Saturday, 30 January 2010

Kim Wilde 'The Second Time'

Chart Peak: 29


Despite the title, this was of course the first time Kim Wilde showed up on a Now album, and for good measure her first single for new label MCA, complete with the catalogue number KIM1. Maybe they thought about saving this one up for the next single but thought it was too strong a potential hit to wait. If so, they weren't entirely right so far as the UK goes, with the single barely sneaking into the Top 30, though it did better in some other European countries and even crept into the US chart.

It starts of not unlike the OMD track, actually, but with the crucial syllable replaced by "Go!" (the US release was subtitled "Go For It"). And that sort of sets the tone for what is, listening now, a remarkably hard-hitting song about a woman's insatiable sexual appetite in a "cheap motel". Strong stuff, and all the odder when you recall that this was written by Marty and Ricky Wilde, who are of course her father and brother respectively. This, I must admit, wasn't really how I remembered her, and it feels slightly uncomfortable now, at least if you're my age. Still, more tolerable than 'Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover' somehow.

Also appearing on:
Now 8, 13, 14, 25
Available on: The Collection

Friday, 29 January 2010

Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark 'Tesla Girls'

Chart Peak: 21


For some reason, I didn't think it was a good sign when I looked up the YouTube video and it started with somebody shouting "NO! NO!". And I was sort of right, really, because 'Tesla Girls', a song I'm sure I'd never heard before, is a pretty slight thing for a single, albeit deliberately. It seems to be part of the direction of simplified pop songs that OMD were heading towards later in their career (all the more so once they became effectively a solo project for Andy McCluskey) but it seems to be less catchy than some of their bigger hits. As to whether it's related to Cold War-era scientist Nikola Tesla (who wasn't a girl) the jury seems to be out.

Also appearing on: Now 3, 8, 20, 25, 34
Available on: Junk Culture

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Feargal Sharkey 'Listen To Your Father'

Chart Peak: 23

YouTube [the actual song starts about a minute and a half in]

Listen To Your Father Madness are one of three acts to have appeared on all of the first three Now albums. All those runs come to a halt on this volume but they can still claim a presence thanks to this first release on their Zarjazz label, a song written by Chas Smash himself (I believe most of Madness also play instruments on the track: they certainly appeared with him on TotP. As well as launching the label, this was also the official start of Sharkey's solo career and given this pedigree (he'd had his first Top 5 hit the previous year fronting the Assembly's 'Never Never') expectations may have been pretty high but in the end even the release of a mullet-tastic picture disc couldn't propell it any higher than 23 and it drifted into near oblivion; as far as I'm aware the only CD release of this song was on an obscure re-issue of 'You Little Thief' (and even that was the 12" mix).

Weirdly, though, one place it did find a home was the cassette deck of the family car, so it's a song that (aptly enough) I strongly associate with my childhood. I was decidedly pleased to find
the 7" you see illustrated there, not only for this reason but because 'Listen To Your Father' is something of a corker, a vaguely Northern-soulish stomper that you wouldn't have blamed Madness for keeping to themselves (except that the rhyme of "good" and "mood" wouldn't really work in a London accent I suppose). As it is, though, Feargal got it and his vocal performance makes you wish he hadn't stopped singing to become a spokesman for the very record industry that is refusing to sell this track to you, should you want to buy it.

Also appearing on: Now 6

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

U2 'Pride (In The Name Of Love)'

Chart Peak: 3


If only I'd started this album a week earlier I could have timed this post for MLK Day. Oh well.

The start of a long run of appearances for U2, even despite the conspicuous gap around their late-80s commercial peak. Whilst they'd already had a Top 10 single in the UK with 'New Year's Day', this was the start of their real superstar era, and the start of a long run of Top 10s that remained officially unbroken until 1991.

It was of course the lead single from their pivotal album The Unforgettable Fire (recently re-released in Deluxe Edition form if you can stomach that price) and to some extent follows the template set by earlier anthems like 'Sunday Bloody Sunday' and the aforesaid 'New Year's Day', but with more inventive production. Drumming has probably never sounded better on a rock record thanks to the combined efforts of Larry Mullen Jr, Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois and the acoustics of Slane Castle. Wisely, though, the arrangement is quite sparse, allowing the maximum space for Bono's expansive vocal. Apparently he has been dismissive in retrospect of the impressionistic lyrics, but that to me just shows how much the band have lost their way in more recent years. He does have a point in regretting the line "Early morning, April 4, shot rings out in the Memphis sky" as innacurate, but it's forgiveable for once. U2 are an easy band to dislike but this single is a strong case for the defence, using all their worst tendencies for the good.

