Now ... that's what I call TV Cream's guide to the first 20 Now ... albums

NOW ... II | NOW ... 3 | NOW ... 4 | NOW ... 5 | NOW ... 6 | NOW ... 7 | NOW ... 8 | NOW ... 9 | NOW ... 10 | NOW ... 11 | NOW ... 12 | NOW ... 13 | NOW ... 14 | NOW ... 15 | NOW ... 16 | NOW ... 17 | NOW ... 18 | NOW ... 19 | NOW ... 20

NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL MUSIC

RELEASED: November 1983

Now That's What I Call Music
DESIGN CONCEPT: Wayward, early compilation design featuring isolated photos of the stars included. The track listing was accompanied by the infamous porker listening to a chicken on a flowerpot "singing" to him (crotchets next to the hen's mouth, natch). The less than original strapline was "30 great tracks ... including 11 No.1's." Not called "Volume 1" or similar, presumably as an insurance in case it didn't sell, allowing it to be cast aside as a one-off experiment if needs must.

TRACKS: 30 in total. For some reason they put 16 on LP/cassette 1 and only 14 on 2.

SIDE 1 TRACK 1: Phil Collins' version of You Can't Hurry Love, the first new No.1 of 1983, summarising the whole music policy of the album - it was the hits of the whole year, not just the immediate recent period, something which would remain unique as the brand grew.

CHART TOPPERS: Masses of them. On the first two sides alone there were 10 of the blighters, varying from the ozone-annihilating splendour of Duran Duran, through the proto-Celine power ballad™ from Bonnie Tyler and the Daily Mail exasperating Culture Club, the year's biggest selling single. It also took Rod Stewart the rest of the decade to come close to matching the greatness of Baby Jane. Only a solitary additional No.1 - from New Edition - was listed on the other sleeve. One of their members in the shape of Bobby Brown would reappear as a soloist in 14 albums time.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS: Though it relied heavily on best sellers, there was room for definitive 1983 moments like Temptation, Keep Feeling Fascination, The LoveCats and New Song. With imagination and variety ditched in favour of familiarity, Kajagoogoo were in twice, along with Limahl's first tepid solo effort, while Culture Club and UB40 also got double the billing.

ONE HIT WONDERS: The wacky Men Without Hats got in, as did the oft-forgotten Will Powers (with Carly Simon's uncredited help). A summary of the year's dubious youth culture explosion was achieved with the inclusion of the Rock Steady Crew, so synchronise your feet.

BIGGEST FLOP: Limahl's Only For Love made a comparatively derisory No. 16.

SLEEVENOTES: Extremely fundamental, emotionless wording ("charted at No.51 on 14th September 1983. Reached No.3 on 19th October 1983. From forthcoming LP & Cassette") all the way through. Statistics were non-existent and the only daredevil indication came in the description of Culture Club's Victims ("Almost certain No.1 by the time you have this LP" which of course, never came true) and as an unreleased single, they stuck it right at the very end. Only two other tracks hadn't managed a chart history at the time of going to press, though they were less than daring in the notes for them, as Tina Turner's Let's Stay Together was accompanied by "Just released at time of compilation. Destined to be a smash hit" while Simple Minds' Waterfront got merely "Released from forthcoming LP & Cassette". Photos were inconsistent between band pics and single sleeves, and some were in black and white with a garish purple overtone. No mention of Maggie Reilly's role as singer on Mike Oldfield's Moonlight Shadow either, reprehensibly.

DISTINGUISHING FEATURES: Unfortunately, Simple Minds' Waterfront and Paul Young's Wherever I Lay My Hat were the victims of very shoddy editing jobs, a policy which thankfully was never to rear its ugly head again. With the odd exception, the order of tracklisting was definitely decided on the basis of sales, chart position and/or general popularity from the top downwards, hence the presence of so many No.1s on the first two sides. The three acts who featured twice would quickly become enigmatic, as no act would get two songs on one album again for another five volumes. As if to emphasise the importance of the No.1s, space was filled by adding a list of the few chart-toppers of the year that didn't make the cut ("for information only, these were the other No.1s of 1983") with Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Spandau Ballet, the Police and Billy Joel being the quintet detailed, along with release and longevity stats. Pre-empting the Flying Pickets and missing out Rene and Renato altogether was a wise move.

NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL MUSIC II

RELEASED: November 1984

Now That's What I Call Music II
DESIGN CONCEPT: No sign of the pig or any other gimmick, but a plain black, matter of fact grandiose front cover with just the title and nine photos of artists featured. Strapline of "30 Great Tracks ... including 4 Number Ones." Semi-pompously called it "Now ... II" instead of "Now ... 2".

TRACKS: 30 (obviously) of them, bizarrely arranged in sections of seven, eight, eight and seven respectively.

SIDE 1 TRACK 1: Sensibly, Queen's Radio Ga Ga was elected to kick things off and establishing the principle that the opening track had to kick a certain degree of musical arse.

CHART TOPPERS: The trumpeted quartet came from Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Nena, Paul McCartney and, tragically, the Flying Pickets. They were literally the only No.1s available.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS: Chosen songs gave a sturdy indication of what was around, in the absence of a plethora of No.1 singles due to the restrictive passing of time since Volume 1. While Wouldn't It Be Good, Girls Just Want To Have Fun, Modern Love and Here Comes The Rain Again all enriched the listening process. The first and last appearances of the Smiths and the Rolling Stones happened here, while brilliantly, Carmel earned a spot.

