Features

Where are they NOW? The one-hit wonders and forgotten tracks of ‘Now 2’

Ian Wade examines the less well-remembered songs from NOW 2

Following on from the 100th edition and the reissue of the very first compilation last year, Now That’s What I Call Music are releasing volume two on CD (and vinyl), almost 35 years to the week it originally came out.

Naturally, after the success of the original first album in 1983, it was a no-brainer to continue the series, but whereas the first edition had the luxury of the whole of 1983 to select from, Now 2 had just four months. Fortunately, 1984 being one of the best years for pop ever, it wasn’t an issue. Volume 2 had the frisson of danger that was Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s still-at-that-point-banned ‘Relax’, plus headline types such as Queen’s ‘Radio Gaga’, The Rolling Stones’ ‘Undercover’ and Paul McCartney’s ‘Pipes of Peace’ all rubbing shoulders with the newer up-and-coming guard of Cyndi Lauper, Nik Kershaw, The Smiths and Howard Jones.

However, it was those filling up the rest of the album that our thoughts turn to. The not-quite one hit wonders who fell by the wayside, exploded into flames or lost their novelty sharpish. We’ve looked into some of those names and asked, quite literally, Where Are They NOW?

Fiction Factory / Feels Like Heaven

Like a few of the early eighties acts such as Wham! and Tears For Fears, Perth’s Fiction Factory had past form as members of a ska band before finding success. Unfortunately for the Factory – as no one had time to get to know them – their breakthrough ended with their debut single. Despite the number six placing of ‘Feels Like Heaven’, the debut album Throw the Warped Wheel Out failed to do anything, likewise the follow-up, 1985’s Another Story, despite a change in personnel. Unsurprisingly, they split up in 1987 with singer Kevin Patterson leaving music altogether for a less stressful life in IT. The original 1984 lineup reformed for the Perth leg of Rewind festival in 2011 to play all the, um, hits and promptly vanished again.

Re-Flex / The Politics of Dancing

Poor old Re-Flex. Forever saddled with the mid-eighties brace of turns such as A Flock of Seagulls and Now 2 neighbour Thomas Dolby, as a UK act that meant more in America than here. An attempt to redress that, and improve on their No.28 single, wasn’t helped with EMI pulling the release of their 1985 follow-up Humanication, and seeing two earlier bandmates Phil Gould and Mark King start to happen as Level 42. After leaving the label, another unreleased album and contributing two tracks to the soundtrack of Superman IV, the dumper smelled blood and the group all went their separate ways. Fishman, along with drummer Roland Vaughan Kerridge, remastered and released the band’s entire output in a 2010 box set Re-Fused, and had also recorded a couple of new tracks before Kerridge’s death in 2012.

Snowy White / Bird of Paradise

Snowy – or to give him his non-showbiz name Terence – had previously enjoyed a stint in Thin Lizzy, whose guitarist Scott Gorham had first spotted him playing with Pink Floyd on their Animals tour. After the number six smash ‘Bird of Paradise’ had quite literally flown, it was eventually back to Pink Floyd-themed activities that Snowy returned, performing with Roger Waters on tours of The Wall and Dark Side of the Moon. He’s still been releasing music with The White Flames, and also recently saw his ‘Midnight Blues’ track sampled by Meek Mill on his 2016 number ‘Blue Notes’. Which must have been nice. And a bit of a shock that someone had heard of it too, probably.

Joe Fagin / That’s Living Alright

One-time musical director for ‘comedian’ Jim Davidson, Joe found success when his cheery-if-now-problematic ‘That’s Livin’ Alright’ became the theme to popular migrant building site drama Auf Wiedersehen, Pet and landed him with a number three hit. Joe went on to find lesser success as the lungsmith behind the theme to the Judi Dench sitcom As Time Goes By, but scored a number one in 1985 in The Crowd’s re-do of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ as part of a motley ensemble of characters such as Bruce Forsyth, John Entwistle, Motörhead and Irish light entertainment songstress Rose Marie. Joe now works with the Army as a driving instructor for new recruits, which is something of a U-turn into teaching U-turns if you will.

