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Now 1985: How more ‘various artists’ compilations diluted the offerings

Ian Wade examines the shifting sands in the pop universe in 1985 and why ‘Now 5’ suffered from a reinvigorated compilation marketplace

Ah, 1985. At this point in history, pop music was in a strange flux. Even within its first few days, it was feeling like a new pop coronation of sorts with Do They Know It’s Christmas starting to feel like a final hurrah. Those who held sway were rapidly becoming redundant from their lofty perches.

Even those who dominated the previous years seemingly had 1985 off – the biggest turns of 1984, such as Frankie Goes To Hollywood (released their ‘fourth number one’ ‘Welcome To The Pleasuredome’ – as ZTT posters initially heralded it as – and went off to record the most difficult second album of all time), Spandau Ballet (they’d traded their ticket to the world and duly went off around it), Wham! (basically M.I.A. for much of 1985 as attentions turned global until the slightly more grown-up ‘I’m Your Man’ in November), Thompson Twins (had been all over ’83 and ’84 like an unseemly rash, but decided to loosen the wheels a bit chart-position-wise), and Duran Duran (well, they basically split in half to do cocaine and form supergroups, bar ‘A View To A Kill’, and actually navigate the entire year as effectively three bands – Power Station, Arcadia and the Duran Duran day job), were pretty much sitting the year out in comparison to the stranglehold they’d had the previous few years. July’s Live Aid put to bed Adam Ant’s career, and yet accelerated U2 and Dire Straits, and reboot an almost desperately over-rehearsed Queen’s. Suddenly the wild west of the new pop revolution was heading to the flip bin, and charity and billowing issues-based coats were now on the agenda.

It could be argued that 1985 was almost a blank slate, and the key compilations of that year suggest that it was a bit of a drag. This was not so! There were plenty of new names to come along, as well as some not-so-new names having a moment to shine. The security of the pop of before was no longer there and what WAS available was stretched out across too many compilations. The gentlemen’s agreement to not enter each other’s territory was fine (with exceptions), but it ended up making 1985 look somewhat underwhelming as a result.

In one of our occasional (you mean demented, Ian – SDE Ed.) POP INVESTIGATIONS, we at SuperDeluxeEdition look back at the era and discover what could’ve been the reasons, what WERE the reasons and take a bowl down memory lane as a jolly bonus.

Incidentally, we’re not here to throw shade on anyone who has Now 5 down as their favourite Now by any means, we’re just looking at the ‘what could’ve been’ during that period. It’s a story of Madonna, missed opportunities and MURDER* (*okay, not murder).

Here are our ‘findings’:

THE HITS ALBUM 2

The SuperDeluxeEdition laboratory held an public inquest into the time when The Hits Album thwarted Now 4 during Christmas 1984, and obviously cocksure at their success, The Hits crew naturally thought a second volume was a no-brainer. And The Hits Album 2 – still a CBS/ WEA entity – had every right to be the cock of the walk at this point in history – 1985 had seen chart-toppers from Dead Or Alive (‘You Spin Me Round’), Phil Collins and Phil Bailey (‘Easy Lover’), Foreigner (‘I Want To Know What Love Is’) and the 1984 Jim Diamond wobbler ‘I Should Have Known Better’; plus strong releases from Prince (‘1999’), Alison Moyet (‘That Ole Devil Called Love’) and Paul Young (‘Everything Must Change’), as well as new kids such as Strawberry Switchblade (‘Since Yesterday’) and King (‘Love and Pride’).

What was curious, was the inclusion of the Virgin-released Stephen ‘Tin-Tin’ Duffy ‘Kiss Me’ and EMI’s Ashford & Simpson’s ‘Solid’. Now, these last two would have been a shoo-in for a Now, likewise Nik Kershaw’s ‘Wide Boy’, Dazz Band’s ‘Let It All Blow’, Art of Noise’s ‘Close (To The Edit)’ and Commodores’ ‘Nightshift’, all of whom at that time belonged to the EMI/ Polygram stable.

NOW DANCE

Released May 1985, Now Dance was the first Now offshoot, and showcased the extended versions of current hits and a glimpse of what a Now 5 released using the current cycle of Spring, Summer, Christmas schedule that normal Now albums have used since 1988. Lengthy reswizzles of ‘Solid’, ‘Kiss Me’, and current smashes such as Phyllis Nelson’s ‘Move Closer’, DeBarge’s ‘Rhythm Of The Night’, Eurythmics’ ‘Would I Lie To You’, Loose Ends’ ‘Hangin’ On A String’ and Power Station’s ‘Some Like It Hot’ alongside some other shoo-ins for a conventional volume. It’s pretty much half a ‘normal’ Now album albeit with versions that tend to go on a bit. It did well enough for it to become a regular thing, although the latterday Now Dance issues just tend to be chock-full of radio edits of the current dance hits.

