So…. I’m in Toronto and its surroundings this week, having flown over here last Friday and not due home till a week tomorrow (those of you unfortunate enough to be mates on Facebook will already be aware of this).
I’ve come up with a way of covering the next few days with lazy posts, but hopefully in a way that will provide interest.
I suppose I should explain the NOW concept just in case it’s needed….so here’s wiki:-
Now That’s What I Call Music! (often shortened to Now!) is a series of various artists compilation albums released in the United Kingdom and Ireland by Sony Music and Universal Music (Universal/Sony Music) which began in 1983. Spinoff series began for other countries the following year, starting with South Africa, and many other countries worldwide soon followed, expanding into Asia in 1995, then the United States in 1998.
The first Now was featured 30 UK hit singles from that year on a double vinyl LP or cassette. Although the compilation of recent hit songs into a single release was not a new concept (K-tel and Ronco, for example, had been issuing various artists’ compilations for some years), this was the first time that two major record labels had collaborated on such a venture. Virgin agreed to a deal with EMI, which allowed a greater number of major hits to be included (the first album in the series included a total of “eleven number ones” on its sleeve).
The rate of release settled very quickly to three per year: one release around late March/early April, another around late July and a third around late November. Over a hundred “main series” (not including spin-off and special edition) albums have been released to date. The UK series has followed a double-album format throughout the series (many other foreign franchises of the Now! series are only released on one disc), now exploiting the capacity of the CD to include between 40 and 46 tracks over two discs. Since November 2005 (Now That’s What I Call Music! 62), the Now! series have only been released on CD and digital download formats. Previously, the series had been available on vinyl, Cassette and MiniDisc. As these formats declined in popularity, Now releases are no longer issued on them.
The most successful volume to date is 1999’s Now That’s What I Call Music! 44, which has sold 2.3 million copies and remains the biggest selling various artists compilation album in the UK. 2008’s Now That’s What I Call Music! 70 sold 383,002 units in the first week of sales, the biggest ever first week sale of any Now album. Now That’s What I Call Music! 87 holds the achievement for the most tracks in total with 47 tracks
For the most part, the NOW albums have been, for want of a better word, a shit listen, bought in the main by folk who don’t explore much beyond the mainstream fodder. This five-part series over the coming week will hopefully bring some sort of balance.
The words used to describe each of the songs have been lifted from the particular individual ICA in question. There’s a multitude of contributors, but I’ve decided against highlighting who wrote what…..I like to see this, and indeed the entire output of T(n)VV as a collective.
NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL AN ICA….(i)
Complete Control – The Clash (Track 1 from ICA #12)
You’ve got to open any imaginary compilation album with a killer tune…something of an anthem which epitomizes the band or singer being featured….and I can’t think of anything better than this. One of punk rock’s greatest songs, written and recorded in frustration as the penny dropped for the band, and in particular Joe Strummer, that being a fully fledged, ideologically driven punk at the same time as being a core part of the mainstream music industry was an uncomfortable and some would say impossible position. Anger as an energy…..
Dreaming – Blondie (Track 2 from ICA#197)
The band’s drummer, Clem Burke, has always been important to the sound. He’s had to constantly adjust his style to suit whatever genre the band were concentrating on, but there can no arguing that, at heart, he’s just a guy who is at his happiest when he’s allowed to pound away loud and fast, dragging the band along breathlessly in his wake. He’s probably never given as fine a performance as on this hit single from the band’s fourth album, which is fitting given that it seems he came up with the phrase ‘Dreaming Is Free’ around which Debbie constructed the lyric – and I still admire the fact she was able to achieve a rhyming couplet of restaurant and debutante. Genius.
Blue Boy – Orange Juice (Track 3 from ICA#57)
Falling and Laughing may have been the debut but Blue Boy has proven to be the most enduring and enjoyable single from the Postcard era. And surely the greatest song to ever make use of the word ‘gabardine’.
The unexpected appearance of an organ just short of two minutes in adds to the charm of this otherwise noisy and frantic guitar frenzy.
