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Now That’s What I Call Music 5 – Harold Faltermeyer is 5 foot 11 inches tall

now 5After losing Christmas 1984 to The Hits Album, NOW! took a short sabbatical in the new year. Clearly they were no longer the only game in town and things were going to have to change. Rather than rush release another NOW! album straight away and try to reclaim the crown quickly, they sat back and watched as Hits strutted its way to Volume 2 in April 1985, attempting to consolidate their position. For NOW! watchers, April brought a surprise in the shape of NOW Dance, a collection of 12″ mixes which would be the first of many ‘special NOW! releases. (NOW Dance would itself become a complimentary series alongside the regular releases. These will be discussed elsewhere.)

NOW 5 finally arrived in the summer. With no Hits album around the way was clear for NOW! to strike back and make a bold statement that they were still top dog. But in reality, it seems a tad lazy in comparison to some of its predecessors, and, to be fair, even compared to Hits 2, which featured four chart toppers among its fairly strong line-up, compared to just the one on show here (Sister Sledge’s Frankie).

While initial thoughts are that NOW 5 will be a strong return to form, its deficiencies become apparent pretty soon, on side two, and continue throughout. But before you even get to the music, there’s  the small matter of the artwork, possibly the worst in the entire series.

Retaining the pig, for what would be his final appearance, seems a solid decision, but the design is dreadful. For the first time in the series, artist photos are ditched in favour of names and logos, which are emblazoned across the pig’s garish stripy yellow shirt (the NOW! balls making up the shirt buttons) whilst shapes, streamers and paint splatter explode in the background, along with a series of incomprehensible arrows. Thankfully the NOW! Balls are also fairly prominent, just in case an unsuspecting record shop patron should mistake the sleeve for some piece of long forgotten pop art, of a kind it so desperately wants to emulate. It’s truly ghastly. The rear of the sleeve replicates the image as if seen from behind. The reversed NOW! logo is a nice touch, but other than that, it just looks like a fat pig in a badly fitting shirt. The theme continues inside the gatefold where a rather creepy looking sketch shows the pig (still in his horrendous shirt) sitting on the edge of a diving board watching someone diving (badly) into, presumably, a swimming pool. But it’s so badly conceived (and the diver appears to have twisted awkwardly mid-dive) that’s it’s hard to know exactly what’s supposed to be going on here. But thankfully, it doesn’t take up much room and is easily missed if you didn’t know it was there.

Now-5-gatefold

So does the content do anything to make up for this pictorial abomination? Not really.

About the only thing people remember about music in the summer of 1985 is Live Aid, so maybe all the big stars were too busy plugging their albums to a worldwide audience… sorry… giving up their free time for a worthy cause to be releasing their biggest and best hits.

The best remembered songs here, were not necessarily the most successful at the time. Whilst things kick off with A View to a Kill (the last Duran Duran appearance with their original line-up) it’s the other movie theme on side one that is probably the bigger song, Axel F, from Beverly Hills Cop. As the blurb helpfully, and pointlessly, informs us Harold Faltermeyer is “5 foot 11 inches tall”. Slightly more helpfully, it tells us he used to work with Giorgio Morodor and Axel F took four months to reach its number two slot after first charting in march ’85 at a lowly number 73. (Incidentally, that itself was one place higher than that reached by the infinitely superior Fletch Theme, which charted a few weeks after the release of NOW 5. But that’s irrelevant here. Anyway…)

Scritti Politti finally make an appearance, and would probably have been more successful before The Word Girl if NOW! had given them a bit of a push, and future perennials, Fine Young Cannibals make their debut with Johnny Come Home. Dead or Alive and Stephen “Tin Tin” “Was the singer in Duran Duran before Simon le Bon” Duffy both appear with lesser known as Hits 2 had snagged both You Spin Me Round and Kiss Me earlier in the year. To be fair I’ve always liked Duffy’s Icing on the Cake more anyway, as it sounds like a far more cynical pop song (and attack on the industry) than Kiss Me. If anyone can name another Dead or Alive track, you’ve got one over on me, so I was pleasantly surprised that their In Too Deep was not dreadful, and a perfectly good pop track. Kool and the Gang’s sickly Cherish and Paul Young’s textbook Every Time You Go Away round off things a safe, serviceable way.

Simon le Bon yesterday

Simon le Bon yesterday

Then to side two, where inertia, and a desire to tear one’s own ears off is briefly abated by the soothing sounds of Don’t You Forget About Me and The Power Station’s ludicrously overwrought cover of Get It On. This lovely filling is however sandwiched between Marillion, China Crisis, Phil Collins and David Bowie’s This is Not America, a song I’ve only ever listened to all the way through once. If I don’t want it on a Bowie compilation, I certainly don’t want it here.

