peaking at No10 the following week, giving the Lancashire lass her third of seven of Top 10 hits, although if one visits her Wikipedia entry it has the audacity to claim her inclusion on Band Aid II as an extra one, making it her fourth of eight, which it wasn’t. Subsequent singles didn’t do quite so well, with the moody but memorable ballad ‘All Woman’ advancing no further than No20 and the slightly drab affair ‘Time To Make You Mine’ bettering that by six whole places. The hits continued, albeit sporadically, until the latter half of the decade, but Lisa continues to record to this day and in 2018 enjoyed a Top 15 entry on the UK album charts with ‘Deeper’. She is also now married to the person who she was with back in 1991 (and presumably singing about here), making her declaration about never changing a clearly wise one.
09 – Zoe – Sunshine On A Rainy Day (#4)
I talk about one-hit-wonders a lot and how I hate the term, but now and again I will allow its usage and ‘Sunshine On A Rainy Day’ is one such moment. A song that people still seem to know to this day by an artist who nobody would be able to name. But then to me, music should always be about the song and the song only, it doesn’t matter who the artist is. The artist you’ve all forgotten about was one Zoe Pollock – wisely dropping her surname when commencing her pop career. She was a naturally attractive blonde, but had enough style and talent to ensure that wasn’t her selling point .‘Sunshine…’ was released in 1990 but this original version stalled at No53. The song was there, but the arrangement just didn’t do it justice. Step forward producer Youth who gave it the remix it so badly needed, adding a more ‘trippier’ beat and an overall more ‘Eastern’ vibe. Upon its re-release in ’91 it deservedly stormed the Top 5, initially charting at No14 and peaking at No4 three weeks later in early September. A follow-up, the similar but dreary ‘Lightning’ eeked its way inside the Top 40, reaching No37 but album ‘Scarlet Red and Blue’ and third single ‘Holy Day’s fared the same as the first version of ‘Sunshine…’. A number of cover versions have been recorded over the years, including countless happy hardcore rip-offs and inferior sound-alikes from Argos designer Emma Bunton and air-rage pioneer and model Naomi Campbell who at one point decided she was also a singer. Some fun trivia to finish with, Ms Pollock was once married to never-popular Scotch poet Murray Lachlan Young, who once bored the fuck out of me as the warm-up act for Pet Shop Boys’ concert at The Savoy in 1997.
10 – Salt 'n Pepa – Let's Talk About Sex (#2)
The third and most successful single from the unsuccessful album ‘Black’s Magic’ was the not-as-rude-as-it-sound ‘Let’s Talk About Sex’. The premise was basically to get people talking about ‘it’ and in particular poke fun at the prudish US media - whilst celebrating the great things about it and alerting listeners to the bad. Whether or not this is suitable for the pop charts and a compilation LP which was bought largely by those under the legal age, I’ll leave to you to consider. Built around samples from Staple Singers’ ‘I’ll Take You There’, the track is a fun slice of hip-hop that bumps and pants along in a cute kind of way. Of course, any song that’s a bit rude and has ‘sex’ in the title was always going to be a hit and ‘Let’s Talk About Sex’ was no exception, peaking at No2 in late September. After booting Right Said Fred out of the way the trio also failed to dislodge Bryan fucking Adams, just like the Freds before them. As mentioned above, parent album ‘Black’s Magic’, was not a commercial success, even though it contained previous Top 5 hit ‘Do You Want Me’, plus the Top 15 ‘…Sex’ follow-up ‘You Showed Me’. In fact their only Top 10 album was 1991’s ‘Greatest Hits’. In the following years the girls continued to grace the singles chart with varying degrees of success with perhaps the most memorable being 1994’s ‘Whatta Man’ with En Vogue. With their outspoken lyrics and bold appearance, it’s worth noting that this success came within what was seen as very male-orientated and sexist genre, blazing a trail for all manner of female musicians to come. Forget the Spice Girls, this was ‘girl power’.
11 – Color Me Badd – I Wanna Sex You Up (#1)
You might want to sit down and have some sort of empty receptacle at your disposal before listening to this foul piece of toss. There's nothing about this crass crudity that isn't ghastly – even the fucking name these four equally-smackable pricks perform under. Out of the three words in it, only one is even correctly spelt. Actually, I was wrong to say there were four equally-smackable pricks – the one who looks like Mr Punch crossed with Crystal Tipps deserves a bit more of a slap. Then there's the title of the track. I've been around the block a bit if you don't mind me saying, however I still wouldn't know how to sex someone up. It's just nonsense and one of those records – like 'Sex On Fire' – that was only really popular due to the hook line having the word 'sex' in it. Ohh, that's like rude innit! They said sex! Had this record been called 'I Wanna Shake You Up' it wouldn't have got anywhere - so a cracking bit of marketing there at least. Around this time we had artists like Bobby Brown labelled as 'new jack swing' – sort of more bouncy R&B – and these sickening bell-ends were too. But they can't even do that without being fucking annoying because throughout the track we have someone – maybe one of them – saying 'tick-tock you don't stop' on fucking loop. Another alarming 'lyric' is the assertion that they should be “makin' love until we drown”. I'll leave it to your judgement to deduce what liquid they might be engulfed in as their lives flash before them. But yes, this 'sex' theme made it very much a novelty and as such, it hit the No1 spot in the UK (and US) before some three weeks later, squeaky-clean Jason Donovan made things a little more wholesome by replacing them with 'Any Dream Do'. A Top 10 album was also achieved, as was a second Top 10 single. This was the less smutty and slightly better 'All For Love' which Oasis seem to have borrowed parts of for 'Some Might Say'. No5 was its peak (but No1 in the US again), yet nobody's ever heard it since Autumn 1991. Third single, the toe-curlingly naff ballad, 'I Adore Mi Amor' again hit No1 in the US, but we finally woke up and smelt the vomit and it flopped at No44. Giant records were clearly enraged and weren't having it, and so less than a month later re-issued the damn thing! Thankfully the UK still didn't adore '...Mi Amor' and it bombed again. Shouldn't make such badd records then ladds...