ONE HIT WONDERS: As well as Nena and those bushy pits, we were spoilt rotten with Fiction Factory, Matthew Wilder, Snowy White and Re-Flex. Populism at its chance-seizing finest saw the appearance of Joe Fagin, while a genuine lost classic™ was given a slot in the shape of Julia & Company.

BIGGEST FLOP: Re-Flex, sadly having to espouse the politics of ooh feeling good at a lowly No.28.

SLEEVENOTES: Essentially unadventurous again ("Charted on 20th December 1983 at No.47. Made No.6 on 17th January 1984") though signs of brewing confidence were shown in moderation, with No.1 albums being mentioned and chart longevity also getting publicity. Auf Wiedersehen, Pet got its expected plug under That's Living Alright. Sporadic bits of creativity were present for the Smiths ("'These charming men' from Manchester charted ...") while occasional chart stats were offered ("... their fifth Top 10 hit within 12 months"). Photos varied from the classic (Annie Lennox's unclothed, masked, carrot-haired double-fist pic from "Touch"; Nik Kershaw in vintage snood 'n' fingerless gloves pose) to the bizarre (Tracey Ullman hanging upside down) though single covers were, gratefully, at a bare minimum.

DISTINGUISHING FEATURES: Major marketing ploy aplenty as a large portion of the inside sleeve was used to urge punters to "Complete your collection. NOW 1 is still available" while a whole track listing for the elder sibling was also published. Cover designers Mike Greenslade and Bob Roscow got credited on both sleeves. Still no sign of Mr Abram's name, mind. Careless. Walkman wearers got two affixed cassettes rather than the detached pair that came on the original compilation.

NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL MUSIC 3 

RELEASED: July 1984

Now That's What I Call Music 3
DESIGN CONCEPT: Flashy debut appearance of the now legendary coloured balls encircling the letters in "NOW", complete with lightning logo and piggy re-appearance (including credit to the Danish Bacon Factories), wearing shades. Blue and black stripey diagonal background effect interspersed with an effective reduction in the numbr of artist pics - just five of them. Less is indeed more. Inside, the stripes remained but colours changed. Strapline was "30 top thirty hits", with no mention of the quantity of best sellers.

TRACKS: Yep, 30. Sides evened out by now, with 15 per disc/tape, and eight tracks on sides 1 and 3 countered by seven on 2 and 4.

SIDE 1 TRACK 1: Duran Duran got the opening gig with The Reflex. Fle-fle-fle-fle-flex etc.

CHART TOPPERS: Only three, largely due to the small gap between volume releases, but also because Frankie Goes To Hollywood, featured here, had strangled the top spot for nine weeks with Two Tribes. The aforementioned Duran Duran, plus Wham!, also got in.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS: Of-their-time crackers included Dancing With Tears In My Eyes, White Lines, Smalltown Boy and Love Resurrection. Fair play points for whoever pressed for the insertion of Blancmange's Don't Tell Me and especially Propaganda's Dr Mabuse. Backdated wage cuts to the person who decided to put Gary Glitter's Dance Me Up on there, not just because of hindsight, but also because it was awful. Duran Duran, Howard Jones and Madness maintained a 100 per cent inclusion record.

ONE HIT WONDERS: The Art Company and the Weather Girls. The former soundtracked the summer holiday of anyone who made it to the continent that year. The latter was written by the chap from Letterman and was later to be covered by a washed-up ex-Spice Girl. Let's move on.

BIGGEST FLOP: Propaganda, No.27. Tragically Gary Glitter peaked two places higher.

SLEEVENOTES: Still few flamboyant tendencies ("Charted at No.25 on 22nd May - reached No.7 on 12th June". From LP/Cassette HUMAN'S LIB") though the capitalising of album titles would have pleased the record companies. Signs of the future emotive house style were occasionally apparent, though word usage was sometimes misguided ("... rose with a bullet to No.12 by 26th June ... "). Photos were mainly publicity/action shots.

DISTINGUISHING FEATURES: "Complete your collection!" enthused a corner of the sleeve, as 1 and 2 (sorry, II) were pointed mercilessly towards parents' purses up and down the land, though no pics of the previous albums were included this time. The Now videos which accompanied those volumes (on Betamax too, of course) were also mentioned "for all you videoholics". This was 1984, remember. John Aldred was yer man with the cover credit this time. Mr Abram, meanwhile, had been left on the shelf once more ...

NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL MUSIC 4

RELEASED: November 1984

Now That's What I Call Music 4
DESIGN CONCEPT: Faith kept with the coloured balls/porker/lightning motif, though the pig now had a pair of earphones to go with the shades. Similar stripey effect to the last album, though pictures had been replaced by a multi-coloured artist listing within the thicker stripes. The first and only appearance of the memorable slogan "32 chart-hoggin' hits on one double album". Cartoon quick-draw effects on the back sleeve, including a sketch of a Danset-style gramophone player and, for some reason, the word "hit".

TRACKS: Upped the ante to 32, with eight per side.

SIDE 1 TRACK 1: The woeful, "special dance mix" Arthur Baker reworking of Paul McCartney's No More Lonely Nights. Yes, the single reached No.2 but that was because it was a ballad to rank as one of the best of the tail end of his career. You work it out.

