Now That's What I Call Music 3

Now That’s What I Call Music 3

The runaway success of Now That’s What I Call Music volumes 1 and 2 ensured that there would be a third. With huge sales virtually guaranteed, Virgin and EMI threw their full weight behind the project and the classic ’80s Now look was created: the pig from the poster on the back of volume 1, now sporting a natty pair of shades, returned to sit atop a spiky speech bubble adorned with the word NOW and the volume number within brightly coloured balls. Although the pig would be quietly dropped the following year, the red-blue-green NOW logo would be incorporated into increasingly complicated designs until the start of the next decade.

Musically, volume three draws on one of the most fertile periods in British pop music and includes amongst its thirty tracks fifteen consecutive weeks’ worth of number 1 singles, at least three statements against nuclear war, a song adopted worldwide as an anthem against state oppression, a former Public Enemy Number 1 (today downgraded to somewhere around number 3 or 4), one of the biggest hits of 1993, two gay anthems and a song which – at least in part – actually changed the course of history.

Released on double LP (NOW 3) and double cassette (TC NOW 3) on July 23rd 1984, the album entered the chart at number 1 and spent the next eight weeks there.

Listen to episode three of Now Parlez, our Now That’s What I Call Music podcast in which Off The Charts Steve and Julian discuss their memories of the album and play some of the key tracks from the original vinyl!

 

SIDE 1

1. DURAN DURAN – The Reflex

Following the meagre number 9 placing of previous single New Moon On Monday, Duran pulled out all the stops with a Nile Rodgers remix of the track which had initially been earmarked as the first single from Seven And The Ragged Tiger. The warbling “why-y-y-y-y” of the chorus had been thought to be a sticking point but in fact The Reflex became the band’s biggest worldwide hit and their only single to top the charts in both the UK and US. The song’s memorable video served as a prototype for the sci-fi weirdness of The Wild Boys and the Arena live video, but you’ll have to take our word for that because The Reflex isn’t on the video selection.

2. NIK KERSHAW – I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me

Two songs in and we’re already at a song about nuclear war (although nobody really knows what The Reflex was about, so maybe this is the second song about nuclear war). Originally Nik’s first single release in the autumn of 1983 when it reached number 47, it was reissued nine months later and became his biggest hit, making number 2 this time around.

3. SISTER SLEDGE – Thinking Of You

The Sledge sisters had scored three classic hits from their We Are Family album back in 1979, but had struggled chartwise in the following half-decade. The solution? Pull another single from the successful album. Amazingly it worked and Thinking Of You became the album’s fourth top twenty hit, five years after the previous three. The album itself became a hit all over again and remixes of Lost In Music and We Are Family kept the group in the chart for the rest of the year.

4. ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE DARK – Locomotion

After a lean period in 1983 when the avant garde Dazzle Ships album failed to provide any sizeable hits, OMD gave in and embraced pop music. Although many of the band’s earlier singles had become hits without being particularly radio friendly, Locomotion was their first real concession to being a major pop act, using a traditional verse-chorus-verse style which they had previously tried to avoid. The change of direction paid off, giving OMD their first top ten hit in two years and becoming one of their most enduring singles.

5. ULTRAVOX – Dancing With Tears In My Eyes

Another song about nuclear annihilation, although the video suggests it’s not about war but a nuclear power station meltdown, which isn’t much more comforting. As with OMD this was a move away from the traditional synth-based Ultravox sound; the increased reliance on guitar and live drums made it one of the band’s most commercial releases to date – the subject matter notwithstanding – and it reached no.3 in the chart, making it their biggest hit since the deathless Vienna.

6. HOWARD JONES – Pearl In The Shell

Howard’s third top ten hit and his third Now appearance; we’ve skipped over the less upbeat Hide And Seek in favour of this jaunty number about self-discovery, complete with sax solo by Davey Payne from the Blockheads. After this consistent start Howard would rarely appear on Now albums in the future as he was signed to WEA, who kept most of his future successes for their own Hits series.