Also appearing on: Now 5, 20, 22, 32, 36, 37, 41, 47, 48, 49, 53, 57 [LMC vs U2], 60, 61, 62, 63, 66, 72
Available on: The Unforgettable Fire (Remastered)

Monday, 25 January 2010

Big Country 'East Of Eden'

Chart Peak: 17


For some reason, this is the one Big Country song I remember fairly well, though it's far from their biggest hit. It was the most successful single release from their only Number One album Steeltown, but that's unlikely to have made a lot of difference in my childhood because we didn't have the album.

In fact, the reason I remember this is a slightly more surprising one: it's actually quite a good record. Maybe that's not surprising to everyone, but in retrospect I've struggled to get what people liked about them beyond the absence of Richard Jobson. Bombastic as it is, 'East Of Eden' comes closest to hitting the mark for me, thanks to that punchy chorus "some days I just don't worry". Were I of the right generation I think I could love this.

Also appearing on: Now 2, 7, 8
Available on: The Greatest Hits Of Big Country And The Skids

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Status Quo 'The Wanderer'

Chart Peak: 7


As it happens, I do actually remember this record; but if I didn't then knowing the original song I could have guessed exactly what a Status Quo version would sound like and I'd have been right. Recorded as a new track for their compilation 12 Gold Bars Vol 2, this version of Dion's hit recasts the already simple song in typical heads-down Quo style. It seems almost irrelevant to try and criticise this because anybody buying it would have known exactly what to expect.

In fact, the most interesting thing here is the video; not that the premise is at all inventive, but it's quite intriguing to see the passage of time. London looks quite different a quarter-century ago, people's clothes are pretty different and the picture quality attainable on portable video cameras was very different. And yet Quo seem exactly the same. In fact, I don't think it's even the same line-up now, but Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt seem to have done all their aging by this point and they still sound the same. And all this despite the fact that more time has passed from 1984 to now than from the original 1961 hit to then.

Also appearing on: Now 8, 14, 18, 33 (with the Beach Boys), 53
Available on: Pictures: 40 Years of Hits

Friday, 22 January 2010

Queen 'It's A Hard Life'

Chart Peak: 6


Well, I knew this was the third of four consecutive Top Ten hits from their album The Works, but I had no memory of it before writing this post. Knowing how big Queen were at the time, it's not plausible that I never heard it, so I must assume that it was getting played on the radio between 'Too Late For Goodbyes' and 'Together In Electric Dreams' and I just didn't notice it.

It doesn't leave much of an impression on me now either. It seems to push the usual Queen buttons but without much to attract attention. Maybe it was just so each member of the band got a single off this album. Apparently they all thought Freddie Mercury looked like a prawn in the video. Er, you can tell I'm struggling for things to say here, can't you? Sorry. I can understand why the Now 4 CD went with the more memorable 'Radio Gaga' instead.

Also appearing on: Now 2, 3, 6, 7, 15, 16, 19, 21, 25 [with George Michael], 32, 33, 54 [with Vanguard]
Available on: The Works

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Tina Turner 'Private Dancer'

Chart Peak: 26


And another accidental connection here; 20 years later Kane Gang singer Martin Brammer co-wrote Tina's last hit to date, 'Open Arms'. This however comes from the more famous pen of Mark Knopfler, who supposedly realised at a rather late stage that this song didn't suit a male vocal and dropped it from the Love Over Gold album. In the spirit of waste not, want not, it went on to become the title track of the comeback album I referred to before as a big in-car favourite during my formative years, and this song still reminds me of motorways.

Of course, as a child I didn't grasp the meaning of the lyric. In fact, I think I even romanticised it a little by mishearing "...keeping your eyes on the wall" as "...keeping your eyes on The One", but nonetheless something in the melody and atmosphere of the track caught my attention, and it's a song I've always remembered. Now I do know what's going on, it's all the more difficult to imagine Dire Straits ever releasing this (apparently they are still on the backing track, although Jeff Beck takes over the lead guitar). It's Turner's vocal that makes it work, sounding appropriately weary but not too dark to overpower it; it seems as if the protagonist is a little in denial about the true sadness of her position.

Needless to say, this single version is heavily edited from the seven-minute album track, but most of what gets cut seems to be sax solo, which I don't consider a great loss. According to the internet, a further edit had to be made for Top Of The Pops to remove the advertising slogan "American Express will do nicely thank you". The past is a foreign country indeed.

