And we're back ten years exactly to the summer of 1988. Once upon a time I'd planned to do Now XIII instead, but then I saw 12 in a charity shop for 99p, and one thing leads to another...
In fact it's quite apposite that this album kicks off with a single that I bought in a charity shop some years previously - indeed I must now have had it for longer than the original owner, even if I don't play it that often - particularly since it was a charity single* to begin with. Truly, it is the gift that keeps on giving. For those unfamiliar with the backstory, the NME organised the benefit album Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father to mark the 21st anniversary of the most famous Beatles album and raise some money for Childline. To help it along, a single was pulled from the LP (or cassette!) coupling this track by the Wets with the contrasting 'She's Leaving Home' by Billy Bragg With Cara Tivey which became the first Number One single for either act. More interestingly, 'With A Little Help From My Friends' became the first (and still the only) Beatles song to top the charts in more than one version, following its success for Joe Cocker in 1968 - the original was, ironically, a Top 75 hit in 1978 as part of an ill-advised attempt to cash in on the Sgt Pepper film.
As any regular readers of this blog may have noticed, a long preamble like this tends to mean I'm putting off trying to find anything to say about the record itself. And so it is here, since I can't imagine anyone interested not already being familiar with the source material and the band don't produce an especially convincing or distinctive version. In fairness to them, they presumably weren't given a lot of time to work on this, but it would still have been welcome had they come up with a more interesting idea than playing it slightly faster and repeating "my friends" to fade. The fundamental problem is, I think, that Marti Pellow comes over as too confident a vocalist to carry off the light-hearted, giving-it-a-go charm of the original. Not long afterwards, this and Cocker's interpretations of the song collided as the finale of a charity concert, where Pellow somehow manages to be even more annoying. It's not the best of starts, but it's not as bad as the Grease megamix.
*An asterisk on the back cover of the LP indicates that "All royalties from this track are being donated to Childline". Since I don't anticipate making any money from this blog post, it seems the next best thing I can do is provide a link to make a donation online.
Also appearing on: Now 10, 11, 16, 21, 28, 31, 37, 38 Available on:End of Part One
An entirely unofficial track-by-track examination of highlights and lowlights from the Now That's What I Call Music compilations. And if that doesn't sound like a challenge, you're obviously not an old curmudgeon like me.