A good and interesting move made during the heyday of the 12-inch remix, Now Dance also allowed some of the dance hits of the period to shine outside of their restricted radio edits. It’s not that there hadn’t been 12-inch collections before – Warwick’s The Hit List Special from 1982 springs to mind, and Street Sounds had been fantastic catering to the dance set –  but this would’ve been on FIRE had it collected up, say, the Murder Mix of ‘You Spin Me Round’, the elongated version of Tears For Fears’ ‘Shout’, the Pleasurefix mix of Frankie’s ‘Welcome To The Pleasuredome’ or even the Art Of Noise Close-Up version of ‘Close (To The Edit)’.

OUT NOW!

Right, now this is where it gets interesting.

In 1985, Chrysalis issued Out Now! as a response to the compilation coin that was seemingly to be had by all and sundry. They had a strong run of hits in the early part of 1985 – Paul Hardcastle’s ‘19’, Pat Benatar’s ‘Love Is A Battlefield’, the launch of Go West with ‘We Close Our Eyes’ and the fantastic ‘Thinking Of You’ by The Colourfield.

There was also a noticeable upswing in developments with MCA’s fortunes with Glenn Frey’s ‘The Heat Is On’, and releases from the roster by Kim Wilde, The Damned, New Edition, Tom Petty and Nik Kershaw all present. Basically a Now in all but sort-of name, including surefire Now-ers Tears For Fears’ ‘Everybody Wants To Rule The World’ and then-Now regulars Bronski Beat with their Marc Almond-assisted mince-up of ‘I Feel Love/ Johnny Remember Me’. It’s a fairly solid collection, but appears to cease caring towards the end with the presence of non-hits by Sal Solo, Alvin Stardust, Meat Loaf etc, with the sort of tracks even their own makers would be hard-pushed to recall now. It sold well, probably more due to the cosplay Now Music design helping confusing the marketplace and the various artists-purchasing set.

MADONNA

With this abundance of compilations, it looked as if the music of the year was being spread thin. That further volumes of The Hits Album and Out Now!, as well as Now 6 in November would scoop up a lot of the main hits, there was something missing, and a feeling that only we only got half the picture of the 1985 pop landscape.

Madonna had gone nuclear across 1985 with her brace of singles – official or otherwise – such as ‘Material Girl’, ‘Crazy For You’, ‘Angel’, ‘Gambler’, ‘Dress You Up’ – and her first UK number, and still her biggest-selling single here – ‘Into The Groove’. It’s not that she was compilation-averse, as Hits 3’s inclusion of ‘Dress You Up’ proves and she’d eventually relent and crop up on the U.S. version of Now several years later, but ‘Dress You Up’ was just crumbs off the table compared to what could’ve been featured. Madonna’s absence is the metaphorical elephant in the compilation room, and the shadow cast large over 1985. The nearest anyone could hope for was any Madonna-adjacent recordings, and, no, Jimmy Nail covering Rose Royce’s ‘Love Don’t Live Here Anymore’ (as Madonna had done on Like A Virgin) sung with all the panache of someone trying to remove stubborn grease from an oven hob, wasn’t even in a neighbouring orbit of a satisfactory replacement.

Now 5 coming to CD

NOW 5

Which brings us back round to Now 5 again. A sturdy round-up of some stupendous pop toe-taps – Duran Duran’s ‘A View To A Kill’, Scritti Politti’s imperial ‘The Word Girl’, Marillion’s breakthrough ‘Kayleigh’, Bryan Ferry’s suavey smoocher ‘Slave To Love’, Simple Minds’ launch into superstardom ‘Don’t You Forget (About Me)’, U2’s brooding ‘The Unforgettable Fire’ and The Style Council’s empowerer ‘Walls Come Tumbling Down’ are up among the highlights end of it. On the downer side, the only chart-topper present is the *is quite careful here* not great ‘Frankie’ by Sister Sledge, and while the CD reissue of Now 5 marks the debut on CD of The Commentators’ ‘N-N-Nineteen’ novelty nonsense, it didn’t make up for the absence of the real thing (although Paul Hardcastle was actually shadow-ly involved with it, fact fans).