Also appearing on: Now 1, 6, 16, 17, 18, 21, 25, 26, 32, 34, 44
Available on: All The Best

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Kane Gang 'Respect Yourself'

Chart Peak: 21


For some reason I'd always thought that some or all of the Kane Gang were actually called Kane, and that they were Scottish. Neither of those things seems to be true, so I was probably getting them mixed up with Hue & Cry. They do seem to have a little in common, with their very 1980s take on soul music. And as if to prove the point, they make their only Now appearance with a cover version, suggesting that EMI missed the boat for their self-composed (and bigger) hit 'Closest Thing To Heaven'.

Needless to say, this is better than the Bruce Willis version [click at your own risk] but fails to convey the passion of the original. They give it a decent shot but can't transcend the very 1980s sound; perhaps it's unfair of me to criticise a record from 1984 for that, but I struggle somewhat to see the appeal of listening to this version when there are others around. The strongest thing about it is probably PP Arnold's sterling backing vocal.

Available on: The Miracle of the Kane Gang: Remastered & Expanded

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Heaven 17 'Sunset Now'

Chart Peak: 24


Their only appearance with a song that isn't 'Temptation', as the big follow-up hit 'Come Live With Me' never made the cut. In fact this is a remarkably small hit to have shown up on here at all, and whatever impression it might have made is long forgotten now, so I heard it for the first time over the weekend. With that in mind I did wonder whether I should hold back a bit and give the song more of a chance to grow on me, but I'm enough of a procrastinator at the best of times, so it's first and second impressions to go on.

At first, I was distracted by the admirably low-budget video: the cardboard cut-out of the band which pops up (literally) for the backing vocal is cute. In fact, the song itself hasn't made a lot of impact on me at all, as indeed is the case with most of their oeuvre. It seems like another instance of their sarcasm; a deadpan delivery of lyrics that, written down, seem to be about a war, but I sense that the formula had been used better before. I reserve the right to change my mind though.

Also appearing on: Now 1, 23
Available on: How Men Are

Monday, 18 January 2010

Thompson Twins 'Doctor! Doctor!'

Chart Peak: 3


Proving yet again that there's no record ever made that hasn't got some YouTube comments saying that it was much better than modern music. Also another case of out-of-sequence Now tracks; this was a hit before 'You Take Me Up', which appears on Now 3. Even though that one got a place higher on the chart, this is the one on the CD as well.

As for the song itself, it seems to follow the usual format of big Twins hits in delivering less-than-deep lyrical content in a heavily portentious manner. Perhaps this is meant to be a joke of some sort, or maybe it was a deliberate attempt to commercialise themselves. Maybe they even thought this was good, but I can't summon up a lot of a enthusiasm for it now.

Also appearing on: Now 2, 3
Available on: Greatest Hits

Saturday, 16 January 2010

The Style Council 'Shout To The Top!'

Chart Peak: 7


Apparently this is in yet another film I've never seen, Vision Quest, but here in the UK at least I don't think it's closely enough associated with the film to earn that "from the movies" tag.
I often find it hardest to write about the songs I'm fondest of, and this is part of the problem, I face with 'Shout To The Top!' - I'd never have put it on a list of my ten favourite songs, probably not even even my ten favourite Weller songs, but there's something very right about it that doesn't seem to lend itself to unpicking. By this seventh Council single, he seemed to have got over the determination to sound unlike The Jam, and relaxed a bit into a run of good singles before they started to lose their way.

Although it's obviously intended to be a political call to arms (and as the video suggest, it was inspired by the Miner's Strike) but it remains wisely non-specific, concentrating on the vibe and creating an uplifiting joyful atmosphere that doesn't make it seem like homework to listen to. A solid group performance is bolstered by the immaculate string arrangement and one of his best vocals. Perhaps too sweet a concoction for some but it's by far my favourite on the album so far. Even the slap bass is well concealed in the mix.

Also appearing on: Now 3, 5, 10, 14
Available on: The Sound Of The Style Council

Friday, 15 January 2010

Julian Lennon 'Too Late For Goodbyes'

Chart Peak: 6


Despite having chosen a hobby that involves a lot of listening to pop productions from the 1980s, I'm actually not very keen on many of the stylistic tics of the time, and there are a lot of them on here, from the heavy keyboard "pad" that dominates the track to the slap bass and the cardboardy drums. It's all the more unfortunate because 'Too Late For Goodbyes' is a good if lightweight pop song, but all the spontaneous-sounding moments (the way the vocal goes up at the end of each line, for instance) are totally overshadowed by the heavy-handed production. A much looser sound would have served it far better, and it would have been better to emphasise the contrast between the verse and chorus. Ooh, get me with my constructive criticism!