CHART TOPPERS: Only one, the dreaded Hello by Lionel Richie, which also shouldn't have been anywhere near it for chronology reasons - all three best sellers from Now ... 3 got to the top after Richie and his blind sculptress had asphyxiated the airwaves. Presumably it was handed a place to prevent an entire compilation being without best sellers.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS: Brawnier fayre included Together In Electric Dreams, Pride (In The Name Of Love) and Tesla Girls, tempered by weirder (but still wonderful) selections such as Malcolm McLaren's Madam Butterfly, Kim Wilde's The Second Time and Feargal Sharkey's ace Listen To Your Father. Serious chronology problems with the inclusion of Doctor Doctor by the Thompson Twins, which should have been on the previous volume (You Take Me Up was there instead, which was released afterwards). All previous 100 per cent records of involvement were no more but still, it had Ghostbusters on it.

ONE HIT WONDERS: The excellent John Waite and the awful Motown-benefactor Rockwell, afraid to wash his hair.

BIGGEST FLOP: Kim Wilde - The Second Time. "Just go for it ..." she sang, and if "it" was a No.29 hit single then consider that mission accomplished.

SLEEVENOTES: Again lacking in imagination ("Charted at No.52 on 7th August - made No.5 on 4th September. From LP/Cassette BREAKING HEARTS") with only one semi-emotional attempt ("... sped to No.7 the following week") and one stab at public pre-emption ("His long awaited new single…"). Photos were just about all publicity shots, except for Richie, whose album got featured instead.

DISTINGUISHING FEATURES: The McCartney remix actually got full crediting in the tracklisting, not just in the sleevenotes, with both movie and mixer getting a mention. Meanwhile, a bracketed sub-title was added to Ray Parker Jr's Ghostbusters ("(Searchin' For The Spirit)") which didn't exist on the single cover. Past volumes were not plugged this time. Unsurprisingly, John Aldred was cover boy again, and Mr Abram finally got his deserved mention. What a shame his crediting debut coincided with the worst volume thus far.

NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL MUSIC 5

RELEASED: July 1985

Now That's What I Call Music 5
DESIGN CONCEPT: Sparkly royal blue background, with the pig in oblong shades and covered in some sort of surreal bodysuit, with artists' names (in record company logo fashion) plastered on it. Coloured balls/lightning motif remained. Tracklisting placed on a sparsely striped yellow background.

TRACKS: "Thirty top 30 hits", bellowed the strapline.

SIDE 1 TRACK 1: Hey, if it is good enough for a Bond theme - Duran Duran's A View To A Kill.

CHART TOPPERS: Just one, despite the six months of choosing time. With less commercial best sellers like I Know Him So Well and the fundraising You'll Never Walk Alone taking some of the glory, it was perhaps not surprising that only Sister Sledge represented the No.1 club.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS: Gems such as The Word Girl, Johnny Come Home, Kayleigh and Walking On Sunshine emphasised a particularly fruitful and listenable era of the 80s music industry. The first all-out novelty song in Now history came with Rory Bremner's cricketing pisstake of Paul Hardcastle's 19, while the Power Station's disrespectful cover of Get It On inconceivably lived up to its title. Most daring inclusions came from Gary Moore & Phil Lynott and, wonderfully, the Damned.

ONE HIT WONDERS: Harold Faltermeyer and the Conway Brothers, as well as Bremner's alter ego the Commentators. Could have been better, with Trans X, Strawberry Switchblade and Animotion doing the rounds at the time.

BIGGEST FLOP: The Damned. No.25. Damn.

SLEEVENOTES: At last, a dip into emotive, creative and flowery scribing. None of that charted/reached/LP gubbins. We learnt that Simple Minds had made No.1 in America, David Bowie had written his entry for The Falcon And The Snowman, and that Mai Tai were from Dutch Guyana. An attempt at humour was made for the Commentators ("Paul Hardcastle does a good impersonation of Rory Bremner, so we hear!") while Jimmy Nail was simply referred to as Oz. Photos were the regulation publicity shots.

DISTINGUISHING FEATURES: More crediting of those behind the album, with McCormicks designing the cover, The Design Clinic responsible for the artwork and two geezers called Ian Moo-Young and Peter Richardson getting plaudits for the illustration. Our pal Ashley Abram got his now customary co-ordination mention, blessedly. Cross-promotion of past Now products was restricted to a infinitesimal line underneath that record company "thanks" list.

NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL MUSIC 6

RELEASED: November 1985

Now That's What I Call Music 6
DESIGN CONCEPT: An inventive but pompous velvet trouser thing, with the balls/lightning logo depicted as a patch on the back pocket, complete with pen top hanging out. The back cover was just further smoothed out black material effect. For the first time, we were instructed to "Feel The Quality". Pig put to rest forever.

TRACKS: Yep, 30 again.

SIDE 1 TRACK 1: Queen got top billing once more, this time with "One Vision"

CHART TOPPERS: A much-improved four - UB40 with Chrissie Hynde, along with Feargal Sharkey, Midge Ure and the Eurythmics. Could have been more but for Madonna's infamous and seemingly permanent non-appearance on Now albums.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS: A genuine mixed bag between the definitive (Alive And Kicking, Something About You, Uncle Sam) to the cultish (Lost Weekend, Single Life, Cities In Dust) whilst there were debut showings for Cliff Richard and Kate Bush. UB40 and Tina Turner became the first acts since Volume 1 to get two tracks on board, though each were part of collaboration jobs on one of their entries.

ONE HIT WONDERS: Two great ones here - Maria Vidal and Baltimora. You could also count Marilyn Martin, technically, though she was dueting with Phil Collins at the time.

BIGGEST FLOP: For the first time ever in Now history, a song which failed to reach the Top 40 got in - the dreadful anti-Thatch dirge Blue from the Fine Young Cannibals. No.41 was as good as it got.