There are also the tracks that one is glad to hear again, such as ‘Turn It Up’ by the Conway Brothers, ‘History’ by Mai Tai or ‘Magic Touch’ by Loose Ends. Introductions to Simply Red, Steve Arrington and Fine Young Cannibals and Now veterans Phil Collins and Howard Jones, as well as the US number one that was Paul Young’s ‘Every Time You Go Away’ and gloopy old erection section staple ‘Cherish’ by Kool & The Gang. Keen-eyed viewers will have been alerted to the absence of David Bowie and Pat Metheny’s ‘This Is Not America’ from the reissue, and despite a bit of digging, we’re not entirely sure why it is absent, as Dave’s gear has already popped up on a Now. There’s also what appears to be a regular issue with some timings not being the same as the original release, but really the stupendous work the Now team do with these reissues, personally that little matter can be overlooked.

Then there’s also the small issue of Now 5’s eye-watering sleeve art. Now had been using their pig-based artwork in varying degrees, but here, sprawled all across the front, was an unflattering image of a cheery porcine with a ghastly shirt on, decorated with the names of the contents. It wasn’t pretty. 1985 had many fashion crimes, but a shirt with Mai Tai and Marillion on it was possibly the one that topped the lot. Thankfully, by Now 6, the pig was taken out to live on a farm, and the iconic series settled into a more stylised branding exercise. It could just be that the state of Now 5 amplified a crisis in pop and while by no means terrible, wasn’t the most vintage selection on offer. Still, it went double platinum, so it was a formula that was proving to be a winning one.

It’s very much the epitome of seriousness. The new conformity that both Live and Band, um, Aids had ushered in. Suits, mullets, musicianship and MEANING brushing aside artifice, silliness, joy and frivol. Suddenly the incoming inhabitants of Smash Hits were (love and) priding themselves on their ability to actually play instruments, rather than blow an advance on buying greyhounds or sponsoring racehorses. That the year ended with ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ back in the chart again, what was once more a role call from a different time of those who had since split, evaporated, gone off the rails, decided to take themselves a bit too seriously or simply fell down the dumper, it gave off the whiff that 1985 was just a lobby from one part of the decade to the next.

CONCLUSION

The tribal nature of licensing and militant label loyalties, and the immediate need to cash in on the newly reinvigorated compilation market, paints 1985 unfairly as a rough old year (and believe me, it’s a riot of wonder compared to 1986). Once you sift through the content and edit some of it into a more digestible form, ignore the minefield of charity singalongs and maybe invite tracks like, say, Grace Jones’ ‘Slave To The Rhythm’, Propaganda’s ‘Duel’, The Cure’s ‘Inbetween Days’, The Smiths’ ‘How Soon Is Now’ – even Elaine Paige & Barbara Dickson’s ‘I Know Him So Well’, possibly the only other number one not repped on any of these albums –into the mix, it really wasn’t so bad after all. In the meantime, we can only continue to applaud – but not at 8pm on a specific day, let’s not go too far – the latest development in the Now series’ commitment to reissues and celebrating its legacy.

Poscript

AS A BIT OF FUN, I thought it would be interesting to concoct what would be a Now 5 had it come out in May 1985 rather than wait until August. Taking into consideration an alternate universe where Out Now! didn’t happen, and selecting a few numbers that missed out on being on a compilation in general – Duran Duran’s The Wild Boys, Tears For Fears’ ‘Shout’, Frankie’s ‘Welcome to the Pleasuredome’ – and seeing as it’s rightful home was on a Virgin/EMI release, Stephen Tin Tin Duffy’s ‘Kiss Me’ among several others. I’ve called it a Now 4.5 and you can access the Spotify of it here.

The two-CD set of Now 5 is released today, on 8 May 2020

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CD 1
1. A View to Kill – Duran Duran
2. The Word Girl – Scritti Politti
3. Axel F – Harold Faltermeyer
4. Johnny Come Home – Fine Young Cannibals
5. In Too Deep – Dead Or Alive
6. Icing On the Cake – Stephen ‘Tin Tin’ Duffy
7. Cherish – Kool & the Gang
8. Every Time You Go Away – Paul Young
9. Kayleigh – Marillion
10. Slave to Love – Bryan Ferry
11. This Is Not America – David Bowie & Pat Metheny Group
12. Don’t You (Forget About Me) – Simple Minds
13. Get It On (Bang a Gong) – The Power Station
14. Black Man Ray – China Crisis
15. One More Night – Phil Collins