One thing I do like about this is the harmonica solo, although I was mildly disappointed to learn that Lennon didn't play it himself (it's by Belgian Jazz legend Toots Thielemans). It cuts through the excess slickness elsewhere on the track. For some reason, at the time I always connected this song with 'Together In Electric Dreams', but I don't quite understand it now.

Also appearing on: Now 20
Available on: Original Hits - Eighties

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Elton John 'Passengers'

Chart Peak: 5


He hasn't been on as many of these as you might think, given his consistent run of hits, and this might not be where he'd have wanted his Now history to start. But here it is anyway, and I have to admit that after years of revisionists telling me how great his "serious" Seventies records were, my contrarian streak has gravitated a little towards this bouncy light-hearted part of his career.

In truth, this song isn't pure novelty. Like the previous Culture Club track, the bouncy tune an call-and-response vocals are supposed to conceal a political message: apparently a version of the train/apartheid metaphor Madness later used to greater effect on 'Waiting For The Ghost Train'. Intentionally or otherwise, though, it's fairly well hidden, especially with the distraction of the gay-James-Bond video (though of course Elton John was married to a woman at this time). Basically, it's difficult to say much for it now, but it was cheery enough for me at the time.

Also appearing on: Now 6, 11, 12, 18, 22, 56, 61 (with 2Pac), 62
Available on: Breaking Hearts

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Culture Club 'The War Song'

Chart Peak: 2


Well, if the end of the first side was getting too ballady, this might be good news at the start of Side 2. But, er don't quote me on that. Whilst no act features on all the first four Now albums, the double helping of Culture Club on the first volume means they can claim four appearances out of four; it was almost fifteen years before they added to that total, though.

I have a theory that it's usually a bad sign when a group start using a lot of descriptive song titles; I don't think I've ever heard the unsuccessful follow-up single 'The Medal Song' but I fondly imagine Boy George telling us "Medals are stupid!". It certainly is the case that the band were privately in disarray, rushing out an album while blighted by interpersonal strife and George's increasing drug problems. For all the short-term success it had, posterity has been less than fond of this track, and even the band themselves seem to have titled their 1998 compilation Greatest Moments precisely in order to avoid including it. Presumably the simplistic presentation is intentional, even if it hasn't dated well; in between the insults to Frankie Goes To Hollywood Jon Moss says that this is how The Beano would have tackled the subject, which is a fair shout. It actually sounded rather catchy when I was six, although I didn't understand what "some strange quarters" meant. The trouble is, of course, that most children already know war is stupid. It's the adults you have to worry about.

Also appearing on: Now 1, 2, 41, 43
Available on: Waking Up With the House On Fire

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Lionel Richie 'Hello'

Chart Peak: 1 (6 weeks)


Although I gratefully acknowledge Tom Ewing's Popular as an influence on this blog, I don't think I've ever linked to a post before. Initially, that was because he hadn't caught up with 1983 yet; at time of writing he's well into 1986, but I think I've been restrained more by the fact that his writing is so much better than mine. For once, though, I can't avoid drawing attention to his obvservation here that 'Hello' is defined for most of us by its video, which works rather to its detriment. Videos weren't something I got to see all that often back in 1984, so it's particularly remarkable that my memories of this one are so dominated by the clay head: however, it must have closed Top Of The Pops six weeks running in the absence of a personal appearance by Lionel. Wikipedia helpfully explains that the sculptor had never even met his subject, which is not the most surprising thing I've ever learnt on this blog.

Anyway, you can't see the video on Now 4 so I'll have to try and imagine I can't either. Where I diverge from Tom is that I don't share even his moderate enthusiasm for the song itself. I do find that wibbly synth bit under the lyric "And in my dreams I've kissed your lips a thousand times" strangely effective, but it's all downhill from there. Richie once said he started writing ballads for the Commodores to ensure his songs were included on albums, there being less competition that way. And whilst this possibly isn't as sick-making as 'Three Times A Lady', there's something unpleasantly cynical-sounding about this as if he's writing it by the yard. Well crafted, for sure, but it's more like a carpet than a record, with none of the joie de vivre of 'All Night Long'.

Available on: The Definitive Collection

Monday, 11 January 2010

Michael Jackson 'Farewell My Summer Love'

Chart Peak: 7


You might have heard of this guy before. This is in fact his only fully-fledged appearance in the entire Now series (though he has a couple of cameos elsewhere). Even so, you'll notice, this isn't exactly current material from the man who was surely the biggest star in the world at the time.