12 – Kenny Thomas – Best Of You (#11)
Like a one-man-Curiosity Killed The Cat that nobody asked for, Hackney-born Thomas got his pop breakthrough in 1991 when a second-issue of his blue-eyed soul treatment of The Gap Band’s ‘Outstanding’ gave the former BT technician and boxer a No12 hit. Things got even better when follow-up ‘Thinking About Your Love’ hit the Top 5. ‘Best Of You’ then – another cover – was the third single from debut LP ‘Voices’ and despite its somewhat plodding nature, peaked one place higher than ‘Outstanding’. It was also the only one of his singles that saw any success outside of the UK, charting moderately well in France, Ireland and New Zealand. Clearly Thomas’ talent was restricted to voice only as the fourth and final single from ‘Voices’ was yet another cover, the soft and sweet Jam & Lewis-penned ballad ‘Tender Love’. Interest was waning and the track climbed no further than No23, although for my money it was young Kenny’s finest work. A second album ‘Wait For Me’ made the Top 10 – just - but from then on the dumper beckoned and by 1995 he’d disappeared from the charts altogether. 2016 saw a renaissance for our Kenny when for some reason he became lead singer of Living In A Box – who one assumes are another eighties act 'doing the festivals'.
13 – Prince & The New Power Generation – Gett Off (#4)
The first single from the petite purple poser’s thirteenth studio album – Diamonds and Pearls – was the top five entry ‘Gett Off’. Again utilising Prince’s seemingly deliberate-illiteracy, ‘Gett Off’ bursts open with crunching, downtempo beats before we’re informed that this is the “Club Mix”, although to these ears it sounds like ‘Pug Nips’. Which when one examines some of the song’s lyric, it’s perfectly possible that my ears are correct. Despite serving as the album’s lead single, its inclusion wasn’t originally planned, but came about after the final remixed version’s surprise club success. The track itself came about via a series of remixes of other Prince tracks, most notably ‘Glam Slam’ and ‘Love Machine’ and the song’s theme is of course sex - and presumably Prince’s prowess with ‘da laydeez’. Saying this though, it does seem to be a duet between Prince and another bloke. Even though some of the lyrics are a tad questionable shall we say, Prince manages to create a sexy track, about sex, without being too crude or blatant - something that he later abandoned though with the release of ‘Sexy Mother Fucker’. Four further gems were extracted from ‘Diamonds and Pearls’ – ‘Cream’, ‘Diamonds and Pearls’, ‘Money Don’t Matter 2 Night’ and ‘Thunder’. All of which followed ‘Gett Off’ into the Top 10, bar ‘Thunder’ which may well have fared better were it not released solely on a limited edition 12” picture disc. Ah, the days of the picture disc *sniff*…
14 – Rozalla – Faith (In The Power Of Love) (#11)
Zimbabwean Rozalla Miller is one of the many vocalists of the 1990s who are viewed as a ‘one-hit-wonder. Said ‘hit’ is the dance anthem ‘Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good)’, which Ms Miller now had the task of following up, and to be fair, it’s not that bad an effort. It’s got a similar vibe without being a formulaic copy of its bigger brother, featuring plinky-plonky piano, ravey breaks, smooth sax and what sound like doorbells being dinged by a spaced-out Avon lady. All this – plus Roz’s soaring vocals – added up to an acceptable but ultimately annoying No11 placing in the UK charts. A third single ‘Are You Ready To Fly’ from the No20 LP ‘Everybody’s Free’ followed and again it was of a decent standard. A fourth – ‘Love Breakdown’ – bombed, due to being already available on the album and also being shit. A handful of forgettable club hits transferred to less popular regions of Popland over the coming years but the disputable ‘Queen of Rave’ now makes a presumably decent living at all these ‘90s rewind’ events and enjoys the novelty of being pretty much the only original performer on the bills.
15 – 2 Unlimited – Get Ready For This (#2)
Speaking of rave… Purists will of course deny that 2 Unlimited were anything to do with the rave ‘scene’, but at the time this riff-tastic dance stomper was definitely heard emanating from the fields of England. Musos often knock producers who come up with insanely catchy melodies, as though anyone can do it. Yet they can’t. Anyone can make a melody of course, but to come up with something unique, that really does lodge itself in your brain takes more talent to create then some forgettable, tune-free guitar-based dirge. And ‘Get Ready For This’ really is about the riff, and thankfully this was emphasised by UK label owner Pete Waterman who insisted on the dreadful rap and dreadfuller vocals being removed from its UK release (do look up the vocal version to see how astute Pete’s decision was). In fact this criteria continued for almost all of the Dutch duo’s hits – well, the raps anyway. ‘Get Ready…’ was the first, but not biggest, hit which really should have reached the summit, but after climbing the Top 10 twice during its chart run, on both occasions it peaked at No2, behind different records. The first was of course the most-hated Canadian singer pre-Justin Bieber and secondly, Britain’s own Vic Reeves. Gutting isn’t the word. This was though the start of an impressive run of hit singles and albums – including an eventual arrival at the top of the chart tree.