CD 2
1. Frankie – Sister Sledge
2. History – Mai Tai
3. Money’s Too Tight (To Mention) – Simple Red
4. Feel So Real – Steve Arrington
5. Round and Round – Jaki Graham
6. Turn It Up – Conway Brothers
7. Magic Touch – Loose Ends
8. N-n-nineteen Not Out – The Commentators
9. The Unforgettable Fire – U2
10. Walls Come Tumbling Down – The Style Council
11. Walking On Sunshine – Katrina and The Waves
12. Out in the Fields – Gary Moore With Phil Lynott
13. The Shadow of Love – The Damned
14. Life in One Day – Howard Jones
15. Love Don’t Live Here Anymore – Jimmy Nail

58 responses to Now 1985: How more ‘various artists’ compilations diluted the offerings

  1. Tim in Miami says:

    No mention in any of the comments of Stings Dream of the Blue Turtles, which dominated my turntable in 1985

  2. paul widdows says:

    hi, just recieved my now 5 cd in the post today and for some reason they have taken of the david bowie song, gutted

  3. Albert says:

    In 1985 I remember Martin Hannett and Howard Jones (no, not that one) bigging up a band they were working with. They were pretty bad and very noisy. They did have a great drummer though. The band were either ignored or disliked by the Manchester press and the Factory people (Tony Wilson openly despised them). The drummer apart, nobody then would have known or guessed that they would have become four years later and the debut album they would put out. I also remember Manchester being covered with the words ‘Stone Roses’ sprayed all over the city centre one morning, which antagoinsed the press even more (the Evening News were especially outraged, as were Granada Reports). I’ll be honest and say if somebody then in 1985 had told me that these troublesome and tuneless lot will put out arguably the most famous and celebrated Manchester related album of all time, I wouldn’t have believed them.

    • David says:

      Ian ‘manc walk’ Brown is from Warrington but did come up with the “all Manchester needs is a beach’ quote.
      The Smiths are from Salford and Joy Division’s Ian Curtis from Macclesfield. There’s a map done in the 2000s that is seriously over-egging Manchester’s musical legacy and woe betide mixing up Salford and Manchester bands!!

      • Chris Squires says:

        It’s amazing how many poorly written articles I have seen that have tried to weld Birmingham and Coventry, or Birmingham to The Black Country. Where a band from Wolverhampton (Slade) would be mentioned in the same breath as a band from Shard End (E.L.O.) Then there are those that would consider Alum Rock / Solihull (Duran Duran) as the same neck of the woods as Balsall Heath or Smethwick (UB40). Leave alone those who try to shoehorn The Specials (Coventry) and Dexys (Wednesfield – where I had my first pub job) into a convenient Midlands tag.

  4. Tonk says:

    As interesting as the article is, once you’ve carried about 30 trillion of the bloody LPs up several flights of stairs, checked them off, security tagged them, priced them and then carried them downstairs to be racked out, they quickly lose any charm. I shrink-wrapped the entire opening stock of a medium-sized Virgin Megastore and pretty much everything else for a few years and would happily trap any of the above in the shrink-wrap machines conveyer belt!

    • John McCann' says:

      Tonk, you should have transferred your shrink wrapping skills over to the fast emerging sandwich market,a much easier gig mate, trust me, did it myself for a while ,no conveyer belt in sight, and lunch was free!

  5. MARK LEVY says:

    It would be nice if the rival Hits Albums could be re-issued on CD. The closest to the Hits 3 compilation that I should recommend is Hot And New On CD.

  6. Larry Davis says:

    Ah, 1985…VERY important year in my life…the year I graduated high school & began University…the 4 biggest albums for me that year were a-ha’s “Hunting High & Low”, the self-titled Dream Academy record, the breakout album by Philadelphia’s Hooters, “Nervous Night” & TFF’s “Songs From The Big Chair” & prob the most important debut single by a solo female artist, #1 in like 26 countries…and even tho I didn’t discover it until 1989, it’s still monumental for 1985…what is it?? Sandra’s “Maria Magdalena”, which was also the breakout record for Mr Enigma himself, her husband Michael Cretu, as a producer & songwriter…

  7. Albert says:

    In 1985 Gene Clark contacted Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, Chris Hillman and Michael Clarke in an attempt to reunite the definitive Byrds for the 20th anniversary of Mr Tambourine Man. McGuinn and Crosby showed no interest, Hillman saw no point without those two on board and only Clarke joined Gene for ’20th anniversary tribute to the Byrds’. This led to a can of worms being open and feuds and lawsuits over the name and other things left, right and centre. Such a shame the original five didn’t give it a go one more time.

    Another missed chance was when Led Zeppelin after their (admittedly bad) Live Aid showing attempted a full scale reunion with Tony Thompson replacing the great John Bonham. Thompson was involved in car accident and Robert Plant and Jimmy Page both decided ‘it wasn’t to be’. 1985 could have seen the comebacks of both the Byrds and Led Zeppelin. So near and yet so far, as they say.