In response to the overwhelming success of the Now albums, rival labels CBS and WEA teamed up to create The Hits Album (or, if you preferred cassettes, The Hits Tape) boasting two discs of tracks from their own catalogues including 'Thriller' (which had actually been a hit in late 1983 but we can overlook that). Now 4 manages to be simultaneously more and less topical with this unreleased track from 1973, dug up and overdubbed by Motown as part of a full album of barrel-scraping. Whilst this is unlikely to have been the main deciding factor, it did turn out that The Hits Album won the battle if not the war, spending seven weeks at the top and making Now 4 the only album in the official series not to top the chart before compilations were excluded in January 1989 (subsequent volumes have all topped the compilation chart, typically outselling the top artist album).

Of course, there was and is plenty of demand for even discarded Jackson material, as proved by the success of this single; indeed a previous Motown cash-in had broght him his first UK Number One with 'One Day In Your Life'. And even in recent months we've seen the ballyhoo about 'This Is It', a track he'd already already recorded his contribution to by 1984; in that case, though, Sony couldn't bring themselves even to release the track as a single, still less allow it onto a Now Album. In truth, this isn't a bad record, but there's something quite incongruous about hearing a 15-year-old Michael singing an appropriately teenage song with such a very eighties session-musician backing. That it succeeds at all is a testament to the voice he had but I suspect that were I a Jackson fan, I'd be disappointed that this was the only time I got to write about him.

Available on: Hello World - The Motown Solo Collection

Saturday, 9 January 2010

John Waite 'Missing You'

Chart Peak: 9


No, this isn't the same John Waite who used to present You And Yours on Radio 4. This is the guy who used to be in the internationally but not locally succesful The Babys, who briefly dallied with the top UK Top 50 in early 1978 with 'Isn't It Time'
More's the pity, because even an episode of You And Yours would have been more interesting than this rather faceless power-ballad, which somehow became so ubiquitous I was surprised it only got to 9 in the charts (it was of course a US Number One). 'Missing You' talks the talk of big emotions, but the formular melody and airbrushed production don't walk the walk. It's rather the sort of thing that gave the 1980s a bad name in my ears. Indeed it's taken me rather a long time to find anything at all to say about it.
And the British public weren't missing him much either: his only other solo Top 75 single was a re-release of this in 1993; he did however make a slight return with the AOR supergroup Bad English, but they weren't totally accurately named because some of them were American.

Available on: 101 Power Ballads

Friday, 8 January 2010

Nick Heyward 'Warning Sign'

Chart Peak: 25


Warning Sign
Originally uploaded by Hit Parade

I don't mind admitting, if that's even the right word, that Nick Heyward loomed large in my student days (in the 1990s, for the benefit of any readers who don't know me personally). Arriving in Lancaster, a city with seemingly more than its share of charity shops, in posession of a record player, a cash card and some disinclination towards typical student activities like drinking, talking to girls and indeed studying I could hardly fail to come back with an overdraft and a lot of secondhand vinyl. I even bought Haircut 100's Pelican West and Heyward's solo debut North Of A Miracle twice when I found better copies than my originals.

So it would have been around that time that I bought the 12" single pictured on the right. I can't remember whether I got this one in Lancaster or back at home, nor how much I paid for it, but I doubt it was as much as £1:79. What I do remember is that I bought it unheard, and it featured only the extended version (later to become even more extended after I left it a bit too close to a desk lamp) so it wasn't until I came to write this post that I actually got to hear the original 7" cut. And it doesn't really seem to work out somehow. Were this post not already far too long I could write a lot about how underappreciated Haircut 100 are, or about the 1995 single 'The World'... but this brave attempt at synthetic funk doesn't really hit the spot. No surprise that it's only a fairly minor hit as his career tipped into the wilderness years; his only Top 40 single after this was in 1996.

This being his only appearance in the official Now series, I'd have liked to be able to be more positive if only for old times's sake. Unfortunately, we're at almost exactly the wrong time for that.

Available on: Favourite Songs - The Best Of

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Limahl 'The NeverEnding Story'

Chart Peak: 4


Back to the cinema again, then, although at least this film came somewhere near recouping. The familiar theme tune (composed by our old friend Giorgio Moroder again) was apparently added only to the version released in the English-speaking world, not in the German edit. That said, the song became a massive hit in Germany anyway, such is Limahl's star power over there.