Julia & Company / Breakin’ Down (Sugar Samba)

Perhaps part of Julia & Company’s failure to capitalise on the top 15 success of ‘Breakin’ Down’ was her inability to release a debut album, which she finally got around to in 2007. However, during that time Julia Nixon had been a stage actress in productions of Dreamgirls, Smokey Joe’s Café and Caroline or Change and also toured with Tina Turner, Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin. For the last few years Nixon has performed a monthly Saturday showcase at Mr. Henry’s restaurant in Washington DC, and recently released a comeback single ‘Survive (LIVIN’)’ in 2018.

Matthew Wilder / Break My Stride

After his chart run all but evaporated instantly with the follow-up ‘The Kid’s American’ limping to number 93 and thus very much breaking his stride, Matthew Wilder turned to writing and production, penning Natalie Cole’s ‘Wild Women Do’ from the Pretty Woman soundtrack, and in 1994 struck big as producer of No Doubt’s 20 million-selling album Tragic Kingdom. He’s become increasingly involved with film and musicals, such as writing and producing Disney’s Mulan soundtrack, and has gone on to work with Natalie Imbruglia, Kelly Clarkson, Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez.

Nena / 99 Red Balloons

Fresh from the sick filth of ‘Relax’, the nation threw itself into an absolute shitfit when it appeared Gabriele Susanne Kerner aka Nena appeared to have underarm hair. Propelled to the top of the charts literally everywhere with ’99 Red Balloons’, Nena, as a band, found their appeal becoming increasingly selective almost immediately, and split in 1986. Nena herself made her solo debut in 1989, singing ‘Miracles Happen’ at the Konzert für Berlin which took place three days after the Berlin Wall had been dismantled. Staging a full-on comeback with her 20th anniversary in 2002, Nena is still touring and recording, has her own label, co-founded a kids school and most recently was a judge on the German version of The Voice Kids.

Bonus fact: ’99 Red Balloons’ was derived from the original ’99 Luftballoons’ but did you know that Irish musician Kevin McAlea wrote the English lyrics? Kevin was the only musician, aside from Kate herself, to perform on stage as part of Kate Bush’s 1979’s The Tour of Life and 2014’s Before The Dawn.

Flying Pickets / Only You

Formed from members of socialist fringe theatre organisation 7:84 Theatre Group after they sang a cappella during a play about a colliery brass band, Flying Pickets had just spent Christmas 1983 – and some might say outstayed their welcome – at number one. Subsequent singles fared increasingly worse, by 1986 the novelty had worn off with lead singer Brian Hibberd and bald cohort Red Stripe leaving the group, and soon everyone else followed back into their day jobs. Having been through 27 different members, there’s still a Flying Pickets on the circuit, albeit with none of the original lineup. So it looks like that chanting for their downfall worked after all, right Yazoo fans? Hurrah!

Carmel / More More More

Carmel McCourt, along with bassist Jim Parris and his cousin drummer Gerry Darby, signed to London Records after a well-received self-titled mini album released on Big Flame in 1982. After the trio’s proper debut The Drum is Everything, which gave us ‘Bad Day’ and the top 23 ‘More More More’, followed 1986’s Eno co-produced The Falling which saw them develop quite a following in France helped by duetting with Johnny Hallyday on his ‘J’oublierai Ton Nom’ toe-tap. Since then McCourt has been involved as a voice coach with the physical theatre company Aqueous Humour, released her first album in 15 years in 2011, Strictly Piaf, a collection of lesser known Edith Piaf songs, and in 2015 unveiled her first new single in 21 years ‘Sad Situation’ and has been touring Europe and various festivals ever since.

Slade / Run Runaway

A decade on from being the biggest group in the country, Slade were enjoying a career Indian summer when ‘Run Runaway’ became their breakthrough hit in the states, reaching number 20. However, a scheduled US tour planned with Ozzy Osbourne was cancelled and so that pretty much put an end to it. The band carried on to decreasing fortunes, and played what turned out to be their final performance at a fan club show to mark their 25th anniversary in 1991. Noddy Holder left the following year and now occasionally pops up usually as a festive guest on TV and radio; Jim Lea followed and got around to releasing his first solo album in 2007 and the Lost in Space EP last year; and so Dave Hill and Don Powell created Slade II, who still tour to this day, and Don is also in the none-more-glam supergroup QSP with Suzi Quatro and The Sweet’s Andy Scott. Slade’s legend has now grown thanks to Vic & Bob and Oasis, and their annual presence at Christmas, that if the four of them were to reunite they’d need to block book The O2 for a month.