  8. Albert says:

    85 was a great year. INXS with Listen Like Thieves. King with their debut album. Marillion and Misplaced Childhood. Scritti Politti’s Cupid & Psyche 85. Then there was New Order and The Smiths, of course. Some great singles in 85. The Unforgettable Fire (the song), Red Box with Lean On Me, The Boy With The Thorn In His Side, Kayleigh, Love and Pride, Raspberry Beret, The Perfect Kiss, and the return of the great Kate Bush with Running Up That Hill. Also the year of the Stone Roses’ first single (So Young/Tell Me) and the year Pink Floyd were on the rocks as Roger Waters left. UB40 also put out a lovely single late in the year with Don’t Break My Heart.

    Both Duran and Frankie blew it. The world was theirs for the taking. But like so many bands, drugs, cash, infighting and egos ruined them (the Stone Roses also match Frankie for the most difficult second album of all time. As drugs, egos and money ruined them too). Still, three likely Norwegian lads were waiting for their chance. Scoundrel Days is a great album.

    • John McCann'. says:

      I thought duran Duran did ok from 82 to 85, wot exactly did the blow?,,,,, Franky where a flash in the pan! Trevor horn and other guys basically made their records! having said the 80s wouldn’t have been the same without them!

      • Albert says:

        Duran were he biggest band in the world by 85. Just like The Police in 83. Miles Copeland said that one more album and tour (in 84) would have made The Police the biggest of the big. Duran were in that position in 85. Only Paul Hardcastle stopped A View To A Kill being Number One in the UK for weeks. Had their been a follow up to A View To A Kill and an album DD would have got even bigger and would have been unstoppable with almost certain Number Ones in both the singles and album charts. If the time spent on Arcadia and Power Station and yachting mishaps was spent on Duran Duran, 1985 would have belonged to them even more than 1984 did. They did better than OK between 81 and 84, but 85 could have seen them do even better. I recall a Smash Hits cover from Summer 85: the headline was ‘What Is Happening To Duran Duran?’ Meaning what the hell were they doing splitting into different outfits. The world was theirs for the taking, that is what they blew.

        And if FGTH (with the help of Horn and ZTT) had produced follow up new singles in 85 as good as Relax. Two Tribes and The Power Of Love they too would have got bigger and better. That is what Holly and the boys blew. Rage Hard did have the old magic, but the rest of the ‘Liverpool’ album did not come near their 84 pomp.

  9. John says:

    Personally, I loved 1986….a-ha – Hunting High And Low, The Bangles – Different Light, Prince – Parade, Madonna – True Blue, Janet Jackson – Control, Pet Shop Boys – Please…. all providing big hit singles throughout ’86…. some of the best pop albums ever in my humble opinion.

    • Kevin Hughes says:

      Plus Talk Talk’s ‘The Colour of Spring’ and XTC’s ‘Skylarking’, two of the best albums of all time IMHO.

  10. Liam Gillis says:

    Very funny and informative article. One band that appear to be missing (although I haven’t scoured playlists or researched so forgive me in advance) is The Smiths. They were quite prolific at this point and so would have made any of the various compilations that were out. Was that an artistic decision of theirs not to be included on such compilations? Maybe didn’t wNt to be included as part of the pop carousel of the time? I can’t recall which bands/artists that have also not wanted to be included on these collections but I know there is precedence.

  11. Spot on, Ian. Even with “Into the Groove”, Style Council, PSB and Scritti – a lot of the new pop music was real bad: overproduced, overacted, overmarketed. Probably that’s why some longed to return back (“C86”, Northern Soul Compilations on Kent, Motown Re-Issues) while some started to look to the US for inspiration for the first time: Prince, House, Detroit Techno – later: Hip Hop).

    But the damage was done: “POP” lost a lot of open mindness, naivety and the willingness
    to experiment (The Associates!).

    P.S. Didn’t know about Adam Ant. But “Viva Le Rock” was also the slogan on one of Vivienne Westwoods famous Shirts. I thought at the time he tried (hard) to regain his integrity after the awful “Strip”-Album with a link to his punk days.

  12. David Hannah says:

    A very interesting read. I am going to assume that Now and Hits had an agreement to split the releases up so they didn’t compete (except at christmas). Hence, Hits 2, 4 and 6 have EMI/Virgin artists and Now 5, 7 and 9 have CBS/WEA artists on them.

    Also, looking at the spotify playlist, Everything She Wants technically appeared on a Hits album (albeit the video).