Again, I remember hearing this when I was a kid and wondering whether you could have an answer to a story. I'm still not sure about that. I think it's fair to say that time hasn't been very kind to this track; at any rate I hope it hasn't because it doesn't sound at all good in 2010. It's hard to put my finger on what 'Together In Electric Dreams' had that this hasn't, but there's certainly something.

Also appearing on: Now 1
Available on: Too Shy: the Best of Kajagoogoo & Limahl (CD & DVD)

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Bronski Beat 'Why?'

Chart Peak: 6

YouTube (live version)

Another oddly difficult one to track down on YouTube, but I have managed to hear it. I think this might have been the first time I heard it in full though of course I recognised the hook from Supermode's hit. Until then it was heavily overshadowed by 'Smalltown Boy', and I can sort of see why. It certainly grabs the attention (at the start of the album as well as in its own right) with Jimmy Somerville's high-pitched call of "Tell Me Why!", setting the scene for a righteous four minutes of questioning homophobia, set to a powerful dance beat.

It was (and arguably still would be) bold to attack the subject so directly as "Contempt in your eyes as I turn to kiss his lips..." but the nature of the arrangement and performance make the finished article anything but aggressive. Like a lot of Somerville's work, I admire it more than I really enjoy it. Good as it was of them not to repeat the formula of 'Smalltown Boy' directly, I do rather miss the haunting quality that was such a strength of that song.

Also appearing on: Now 3
Available on: Age of Consent/Platinum Collection

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Giorgio Moroder & Philip Oakey 'Together in Electric Dreams'

Chart Peak: 3


And an obvious connection here, as we reach a second movie title song that seemed to make more of an impact than the picture itself. I've never seen Electric Dreams either, but the internet suggests that in it, this song is written by a computer. On that basis, Oakey's determinedly deadpan vocal style could hardly be more appropriate, even if he only got the job because the film director had done some Human League videos.

Much as I don't generally like the Human League at all, I have to confess a certain liking for this track. Maybe it's because I remember hearing it a lot when I was six and being slightly confused by it, or maybe I like Moroder more than I thought I did. Maybe it's just that twinkly little intro that does it for me. I don't recommend it straight-facedly but I can't deny that I enjoy hearing it.

Available on: Philip Oakey & Giorgio Moroder

Monday, 4 January 2010

Paul McCartney 'No More Lonely Nights (Special Dance Mix)'

Chart Peak: 2


I've never seen the film of Give My Regards To Broad Street, but it's quite conspicuous that its twenty-fifth anniversary last year wasn't greeted by a special edition DVD release, a big publicity drive or indeed any acknowledgement at all. It's widely held that this song, or at least the original is the one saving grace of the film and a soundtrack packed with sub-par retreads of Beatles songs: the worst offender an awful elevator-music version of 'The Long And Winding Road worse than anything Phil Spector did to it.

In anybody's money, 'No More Lonely Nights (Ballad)' is one of McCartney's best songs of the 1980s, glossily produced but with real heart. Something in the slightly halting way he sings "And if it takes a couple of years..." really seems to humanise the song. Deservedly, the single was a major hit, with a peak position he's yet to match barring charity records and the Beatles reunion.

The bad news is, however, that this isn't quite that track. It's a remix (strictly speaking of the already inferior 'Playout Version') by Arthur Baker, who really should have known better. So should Paul McCartney, who was apparently so taken with this version that he recalled the single so that this version could be added. Somehow it manages not only to remove all that was good in the original but also to fail utterly as a potential dance record and it's difficult to imagine how this version got picked as an opener for Now 4 (it's listed correctly on the sleeve so it can't just be a mistake in the tape library). If they were reluctant to open the album with a slowie then the more obvious solution would have been to shuffle this a little further back in the running order, especially as this isn't exactly upbeat itself. Maybe it was meant to be a public service to people who bought the first pressing of the single? Oh well, at least they managed to spell the song title correctly.

Of course, one of the other real claims to fame for Now 4 is that it shares its title with the first ever Now CD. However, editing it down to a single disc and sneaking on a few tracks from earlier volumes mean this isn't one of them, so anybody who wanted this mix on Compact Disc had to wait until a 1993 re-issue of the soundtrack album.

Also appearing on: Now 2, 15, 24, 37, 67
Available on: Give My Regards To Broad Street

Friday, 1 January 2010

Metapost: happy new year!

Rabbits! And a happy new year to all my reader(s?).

The next album starts on Monday, if I can get the posts written in time.