Every story has a beginning and in November 1983, EMI and Virgin came together to create their own piece of compilation history.
And so it was, that a poster of a certain pig signalled a change in how various artists would be viewed and consumed from NOW on. As the first Now That’s What I Call Music LP curated thirty of the years biggest hits, the story of pop in 1983 was much more.
Whilst the popstars of the 80s were either splitting up, missing the chart mark or simply going stratospheric in the US, the pop path was blown wide open to a range of new stars, one hit wonders and some hugely memorable moments.
And a shimmering summer soundtrack signalled that one of the decades most colourful years would be remembered for many great reasons. And a few others too...
Join writer and chief music critic for The Guardian Alexis Petridis as we revisit the iconic first NOW LP and explore the pop culture of 1983 that launched it. Along the way find out which pop act made the first (and possibly biggest) impact on Alexis, why Summer ‘83 is still so memorable and which of the acts on that double album won’t be returning our calls.
It’s Autumn 1986 and the charts are once again filled with a glittering array of colourful, confident pop. The post-Live Aid landscape of 1985 has enabled its stars and supporting cast to build their singles and album popularity. Shiny new CDs are ensuring an aspirational digital era is on the way. But the singles chart still manages to reign supreme with an exciting range of tastes and flavours - from the Nile Rodgers produced funk of returning popsters Duran Duran, to the polished, sharp R’n’B courtesy of Janet Jackson and Cameo. And as the eighties moved on, new acts such as the Pet Shop Boys and Swing Out Sister were making their mark and looking onwards to ’87.
As always, the NOW compilation series captured a moment in time, as we moved from the dance joy of Mel and Kim through the glorious Peter Gabriel & Kate Bush and onwards to a soap opera wedding that gave us a certain barman’s Big No.1 ballad!
Oh, and did we mention HITS 5?
Join Radio 2’s ‘Sounds of the 80s’ producer Johnny Kalifornia and I as we first of all explore his love of pop growing up, before we head back to the chrome covered pop of ’86.
Expect starring roles for Kim Wilde, Grace Jones, Robert Palmer and find out why Boris Gardiner and Don Johnson probably won’t be returning our calls.
It’s Spring 1988 and pop music is BIG once again!
And as always, NOW That’s What I Call Music is there to capture the charts in all of its late 80s bombast as symbolised by Volume 11 and THAT wonderful, mirrored skyscraper cover.
The Pet Shop Boys are reigning supreme in their imperial phase, the girls are conquering the charts from Kylie to Belinda and Vanessa to Sinead.
But change is in the air as the decade draws to a close and as the BPM increase so does the excitement – a whole side of House signals that dance music has the charts and the UK under arrest!
Join Universal Music’s Mark Wood and I as we revisit his musical influences and why NOW11 is such an important time capsule for him.
Along the way expect starring roles for Kylie, Bomb the Bass, Blondie and The Wombles (!) and find out all about one of Mark's biggest musical passions - what The Guardian describe as ‘Britain’s Greatest and Strangest Nightclub’ - Duckie.
I Know You’re Gonna Dig This!
For this special episode, I am joined by musician, writer, DJ, and film producer Bob Stanley.
Bob is a founder member of Saint Etienne, and a regular contributor to amongst others, The Guardian, The Times and Record Collector. Bob has compiled and produced an enviable collection of compilation albums for his own record label Croydon Municipal and with a host of collaborators for Ace records.
Bob shares his love for 70s compilations albums, library culture, the joy of discovering forgotten tracks and the wonderful nature of sequencing that the likes of K-Tel and Ronco provided us with.
We also explore the evolution of NOW through the 80s, how dance music came to the fore in the ‘90s and why we love collecting music in the UK.
With the launch of his latest compilation, Café Exil: New Adventures in European Music 1972-1980, Bob also provides an insight into his own process of creating compilation albums; where inspiration comes from, his favourites and what themes he is looking to curate next.
In this episode we shamelessly deck the halls, crack open the eggnog and pass around mince pies in honour of NOW - The Christmas Album. Cue, sleigh bells!
Join pop pundit & musician Ian Wade and I as we celebrate the classic festive compilation. From Band Aid to Bing Crosby via Slade, Macca and a dazzling array of hits, the first off-shoot LP from the NOW brand set the tinsel-drenched tone for all Christmas compilations that came afterwards.
And of course, as it's Christmas, we provide a second course of glittering insights and rambles about lost classics, missing tracks and basically, why we all love our festive favourites so much at Christmas.
Grab your favourite tipple, pull a cracker and enjoy a very seasonal Back To NOW!
New episode on the way! Join @WadeyWade and I as we explore NOW The Christmas Album and all that’s come since. And as a taster, ever wondered what Band Aid would have been like if released in 1974? Of course you have!
In 1984, it wasn't George Orwell's Big Brother that was beaming out of our TVs, it was (to quote Rick Astley), the Ruddy Big Pig.
As the year began, the first NOW LP was dominating the charts, but its successor was not far behind.
As sequels go Now, That's What I Call Music 2 was pretty spectacular, bagging the top spot in the LP charts for five weeks and proving that the most successful compilation series in history was well and truly here to stay.
To explore the album, I'm joined by Simon Philo, lecturer in Popular Music in Society and American Studies at the University of Derby. In a 25-year career in higher education, he has made it his mission to introduce as many students as possible to the joy of popular music.