Now That’s What I Call Music 2 is re-issued on 12 April 2019.

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Disc one

  1. Queen – Radio Ga Ga
  2. Nik Kershaw – Wouldn’t It Be Good
  3. Thompson Twins – Hold Me Now
  4. Matt Bianco – Get Out Of Your Lazy Bed
  5. Carmel – More, More, More
  6. Madness – Michael Caine
  7. Flying Pickets – Only You
  8. Nena – 99 Red Balloons
  9. Cyndi Lauper – Girls Just Want To Have Fun
  10. Tracey Ullman – My Guy’s Mad At Me
  11. Matthew Wilder – Break My Stride
  12. Julia & Company – Breakin’ Down (Sugar Samba)
  13. Joe Fagin – That’s Living Alright
  14. Hot Chocolate – I Gave You My Heart (Didn’t I)
  15. Snowy White – Bird Of Paradise

 

Disc two

  1. Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Relax
  2. Eurythmics – Here Comes The Rain Again
  3. Howard Jones – What Is Love?
  4. The Smiths – What Difference Does It Make?
  5. Fiction Factory – (Feels Like) Heaven
  6. Re-Flex – The Politics Of Dancing
  7. Thomas Dolby – Hyperactive
  8. China Crisis – Wishful Thinking
  9. David Bowie – Modern Love
  10. Culture Club – It’s A Miracle
  11. Rolling Stones – Undercover Of The Night
  12. Big Country – Wonderland
  13. Slade – Run Runaway
  14. Duran Duran – New Moon On Monday
  15. Paul McCartney – Pipes Of Peace

60 responses to Where are they NOW? The one-hit wonders and forgotten tracks of ‘Now 2’

  1. StephendC says:

    I was mildly surprised by the track listing of NOW102! today.

    Disc One is the rubbish polluting the charts today while the second one is full of traditional NOW buyers acts [Westlife and Bryan Adams] with Greatest Showman x2 and some ‘taster’ tracks from NOW2.

    What this signifies, I am not sure. It still sells by the shedload.

    Have a good weekend all.

    • Kevin Hughes says:

      Joe Fagin’s ‘That’s Livin’ Alright’ was released on CD in 2004 on The Best of Cult Fiction 2 disc set: https://www.discogs.com/the-best-of-cult-fiction/release/7203684

      Madness’ ‘Michael Caine’ 7″ Single Version has been released on surprisingly enough another NOW CD compilation; Now That’s What I Call Music! 1984: The Millennium Series in 1999:
      https://www.discogs.com/Various-Now-Thats-What-I-Call-Music-1984-The-Millennium-Series/release/2573744

      Re-Flex’s ‘The Politics of Dancing’ (3:46 7″ Edit) has been released on numerous 80s CD compilations.

      Snowy White’s ‘Bird of Paradise’ (4:04 7″ Edit) has too been released on numerous 80s CD compilations.

      Just to confirm, is Paul McCartney’s ‘Pipes of Peace’ supposed to be the 3:27 Radio Edit without the intro?

      So, the tracks are out there – as previously stated, just laziness on the part of the compilers which is so frustrating as many of SDE readers, including myself could have done a much better job.

      I’m still waiting for my NOW 2 CD to arrive, so will do a more thorough comparison and analysis once it does.

      • Steve Woodward says:

        Listening on Spotify, Now 2 uses the alternative version of Joe Fagin, not the 45 mix.
        Lots of subtle differences in the way words are pronounced, one is at o.25 where the word “kiss” is almost split into 2 syllables, not so on the 45.

  2. Gerd says:

    Nice Story!
    There is a CD series from german (bavarian) Radio Station Bayern 3 which released 15 volumes of one hit wonders, called Uli Wengers One Hit Wonder with some real treasures and of course also some garbage on it.