16 – Moby – Go (#10)
‘Go’ first appeared as a B side on debut release ‘Mobility’ and in this carnation it was a slower, more minimal slab of techno. Following this, the man himself then remixed the track in which he lifted the strings from Angelo Badalamenti's "Laura Palmer's Theme" – itself featuring in the then-popular TV series Twin Peaks. This mix became the definitive mix and bore the name Woodtick Mix – again a reference to its Twin Peaks roots as the music featured in a scene where someone was chased by wood ticks or something. This new version saw its own release and its trippier, but more accessible sound made it a club and chart success, peaking at No10 in the UK pop charts in mid-summer. Some three years later a Toyota advert featured a piece of music that sounded remarkably like ‘Go’. It wasn’t, but was in fact a track by Pete Waterman side project FKW using pretty much all the same elements as Moby had. Seeing as Moby had sampled the vocal snippets, and of course the strings – and synthesized drums don’t count as music under law – Pete and pals were essentially able to legally recreate the track themselves (personally speaking I think FKW’s version is pretty decent). Naturally Natalie Portman’s nemesis wasn’t happy and his response was to re-issue ‘Go’, complete with twatty anti-car artwork and a ‘statement’ in the sleeve. I quote:
“Moby has not been and is not involved with this commercial and has not received money from it. Had Moby been asked to use “Go” he would have refused on the grounds that he would not let his songs be used to sell cars”
One can of course sympathise with the little slap-head for having his ideas plagiarised, and to come out and state that his main objection is that he wouldn’t let his music be used to sell cars. If that’s his opinion, then fine. One might also take such a stance a little more seriously had he not then let a number of his own songs feature in car adverts a few years later. Namely:
‘Run On’ - Renault Kangoo and Scenic
‘Find My Baby’ - Nissan Almera
‘Porcelain’ - VW Polo
I’m sure there are a few more in fact. You’d also assume the pretend-environmentalist would be against motor racing, but he was happy enough to allow ‘Lift Me Up’ to be used as ITV’s Formula 1 theme. You can’t help but think that his gripe only really came down to the fact that he wasn’t getting any money for it. As well as this inner-sleeve whinge, the case also wore a sticker that read:
“This recording does not sell cars”.
Presumably later copies of ‘Play’ carried a sticker declaring ‘This recording does sell cars’.
17 – The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu – It's Grim Up North (#10)
Having enjoyed substantial chart success as The KLF, as well as No1 hit ‘Doctorin’ The Tardis’ as The Timelords, musical mentalists Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty revisited their JAMMs pseudonym for this, darker toned piece. This edit doesn’t quite to the track justice and really needs to be enjoyed in its ten minute entirety as we are taken on an insane journey into sound. Painting a soundscape of thunderous techno, erratic and sometimes grating synth stabs, plus ‘end of the day’ factory hooters, ‘It’s Grim Up North’ may not be everyone’s cup of Yorkshire tea but it must be admired for its uniqueness at the very least. Punctuating this industrial electronica is Drummond, listing locations in the North, in a calm, yet slightly menacing tone. But even that isn’t the full story. Towards the end, the track seems to self-combust and as the sounds wrestle with themselves from within the dying embers comes ‘Jerusalem’, bringing everything to a triumphant conclusion. This is what ‘epic’ means, millennials…
18 – P.M. Dawn – Set Adrift On Memory Bliss (#3)
New Jersey brothers Attrell and Jarrett Cordes formed the blissed-out hip-hop duo PM Dawn towards the end of the eighties. Under the monikers of Prince Be (Attrell) and DJ Minutemix (Jarrett), the twosome were initially turned down by Warner Brothers for being too much like De La Soul, even though they had one more member - although Prince Be was the size of two people, so fair enough. Having signed with an indie it was this Spandau Ballet-sampling dreamy-rap track that gave them their break-through. As samples go this was a pretty big one, taking not just the unmistakeable lick from ‘True’ but also the “ah ha ha ha ha” from the chorus and the whole synth melody. It’s not exactly the most creative or inspired idea – the only bit that isn’t from the Spand’s is a trippy chiming section near the end which sounds a like something from the soundtrack to eerie lorry-based thriller ‘Duel’. But the main thing though is that quite simply it works. It’s also nice to have rap that isn’t about guns, money, materialism and women – although the portly prince did use the song as an opportunity to chance his arm and attempt a fruitless pull of Christina Applegate (then star of surprisingly palatable sitcom ‘Married With Children’). ‘Set Adrift…’ peaked at No3 in the fourth quarter, not quite matching its chart-topping feats in the US and the NZ. Success – of sorts – continued in the UK for a few more years which included two Top 10 albums and a smattering of Top 40 singles. Most notable was the hauntingly beautiful ballad ‘I’d Die Without You’, which criminally climbed no further than No30. Sadly, life wasn’t to be as blissful for this pair of Cordes as their music. Jarrett became embroiled in a number of sexual abuse/misconduct cases and vocalist Attrell died in 2016 from kidney disease. I only hope Christina Applegate attended his funeral...
