Friday, 1 February 2013

Metapost: The Missing Million-Sellers

Second in my monthly-so-far list series, a selection of big million-sellers (since 1983) that didn't find a home in the Now series. I've excluded Christmas songs and some charity releases as they wouldn't be expected to show up, and also 'Impossible' by James Arthur, the most recent single to make seven figures, as that's all but guaranteed to show up on Now 84.
Again, possible spoilers after the jump.

New Order 'Blue Monday' (1983) A slightly controversial million-seller in that it was originally declared one about ten years ago based on combined sales of the original (a steady seller throughout its first five years on sale) and the 1988 and 1995 remixes. As far as I'm aware, the first two versions were combined during the 1988 chart run, as they will be in the digital era, but I suspect that downloads of the 1983 version (and a few 12" reissues in the 2000s) would probably have pushed that alone into seven figures by now. It's still not a shocking omission from the first Now! album but you wouldn't have been surprised to see the Top 3-charting 'Blue Monday 88' show up in its time. For all we know it might have been considered for Now 12 or XIII but Factory might have been unwilling to license it: New Order's two appearances in the main series were during the mid-1990s era when their catalogue was controlled by Polygram, co-owners of the brand. Around that time, 'Blue Monday' appeared on a non-canonical Now 1983 volume.

George Michael 'Careless Whisper' (1984) 1984 was a big year for million-sellers (if you count ones that have passed that mark subsequently, including a few that did make it to the Now! series: 'Relax' [technically released in 1983, but really a 1984 hit], 'Two Tribes' and 'Ghostbusters'. George Michael gets no recognition for the three such hits he appeared on that year though: two of them were of course 'Last Christmas' and 'Do They Know It's Christmas?' but his first solo single was a huge seller too. Presumably it's another casualty of licensing issues, CBS being reluctant to give out too many tracks from one of their biggest stars. Instead this landed on the first volume of their rival Hits series, along with Wham's 'Freedom'. Though a couple of other Wham! numbers made the cut early on and he'd also show in collaboration with Elton John, George Michael had to wait until Now 23 for a solo appearance.

Stevie Wonder 'I Just Called To Say I Love You' (1984) Another selection from the bumper year - indeed, the song that knocked 'Careless Whisper' off the top, and kept 'Ghostbusters' off  - although I think this might be one that most of us would put in the "lucky escape" category. Indeed Stevie has never appeared on a Now album, other than via sampling, but with a start date of 1983 that might be just as well. Motown don't show up much on the albums in this era.

Black Box 'Ride On Time' (1989) The first million-seller since 1985 and the first ever by an Italian act, though of course the performance wasn't wholly Italian: even once they'd been forced to replace the uncleared Loleatta Holloway vocal, the session singers involved were Heather Small (British) and Martha Wash (American). I don't know whether it was this legal problem that kept it off Now 16, which does include the similar 'Pump Up The Jam' by Technotronic, the song that peaked at 2 behind this.

Bryan Adams 'Everything I Do (I Do It For You)' (1991) Another that some of us might class as a lucky escape, but one that has claimed its place in history with the longest unbroken run at the top. This being the early 1990s though, its total sales are below those of many songs with shorter runs at the top, and it can't be far off being overtaken by 'Last Christmas', which never got there at all. Now 20 has the songs that topped the chart either side of this (from Jason Donovan and U2), but Adams didn't make a second appearance until Now 34.

Whitney Houston 'I Will Always Love You' (1992) Another movie song (albeit that this is a cover version, rather than one written for the purpose). And another act CBS wanted to keep to themselves, so Whitney didn't arrive until a remix of her last hit 'Million Dollar Bill' cropped up on Now 74; though some might have expected this to sneak onto Now 81 when it recharted after her death, it wasn't to be.

CĂ©line Dion 'Think Twice' (1994-5) Few are the acts who've had multiple million-selling singles; the other one is of course 'My Heart Will Go On', and fewer still have had two of them ignored by Now! albums, but we can assume this is another song Sony Music (as they were by now) wanted to keep to themselves. It was during this single's slow climb to the top that Now 29 was released, bearing Dion's only appearance: coincidentally with 'The Power Of Love', a cover of another million-seller that took more than ten weeks to get to the top of the chart.

Take That 'Back For Good' (1995) A slightly more surprising absentee, not only because Take That were so phenomenally popular then but because they'd already notched up four appearances by this point. RCA seem to have taken their ball away though, because we don't hear from TT again until their 2006 comeback (on Polydor), though of course you can hardly move for solo Robbie Williams tracks in the interim.

Robson Green And Jerome Flynn 'Unchained Melody/The White Cliffs Of Dover' (1995) Another act with two overlooked million sellers, perhaps made all the more impressive by the fact that they only released three singles in total. Neither side of this made it to Now 31, and nor should it probably as the market for this was probably too divergent from the target audience of the series, and this didn't even have the excuse of being a charity single.

Michael Jackson 'Earth Song' (1995) Again, a CBS superstar who was usually saved for the Hits series, although he does show up on Now 4 with a back-catalogue Motown track. Few would have guessed that this was his biggest seller in the UK, but it presumably gained from the general uplift in singles sales around this time.

Spice Girls '2 Become 1' (1996) Sharing with Robson and Jerome the achievement of two million-selling singles from the same album, the Spices were of course no strangers to the Now series but this fell into the gap between 'Say You'll Be There' (on Now 35) and 'Mama' (on Now 36). Since 'Mama's credited flipside 'Who Do You Think You Are' then shows up on Now 37, this one seems a bit unlucky. Especially since 'Mama' was so awful.

Puff Daddy featuring Faith Evans and 112 'I'll Be Missing You' (1997) A massive sentimental hit, even though it's about a bloke who went around boasting about shooting people and treating women like pieces of meat. Not a great loss to the albums in my opinion, but you can't argue with its success. As well as Christmas 1996 hit '2 Become 1', other 1997 releases to tick over the million mark eventually include 'Barbie Girl' and 'Torn' (both on Now 38), 'Never Ever', 'Perfect Day' and 'Angels' (all on Now 39) and Teletubbes Say Eh-Oh'. To say nothing of the all-time top seller, 'Candle In The Wind '97) which is one you wouldn't have expected to be on a Now album anyway.

Will Young 'Anything Is Possible/Evergreen' (2002) By no means the first million-seller to involve Simon Cowell, but the first to be identified with him as an on-screen presence, this debut single from the first Pop Idol winner is not only a million-seller but one of the fastest records to reach that mark, indeed it sold more than a million copies in its first week on sale, though that of course accounts for more than half its total sales. Again, we can presumably thank RCA that Will Young doesn't crop up until Now 57, on which he shares space with the only other Pop Idol winner, Michelle McManus.

Eminem featuring Rihanna 'Love The Way You Lie' (2010) One of the few tracks in this list never to have been a Number One, and the first non-chart-topper to be the biggest selling single in its year of release (854000). It's the first of three million-sellers from Rihanna (to date!) and outsold all six of the Eminem tracks that went that one place higher. Only two of those, 'Without Me' and 'Smack That' with Akon have ever cropped up on Now albums.

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