    • Graham says:

      I managed to get the full set of these cds through an amazon.co.uk third party seller a few year ago. Great set of cds. They cost me over $500 (AUS). Worth every cent.

  3. Ralph says:

    You forgot to mention Duran Duran, Paul. :D

    • Kevin Hughes says:

      I think it’s pretty obvious Sony/Universal are not working from the original master tapes of the 1-9 NOW series, since incorrect versions have now
      been added to both NOW 1 and NOW 2, and not following exactly how the albums were originally released in the 80s.

      I’m sure they must be reading all the comments and expectations of these re-releases on the online forums, but I would imagine they’re just pulling
      whatever they have access to in their library in order to compile a somewhat close approximation of the original releases.

      Four tracks on both the 2009 and 2018 CD reissues of NOW 1 are the incorrect longer album versions.

      They should have been:

      Only for Love (7″ Single Version) – Limahl

      Double Dutch (7″ Single Version) – Malcolm McLaren & The Ebonettes

      Candy Girl (7″ Single Version) – New Edition

      Waterfront (7″ Single Edit) – Simple Minds

      I see on volume 2, Frankie’s ‘Relax’ is not the original 7″ version as featured on the 1984 release. I’m waiting on comments to confirm that Carmel, Julia & Company, Snowy White, The Smiths, Re-Flex, Thomas Dolby, China Crisis, and Slade are all the original 7″ mixes.

      The Smiths ‘What Difference Does It Make’ (3:26 7″ Edit) has been released digitally, but only as a download code with the 12 x 7″ vinyl Singles Box released in 2008:

      https://www.discogs.com/The-Smiths-Singles-Box/release/1577589

      • Steve Woodward says:

        These tracks are NOT the original 45 versions to my knowledge so far
        Bird Of Paradise – Snowy White
        Relax – Frankie Goes To Hollywood
        Politics Of Dancing – Re-Flex
        What Difference Does It Make – Smiths
        Pipes Of Peace – Paul McCartney

        If you want to split hairs, you hear the voice of Michael Caine at the very end of Madness which wasn’t on the original 45.

        If Joe Fagin is the 45 mix, it would be the first time on CD, but I don’t know the differences well enough to say.

        • Paul English says:

          Pretty sure Michael Caine’s voice is on the Keep Moving album version – definitely not on the original Now 2 which uses the 45 mix.

        • mike says:

          I just sigh. What is the point of releasing a close approximation of Now 2? The main market for this will know its wrong. You might as well as not bother, sheer lazyness by the compilers.

  4. Wondermouse says:

    I can’t believe no one’s mentioned Ghost of Love by Fiction Factory. The dance remix of which was released on a shaped, coloured vinyl disc, which I still have somewhere. I always preferred it to feels like heaven. It was also on the first album and definitely got into the lower reaches of t he charts.

  5. Old Bailey says:

    Great article! However, I think it’s a bit unfair to lump Slade in with the waysiders, immolators and (lack of) novelty acts – although I suppose they were once in a film called ‘Flame’…
    The inclusion of other ‘heritage’ acts such as Mr Gadd on later editions risks reviving the ‘Rhodes must fall’ debate in the arena of popular music. In the light of recent press reports, some might soon be calling for the pre-’93 Rolling Stones catalogue to be airbrushed from history…

  6. Jon says:

    I really love Re-Flex’s first album. I bought their CD boxset and the second album, despite having a few ok songs is nowhere near as good as Politics of Dancing. The third album is also rather tiresome. It’s no surprise the second and third went unreleased.

  7. Jussi says:

    I think Johnny means that the sentence doesn’t actually say “only one musician was part of both bands”, but that Kate and Kevin were the only musicians on stage on those tours. So the fact that he appeared on _both_ tours needs to inserted there somehow.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Everyone knows that both tours had full bands, so why would anyone think I was trying to say that?! Anyway time to move on, I think.

  8. Trash says:

    No-one seems to have mentioned Fiction Factory (unless I missed it).
    Throw the Warped Wheel Out is a superb album unfortunately overshadowed by their One-hit Wonder single.
    Another Story, their second, is (imho) even better.
    Any synth-pop fan should give them a listen.