SLEEVENOTES: A wealth of information, spurred on by the last effort. We were reliably informed that One Vision was written as a tribute to Bob Geldof's work at Live Aid, and that Running Up That Hill was Kate Bush's first single for three years. Apparently, Bryan Adams and Tina Turner's duet on It's Only Love was "one of the most explosive duets ever recorded", something you couldn't claim about Collins and Martin - indeed, poor Marilyn doesn't even get mentioned on the musings for Separate Lives. The need was felt, for some unexplained reason, to remind everyone again that Midge Ure was denied a No.1 by Joe Dolce five years earlier. Photos contained more sleeves than had become the norm.

DISTINGUISHING FEATURES: Every previous Now album was publicised with proper marketing pomp - cover pictures and everything. "Also available!" screamed the lettering. Better than that, there was a long paragraph tucked away which urged "You've heard the record, now read the book!" as the spin-off pop quiz journal's release was announced. Once they'd done the plug, they then ordered us to "now listen to the record again!" The book was co-ordinated by none other than our hero Ashley Abram, who therefore got two (yes, two) mentions, presumably in a late attempt to make up for subbing him out altogether in the early days.

NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL MUSIC 7

RELEASED: August 1986

Now That's What I Call Music 7
DESIGN CONCEPT: Designer handbag of some description, complete with rope handle. The "Feel The Quality" strapline remained on the back cover.

TRACKS: 32 in total, or at least so the cover claimed (see below).

SIDE 1 TRACK 1: Peter Gabriel's Sledgehammer, which still sounded good even without the video.

CHART TOPPERS: A modicum of them galvanised the ensemble, with the dreaded Chris de Burgh joined by Wham!, Dr and the Medics (preposterously hidden at Side 3, Track 4) and Billy Ocean.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS: The parade of biggies continued with Lessons In Love, Happy Hour and Absolute Beginners, not mention Invisible Touch, The Edge Of Heaven and Holding Back The Years making this edition of the series an essential soundtrack to any "80's retro" club night.

ONE HIT WONDERS: Furniture, Owen Paul, Sly Fox, Aurra, Nu Shooz and the outstanding and erstwhile Simon Mayo favourite Stan Ridgway with Camouflage. The presence of Lovebug Starski and the Real Roxanne with Hitman Howie Tee proved that not everything could be a hidden gem.

BIGGEST FLOP: Furniture, unable to move beyond No.21.

SLEEVENOTES: Varied from the basic ("charted at No.39 on 15th April 1986, reached No.12 in late April/early May"), through the biographical ("Owen Paul - real name Owen McGee - is from Glasgow") and into the statistical ("Bucks Fizz are still one of a very select few to have 3 No.1s from their first 5 single releases"). Language was based on velocity - songs had "raced" to No.3 and "sped" to No.2, while others had to be content with a less glamorous "rise" to its peak, or even a totally humdrum "reached" instead. Photos were mainly standard pose shots, with the odd 7" sleeve present.

DISTINGUISHING FEATURES: A first (and last) was achieved when Queen's A Kind Of Magic was added as a "bonus" track to the end of Side 3 without sleevenotes, crediting or listing, save for the sticker on the front cover. Those who liked to listen in the car or via Walkman got a mixed deal. While the tapes were labelled 1, 2, 3 and 4 for the first time, rather than just 1, 2, 1 and 2 (no risk of putting the wrong tape in any more - that was important) they also had to deal with unsightly pancake-yellow cassettes. However, tape lovers no longer risked seeing their beloved double-box fall apart, with a strong one-piece unit holding in the two cases. Previous volumes had just been wantonly stuck together with cheap adhesive, rendering the box prone to splitting in half after much crashing about in Nike shoe bags.

NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL MUSIC 8

RELEASED: December 1986

Now That's What I Call Music 8
DESIGN CONCEPT: Silver shadow oddity, with what looked like oily waves seeping through at the bottom. The now established logo remained intact, except the lightning flash had gone silver. Large list of highlight artists "plus many more" labelled thereon. The back cover was just a plain, consistent and rather unadventurous dirty grey.

TRACKS: "32 top chart hits", it said ...

SIDE 1 TRACK 1: The declining Duran Duran got their third opening slot with Notorious, so don't monkey with the business.

CHART TOPPERS: A triumvirate of varying quality - the Communards, Boris Gardiner and Nick Berry. Yes, him.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS: The and bread-and-butter purchasing tools came courtesy of Breakout, Stuck With You and You Keep Me Hangin' On. With barrel-scraping at its deafening peak, three more non-Top 40 singles inexplicably got on "thanks" to Billy Bragg, Grace Jones and the woeful version of Waterloo by Dr and the Medics with Roy Wood. Still, it had the Top Of The Pops theme of the moment on, in the shape of Paul Hardcastle's The Wizard.

ONE HIT WONDERS: Just one, but the presence of the excellent It Bites more than makes up for the absence of others.

BIGGEST FLOP: Billy Bragg's Greetings To The New Brunette hit a lowly No.58 yet Westlife have topped the chart 11 times. It's all too much to bear ...

SLEEVENOTES: Well, Swing Out Sister had "motored" to No.36, apparently, giving an indication of the experimental linguistics here. The statistical stuff had gone back to basics, but there was still a semblance of the desire to inform, with Steve Winwood's connections with the sixties and Jermaine Stewart's less distinguished connections with Shalamar apparently worthy of digestion. Photos were, as ever, varied in source.