7. BLANCMANGE – Don’t Tell Me

Consistent hitmakers since 1982, surprisingly this was Blancmange’s only appearance on a Now album. Don’t Tell Me reprised the idea of blending synthpop with Indian instruments such as tabla and sitar, as heard on the duo’s first hit Living On The Ceiling. The blend gave Blancmange their third and final top ten hit when Don’t Tell Me reached number 8. At the time of Now 3‘s release Blancmange were enjoying their final top thirty hit, a cover of ABBA‘s The Day Before You Came.

8. PHIL COLLINS – Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)

The diminutive drummer’s second solo album Hello, I Must Be Going! hadn’t lived up to the success of his début, its only top forty hit You Can’t Hurry Love suggesting that the public had tired of his slow moving tales of domestic woe. Nevertheless Collins reached number 2 with this slow moving tale of domestic woe from the soundtrack of the film Against All Odds, a soundtrack which also included songs by his Genesis colleagues Peter Gabriel and Mike Rutherford. The song went on to top the UK charts twice, in dreadful versions by Mariah Carey & Westlife (2000) and X-Factor winner Steve Brookstein (2004).

SIDE 2

1. FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD – Two Tribes

More than any other act, the summer of 1984 belonged to Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Their anti-war anthem Two Tribes entered the chart at number 1 and stayed there for nine weeks, helped along by four different 12″ versions including the famous one with samples from the Protect And Survive public information films, one that was similar – but not identical – to the soundtrack of the promo video (which famously featured US and Soviet leaders Reagan and Chernenko engaged in a fist fight) and even one that stuck a remix of the B-side War on the A-side instead. While the song dug in at the top of the chart, previous hit Relax (as heard on Now 2) climbed back up the chart to nestle in behind it at number 2. Fittingly the mix of Two Tribes on Now 3 wasn’t the same as the regular 7″ mix, but had previously been exclusive to the picture disc edition.

2. GRANDMASTER & MELLE MEL – White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It)

Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five had scored a crossover hit with The Message back in 1982, but since then Flash had been unceremoniously ejected from the band and his place (and name) taken by Melle Mel. Legal wrangles inevitably ensued, meaning that White Lines was issued with the unique artist credit Grandmaster & Melle Mel. This anti-drugs rap first charted in November 1983 but took until the summer of 1984 to reach its peak UK position of number 7, by which time the lawsuits were settled and future releases were credited to Grandmaster Melle Mel & The Furious Five. Flash and Mel settled their differences and both appeared as guests on Duran Duran’s unlikely cover of White Lines in 1995.

3. THE SPECIAL A.K.A. – Nelson Mandela

A record that genuinely helped change the course of history. Although The Specials had split three years earlier, Jerry Dammers and various sundry members kept the band going as The Special AKA, although their only chart success to rival that of The Specials came with this protest against Mandela’s continued imprisonment in South Africa. The song caught the public’s imagination and brought Mandela’s name to the attention of a generation previously unaware of the situation, making him a figurehead for the campaign against Apartheid. The success of the song and the concert Dammers helped organise to celebrate Mandela’s 70th birthday in 1988 unquestionably played a part in his eventual release in 1990.

4. WOMACK & WOMACK – Love Wars

The first of three top twenty hits in the UK for songwriter and producer Cecil Womack (brother of Bobby) and his wife Linda (daughter of Sam Cooke). Together the Womacks had written songs for The O’Jays, Teddy Pendergrass and Patti LaBelle before forming their own band. Love Wars was the title track of the couple’s first album and was later covered by The Beautiful South.

5. THE STYLE COUNCIL – You’re The Best Thing

It seems remarkable by today’s standards but such was Paul Weller’s enthusiasm to throw off the shackles of The Jam, he released four singles with The Style Council in 1983 without making an album. Their début long player Café Bleu was eventually released in 1984 and the gentle ballad You’re The Best Thing was its second single, becoming the band’s fourth and final top five hit in June. It was the first Style Council single to feature the vocals of former Wham! backing singer Dee C. Lee, who became an official member of the band for the rest of the decade and married Weller in 1987.