    Always loved the way he sings the last, “Feels like Hea…ven”.

    The first Reflex album has some really strong tunes on it too – including a great extended version of The Politics of Dancing.
    Less of a fan of their second.

    Thank you for the interesting article…

  9. Paul Fraser says:

    I enjoyed reading this. Back in 2002, Nena had a European hit single with our very own Kim Wilde, called Anyplace Anywhere Anytime. For those of us who had youthful lustful feelings for them both in the 80s, Nena looked even better than she did in the 80s. Find it on YouTube.

  10. Cindy says:

    Love this article. Here in the States Break My Stride was used in a Geritol commercial, LOL. Politics of Dancing is one of my favorite 80s songs.

  11. Stephen K says:

    The last time I looked, Carmel had the distinction of being a band without a Wikipedia page. The reissues a few years back were very welcome, though we still need a singles collection released, as some of those mixes are still nowhere to be found on CD!

  12. Brian Smith says:

    I loved that Camel one. I recently got the 12″ single of it. Great band

  13. Mark stuart says:

    The re-flex track reminds me a bit of wang chung.

  14. Craig Hedges says:

    I think it’s very probable that Sony Music will continue to reissue the early Now albums. But will they remove the Gary Glitter track on Now 3??? They have to keep the track listing up to 30 tracks as it states this on the front cover, unless they start tinkering with the artwork.
    They could have a competition to vote for a replacement track, I think Automatic by The Pointer Sisters would be a good substitute, it had been a single prior to the release of Now 3.

    • Gorecki says:

      Makes me curious: what have or will compilers do with tracks like (and I know I’m going to get the title wrong) The Timelords’ Doctorin’ The Tardis – anything that samples the noxious Glitter?

    • Ian Wade says:

      I think this release suggests that the remaining ones will be issued on a similar timescale, and I know some of the hardcore Now-ers have been keen for the first non-CD volumes to come out too.

      But yes, I had that thought about Glitter on Now 3 too. Obviously no new compilation has dared to feature him in recent years, but then it’s a reissue of a well-loved album. I’m sure opinion would err more to the side of omitting it. It’s the same sort of conundrum that the Top of the Pops repeats have faced, although I’m fairly sure a late seventies Glitter performance has been repeated, even if half the shows with troubling presenters weren’t. Good shout for Automatic as a substitute. I also thought The Lebanon by The Human League would be very period-appropriate. Or Hazell Dean’s Searchin’, Evelyn Thomas’ High Energy, Depeche Mode’s People Are People maybe.

  15. Hub Hamers says:

    Nena was really hot in the eighties!

    Recently she appeared as a guestsinger in Germany based Schiller with the song ‘Morgenstund’.

    • Julian H says:

      “Fresh from the sick filth of ‘Relax’, the nation threw itself into an absolute shitfit when it appeared Gabriele Susanne Kerner aka Nena appeared to have underarm hair.”

      As pretty much every grown-up man and woman naturally has :) Here in Germany, it was not an issue back then. These days we’d be just as shocked. I’ll never understand why. Anyway…

      I had no idea that Kevin McAlea wrote the english lyrics! (I know he also performed with David Gilmour and Francis Rossi.) But I don’t think the lyrics suit the melody well. Either that or Nena’s English wasn’t so great…

      (Also worth noting that a more recent song of hers, “In meinem Leben”, inexplicably samples the intro of Tears for Fears’ “Sowing the Seeds of Love”. That threw me off the first time I heard it!)

  16. Adrian Croston says:

    Excellent stuff Paul. Really enjoyed this item. As an aside thank you for the extremely detailed information on the Heaven 17 box set. It really piqued my interest and thus a purchase was made. It arrived this week. I’m marvelling at the packaging so far.

  17. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five Star says:

    Run Runaway by Slade surely takes its influence from Big Country, who are also on the album

  18. Alan B says:

    Can anyone confirm if the version of the Smiths What Difference Does it Make? is the 7 inch (never released on CD) version or the longer 12 inch/album version?

    • Gazelle says:

      According to iTunes, the version on Now 2 is 03:49 in length, which is the same as that on the 12″ single and eponymous debut album. (The shorter 7″ version clocks in at 03:20.)