01 – Paul Young – Don't Dream It's Over (#20)
I share my birthday with Paul Young. It's a nightmare. We have different musical tastes, our families don't get on... Moving swiftly on, quite why the compliers at NOW HQ thought this No20 'hit' was worthy of being the opening track of disc two is anybody's guess. According to the inlay booklet this is a a “fine cover of the Crowded House classic”. I'd agree with almost all of that, except I would substitute the word 'fine' for the word 'pointless'. The compiler continues his Young love-in by celebrating the Luton lad's apparent renaissance as Paul had recently enjoyed his first Top 10 hit since the mid-80s with 'Senza un donna (Without a woman)' – a statement that I can relate to at time of writing. They neglect to mention however the second track lifted from a then forthcoming singles collection - the Clannad collaboration 'Both Sides Now' - which made a rather laughable No74. For some reason, Young was recording lots of covers to bulk out this singles collection and 'Don't Dream It's Over' was the third and final, thankfully. It's one of those cover versions where the artist has been a little too respectful to the original and ends up creating little more than an inferior copy of said song. One thing that he did achieve with this cover though was the ability to take it higher than its creators could. Crowded House had two spells inside the UK Top 40 with it, but on neither occasion did they climb higher than Young's peak of #20. Of course, their original remains the definitive version, so aside from helping to shift a few compilations LPs in1991, I was right with my assertion of the track's pointlessness. From then on in, Young's days of chart success were largely over, with only 1993's 'Now I Know What I Made Otis Blue' becoming the only other single to break into the To 20. Speaking of breaking in, Young's London home was burgled in 1998 by the now 'celebrity' chef Gino D'Acampo.
02 – Enya – Caribbean Blue (#13)
Eithne Pádraigín Ní Bhraonáin – or Enya – made her (water) mark on the pop charts back in 1988 with Orinoco Flow'. That's 'Orinoco Flow' – not 'Sail Away' as many people seem to think it's called. This resulted in a Top 5 UK album and 'Caribbean Blue' was the first release from what turned out to be her fist No1 UK album. It's a soothing, breathy, percussion-free sort of waltz, with soft-yet-dark strings and a sporadic vocal which speaks of the Greek gods of wind. Bit of a change from wanting to sex someone up, but such was the dearth of styles on these earlier NOW releases, we are treated to both. 'Caribbean Blue' didn't quite sail away as much as 'Orinoco Flow', but it did serve as a fine advert for 'Shepherd Moons', which reached the very top of the album chart. Back on the singles front, 'How Can I Keep From Singing' peaked at a not terribly good #31, but the album's third and final single 'Book Of Days' took Enya back to the Top 10 – thanks to its use in the Kidman & Cruise film 'Far And Away' (more on that when we arrive at NOW 23). As someone producing Celtic/ New Age / World Music or whatever you want to call it, the pop charts were not exactly the Gweedore Girl's aim, but she continued to visit every now and again, usually with some sort of theme from something or other. She would also crop as in the way of samples. Such was the strength of her music, less-talented artists required her soundscapes to give their own work – usually rap – some memorable, musical content.
03 – Julian Lennon – Saltwater (#6)
Never quite achieving anything as remarkable as his overly-lauded father – except living past the age of 40 – John's first-born and Nicholas Lyndhurst lookalike nonetheless had a few successful pop moments. Some seven years earlier Lennon Jr had enjoyed a Top 10 hit with 'Too Late For Goodbyes', but in the intervening years only 'Because' – a cover of The Dave Clark Five – reached the the Top 40 by making No40 in 1985. Riding the wave of environmental concern that was quite rightly becoming news in the early 90s, the boy inspired for 'Hey Jude' and 'Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds' returned to the Top 10 – and No6 – with rather superficial whine about how he wells up every time someone mentions the ozone layer. One wonders what his reaction would be to eery climate change puppet Greta Thunberg's most recent outburst might be. Suicide? The lyric also makes recognition of what mankind is capable of, whilst warning of the damage we're also capable of. Jules offers no solution to any of these things that make him blub, he just wants us to know it upsets him. Musically it's a bit like a Beatles remix of Freiheit 'Keeping The Dream Alive' if you can imagine such a thing and one can't help but notice the often striking similarities to his late father. Charting at a lowly #64 in mid August, 'Saltwater' then flowed gently through the hit parade, resting at #44 the following week and then looked like it was going to peak at #41. In fact it wasn't until early October that it reached its peak. Unable to build on its success, the title track from accompanying LP 'Help Yourself' bombed and two further efforts 'Rebel King' and 'Listen' didn't even feature in the Top 75 - presumably resulting in more saltwater...