Remember Me – British Sea Power (Track 4 from ICA#61)
If you needed proof that British Sea Power are actually fantastic, then this their first proper single emphatically proves the argument. ‘Remember Me’ has the possibly the most urgent, compelling and exciting opening to a record that I have heard. There must be a full 90 seconds of pounding drums, guitars and seaside sound effects before you even hear a single word uttered. A swirling psychedelic fury filled bastard of a song, a song according to my blogging partner swc, that is so good is sounded like Joy Division had reformed.
Levi Stubbs’ Tears – Billy Bragg (Track 5 from ICA#37)
“The sort a war takes away
And when there wasn’t a war he left anyway”
Everyone accepts that Billy isn’t the greatest singer in the world, but it’s the very basic, fragile and uncertain nature of his delivery that makes this so effective a song. See also, in a similar theme, the very moving Valentine’s Day Is Over from Worker’s Playtime or the Peel Sessions album.
Kennedy – The Wedding Present (Track 6 from ICA#7)
This is an immense piece of music that still sounds incredibly fresh more than a quarter of a century on. There is nothing more that needs to be said.
Let’s Fall In Love And Run Away From Here – Ballboy (Track 7 from ICA#177)
Perhaps this my favourite ballboy tune. Here, I said it! Then again this might change in five minutes, as it did for a thousand times within the last two decades. It’s the opening track to ‘The Royal Theatre’ from 2004 and it proves what JC said in his wisdom in the first ballboy ICA: “Every one of the band’s EPs and albums opens with a truly memorable number”. This is but one of those, if you ask me …
In Between Days – The Cure (Track 8 from ICA#157)
Another track that is truly wonderful and for years and years was the ring tone on my phone for whenever Mrs Badger phoned me. It’s just one of those songs that I will never tire of hearing.
Blue Monday – New Order (Track 9 from ICA#20)
This song was in and out of this imaginary album on at least ten occasions. I had settled on the running order for 9 out of the 10 tracks but just couldn’t make my mind up on what to put in as the penultimate track on Side 2.
Contenders included the 7″ version of Temptation, Love Less, Your Silent Face, the album version of Sub-Culture, As It Is When It Was, Cries and Whispers, 1963, Bizarre Love Triangle and Vanishing Point. But it is impossible to ignore the claims of what was and still is one of the most groundbreaking bits of music that has ever been recorded.
I had a short-term relationship in the summer of 1983 with a girl I had met on the dance floor of Strathclyde University Students Union. I was a regular at that venue but this girl wasn’t, and after a couple of dates it was clear things weren’t really going to work out, not least because our musical tastes were so different. She was real disco diva who had only gone to the Student Union to keep a friend company but had taken a shine to me on account of my constant dancing and she assumed I was someone who would have been happy going along to any club or venue. But I’ll always remember that she was an even bigger fan of Blue Monday than I was which says all you need to know about the crossover appeal of this piece of music. It is a genuine classic.
Dry Your Eyes – The Streets (Track 10 from ICA #45)
A number one single. A big emotional number one single – Skinner went for that deliberately and nailed it. The chorus sounds like Coldplay but like Coldplay sung by your mate, because it needed to. The devil is the detail – “She brings her hands up towards where my hands rested. She wraps her fingers round mine with the softness she’s blessed with. She peels away my fingers, looks at me and then gestures By pushin’ my hand away to my chest, from hers”. Brilliant, poignant, brutally honest. At the time I hated it, then I listened to it, and then I listened to again.
We struggled, I’ll be honest. Technically there are three singles on the first side and three on the second side. The two remixes don’t count as far as I am concerned. The Run the Road remix is an inspired choice and one I had forgotten about. Of the five Badger chose I had four on my list of Ten. He had three of my five.
By Skinner’s own admission Original Pirate Material is the “day in the life of a geezer” yet amongst the bitter-sweet, inner city anecdotes of drugs, violence, playing computer games, trips to the garage and going clubbing, there is a tender sweet message that is so compulsive. Look – don’t just download this stuff, check out Original Pirate Material you won’t regret it for one second.