  19. Johnr says:

    Big country !!! Still touring with new singer and bass player !!!

  20. Paolo says:

    Re-flex “The politics of dancing” is a synthpop masterpiece on its own. It had a number of singles, wonderfully recorded and produced by John Punter. Pity that Emi didn t supported as it deserved and cancelled their future pulling the follow up which was not on the same level but had its points. I would have liked to hear the solo album by Baxter that was shelved too.

  21. David S says:

    Great article Paul and thanks to Ian for his insite. A similar one would be welcome if Now 3 gets a re-release. I only recently obtained an original copy of NOW 2 from Discogs, before the re-release was announced.

  22. Steve says:

    My now 2 cd has just arrived and disappointed to say the original 7” version of relax that appeared on the original vinyl/cassette release of now 2 has been replaced by the album version thats appears on hundreds of other compilations. Still, it’s nice to have Breakin’ Down on cd

  23. eric says:

    Concerning Carmel, i think she first appeared on the Red Flame label, not the Big Flame label. I remember i visited a red flame tour concert in Antwerp, Belgium with Shiny Two Shiny, David Harrow (solo and with Anne Clark), Patrik Fitzgerald (who was drunk and didn’t play), Anne Clark (and from the Factory label Viny Reilly who played twice, first with Anne Clark and at the end of the night as The Durutti Column). Unfortunately Carmel wasn’t on the bill.

  24. Kevin Galliford says:

    Paul, I can tell you used to buy Smash Hits!, the “dumper” indeed! I used to play this on my old Amstrad tower stereo so it brings back loads of memories, not gonna buy it again though as there’s too much chaff on it.

  25. Jon Barlow says:

    I seem to recall the lead singer of the Flying Pickets being in Coronation Street as Deirdrie Barlows fella

    • WILLIAM ENGLAND says:

      Quite correct – and also in Eastenders and Emmerdale (to complete the set). He also featured in a fabulous BBC series Making Out with the even-more fabulous Margi Clarke but oddly never available on DVD/BR…

  26. Johnny says:

    Hey Paul: “Kevin was the only musician, aside from Kate herself, to perform on stage as part of Kate Bush’s 1979’s The Tour of Life and 2014’s Before The Dawn.” This sentence not only does not make sense, it actually isn’t true. There were other musicians, as per the VHS of “Live At Hammersmith Odeon” documents.

  27. Steve M says:

    There are times when Break My Stride is the greatest song ever written.

    One such time was in Bruges mid 2000’s about 1 am when the sound of it blasting out the door from one bar (walked past, it’s late, had a bit to drink) but then another five minutes later (ok, the gods have clearly spoken, time for just one more Belgian beer).

  28. ken says:

    that was fun! thanks Paul.

  29. Jason says:

    Love this, you should do more features like this Paul and congrats to Ian for a great article.

  30. Graham says:

    Great article Paul. Would it be possible to do more “Where are they now” articles, especially One Hit Wonders. An article on those 80s artists who are no longer with us would be great as well. I’ve a copy of the Now 2 vinyl on order from http://www.reflexrecordshop.com can’t wait

  31. gwynogue says:

    After 36 years, I finally know what Matthew Wilder looks like! Despite “BMS” being a top 10 hit here in Oz, I don’t think I ever saw a video-clip on ‘Countdown’ (the music show, not the quiz show) or ‘rage’ or ‘Video Hits’ or…ever.

    In 1996 “BMS” was covered by Austrian group Unique II – and managed to make the song a one-hit-wonder in Australia all over again…

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Break My Stride is such a great pop song. I love it.

    • Seb says:

      I was amazed to see him appear on TOTP in that clip too – I remember Gavin Wood (the Countdown announcer) saying he never appeared in pictures on record sleeves or in music videos. Not quite the recluse we thought he was!

  32. Soren says:

    I am looking forward to this compilation and hope they will continue to re-release the early editons.

    I can see the tracklist of the new Now 102 include 6 tracks of Now 2 which I think is not acceptable because I think the new releases should focus on new music.

  33. SeanL says:

    Fantastic round up Paul from a golden time in pop music ! TOTP’s was unmissable :)

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