04 – Paula Abdul – Rush Rush (#6)
It is perhaps a little ironic that a slow song should be entitled 'Rush Rush', but maybe that was the intention of the writer (not Abdul of course). Having had two minor and tow major Top 40 hits from her debut album 'Forever Your Girl', we were given this sweet down-tempo number as the lead for album number two – 'Spellbound'. It's not really, really slow – a step up from being an end of the night smoocher, but it's very much a love song with Paula calling out for her lover to hurry the fuck up and get round to hers as she wants to see him “get free” with her. Whatever that means. Backing her up are some nice electric piano notes and a rather beautiful violin solo. All in all it's a nice little love song and again, it's one of those songs that despite being a reasonably big hit, you don't hear any more. Reasonably big it was as it made No6 in, giving the California girl her third but final UK Top 10 hit. Across the pond Abdul did even better where it topped the Billboard 100 for five weeks and follow-up, the upbeat but hook-free 'The Promise Of A New Day', also reached the summit. Back here it deservedly reached No52 and with only the funky but erratic 'Vibeology' and sort-of-R&B number 'My Love Is For Real' (later covered and bettered by Strike) making the Top 40 here, Abdul's pop success was largely restricted to her homeland. To say that was the end of her career though would be largely incorrect as she continued to work as a choreographer, as well as appearing as a judge on the US versions of those shitty reality shows. Keanu Reeves is in the 'Rush Rush' video, just in case anyone's interested.
05 – Jason Donovan – Any Dream Will Do (#1)
Taken from the musical 'Joseph And His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat', 'Any Dream Will Do' was written the very year that Donovan was born - that's our Jason, not hippy-folk songsmith Donovan. With it's well-known “I close my eyes intro” the song has been recorded and sung by all manner of well-known singers, and Lee Mead, but it is this version which made the most impact chart-wise. Topping the charts in late June 1991, it gave the son of Neighbours' Doug Willis his fourth but final UK No1 single. Having had huge success under the guidance of Stock Aitken Waterman, Jase's appeal was admittedly beginning to wane, so this non-SAW single was something it a little bit different and appealed to not only his fans, but musical fans alike. Were it for this, Color Me Badd may have spent longer at No1, so thank you Jason for that. Sadly though, Kylie's ex couldn't hold off the the surge from Bryan Adams and after two weeks at the top, the croaky Candian crooner took over and ruined our summer. My main memory of this song I might ass, is a version that did that rounds at school, which involved little more than changing the line 'draw back the curtain' to 'draw back my foreskin'. I specifically recall a girl – who presumably didn't have a foreskin - singing this to me in a woodwork lesson. I also recall her losing the tops of her fingers on the sanding disc not long after, so maybe more attention was required in such lessons, rather then teaching others smutty renditions of much-loved songs from the shows.
06 – Cathy Dennis – Too Many Walls (#17)
Aah the lovely and underrated Cathy Dennis. I talked before on NOW 16 about her incredible songwriting talent – what do you mean you didn't read that one? Go and read it now, then come back. Providing you've also read NOW 17,18 and 19. Right, are you back now? OK. Aah the lovely and underrated Cathy Dennis. Having been nicely introduced by D-Mob back in '89. Catherine Roseanne Dennis was now making a decent fist of it on her own. 'Touch Me (All Night Long)' had hit the Top 10 and at the third time of asking 'Just Another Dream' finally charted, narrowly missing the Top 10. Both were taking from debut LP 'Move To This' and both upbeat pop-house numbers. 'Too Many Walls' however was a bit of a departure from previous singles, its mid-tempo beat, sweeping strings and more thoughtful lyrics opening her up to a more pop audience. Dennis herself describes the song as being “about when you want to be together with someone, but other people's opinions and prejudices get in the way”. If often think some of the women I like might actually want to be with me but other people's opinions and prejudices get in the way. Or I could just be a prick of course. Getting back to Cathy, 'Too Many Walls' is fine forgotten gem of a song and really should be better remembered and have been a bigger hit than the No17 that it achieved. It would though be her highest-charting UK single until she enjoyed a brief resurgence in 1997 when her critically-acclaimed cover of The Kinks' 'Waterloo Sunset' gave took her to No11. A cover that finds itself on NOW 36, so I will leave it till then to finish Cathy's story.
07 – Alison Moyet – This House (#40)
After a four-year hiatus, Ms Moyet returned with her third solo LP, 'Hoodoo'. 'It Won't Be Long' had been the debut release in this more 'moody' style and its Cure/Smiths feel hadn't gone down well with pop fans – it peaked at No50. Next up was 'Wishing You Were Here' – a rather morose 'Del Amitri-type affair - which fared even worse spending just one week in the Top 75 at #72. The NOW sleeve notes are keen to ignore these flops and so after reminding us that she was in Yazoo tell us she was “back in 1991 with 'This House'”. So it was then down to 'This House' to break the 'Hoodoo' hoodoo and give Alison a Top 40 single. It made it – just. Charting at No71 in early October, 'This House' climbed to #65 the next week, before peaking at #40 the next. It's a strange old tune is 'This House'. It begins in a kind moody jazz style, before the gentleness explodes into a bit of an overblown Gothic ballad, with Moyet bellowing passionately as she laments lost love and a now empty home. I can see why it wasn't much of a success chart-wise, but I have to admit that it has a certain something. Like many other artists of the time, Moyet found it hard to replicate her eighties popularity and aside from 'Whispering Your Name' – No18 in 1994 – she would no longer grace the singles chart again. In the new millennium however she returned to the album charts and continues to frequent the upper echelons every few years.