DISTINGUISHING FEATURES: You may have by now bought all the albums, videos and hell, even the book, so what could they throw at you next? A freebie package of Now albums, that's what. There was a multiple choice quiz, with the winner getting Now ... 7 along with Dance, Summer and a new retrospective of the year (on those newfangled CDs) called Now ... 86 (featuring, presumably, a lorryload of tracks from Now ... 7 and Now ... 8). The three questions involved who of a given trio of artists had appeared most on Now albums; who had not appeared at all, and (toughie coming up) which animal "used to" appear on some Now album sleeves, confirming once and for all that the pig was now in someone's fridge. "Competition closes Jan 31st 1987". A form was there to fill in, a choose-an-album runner-up prize was on offer via a ticked box and the full list of prizewinners was, we were informed, to be published in the Competitors Journal. Cor. Not just that, but on the flip side of the entry form was an order form for you to bag your "exclusive limited edition warm sweatshirt" emblazoned with the Now logo and fashioned by Le Coq Sportif. They came in blue and green, were badly modelled on two minimalist cartoon mannequins, and cost £19.99 including postage and packing. "Casual, comfortable and soft to handle". Cover design and artwork by Quick On The Draw and Now co-ordinator was that legendary Ash man again. And the cassettes were still yellow.

NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL MUSIC 9

RELEASED: March 1987

Now That's What I Call Music 9
DESIGN CONCEPT: A book, with the logo (lightning now back to yellow) clearly intended to look like a title. Red page corner protectors confirmed intention but didn't heighten the artistic merit.

TRACKS: "30 top chart hits" once more, along with the monotonous highlights listing "plus many more".

SIDE 1 TRACK 1: Jackie Wilson with Reet Petite. Recorded in 1957.

CHART TOPPERS: A healthy seven, with the late Jackie Wilson complemented by the Housemartins, Boy George, Berlin, Ben E King, Steve 'Silk' Hurley and, unfortunately, Europe.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS: Of the 30, the standouts included Sometimes, Rat In Mi Kitchen, Down To Earth and Land Of Confusion. The Ben Liebrand remix of Hot Chocolate's You Sexy Thing is there too which mistakenly found its way onto Now ... 38 in 1997. Finally, is there anyone who grew up in the timeframe who doesn't crack a smile at the opening bars of Sonic Boom Boy?

ONE HIT WONDERS: Mental As Anything! That's the way. Also yer man Hurley, the Ward Brothers and Taffy, none of whom held a candle to the Aussie dimwits.

BIGGEST FLOP: Honours are shared this time with both Bananarama and the Ward Brothers clinging desperately to that No.32 chart peak.

SLEEVENOTES: Stand By Me apparently "501-ed its way to the top", in a clumsy use of language which is not present elsewhere, as much of it is back to the unfussy chart entry/peak/LP stuff. Weird-as-you-like factor came with "Robbie Nevil is probably the only singer whose middle name is Scott to make the British Top 10 so far this year". Well, cheers for that.

DISTINGUISHING FEATURES: Still flogging the sweatshirts ruthlessly, but not the previous albums et al. Quick On The Draw and good ol' Ashley were emblazoned yet again. Still those nasty yellow cassettes for train commuters.

NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL MUSIC 10

RELEASED: November 1987

Now That's What I Call Music 10
DESIGN CONCEPT: Plush, overlapping "red sky at night" artwork with the logo unchanged in design barring an effect that made the balls look more like neon lights.

TRACKS: Now-ubiquitous presence of "30 top chart hits".

SIDE 1 TRACK 1: A strange choice of Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballe to set things off with Barcelona.

CHART TOPPERS: Three, and they couldn't be any different from one another. M/A/R/R/S, T'Pau and Los Lobos did the honours.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS: Easily the best of the series so far. Must-plays included Rent, Labour Of Love, Alone, Misfit and Hourglass, while Rain In The Summertime and The Real Thing provided hidden gem factor. Special mention must go to Side 2's rock sequence which had T'Pau, Heart, Kiss, Billy Idol, Whitesnake, The Alarm and Marillion all line up together.

ONE HIT WONDERS: M/A/R/R/S were joined by Karel Fialka's scary lambasting of his son's telly favourites Hey Matthew.

BIGGEST FLOP: Wanted by the Style Council with No.26 being the limit there. Why should it be that his heart's under lock and he can't find the key?

SLEEVENOTES: Keen as mustard to inform beyond the chart achievements of the songs - Hue and Cry were "the brothers Kane" and Heart were fronted by the "the Wilson sisters Ann & Nancy".

DISTINGUISHING FEATURES: Promoted the Christmas album and the Smash Hits co-production, but not any of the bygone volumes. "Not known" was the producer of Nina Simone's My Baby Just Cares For Me, apparently. This was at the time the biggest selling Now album ever, a record it quite possibly still holds to this day. Cassettes were now black, thankfully. And there was Ashley Abram's name again.

NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL MUSIC 11

RELEASED: March 1988

Now That's What I Call Music 11
DESIGN CONCEPT: Glass-fronted high rise building with reflected clouds and sunlight.Glass-fronted high rise building with reflected clouds and sunlight.

TRACKS: "30 top chart hits".

SIDE 1 TRACK 1: Always On My Mind - Pet Shop Boys, a fact that apparently caused Tennant and Lowe to throw a minor hissy fit at EMI for shoving it on the compilation as they had privately wanted its only album appearance to be the forthcoming Introspective album.

CHART TOPPERS: Always On My Mind, Heaven Is A Place On Earth and I Should Be So Lucky. Kylie debuts!