    You could always create a Hits 2.5 compilation for spotify too to include Into The Groove, Paisley Park, Cover Me and 25 other songs that escape me atm

  13. Howard says:

    Partly why Madonnas success continued, she didnt dilute her brand by putting everything out on these compilations. Such a wise move. You wanted Madonna material, you had to buy Madonna’s releases.
    Ps. I love her version of Love Don’t Live Here Anymore…

  14. martin farnworth says:

    big hair was at the peak of it’s powers in 84/85. Just look at the top three photo’s on the cover of Hits 2. of course it was a case outrageous fashions gradually becoming more preposterous/tasteless over a couple of years and having nowhere else to go.

    I wonder is there something symbolic where as soon as Howard Jones and Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey chopped their ridiculous mullets the hits (in the UK at least) dried up almost overnight.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Some kind of Samson affect, if Samson wrote pop songs…

      • John McCann' says:

        Well Magnum McCann will tell you that drummer mel Gaynor was in a band called samson,he later joined the minds, who’indeed wrote pop songs,,500 bucks a day plus expenses,

  15. Tom Walsh says:

    Great article by Ian..reminded me of Smash Hits in its pomp. Seems like the odd reader lacks your sense of humour.

  16. Ian Wade says:

    ALSO – I was taking the piss a bit re: Queen comment. Apologies.

    • John McCann'. says:

      Stop apologising Ian! You wrote a great article, some people are forensic when it comes to dissecting stuff, you also shouldn’t feel that you have to lift your kilt to justify your mincing remarks!,, You are a credit to this wonderful site, ⁿ I do hope that you can continue to post some wonderful articles, I’m sure Paul must need a breather sometimes, all the best love John.

  17. Hoof Hearted says:

    There’s a real “pile-on” mentality about Adam ant at Live aid.
    It wasn’t THAT bad..
    He chose a new song at the time which was risky , but had been moving away from pop punk and make up into more rockabilly
    The performance was energetic , song was a celebration Of music in some ways so not a ridiculous decision.
    What was he gonna do- sing ant rap or do the Prince Charming dance to Wembley stadium!?
    That would’ve been disaster.

    He wasn’t well liked to begin with , which is totally different to delivering a turkey performance. As happened to zeppelin.

  18. Bill says:

    Oh Out Now albums. Loved those in the day. Reminds me https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETEk4_vKyn4

    Anybody for a day trip to Bembom Brothers???

  19. mike says:

    Nah. I dont think it can be overlooked Ian and I am surprised that someone with your excellent pedigree in curating would say such a thing, Again, the Now compiler has taken the easy route with eight being incorrect versions. People can say that it doesnt matter but it does to a number of people, whether they are a large or small number I couldnt say. These rereleases are a tribute to bygone Nows, but they arent the albums themselves and it could have been a really good series with a little care.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      This piece was written by Ian Wade, so not actually my personal point of view, in this instance :)

    • Ian Wade says:

      Hello Mike. I know, I appreciate that, and it was remiss of me – I have had issues with a couple of the reissues myself – so to dismiss it as such was wrong. I know it matters. Apologies!

  20. Mark says:

    Prince‘s 1999 wasn‘t released in 1985, was it?

    • John says:

      Yes Mark, in the UK it was re-released as a double A-side with Little Red Corvette in January 1985 and peaked at number 2, higher than either track had reached before.

    • Ern says:

      It was re-released at reached No 2 in Jan 1985 and then it was included on Hits 2

    • David Hannah says:

      Mark, 1999 was reissued in January 1985 as a AA side with Little Red Corvette. It reached No.2

    • Graham Turner says:

      Yes, re-released 11 January 1985 as a double A-side with Little Red Corvette to capitalise on his ascent to the mainstream, reaching #2 in the process.

  21. Robert Jones says:

    Adam Ant dropped a clanger and rightly so he deserved what he got….a sales drop and end of career in the UK.

    • Albert says:

      He should have got the ‘classic’ 80-81 Ants back together for Live Aid. But I think he was so far up his own khyber by then, he actually thought Vive Le Rock was good (when it wasn’t).

      Thin Lizzy should also have been at Live Aid. It might have revitalised Phil.

  22. Paul English says:

    Excellent piece Ian – captures the era very well. 1985 is also my favourite year for albums.
    I disagree with your point that the track differences on the CD reissues is a “little matter” – primarily on the basis that 1) if a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing well and 2) most of them could have avoided with some better attention to detail. Otherwise, a great trip back to that wonderful year.

