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A look at my favorite Now That's What I Call Music! releases
Since 1983, over 200 million copies have been sold of the hits compilation series, "Now That’s What I Call Music!". Starting first in England, you can find "Now! Music" CD’s in such countries as Israel,Portugal,South Africa, and Norway.
I first discovered the "Now That’s What I Call Music!" compilations while visiting London for the first time in fall 1984. I had been familiar with the American K-Tel and Ronco music compilations of the 1970’s, frequently advertised on television. But, the K-Tel and Ronco records never had the really big hits on them, for the most part. It also seemed that many of the tracks on those compilations were a year or more old.
The UK "Now That’s What I Call Music!" compilations were different. Their songs were current, and in fact, a few had just been released. The first "Now!" UK vinyl compilation debuted in 1983, and featured 30 tracks on two vinyl records. 11 were number one UK hits. The two records allowed for better sound quality than the 20 crammed into one K-Tel or Ronco album. Different major record labels banded together, in this case, Virgin and EMI, to allow their artists to be on the same record.
Along with the records, "Now That’s What I Call Music!" VHS tapes were also released, featuring music videos of songs featured on the audio edition. This was also something I’d never seen before in relation to U.S.music compilations. The "Now!" series was so successful in England that the WEA and CBS (Sony) labels joined together to compete against Virgin and EMI with their own compilations, "The Hits Albums". Indeed, these multi artist records were almost like official mix tapes made by the major UK record labels.
Here are a few of my favorite "Now That's What I Call Music!" compact disc releases that I own:
1) Now That’s What I Call Music! 1 (1983): The first "Now!" UK title was released initially on vinyl and cassette only. For "Now"’s 25th anniversary, a special edition CD with mini LP packaging was produced. The "Now That’s What I Call Music!" title came from a poster found in Virgin Records boss Richard Branson’s office. The poster was made by Danish Bacon Factories, and featured a drawing of a cartoon pig listening to the sound of a chicken. Above the image was the caption, “Now That’s what I call Music”. The Phil Collins cover of The Supremes classic “You Can’t Hurry Love” has the distinction of being the first track on a "Now!" compilation.
The first Now! Music commercial
2) Now That’s What I Call Music! 4 (1984): This was the first of the series to be released on compact disc. It actually was made up of 15 tracks found on the vinyl editions of "Now!" 2, 3 and 4. It’s a very collectible disc, and goes for several hundred dollars on eBay. The next "Now!" compilation released on CD, number eight, came two years later. From that point on, the UK "Now!"’s were all released on compact disc. Starting with "Now!" 10, each UK edition would consist of two CD’s. As with the previous three "Now!" titles, a "Now That's What I Call Music! 4" VHS tape was released.
Now! Music 4 UK-vinyl album commercial
3) Now That’s What I Call Music! 1981 (1999): For the Millennium, "Now!" issued a series of top hits by year, from 1980 to 1999. So, in a unique twist, "Now!"’s were produced for 1980, 1981, and 1982, prior to when the series began. "Now!" previously released an anniversary group of CD’s in 1993, but focused only on its first decade of titles. This Now 1981 Millennium title includes tracks by The Specials, David Bowie and Queen, Blondie, Vangelis, Soft Cell, and 30 other acts.
4) “Now That’s What I Call Motown” (2009): The U.S. "Now!" Series made its debut in 1998, with sales of more than 80 million copies since. Recent years have seen several U.S.special edition "Now!" compilations, including "Now That’s What I Call Country", "Now That’s What I Call The 80s", and "Now That’s What I Call Love". From 2009, this is one of the special "Now!" U.S.releases, “Now That’s What I Call Motown”. The Motown disc was issued to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the legendary record label.
Now! Motown commercial
5) Now That’s What I Call Music! 25 Years (2008):”Now!” commemorated its silver anniversary in 2008 with a three CD, 60 song set. The 80’s, 90’s, and 00’s were all represented with one disc of hits. “Now! 25 Years” included a top roster of music superstars, including The Police (“Every Breath You Take”), Michael Jackson (“Thriller”), Cher (“Believe”), Katy Perry (“I Kissed a Girl”), REM (“Everybody Hurts”), Oasis (“Wonderwall”) and more.
6) Now That’s What I Call 00’s (2010): Madonna’s first appearance on a “Now!” release came on this three disc set of tracks spanning the years 2000 to 2009. There seemed to be more of a female presence on this set, with songs from Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Duffy, Amy Winehouse, Kylie Minogue, and more. I wouldn’t call this “Now!” release a definitive representation of the 00’s best music, but it’s still a fun listen. "Hung Up", featuring a sample of ABBA's "Gimmie, Gimmie, Gimmie" was the Madonna track included.
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