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS: Morrissey with Suedehead, Sinead O'Connor's Mandinka and Vanessa Paradis' Joe Le Taxi plus the aforementioned Kylie all mark the start of new eras (sort of). Wet Wet Wet, Johnny Hates Jazz, T'Pau and Bananarama are all present and correct however.

ONE HIT WONDERS: Krush, Jack 'N' Chill and Two Men A Drum Machine And A Trumpet (basically the Fine Young Cannibals minus Roland Gift) all proved that this dance music lark wasn't always good for sustaining long careers but the album was also graced by Morris Minor and the Majors (Stutter Rap) which gave Tony Hawkes a way of paying the rent before daft bets involving fridges and tennis gave him a new literary career.

BIGGEST FLOP: A good strike rate here, believe it or not. Bananarama's I Can't Help It (No.20) is the smallest hit.

SLEEVENOTES: The presence of two car-related hits (Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car and Joe Le Taxi) meant that vehicular metaphors were the order of the day as both tracks "motored" to their respective chart positions. We are told that Joyce Sims is classically trained, Belinda Carlisle's past with the Go-Go's is nicely documented whilst Eddie Cochran's C'mon Everybody (in the charts thanks to the obligatory jeans commercial) is the shortest track ever to appear on any Now album.

DISTINGUISHING FEATURES: Ashley Abram was clearly getting the hang of this compilation lark by this point, with the story of the winter '88 house music invasion being told on Side 4: Bomb The Bass, Coldcut, Krush, Jack N' Chill, Beatmasters and er, Climie Fisher all jumping on board.

NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL MUSIC 12

RELEASED: July 1988

Now That's What I Call Music 12
DESIGN CONCEPT: Summertime is here! Big swimming pool with "12" painted on the bottom with beach balls and a floating lounger forming the logo.

TRACKS: "32 Top Chart Hits" Yes, eight tracks a side for the first time since Now ... 8.

SIDE 1 TRACK 1: With A Little Help From My Friends - Wet Wet Wet. Esther Rantzen, NME, Childline, Billy Bragg (and, er, Cara Tivey) almost completely forgotten on the B-side. You know the story.

CHART TOPPERS: With A Little Help, Doctorin' The Tardis, I Think We're Alone Now, Theme From S-Express and Nothing's Gonna Change My Love For You (which according to the sleevenotes had actually only charted at No.61 at press time).

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS: Side 2 contains the gems, Hothouse Flowers with Eurovision interval show-stealer Don't Go, Mozza back again with Every Day Is Like Sunday, Danny Wilson having an overdue hit with Mary's Prayer and even Iron bloody Maiden going properly mainstream with Can I Play With Madness. '70's funk gets a look in with the re-released Car Wash, Coldcut take the razorblades to old James Brown hits on the Payback Mix whilst Phil Collins returns at long last with the '88 remix of In The Air Tonight giving us all a chance to mime That Bit With The Drums whilst being driven to school.

ONE HIT WONDERS: Glenn Medeiros sort of counts as do The Timelords (oh but they would be back, and how) but the only genuine never to be seen again star on view here is Jellybean singer Adele Bertei who vanished just like her titular mirage.

BIGGEST FLOP: Elton John - I Don't Wanna Go On With You Like That. No.30.

SLEEVENOTES: Aswad's Give A Little Love is "not the Bay City Rollers song" just in case your mum got confused, the Hothouse Flowers have their Eurovision glory documented whilst Sabrina is described as a "teenager from Genoa", yes and the rest. For pride of place we are torn between Natalie Cole "following groups Manfred Mann's Earth Band, The Pointer Sisters and Big Daddy who all had hits with songs written by Bruce Springsteen" or that for the Timelords which makes cryptic references to Glasgow, J.A.M.M., Dagenham, Hayes (Middx), The BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Banbury and Enfield.

DISTINGUISHING FEATURES: Two precisely. This marks the first time that Ashley Abram has set out on his own, compiling the album for some company called Box Music Limited (no logo as yet) and the footnote that makes it plain that all royalties from the Wet Wet Wet track were being donated to Childline. What is 1/32 of £9.99 anyway?

NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL MUSIC 13   

RELEASED: November 1988

Now That's What I Call Music 13
DESIGN CONCEPT: Space! Complete with tacky model of a spaceship and exploding supernova that could have ended up as a Stone Roses cover with a bit more colour variety.

TRACKS: "32 Top Chart Hits".

SIDE 1 TRACK 1: The Only Way Is Up - Yazz and the Plastic Population. Hey, it kept Kylie's version of The Locomotion off the top all summer long you know.

CHART TOPPERS: The Only Way Is Up, A Groovy Kind Of Love and He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother. Two cover versions and a reissue. Wasn't 1988 a great year?

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS: Side 1 goes all dad-rock on us with Hue and Cry, UB40 and Chrissie Hynde, Robert Palmer and Breathe making for a crushingly dull sequence. Happily things get better with Tom Jones doing Kiss with the Art Of Noise, Yello rambling incomprehensibly on The Race whilst the guilty pleasures of Kim Wilde's You Came, Jane Wiedlin's Rush Hour and even Milli Vanilli's Girl You Know It's True proved that pop isn't all bad all the time. Burned out clubbers can feel the happy memories flood back with a Side 3 sequence that features Inner City, D-Mob (Aciiieeed!!!) and The Beatmasters.

ONE HIT WONDERS: Breathe never made the Top 40 again after Hands To Heaven, Bobby McFerrin had Robin Williams in the video but no other hits whilst Jane Wiedlin made the classic mistake of forgetting to make her other songs any good.