  23. Richard says:

    I loved that Out Now! compilation, can still vividly remember buying it from a local hi fi store and listening to it all summer along with Now 5, but yes weirdly I have zero recollection of any of the last 5 or 6 tracks on it, I don’t even recall seeing them mentioned in the charts on the recent TOTP reruns!
    Oh and I loved the cover for Now 5 :)

  24. John says:

    A good read Ian, very interesting. During lockdown I’ve been doing playlists for each year in the 80s, 1985 definitely feels like a “change over” year but there was still some great tracks about. These made my final cut.
    Queen – One Vision
    Tears For Fears – Everybody Wants To Rule The World
    Pat Benatar – We Belong
    Sheila E – The Belle Of St Mark
    Madonna – Into The Groove
    Lisa Lisa & Cult Jan with Full Force – I Wonder If I Take You Home
    Prince – Raspberry Beret
    Wham! – Everything She Wants
    A-ha – Take On Me
    Princess – After The Love Has Gone
    Maria Vidal – Body Rock
    Bucks Fizz – You And Your Heart So Blue
    Phil Collins – Sussudio
    Animotion – Obsession
    Strawberry Switchblade – Since Yesterday
    Pet Shop Boys – West End Girls
    Dream Academy – Life In A Northern Town
    The Style Council – Walls Come Tumbling Down
    Katrina & The Waves – Walking On Sunshine
    The Cure – Inbetween Days

  25. Peter says:

    Bit taken aback by the phrase ‘mince up’ re Marc /Bronski. Not a nice phrasing at all.

    • Ian Wade says:

      It’s not meant to offend – it was meant to infer the mash-up and what was a very camp record. I’m a gay man and meant it cheekily with respect to both parties, as I’m a huge fan of both.

  26. Mark says:

    Very interesting article Ian,
    Does miss out 1 of the big compilations – Telstar’s ‘The Greatest Hits of 1985’ which I got as my Xmas present that year. 30 Top 10 Hits, 7 No. 1’s including ‘I Know Him So Well’.

    • Ian Wade says:

      Oh I got that too! Again, I was focusing on up to and including Now 5 in August. I did have the tab open for Greatest Hits of 1985, and should have given it a mention. It was a cracking comp, but with a few late 1984 tracks on, and I remember then wishing I’d been given Now 6 or Hits 3!

  27. Mark R says:

    Great article and yes, it’s a shame the Now 5did not come out earlier. Ian’s Now 4.5 is pretty damn good. Still Now 5 does indeed have some bangers on it. It was my first Now, so I’ll be getting a copy.

  28. Rowly75 says:

    This is the first (and probably last time) I will ever read the words ‘reboot an almost desperately over-rehearsed Queen’. I think almost everyone agrees that they stole the show!

    • Paul Kent says:

      I have to agree. The article was great apart from that wholly unnecessary and churlish snipe at Queen. The Bohemian Rhapsody movie was not a documentary – Queen were “rebooted” well before Live Aid with the recording, release and healthy chart placings for The Works and its singles. If they were “desperately over-rehearsed”, I wish Bowie, Elton, Sabbath, Duran and Zeppelin had been, too!

  29. Peter says:

    I remember 1985 well. I always remember one of the best conclusions of the year in music in general being the NME pointing out that their critics had chosen a series of old outtakes from the end of the 60’s as the fifth best record of the year. Velvet Underground or not, it still speaks volumes. The first of the 3 80’s (and probably the entirety of pop’s) nadir years.

    It’s the time of terrible tinny production, where soul becomes R&B, the rise and rise of SAW’s cynical production lines and some genuinely awful music. A time when people seemed to retreat from all the interesting stuff that had just happened and swim in mediocrity. It wasn’t all terrible but most of it was.

    I suppose the only consolation is, 1986 was probably even worse – although it did have some incredible indie and hip-hop in its favour just not in the charts.

  30. Chris Squires says:

    The Day the Music Died .
    Like some here possibly, we have eras we are trapped in depending on our age. Mine is probably 1979 – 1984 as I moved from 12 to 17 years old. It’s most noticeable on my Virgin V6 box in that I pretty much have every Top of the Pops re-run of that era saved and locked (those that weren’t deemed suitable for broadcast sadly lost – damn you Jimmy et al.) Once you get through early 1985 I have nothing saved beyond the episodes that had King and a decidedly uncomfortable looking Stephen Duffy (*more on that later). Moving beyond into where TotP is now, 1989 or 1990 I think, I have a couple of Kate Bush performances saved but the rest is utter tripe (IMHO).