6. BOB MARLEY & THE WAILERS – One Love/People Get Ready

If Frankie ruled the singles chart in the summer of ’84, the albums chart was the unchallenged domain of the late Bob Marley. His posthumous best-of album Legend dominated the listings, knocking Now 2 off the number 1 spot in May and spending twelve straight weeks at the top before eventually conceding the position to Now 3 in August. Originally recorded by The Wailers back in 1965, this version first appeared on 1977’s Exodus and was released as a single to promote the compilation, reaching number 5. Although a Marley original, One Love is largely based on Curtis Mayfield’s People Get Ready, hence the complicated title.

7. BRONSKI BEAT – Smalltown Boy

Another politically important record. While many gay artists had achieved success, especially since the advent of disco, their success was largely confined to uptempo songs with positive lyrics about having a good time, all the time. Smalltown Boy was the first hit single by an openly gay act to address homophobia and bullying. The band – and particularly lead singer Jimmy Somerville – would become well known for their outspoken statements on gay rights which struck a chord with many people; Smalltown Boy reached number 3 and début album The Age Of Consent made number 4.

SIDE 3

1. QUEEN – I Want To Break Free

Having averted a crisis when Radio Ga Ga rescued Queen from disco hell and returned them to the high end of the charts, they were now on a roll with their second classic top five hit in a row. I Want To Break Free is an unusual hit single, having no chorus and a 7″ mix significantly longer than the version on the album The Works, with an additional introduction and extended instrumental break. Seen in many countries as a statement against government oppression, the song was successful all over the world except the US, where the promo video starring the band dressed in comedy drag costumes (Freddie Mercury still sporting his trademark moustache) effectively killed their career. Naturally for such an iconic and culturally important video, it’s not on the video selection.

2. CYNDI LAUPER – Time After Time

Amongst the froth of her début album She’s So Unusual, the ballad Time After Time gave Ms Lauper some much needed gravitas. Girls Just Want To Have Fun had reached number 2 at the start of the year, but the unexpectedly downbeat nature of Cyndi’s second single meant that it initially failed to match that success. Although it reached number 1 in the US, the UK release stalled at number 54 in March; it was given another push at the start of the summer and eventually climbed to number 3.

3. ALISON MOYET – Love Resurrection

A year after Yazoo’s split, Love Resurrection was Alison Moyet’s first solo release. Switching from minimalist synthpop to a more conventional pop approach, the single continued the top ten success she had commanded in partnership with Vince Clarke. despite some eye-wateringly filthy lyrics: Moyet sings about her need for “a warm injection” and admits “I want you to grow in my hand” with wide eyed innocence. Although she continued to score hits through the rest of the decade and beyond, they were generally snapped up by CBS for their Hits albums and Alison wouldn’t appear on a Now album again until 1991.

4. THE BLUEBELLS – Young At Heart

Co-written by Bluebells singer Robert “Bobby Bluebell” Hodgens and Siobhan Fahey, who were romantically involved at the time, a version of the song first appeared on Bananarama’s début album Deep Sea Skiving the previous year. The Bluebells subsequently claimed it as their own, giving it a Dexys-esque folk feel and taking it to number 8 in the charts. Nine years later the song was plucked from ’80s obscurity and given a third lease of life in a car commercial; the song was reissued and went all the way to number 1.

5. BANANARAMA – Robert De Niro’s Waiting

Definitely not written by the Bluebells, Robert De Niro’s Waiting was Bananarama’s biggest hit single at the time and still jointly holds that distinction, being one of their three singles to peak at number 3. As with much of the group’s material at the time, there are some deceptively dark lyrics hidden beneath the jaunty tune – “A walk in the park can become a bad dream / People are staring and following me.” Along with subsequent singles Rough Justice and Hotline To Heaven it marks a distinctly sombre period in the girls’ career which was soon ditched for Stock/Aitken/Waterman success.

