22 July 2008

Chart-hoggin' hits - still

It's easy, and indeed quite lazy, to realise that you're "getting old". For me, I genuinely follow that comedian's adage that a good sign of ageing comes when you see a 19 year old girl with splendid legs and a skirt the size of a mousemat and your first (and only) thought is "she'll get her death of cold dressed like that".

Then there's the shelf which calls itself your stomach, or the fact that you switch on Newsnight at 10.30pm but have succumbed to the power of your bed and are in deep slumber long before Paxman has gone through the money markets or the front pages.

But the killer one for me appeared on television this week.

Now That's What I Call Music - Volume 70.

70. Yes, seventy. Seventy!

I have a brown, fake reptile cassette box somewhere in my loft containing the first ten Now! compilations. Now 1, advertised by that pig in the autumn of 1983 for the build-up to Christmas, is still there. The inlays are raggy round the edges but still readable. It was two cassettes stuck together - literally, with a piece of masking tape - before that presentation double cassette box was introduced in time for Now 2.

Pop compilations changed with the Now! album. They became essential, representative compendiums of the sounds which had genuinely rocked through record stores, radio stations and kids' singles collections over the period represented. Before that, you got guff like Raiders Of The Pop Charts (lots of songs which got to No.42, and re-records of Dollar hits) and those Chartblasters efforts from K-Tel - occasional standard selections like In The Air Tonight interspersed with Beggar & Co and Matchbox, plus a version of Einstein A Go Go which omitted the presidential telephone call at the beginning.

They were as a good as you got. If you wanted something which authentically contained the hits we were hearing and buying, tough. You got what the record companies were willing to release, other wise you had to buy the studio albums and the singles themselves.

Then came the Now! album, and all changed.

We got the Hits franchise from 1984 onwards too, and between them they stacked up about 35 must-have compilations to the end of the 1980s. I bought the lot.

My copy of Now 8 has graffiti on it, thanks to Mark "Smiggy" Smith nicking it during breaktime and drawing beards on the faces of Janet Jackson and Boris Gardiner. I also have copies somewhere of Now Dance, Now Christmas, Now this, Now that ... and that weird Smash Hits tie-in one from 1987, the reason for its release I can't remember, but it did finally give me a playable copy of ABC's The Look Of Love.

But Now 70? Crikey. Surviving with the ashes of a pop radio career means I'll recognise the music on there but I haven't been compelled to buy a Now! album since 1992 (can't remember the volume number, but it's got Take This Heart by Richard Marx on it). Someone somewhere has them all. And they really do make me feel old.

I'm not into shameless pluggery, but there's more info to be had here, as writ by me and this guy over here. Velvet trouser thing indeed ... but hey, we mention the Ward Brothers!


Mondo said...

I still remember the pig and chicken graphics. But don't think I've ever bought a copy of Now, apart from the first Christmas one.

Sky Clearbrook said...

I decided not to buy the original Now... compilation at the time as I had practically everything on it already. It does contain the "forgotten" 7 inch version of Simple Minds' Waterfront (sans big, throbbing piano intro). You don't get to hear that one very often.

The only one I ever bought was #5 which I think was the last one to feature the pig. Mai Tai, Steve Arrington, The Commentators, Jimmy Nail and Jaki Graham... aye... they're all there!

Matthew Rudd said...

The original Now! does also fade out Paul Young's Wherever I Lay My Hat very early as it has pop music's most boring "ad-lib to fade" ever.