Music

Now 100! The best and worst of Britain's favourite music compilation

The Now That’s What I Call Music! series releases its 100th edition this week – and to celebrate Malcolm Jack has assembled some of its greatest hits

The shrill whinny of synth trumpet on a Stock, Aitken and Waterman track. The sound of Mark Goodier’s voice proclaiming “it’s here!”, again, in one of the countless ubiquitous TV commercials. Multi-cassette cases as thick as bricks. The faint pong of ingrained vomit on a car seat of a long hot summer’s day drive as a kid. There are few institutions in British music quite as evocative as the Now That’s What I Call Music! album compilation series. You’ll remember your first as vividly as your first sloppy kiss up the back of the cinema.

Set to celebrate 100 numerical instalments with the typically imaginatively titled Now That’s What I Call Music! 100 – a tally not including such spin-offs as Now That’s What I Call A Wedding!, Now That’s What I Call Feel Good! and Now That’s What I Call A Divorce! (only one of those is made up) – the exclamation mark-obsessed various artists anthology has been taking the lukewarm temperature of middle-of-the-road British music tastes since 1983, and shows no sign of stopping.

If you thought the format ought to have been somehow killed off by digital streaming, think again

Some 120 million Now compilations are reported to have been sold in the UK alone to date, with the average British home said to own more than four. If you thought the format ought to have been somehow killed off by digital streaming, think again. Now 98 has sold around 600,000 copies and counting; Now 99 has spent eight weeks at number one in the official UK compilation album chart at time of writing. Now has never been more now!

To celebrate the landmark release of Now 100, we’ve trawled the vaults to propose the tracklisting for a special compilation of compilations, assembling some select songs from throughout Now history. Call it Now That’s What I Call Now!, or if you’d prefer, Now: Then! As Mark Goodier would no doubt proclaim – it’s here!

1. The Safety Dance – Men Without Hats

Now That’s What I Call Music!, 1983

The original Now compilation assembled giants of early Eighties pop – Phil Collins, Duran Duran, Culture Club, The Cure and, er, these Canadian new wave one-hit wonders.

2. Together In Electric Dreams – Giorgio Moroder & Phil Oakey

Now 4, 1984

Tune! Also, fun fact: Now 4 was the first to be released on CD, a now largely obsolete music format that went out of fashion roughly around the same time as did paying for music.

3. Every Loser Wins – Nick Berry

Nov 8, 1986

AKA Simon “Wicksy” Wicks off EastEnders, Berry was the first but by no means last soap star to feature on Now. See also Kylie and Jason, Natalie Imbruglia and Danny Dyer (here’s hoping, anyway).

4. Some Might Say – Oasis

Now 31, 1995

Always trying and failing to capture popular music movements of the times (see also: acid house and rave on 1991’s Now 19), Now 31 awkwardly placed Britpop classics from Oasis, Pulp and Supergrass among the likes of, um, Shaggy, D:Ream and Whigfield.

5. Old Before I Die – Robbie Williams

Now 37, 1997

With 30 appearances altogether on Now compilations, Williams is the series’ most featured artist. At the precise middle-of-the-road of British music tastes, the ex-Take Thatter represents not only the white lines, but also the cats eyes and even the mashed up dead fox.

6. Mambo No. 5 (A Little Bit Of…) – Lou Bega

Now 44, 1999

Sexist classic in which irritating German lists various women to have punched him in the face. The 2.3 million-selling Now 44 incidentally remains the most successful release in Now history.

7. 7 Days – Craig David

Now 47, 2000

Got this compilation on Monday, listened to it a couple of times on Tuesday, got pretty bored by Wednesday and on Thursday and Friday and Saturday, gave to a charity shop on Sunday.

8. The Dam Busters March – Central Band Of The Royal Air Force

Now That’s What I Call Britain!, 2012

Take back control (of the stereo). Think Brexit, but in album form.

9. Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now – Starship

Now That’s What I Call Driving Rock!, 2017

Whether driving to these songs, or more likely driving away from them at high speed, this compilation is guaranteed to make you want to go faster.

10. Addicted To Love – Robert Palmer

Now That’s What I Call Dad Rock!, 2018

Dad’s cheerfully tapping out the beat on the steering wheel at the traffic lights and he keeps elbowing mum suggestively and winking at her, and it’s all a bit unsettling to be honest.

Now That’s What I Call Music! 100 is out July 20; nowmusic.com

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