08 – Marc Cohn – Walking In Memphis (#22)
American folk-rock artist and the song's author Marc Craig Cohn says that 'Walking In Memphis' is an autobiographical tale of those journeys where one experiences a kind of spiritual awakening - where you end up feeling a little different when you leave. Despite this declaration about the song not being about one sole place, the title, Cohn being inspired to write the song after visiting Memphis and references to some of the places he visited suggests otherwise. Having initially stalled at No66 on the UK charts, a subsequent re-release saw this grammy-nominated track chart, but perhaps surprisingly it climbed no higher than No22. The fact it remains such a well-known song may well be down to several other factors. The song became well-known amongst us old-school ravers in May 1992, when cheeky rave duo Shut Up & Dance released 'Raving I'm Raving' - a ravey, breakbeat affair which borrowed the piano and song melody from '...Memphis'. Most significant was the changing of the line 'when I was walking in Memphis' to 'I'm Raving I'm Raving'. Problem was though, they hadn't had any of this cleared and Cohn rightfully gained an injunction to stop any more copies from being produced. Rather gracefully, he did allow the copies already out there to be sold (with proceeds going to charity – nice touch) and they were snapped up so rapidly the track flew straight in at No2 – denied the top spot by KWS's ripping off of Double You (more on that at NOW 22). A lack of available copies however saw the track drop out completely after one further week. The SUAD link continued in 1995 when silicone-infused rock chick Cher covered 'Walking In Memphis' and the duo were commissioned to produce a remix (nice touch again). Reaching No11, this was not the last time the song would see the Top 40 as in 1996 German dance act legally recorded a version based on 'Raving I'm Raving', and took that to No33. Cohn's original though remains a classic, especially across the pond as one might expect – a sort of 90s 'American Pie' should anyone require such a thing.
09 – Glass Tiger – My Town (#33)
Hailing from Ontario, Glass Tiger had a small taste of UK chart success when their homeland No1, the rather horrible 'happy-clappy' soft rock 'Don't Forget Me (When I'm Gone)', reached No 29 in 1986. Fast-foward five years and despite never reaching the UK Top 40 once in that time, the band managed to get themselves a second chart entry with their strangely Scottish-sounding anthem 'My Town' – due largely to the uncredited vocals of throaty pretend-Scotsman Rod Stewart I'd have thought. As a direct descendent of legendary Scottish gobshite Rob Roy, I'm probably more Scottish than he is, but you won't catch me draped in tartan,wailing 'Flower Of Scotland'. I say 'uncredited' as the Highgate hero's name wasn't on the record, and even this compilation's sleeve notes don't want to tell us, stating that it “features a mystery London-born vocalist”. So even they were keen to highlight his lack of Scotchness. I don't know what the big secret is as it's pretty bloody obvious who's singing alongside Glass Tiger vocalist Alan Frew - you can't mistake his god-awful rasping for anyone else. Except maybe for a heavy-smoking cockney who's just recovered from a coughing fit having had a scampi fry stuck in his throat for the last fifteen minutes. As for the song, well, as I've said it is quite anthemic and very Scottish-sounding – odd for a Canadian group featuring a Londoner. Painfully, I can see it being sung on football terraces north of the border. Maybe it was at the time, but to these ears now it's horrid. The 'Tiger' continued to enjoy success back home but thankfully we had nothing more from them. We did though have a lot more from fucking Rod.
10 – Scorpions – Wind Of Change (#2)
This mawkish, power-ballad from never-popular (in the UK) Deutsche-rock outfit The Scorpions is actually one of the biggest-selling songs of all-time, with worldwide sales around the 14 million mark. It's also had 715 millions views on YouTube, although this could just be from people looking to see how nauseating it is. Originally written about the end of the cold war after a visit to Moscow Music Peace Festival, the song tends to make people think of the fall of the Berlin wall. I'm not quite sure seeing as the wall went down in 1989, with one David Hasselhoff atop it, sadly escaping the rubble. A quick look at the promotional video for the track gives us a few clues as to why however. Initially charting in the UK in early June, 'Wind Of Change' was given a second lease of life just three months later when it was re-issued – presumably of the back of its huge European success. Entering the Top 40 at No19, within two week it climbed all the way to second place and would undoubtedly have fallen in line with the rest of Europe and reached No1, were it not for, wait for it… Bryan Adams… For a No2 hit it only spent nine weeks in the entire Top 75 and there would be no 'wind of change' with regards their UK chart career. The slightly similar and forgettable 'Send Me An Angel', which peaked at No27 in early December would be their only other charting single. In fact The Scorpions or just Scorpions had only had one previous flirtation with the UK singles chart, and that was back in 1979 when 'Is There Anybody There' hit No39. For some reason I cannot listen to 'Wind Of Change' without thinking of another song. For when it reaches the line 'where the children of tomorrow dream away, in the wind of change' I always imagine it's going to segue into 'Lady In Red'. God, what an horrific mash-up that would be.
11 – INXS – Shining Star (#27)
I should imagine even the most dedicated INXS fans neither rate nor remember this disjointed dirge. Although not a live track, ‘Shining Star’ was released as a promotional aid to live album ‘Live Baby Live’ – yes, I thought that too. Written by the band’s main composer Andrew Farriss, the track just seems like something that came out of a jam session but wasn’t properly finished off. Hutchence seems to ad lib some of his vocal during the verses and things are no better come the chorus. A chorus that consist largely of Kylie’s other ex repeating the words ‘shining star’. Just when you think things couldn’t get any worse, Michael starts a demand of ‘gimme your money honey’ before a droning saxophone intrudes. Thankfully someone decided to fade the track out pretty sharpish after that. A very poor effort guys. INXS continued to show their faces in the UK charts without really setting them alight, but in truth their best days were now behind them and that became even more the case in 1997 when mortifyingly, Hutchence took his own life.