We are into dance territory on side three. The blurb even mentions a “resurgence of dance music” in their piece on The Conway Brothers, who were so ineffectual at following up their number 11 smash Turn It Up, that they haven’t even got a Wiki entry). It’s shrugs all round to be honest, with Mai Tai, Steve Arrington, and more frequent top 40 botherers Loose Ends and Jaki Graham along with the Conway Brothers. Mai Tai’s History is particularly catchy, even if it sounds criminally ripped off from the act that precedes them, Sister Sledge, here ditching their disco roots for possibly the most annoying song on the whole double album, Frankie. Maybe it’s because it was always played at least five times at every school disco I went to, or because it seemed for three years girls would walk around the playground singing it… for whatever reason Frankie is an awful song. The fact that it’s the only number one on show here, proves that no one buying records in 1985 has any taste whatsoever. Graham’s track is pretty decent too, but nowhere near as memorable as her earlier duet with David Grant (later a judge on Fame Academy) Could It Be I’m Falling In Love.

And why the side finishes with Rory Bremner impersonating Richie Benaud is anyone’s business. It still brings a grin though, and Paul Hardcastle now admits producing the spoof of his own hit, 19 (which, oddly never appeared on a NOW or Hits album).

The final furlong initially promises things will pick up. A stunning quartet of Unforgettable Fire, Walls Come Tumbling Down, a ruthlessly cut short Walking on Sunshine (which only got to number 9!) and the speaker blowing combination of Gary Moore and Phil Lynott on Out in the Fields. Things mellow slightly with The Damned’s Shadow of Love, another of those odd choices that pepper the series, before the album collapses in on itself. Howard Jones’ dreadful Life in One Day is one of those insufferably chirpy songs you just want to punch in the face (particularly when, like me, you’ve been listening to it on your dreary, snow-delayed commute to work) but unlike, say, Walking on Sunshine, it has a sense of smug self-satisfaction which somehow depresses more than it inspires. It’s astonishing how angry synthesised penny whistles can make you.

And finally there’s Jimmy Nail absolutely murdering Love Don’t Live Here Anymore. Or at least that’s what I thought from hazy memories of hearing it as a kid, and wandering why that ugly bloke from Auf Weidersein Pet was on Top of the Pops. Nail has got a good voice, like a more delicate version of Joe Cocker, but, although this is much better than I remember it, this is not the right song, and he’s not helped by a smoky, BBC detective drama production going on behind him. Jimmy would have his day in a few years time, which we will come to in due course. But this is a distinctly, almost oppressively, downer ending for a pop compilation. Particularly one that promises so much hot summer fun from it’s cover and equally stomach-churning advert.

NOW 5 is pretty forgettable all round, its highlights simply enhancing the awful anonymity of the rest. With one side of dreary MOR ballads, and another of forgettable dance music, half the album is written off before you even start. Having stars next single after their big hit has been snaffled by your rival is unfortunate, but that doesn’t mean you HAVE to include them. And maybe, for once, the programming of the tracks seems to have been badly managed resulting in too much of a “side of this” and a “side of that” rather than the melting pot of hits and misses and genres we’d been used to.

It was time for a re-think. NOW! would need to own Christmas again, and in November they would strike back with a one-two that Hits wouldn’t see coming…

NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL MUSIC 5

Release date

5th August 1985

Biggest tracks

Axel F – Harold Faltermeyer

Don’t You (Forget About Me) – Simple Minds

Walking on Sunshine – Katrina and the Waves

Forgotten tracks

In Too Deep – Dead or Alive

Feel So Real – Steve Arrington

Turn it Up – Conway Brothers

Magic Touch – Loose Ends

What’s missing

19  – Paul Hardcastle

Head Over Heels – Tears for Fears

I Feel Love (Medley) – Bronski Beat and Marc Almond

Track listing

Side One
A View To A Kill Duran Duran
The Word Girl Scritti Politti
Axel F Harold Faltermeyer
Johnny Come Home Fine Young Cannibals
In Too Deep Dead Or Alive
Icing On The Cake Stephen “Tin Tin” Duffy
Cherish Kool & The Gang
Every Time You Go Away          Paul Young
Side Two
Kayleigh Marillion
Slave To Love Bryan Ferry
This Is Not America David Bowie & The Pat Metheny Group
Don’t You (Forget About Me) Simple Minds
Get It On (Bang A Gong) The Power Station
Black Man Ray China Crisis
One More Night Phil Collins
Side Three
Frankie Sister Sledge
History Mai Tai
Money’s Too Tight (To Mention) Simply Red
Feel So Real Steve Arrington
Round And Around Jaki Graham
Turn It Up The Conway Brothers
Magic Touch Loose Ends
N-N-Nineteen Not Out The Commentators
Side Four
The Unforgettable Fire U2
Walls Come Tumbling Down The Style Council
Walking On Sunshine Katrina & The Waves
Out In The Fields Gary Moore And Phillip Lynott
The Shadow Of Love The Damned
Life In One Day Howard Jones
Love Don’t Live Here Anymore          Jimmy Nail
  

No video version appears to have been released, but if anyone has any information I’d love to know and update this entry.

 

2 Responses to Now That’s What I Call Music 5 – Harold Faltermeyer is 5 foot 11 inches tall

  1. nlgbbbblth says:

    Paul Hardcastle’s 19 was compiled on the short-lived (just two volumes) Out Now that emerged slightly before Now 5.

    • ntwicm says:

      Thanks for that. I’ve discovered OUT NOW was a combo of MCA and Chrysalis records, and I hope to cover them soon, I think there were only two editions. I’ve meant to update this post to reflect the fact 19 was on Chrysalis so was not going to appear here AND on Out Now

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