BIGGEST FLOP: Two absolute stinkers here in the shape of Hue and Cry's Ordinary Angel (No.42) and The Human League's Love Is All That Matters (No.41).

SLEEVENOTES: Jane Wiedlin is identified as Belinda Carlisle's old mate, Duran Duran are now officially a trio but some lazy picture research means that hits from Yazz, Brother Beyond and the Human League are illustrated with shots of their album covers. Meanwhile the Christians don't even get pictured at all but instead are replaced by a shot from the animated video that accompanied Harvest For The World.

DISTINGUISHING FEATURES: Cute sequencing see I Want Your Love followed by I Don't Want Your Love but really this must rank as the most wrinkly-infested Now album of all time with Womack and Womack, Robert Palmer, Tom Jones, Bryan Ferry, The Hollies, Chubby Checker, PP Arnold, Human League and heck even Jane Wiedlin again all pushing the average age of the acts well above 35. Still any collection that closes with All About Eve and Martha's Harbour can't be all bad. At the start of 1989 all so-called multi artist albums were banished from the main body of the albums chart which makes Now ... 13 the only record to ever top both the Compilations and Artists albums charts.

NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL MUSIC 14

RELEASED: March 1989

Now That's What I Call Music 14
DESIGN CONCEPT: An all black background broken by a penetrating shaft of light that reveals the logo which seems to be made from tinfoil. How much did Quick On The Draw get paid for that one then?

TRACKS: "32 Top Chart Hits"

SIDE 1 TRACK 1: Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart - Marc Almond and Gene Pitney. Inclusion proved a good way to persuade fathers everywhere that it was a worthy tape for the Sierra on the way to Auntie Barbara's for the Easter holidays.

CHART TOPPERS: Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart, Belfast Child and First Time, complete with Coke logo (though irritating Yank stage school kids at an end-of-term dance are not pictured).

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS: As usual with the first release of the year there are a smattering of pre-Christmas hits that came too late for the last one (Erasure's Stop!, Phil Collins of course with Two Hearts and even Status Quo with Burning Bridges) plus the cream of the crop from the new year which include She Drives Me Crazy, Blow The House Down and Paula Abdul starting her 15 minutes with Straight Up. INXS appear for the first time, Style Council for the last.

ONE HIT WONDERS: Robin "Coke Advert" Beck is the only one although the likes of Sam Brown and Tone Loc managed precisely one more hit after their only Now appearances.

BIGGEST FLOP: Former reliable workhorses the Style Council go all house on us and can only make No.27 with Promised Land. The inclusion of the then unknown Paula Abdul meant going out on a limb as at press time Straight Up had yet to be released but thankfully it was Top 10 by the time the collection hit the shops.

SLEEVENOTES: No apologies are made for Hue and Cry's Ordinary Angel last time around as the notes for Looking For Linda describe its predecessors flop as a "mysterious failure". Michael Ball is listed as a "Yazz fan" presumably to make him appear down with the kids but we cannot work out if Status Quo's write-up "Reckoned to be about their 37th Top 40 single in Britain" is just lazy research or some form of piss-take. Oh yes and if there is a picture of Adeva that makes her look more like a man we must have missed it.

DISTINGUISHING FEATURES: Two tracks with the same name on the same side? That will be Stop! by Erasure and Sam Brown then. Comic Relief single Help! is included but the notes make no reference to any charitable donations as a result. Club hits are bundled onto Side 3 assuming that it is possible to dance to Blow The House Down although following Wild Thing with Natalie Cole's saccharine I Live For Your Love will have everyone heading for the bar. The oddest moment of all comes at the end of Side 4 which has Michael Ball performing Love Changes Everything in what is clearly an alternative take, most notably right at the very end where he ends the song as if it is another verse rather than hitting the heights with a spine-tingling final note.

NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL MUSIC 15

RELEASED: August 1989

Now That's What I Call Music 15
DESIGN CONCEPT: Off to the seaside we go with beachballs and a towel making up the logo but with the "15" represented by an ominously large shadow on the sand. Just what was it that made those pawprints though?

TRACKS: 32 Top Chart Hits again. Comfort over originality every time.

SIDE 1 TRACK 1: Queen - I Want It All. Make no mistake this is a Now album that was keen to kick some balls from the very start. Following it with Simple Minds' Kick It In set the seal on that one.

CHART TOPPERS: Soul II Soul - Back To Life, Jive Bunny - Swing The Mood and the charity rendition of Ferry 'Cross The Mersey. Just be thankful there was no Sonia OK?

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS: Some good stuff here actually, Side 1 running with Good Thing, Americanos and Baby I Don't Care whilst the now traditional Side 3 dance sequence kicks off with the Soul II Soul track and follows it with Neneh Cherry, Bobby Brown, Inner City and D-Mob. Veterans are well represented too with Stevie Nicks, Natalie Cole, Paul McCartney, Gladys Knight (Bond Theme!) and Cliff "100th Single" Richard although as Richard Marx wrote the song this is sort of forgivable. Side 4 is only rescued from distinct ordinariness by the sublime wizardry of the Cure's Lullaby - their first Now inclusion since the opening volume.

ONE HIT WONDERS: The dreadful, sappy Cry by Waterfront. You could also count "Norman Cook & MC Wildski" as the future Fatboy Slim makes his first tentative solo steps before realizing he isn't cool under his real name. Oh yes, and the Liverpudlian collective, but as the Guinness Book would tell us, they don't count as they had all had hits individually.

BIGGEST FLOP: Norman Cook, No.29, see above.