12 – Roxette – Joyride (#4)
Not an homage to what was going on in Oxford’s very own shithole Blackbird Leys during the early nineties, but the debut single from Per and Marie’s third studio album. In fact I think I’d be right to assume the Swedish soft-rockers have never even heard of the Austin Maestro, let alone driven one that doesn’t belong to them at high speeds around a grotty old council estate. With its main lyrical refrain of ‘Hello! You Fool! I Love You!’ inadvertently created on a throwaway note by Per’s then girlfriend, now wife, ‘Joyride’ sees Roxette in full ‘rox’ mode. With chugging guitars and a male vocal, it rolls along at a moderate speed before Marie joins the joyride and rather outdoes her partner on her all-too-few lines. As the track progresses we’re treated to a slightly naff whistle-punctuated guitar solo, but to these ears at least it could do with picking up speed a little too, which would be a bit more in-keeping with the title. ‘Joyride’ crashed into the charts at No18 and took a pretty speedy drive up to No4 – stopping off for a piss and an overpriced sub-roll at No8 on the way. Hitting the Top 5 is pretty impressive, but when compared to how it fared overseas it’s a relative failure as ‘Joyride’ amazingly reached the very top in Germany, Sweden, Australia, America, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Belgium, The Netherlands amongst many others. I have to say, despite such worldwide success, it’s not THAT good – a decent, but distinctly average track in all honesty. The video, which sees the pair playing and singing atop a car whilst a film of a road runs behind them is rather cringey. Or cringeworthy. But not just ‘cringe’ – youngsters take note. It also reminds me of something similar The Krankies once did in pantomime - only they were aboard an old Kwik-Save trolley rather than a Ferrari.
13 – James – Sit Down (#2)
I have two underlying memories of the previously-named Venereal and the Diseases’ breakthrough number. Firstly, being annoyed by its airing at the parties I used to attend in my late teens which were apparently organised the venture scouts! All I remember was people saying “are you going to the venture party on Saturday?” and then just rocking up at whichever rugby club or church hall it was happening at. No orienteering or marching ever happened, so quite what they were in aid of I’ve no idea. Anyway, the song’s appearance at said gatherings irked me in my less-tolerant days because chiefly it wasn’t dance music and also because all the geeky, swotty types used to go nuts for it. My second memory is when my best mate used to go one further than just grumbling about it like I would, by shouting “Oh sod off” instead of “Oh sit down”, which stays with me to this day - and now perhaps you too. The more flowery of the Manchester bands of the time, James had enjoyed a couple of entries on the singles chart, but it was ‘Sit Down’ that opened them up to a whole new world of indie-pop fans and long-sleeved T-shirt buyers. Previously released in 1988, 1991 saw a shorter and slightly remixed and reworded version of ‘Sit Down’ put out and this gave the song its well-deserved success. Peaking at No2, it stayed there for three weeks – each of those behind the ‘one and only’ (apologies) Chesney Hawkes. With its quiet and moody troughs and bouncy and euphoric peaks it’s a perfect ‘alternative’ party anthem. James achieved a further three Top 10 singles – including an Apollo 440 remix of this one – but that’s not really what James’ story is about. 10+ albums which almost all hit the Top 10 and the accumulation of thousands of dedicated fans is what the success of ‘Sit Down’ arguably spawned.
14 – Voice Of the Beehive – I Think I Love You (#25)
This Anglo-American act had achieved their biggest hit back in ’88 with ‘Don’t Call Me Baby’ but hadn’t really managed to build on it. A re-issue of ‘I Say Nothing’ withstanding, subsequent singles from debut LP ‘Let It Bee’ failed to chart inside the Top 40. Perhaps a new album might put them in pop’s upper echelons? Lead track from LP No 2 ‘Honey Lingers’, the wonderful and whimsical ‘Monsters And Angels’ did chart, but failed to surpass ‘Don’t Call Me Baby’ when it peaked at a slightly disappointing #17. ‘I Think I Love’ you was next and had previously been a No18 hit for The Partridge Family – a rather wet, manufactured for American TV combo. The much-less-wet Beehives peaked seven places lower with their punchier, pop rock approach – which sounds rather like EMF’s ‘Unbelievable in places – but despite this it is far superior to Cassidy and Co’s flower-power-flavour. A third and final single was extracted from ‘Honey Lingers’, the gentle but forgettable ‘Perfect Place’, but unsurprisingly this fared even less-well on the forty, which like a like a bee on your lounge carpet in mid-July crawled its way in – peaking at No37. The band returned a few years later with a third album, but ‘Sex & Misery’ provided nothing but misery when it and its singles flopped. Sisters Tracy and Melissa occasionally perform their best-known tracks at the ‘revival’ gigs and the blokes are still involved in music in a variety of not very interesting ways.