    What I am finding is that my tolerance for music is now shifting. That tolerance is shifting backwards not forwards. There are two TV channels I have on a lot in the background Now 1980s used to be my goto channel but I am finding this is now superseded by the rather better Now 1970s. I find that anything beyond 1984 really rather grates on me whilst I am developing an appreciation for the likes of David Soul and Leo Sayer, learning to love the Bay City Rollers and Suzi Quatro. Plus of course Showaddywaddy, Alvin Stardust, Racey, Mungo Jerry, Dawn and many other things that passed me by when I was but 8 or 9 years old. I find very little that I don’t want to listen to compared to the latter half of the 1980s being fingernails on a chalkboard bad.

    * An aside for Duffy fans…. If you want to see the most uncomfortable performance by a “Pop Star” ever check out this 1985 performance of the brilliant and immense (especially in extended 8 minute form) In This Twilight which I only saw for the first time a couple of months ago. It’s the definition of “I don’t want to be here and I am dying inside”. Beautiful song, toe-curling performance. The Lilac Time couldn’t have come too soon.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TC2PV3RcptQ&list=RDTC2PV3RcptQ&start_radio=1

    • Mike says:

      Wouldnt you be upset too knowing you could have been in Duran Duran? LOL

      • Chris Squires says:

        Mike, there is just so much wrong with that statement that I don’t know where to begin. Like sex in a multi-storey car park. Wonderfully Wrong on every level.

  31. Craig Hedges says:

    The article doesn’t mention that 1985 was the breakthrough year for a-ha with ‘that’ video and also the Pet Shop Boys career finally takes off, third time lucky.
    1985 almost had some big Beatle releases in the form of the single ‘Leave my kitten alone’ and the album ‘Sessions’ which, had they been released, would have been the biggest chart event of the year.

    • Ian Wade says:

      I was looking at the period up to and including the release of Now 5 in August, to be honest, as Now 6 and Hits 3 came out that November, which had Take On Me which began serious business in October (Hits 3) and included another turn that did quite well in Summer 1985 – Eurythmics – and their No.1 There Must Be An Angel (Now 6). Alas Pet Shop Boys’ West End Girls weren’t worth Now 6 taking a punt on at that point, but did pop up on Hits 4 in 1986.

  32. antster1983 says:

    I made the following point on Paul English’s excellent “A Pop Fan’s Dream” blog:

    “Here’s a point I’d like to raise about HITS 2, 4 & 6 – those three compilations featured tracks that would otherwise have featured on the NOW series (i.e. released by EMI & Virgin and later Polygram too). Same could be said of NOW 5, 7 & 9 as they featured a selection of tracks from the CBS & WEA labels, later joined by RCA-Ariola, who’d previously allied strongly with the NOW series).

    It feels like one series complemented the other during the spring & summer months – when NOW took a break, HITS picked up the baton and vice versa, with the autumn releases comprising almost exclusively of their own labels’ artists, with the other labels – Island, Mute, Chrysalis, MCA – fitting on either compilation.”

    Paul agreed, adding: “Acts like A-ha (traditionally Hits) appearing on Now 7 and Now 9. You needed to buy both to get the full picture.”

    I’d now like to add this point: Motown weren’t a Polygram label at the time – their records were being distributed by RCA in the UK, so their tunes would go either way prior to RCA-Ariola joining the HITS brand in 1986. Motown were acquired by MCA in 1988, who sold them to Polygram in 1993.

  33. John McCann'. says:

    He chose that song because that was his new single! He had a worldwide audience to sell it to! Unfortunately it was no antmusic or even Prince charming! His record company could possibly have told him, new single or you’re dropped? But I will agree it was a poor song, Adam ant’s (freedom) if you like,

  34. Simonf says:

    I’ve never purchased a Now album in my life, but I do remember borrowing a friend’s first six volumes (which I had to lug around town all day before I could go home. Damn! They were heavy), and deciding that 5 was the best of the series. And so it remains. Stay safe.

  35. Colin says:

    Brilliant read. Shame about the exclusion of the Bowie track on Now 5, but not too bad as it was terrible anyway! With Live Aid (on a music front, not the epic fundraiser fact) until the day I die I will never understand why when cut to one song by Bob Geldof did Adam Ant choose Vive Le Rock as that one song. The cue for the toilets must have been maffis at Wembley when he was high kicking his way through that dross !!! Big career mistake Mr Goddard! Side note why the hell at JPC.de is Now 5 CD £24.52 and Now 1,2 & 3 over £15 ??? Is it anything to do with having to import them from the UK first? Enjoy Now 5 everyone and hope there’s a Now 6 CD on the way soon!

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