6. PROPAGANDA – Dr Mabuse

Signed to ZTT and enjoying similar treatment to the label’s flagship act Frankie Goes To Hollywood, with Trevor Horn on production duties and Paul Morley doing… whatever it was Paul Morley did, Germany’s Propaganda reached number 27 with this sinister sounding track which references Fritz Lang films Dr Mabuse, der Spieler and Das Testament des Dr Mabuse. Awkwardly ZTT’s focus on Frankie over the next six months stalled Propaganda’s momentum and their next single, 1985’s Duel, would be their only other top thirty hit, although a different line-up of the band tickled the top 40 with 1990’s Heaven Give Me Words.

7. TINA TURNER – What’s Love Got To Do With It?

After many years in cabaret wilderness, a version of Let’s Stay Together recorded with Heaven 17 had heralded Tina Turner’s comeback (and earned her a spot on the first Now album), but an overblown cover of The Beatles’ Help! had derailed things somewhat. What’s Love Got To Do With It turned things around and became Tina’s biggest solo hit, reaching number 3 and providing a title for her 1993 biopic.

8. FLYING PICKETS – When You’re Young And In Love

Written by Van McCoy, When You’re Young And In Love had been a top twenty hit for The Marvelettes in 1967 and has also been recorded by Ruby & The Romantics, Stacy Lattisaw and even Donny & Marie Osmond. The Flying Pickets were not young, they may have been in love, but they certainly had a massive number 1 hit to follow up and so this old number was pressed into service. It gave the group a second and final top ten hit, reaching number 7.

SIDE 4

1. WHAM! – Wake Me Up Before You Go Go

Wham!’s first album Fantastic had been dripping with irony, from the self-aggrandising title to the mocking social commentary of tracks like Bad Boys and Wham Rap. The irony was lost on most, however, and George Michael tired of his satire being taken at face value. His response was to move into straightforward mainstream pop music, exemplified by this lightweight sub-Motown shuffle which pleased the masses and gave Wham! their first number one single. Wham! were not really Now regulars but would appear again with their farewell single in 1986.

2. THOMPSON TWINS – You Take Me Up

The Twins (all three of them) had been threatening to become huge all through 1983 but it was the first half of 1984 where they really shone, with three singles peaking at numbers 4, 3 and 2 respectively. You Take Me Up was the biggest, helped along by its insistent machine-like rhythm and catchy chorus, not to mention the interlocking jigsaw piece picture discs which meant having to buy the single three times to complete the set. This was the peak of the band’s upward trajectory; they never quite made it to number 1, although they had several more hits over the next couple of years and appeared with Madonna at Live Aid.

3. THE WEATHER GIRLS – It’s Raining Men

Originally disco star Sylvester’s backing group (under the name 2 Tons O’ Fun), Martha Wash and Izora Armstead adopted the name The Weather Girls for their recording of this camp classic. As with Grandmaster & Melle Mel’s White Lines, the song was first a minor hit in 1983 but continued club play over the next few months saw it return to the chart in early 1984 and climb to number 2. The duo’s only hit (although Wash has enjoyed a successful solo career), It’s Raining Men made the top 40 again in 2014 as part of an internet campaign protesting against comments by a UKIP councillor – named, ironically, David Silvester – suggesting that the heavy rain and floods the UK was experiencing were a punishment from God following the recent legalisation of gay marriage. It’s unclear what angered God sufficiently in 2001 for Him to punish us with a chart-topping cover of It’s Raining Men by Geri Halliwell.