15 – Slade – Radio Wall Of Sound (#21)
We tend to think of Slade exclusively as a seventies band, but the Wolverhampton wanderers were still smashing it throughout the eighties. Some hit (‘My Oh My’), some didn’t (‘That’s What Friends Are For’). They hadn’t actually made the forty itself mind you since ‘All Join Hands’ – a kind of ‘My Oh My’ 2.0 and also the follow-up to No7 hit ‘Run Runaway’. Sent out largely to promote the forthcoming ‘Wall Of Hits’ compilation, the spitting and stomping ‘Radio Wall Of Sound’ was a big shout out to the public to remind us just how raucous they were. After the surprising award of ‘single of the week’ from Simon Mayo on Radio 1 – yes, Radio 1 – the song managed to burst its way into the Top 40 and give the band their final chart entry before breaking up in 1992. The most distinctive thing about the track is that legendary loudmouth Noddy Holder only features in the chorus, as writer and bassist Jim Lea had written it in a key that old mutton chops couldn’t muster – so Lea performed lead vocals himself with Nod’ chipping in during the chorus. Having entered the Top 40 at No33, ‘Radio…’ subsequently climbed an impressive twelve places the following week, before beginning a gradual slide back out. Still, not a bad result considering their age and a time that was moving towards more electronic and dancey sounds. Follow-up ‘Universe’ – a kind of ‘My Oh My’ 3.0 - which fans had already bought via ‘Wall Of Hits’ flopped massively, failing to even enter the Top 75 – so that was that. Of course, thanks/no thanks to downloads and streaming, a certain Christmas song of theirs now re-appears annually and save from any new shoots springing from a particular yew tree*, I suspect we shall be see Slade clogging up the December charts until the end of time…
*Not that there are any allegations against any of the band I hasten to add. But they are entertainers from the 70s, so…
16 – Monty Python – Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life (#3)
If you’ve not seen ‘Life Of Brian’ - one of the greatest comedy films of all-time – then you need to have a good hard look at yourself. If you’re one of these strange people then you may not be aware that I mention said film because ‘Always…’ appears as the feature’s closing number. The song features only one of the six Pythons – its writer and performer Eric Idle (backing vocals were provided by long-time Python contributors The Fred Tomlinson Singers). This music-hall styled ode to keeping your shit (or spit) together was released as a pop single at the time of the film’s controversial release in 1979. It flopped. Upon Brian’s less controversial VHS release in 1988 the song was again rolled out and again it flopped. Fans of the song have the lumpy-faced ball of smarm and former Radio 1 breakfast show host Simon Mayo to thank for its eventual chart success. Back then, Radio 1 DJs weren’t all like a preppy older brother who recoiled at any music that a/wasn’t rap and b/more than three years old and instead dared to play things that were a little off centre. Mayo had a ‘novelty’ spot on his breakfast show and ‘Always…’ was given a play and it all kind of snowballed from there. The song was re-recorded in 1991 with a new radio-friendly edit (included here) which substituted the word “shit” for “spit” and exchanged references to ‘Life Of Brian’ for general references to the song, DJs and pensioners. Finally ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life’ was a pop hit. Charting at No30 in late September, it leapt some 22 places the following week, before stalling at No3. It had been hotly tipped for No1 but ‘you know who’ was still there, with The Scorpions refusing to budge from No2 as well. Never ones to miss a money-making opportunity, the Python’s subsequently re-released a 1989 compilation of their songs ‘Monty Python Sings’ – an LP that Smash Hits magazine slated and gave ‘a micro dot out of 10’, having completely not understood any of the humour. It charted at No62 before disappearing for good. Also unsuccessful was a follow-up single, a re-release of ‘Galaxy Song’. Still, look on the bright side…
17 – Don McLean – American Pie (Full Length Version) (#12)
An awful lot has been written about ‘American Pie’ over time and I’m not going to add much more to that, other than to say it isn’t solely about Buddy Holly as is often thought. The iconic lyric “the day the music died” does indeed refer to the air crash that killed Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper, but the songs contains all manner of references which McLean has commented on through a variety of pretentious statements. Most sensible is his explanation that it’s ‘a morality song that charts the decline of the USA and its loss of innocence’. Originally a No2 hit in ’72 – and denied the crown by both Chicory Tip and Nilsson – ‘American Pie’ was re-released in 1991 for no other reason (that I can find at least) other than to promote a ‘best of’ compilation. During the final week of September, this ‘new’ slice of ‘…Pie’ entered the Top 75 at No51 and climbed steadily before peaking at No12 in early November. What irks me most about this isn’t so much the arguably pointless reissuing, but the fact that the compilers of this album saw fit to include the whole eight-and-a-half-minutes of the damn thing, thus depriving the listener of the inclusion of another song. I might be biased, but it doesn’t need to be that long. It doesn’t change or do anything radical throughout, we’re just subjected to verse after verse after verse. Anyone who creams themselves over this song is already going to have the full version (on vinyl of course) and is unlikely to be the kind of person who purchases NOW releases, and so an edit really would have sufficed. Too much pie makes one sick...
Released – November 1991
High Points – 'Love To Hate You', Dizzy', 'Too Many Walls', ‘Get Ready For This’, 'Sunshine On A Rainy Day'.
Low Points – 'I Wanna Sex You Up', 'Shining Star', ‘My Town’, plus eight-and-a-half minutes of fucking 'American Pie'.
Song Count – 35 – would have been 36 were it not for eight-and-a-half minutes of fucking 'American Pie'.
Number 1s – 4 – Chesney Hawkes, Cher, Bryan Adams not included here though.
Flops – None, but Alison Moyet came damn close.
Notes - Despite missing NOW 19, the series saw a NOW 20 video collection, featuring seventeen tracks from the audio version and thankfully, amongst the seventeen we did not have to tolerate eight-and-a-half minutes of fucking 'American Pie'.
Overall Mark 7/10
Here's some of the hypocritical bullshit from Moby's re-release of 'Go'...