Simon is also the author of British Invasion: The Crosscurrents of Musical Influence (2015) and Glam Rock: Music in Sound and Vision (2018) and presents shows on Radio Free Matlock and Stranger Radio.
As well as revisiting the LP - the big tracks, the forgotten tracks and those great one-hit wonders, Simon and I also explore the pop culture that shaped his musical journey towards the Spring of 1984 and beyond.
Expect supporting roles for Kate Bush, The Dooleys, Dollar, Cyndi Lauper, The Smiths and Thomas Dolby. Discover why Matthew Wilder and Re-Flex probably won't be returning our calls, the record Simon threw out of his pram and what the difference really is between a banger and a clanger.
And as it is 1984, a healthy dose of Global Nuclear Annihilation thrown in too.
Joining me for this episode is RTS Nominated TV Production Designer Richard Drew. As well as ‘creating the magic’ for, amongst many others, The Inbetweeners, Friday Night with Jonathan Ross and most recently After Life, Richard describes himself as a self confessed Pop Fan since he can remember.
Richard and I explore the pop landscape of autumn 1984 and whilst NOW 4 was gearing its assault of the album charts, a new compilation LP was preparing to HIT back.
Richard also shares some of his personal musical memories and influences; how his mum sold the Beatles to America, how OMD rescued him from Trevor Horn and how one lunch break he found himself duetting with Paul McCartney.
Expect supporting roles in this episode from a neon lit array of stars including Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Ultravox, Hazell Dean and find out why ‘Ice And The Falling Rain’ may just be the great lost 80s classic!
1985 - a positive jamboree of pop and a fascinating year for the increasingly competitive compilation LPs.
As NOW! faces stiff opposition from the record companies in the shape of HITS & OUT NOW! amongst others, the gloves were off for a slice of the various artists market.
At the centre of the year sits the Big Pig and NOW 5. But how did this expanding market affect the tracklist for the UK's leading compilation summer offering? And how did NOW! regain it's place as the nation's favourite compilation LP?
Join Simon Galloway (The Giddy Carousel of Pop) and myself as we battle our way through the hits, misses and headlines of this pivotal year of pop. Along the way, we discuss early musical memories, Live Aid, the exploding UK dance scene, home taping (killing music!), Smash Hits, nostalgia culture, the 'rotten side 4 syndrome', Paul Hardcastle's driving tips and much more!
I hope that you will enjoy sharing in our 1985 memories and insights. If you do, please spread the word and let me know your thoughts at www.backtonow.music.blog or on Twitter with myself, Iain, @poprambler.
1990 - A new decade dawns and with it comes a genre-bursting variety of pop opportunities. Dance, Indie....Indie dance!
Whilst the top of the artist album charts celebrated classic artists such as Phil Collins, Elton John and the Carpenters, the first full year of the compilation chart was exploding with an eclectic mix of dance -and the Top 40 singles chart was becoming increasingly exciting, varied and fast moving as the decade took shape - and NOW17 took a great snapshot of it all!
Joining me for this episode is Michael Mulligan.
Michael has made a name for himself working in all manner of music retail, lending his expertise as a consultant for record labels and mining the archives for overlooked gems. He is also the author responsible for books including 'The Story of NOW in 100 artists', published to celebrate, not surprisingly, the release of NOW 100. And most recently, Michael contributed the insightfully crafted sleeve notes to the soundtrack reissue of Julien Temple’s 1986 film adaptation of Absolute Beginners.
So, come back to Spring/Summer 1990 and celebrate how the decade memorably kicked off. Expect starring roles from Erasure, Depeche Mode, Candy Flip, The Charlatans, Beats International, Cliff, Des Lynam(!) and why Sydney Youngblood won't be returning our calls! https://backtonow.music.blog/
For this episode I had the great pleasure of chatting with author and music book publisher with Bonnier Books UK, Pete Selby. Amongst other accolades, Pete has co-authored two official books on the history of Now That’s What I Call Music", and as Head of Music for Sainsburys, launched the exclusive ‘Own Brand’ vinyl record label with Saint Etienne’s Bob Stanley.
Pete and I travelled back to the summer of 1986 to discuss NOW 7. Along the way we also chatted about musical memories growing up, influences and the compilation market that led to the success of LPs such as the NOW and HITs series in the 1980s.
Expect starring roles in our conversation for - amongst others - Lovebug Starski, Wham!, Peter Gabriel, and honourable mentions for Mike Batt, the Grange Hill cast and (genuine forgotten 80s) Debbie Aimee!
I hope that you will enjoy sharing in our '86 memories and insights. If you do, please spread the word and let me know your thoughts at www.backtonow.music.blog or on Twitter with myself, Iain, @poprambler.
Welcome Back to NOW! A series of podcasts that celebrate all things related to the variously compiled world of pop.
As we open up the gatefold vinyl sleeves, unfold the cassette inlays or slip out CD booklets, we will also consider the wider world of pop culture and how our favourite compilation albums shaped our lives at and now fondly stand as time capsules for our own musical journeys.
The episodes will invite a range of guests to share their memories, stories and insights. Along the way we will discuss what makes the best compilations, the key tracks, the missing tracks and everything else in between. Expect the big LPs, the forgotten LPs and the chance to relive great compiled music memories from across the years.
So look out for the Back To Now podcasts. Available at www.backtonow.music.blog , via the PopRambler Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages with myself, Iain, and through your favourite podcast sharing platforms.