4. GARY GLITTER – Dance Me Up

Nowadays the merest mention of his name immediately sets alarm bells ringing, but even at the time this track seemed a bit of an odd inclusion. The second least successful song on the album, Dance Me Up peaked at number 25 although even this was a surprising achievement; Glitter hadn’t had a top thirty hit for seven years and it remains unclear how this lumpen, tuneless attempt at a dance anthem rectified the situation. Overshadowed by his final top ten hit Another Rock ‘n’ Roll Christmas later in the year, Dance Me Up was quickly forgotten and should probably remain so.

5. THE ART COMPANY – Susanna

A number 1 hit in the Netherlands, Dutch group VOF de Kunst wisely had their name translated to its English equivalent for this, their sole UK hit. It’s an everyday story of a guy who finally gets his dream girl to come home with him; they’re canoodling on the sofa when the phone rings. It’s a wrong number. The caller is quickly dispensed with but Susanna has already lost interest and despite the singer’s best attempts to get her back in the mood, she leaves. Bummer. VOF de Kunst are still together and enjoy a hugely successful career in the Netherlands where they now perform children’s songs.

6. MADNESS – One Better Day

This was the end of an era for Madness: their last single with keyboard player Mike Barson, who had left the band to live in Amsterdam with his Dutch wife (clearly he had more luck than the singer from The Art Company) and their last single for Stiff Records. An unusually sombre single release, it failed to reach the top ten and the writing was clearly on the wall for the Nutty Boys, although they would struggle on for one more album without Barson before splitting in 1986. Although not one of their biggest hits at the time, One Better Day remains a fans’ favourite and is one of the few songs from this era that the reformed Madness still performs live.

7. DAVID SYLVIAN – Red Guitar

Sylvian had been lead singer of Japan who had scored several hits in the early 1980s, regularly charting on two different labels as their new material on Virgin fought for chart space with reissues from disgruntled former label Hansa. Japan had split at the end of 1982 and while Sylvian had scored a couple of hits in partnership with Japanese musician Ryuichi Sakamoto, Red Guitar was his first hit as a solo artist. It was also by far his biggest, reaching number 17; his future work would become increasingly arty and obscure, including a reunion with his former Japan bandmates in 1991 which was scuppered by Sylvian’s insistence that the band should now be called Rain Tree Crow. Unsurprisingly this is Sylvian’s only appearance on a Now album.

Also Available

The phrase “video selection” is fast becoming a Trade Descriptions Act nightmare. Only eight of the twenty videos on offer here are taken from the album; of the other twelve, only three were top forty hits. This makes the video (VHS and Betamax only this time, the laserdisc option having been quietly forgotten about) an entirely different proposition to the album, an anthology of forgotten gems rather than massive hits. Among these unexpected inclusions are The Farmer’s Boys’ take on Cliff Richard’s In The Country; flop singles by both Limahl and his erstwhile Kajagoogoo bandmates; and some classic British soul from Loose Ends and Working Week. In fact, some of the non-hits such as The Blue Nile’s Tinseltown In The Rain and Talk Talk’s Dum Dum Girl are now better remembered than some of the album’s hits.

1. ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE DARK – Locomotion
2. SIMPLE MINDS – Up On The Catwalk
3. THOMPSON TWINS – You Take Me Up
4. MADNESS – One Better Day
5. THE FARMER’S BOYS – In The Country
6. HELEN TERRY – Love Lies Lost
7. LOOSE ENDS – Emergency (Dial 999)
8. WORKING WEEK – Venceremos (We Will Win)
9. TINA TURNER – What’s Love Got To Do With It?
10. PHIL COLLINS – Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)
11. TALK TALK – Dum Dum Girl
12. KAJAGOOGOO – Turn Your Back On Me
13. GARY GLITTER – Dance Me Up
14. THE MIGHTY WAH – Come Back
15. I-LEVEL – Our Song
16. LIMAHL – Too Much Trouble
17. FLYING PICKETS – When You’re Young And In Love
18. THOMAS DOLBY – I Scare Myself
19. THE BLUE NILE – Tinseltown In The Rain
20. DAVID SYLVIAN – Red Guitar

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