SLEEVENOTES: We are told that Kirsty MacColl's Days is her 4th Top 20 smash and by far the one with the smallest title, Neneh Cherry is believed to be the first Swedish born act to appear on more than one Now album (we were all counting after all) but shame on the researchers who cared enough to tell us that Donna Allen's Joy And Pain was a cover of "a club classic in the early 1980s" but didn't bother to find out that Maze were the ones who recorded it.

DISTINGUISHING FEATURES: The whole album sequence features some well-defined shape and form, more so than any collection so far. Side 1 is rock, Side 2 is mellow, Side 3 is dance whilst Side 4 is the odds and sods albeit with a nice rap sequence of De La Soul, Norman Cook and Double Trouble in the middle. Paul McCartney actually ends up on two successive tracks at the start of Side 2, solo with My Brave Face and then on Ferry 'Cross The Mersey, on which Holly Johnson also appears, on the flipper of his solo offering.

NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL MUSIC 16

RELEASED: November 1989

Now That's What I Call Music 16
DESIGN CONCEPT: Fireworks! Reflected in water! Eh?Fireworks! Reflected in water! Eh?Fireworks! Reflected in water! Eh?

TRACKS: 32 Top Char ... ah you know the rest.

SIDE 1 TRACK 1: Tears For Fears: Sowing The Seeds Of Love. Did Simon Mayo compile this one? Hmm, Kate Bush pops up later too.

CHART TOPPERS: None, for the first time ever. Jive Bunny and Black Box between them clogged up the charts during this collection's catchment period so maybe that isn't so much of a shock.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS: So as a result we get the best of the rest which does at least mean there is room for soon to be classics such as Tina Turner's The Best and Richard Marx with Right Here Waiting. Shakespear's Sister make a debut with You're History, Milli Vanilli mime their way through their last big hit Girl I'm Gonna Miss You and Cliff pops up again with the Stock/Aitken/Waterman penned I Just Don't Have The Heart which may just nick the title of the Cliff record it is OK to like. We get two movie themes here as well in the shape of Bobby 'Ghostbusters II' Brown with On Our Own and Redhead Kingpin's Do The Right Thing.

ONE HIT WONDERS: Oh plenty of those. Sydney Youngblood had one and a half hits, Oh Well covered Fleetwood Mac rather well, Fresh 4 featuring Lizz E did Rose Royce less well and let's be honest, Spike Lee ended up more famous than Redhead Kingpin.

BIGGEST FLOP: Ah, that would be Wendy and Lisa with Waterfall '89. No. 69. On the album as a pre-release, natch.

SLEEVENOTES: Unforgivably George Harrison's contribution to the Belinda Carlisle hit goes unreferenced and elsewhere there is actually little of comment in the sleevenotes. The Redhead Kingpin track receives the following writeup: "American rapper Redhead Kingpin made No.13 in August 1989 with this track." Never let the work experience kid write your sleevenotes Ashley, it just looks sloppy.

DISTINGUISHING FEATURES: Bobby Brown sets a new record for longest gap between appearances, having last shown up on Now 1 as one of the youngest members of New Edition. This was of course the final collection of the 80s and whilst this was topping the compilations listings, the Stone Roses and the Happy Mondays were appearing on Top Of The Pops. By the time of Now ... 17 it was almost as if the world had changed forever.

NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL MUSIC 17

RELEASED: April 1990

Now That's What I Call Music 17
DESIGN CONCEPT: Pixels galore as the whole sleeve is yellow with both it and the logo drenched in the aforementioned fuzzy distortion. Even the boxes containing the artist pictures inside are distorted. It's as if Now has gone to university and discovered drugs.

TRACKS: 32 Top Chart Hits once again ...

SIDE 1 TRACK 1: Erasure - Blue Savannah. When in doubt, go for a stalwart and conjure up memories of Andy Bell and his tiny shorts being painted blue by a disembodied hand.

CHART TOPPERS: Adamski with Killer and Beats International with Dub Be Good To Me. Mantronix get an honourable mention as Got To Have Your Love was lifted by Liberty X in 2002.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS: Oh boy, where to begin? This was when the charts went both club and indie crazy so as a result we get a Side 2 sequence that sees the Happy Mondays lead into Primal Scream who beget Depeche Mode, Jesus Jones, Inspiral Carpets and the House Of Love. It is like the sixth form soundtrack from heaven. More notably, it's the Mode's first ever appearance on a Now album. And as if to not forget the more leathery muso, that side ends with Faith No More segueing into the Quireboys. The dance sequence stretches across most of disc 2 - one of the authors will confess to putting Side 4 on at a disco he was once running and then spending the next 25 minutes at the bar. Bizz Nizz, E-Zee Posse, D-Mob, Adamski, Orbital, Electribe 101 - they are all in there. Best of the rest include Candy Flip taking on Lennon and sort of winning with a trippy version of Strawberry Fields Forever, UB40 melt hearts with Kingston Town and Lonnie Gordon has her moment in the sun with Happenin' All Over Again which makes you want to forgive Pete Waterman everything.

ONE HIT WONDERS: Hell, this was the 1990 dance boom so there are far too many to mention. Oh go on then: Candy Flip, Lonnie Gordon (sob), Jam Tronik (not so sad), JT & The Big Family, Bizz Nizz, E-Zee Posse, Tongue N' Cheek and in all honesty Electribe 101 too, though singer Billie Ray Martin would go on to solo semi-stardom.

BIGGEST FLOP: Step forward Sydney Youngblood, tucked away on Side 4, Track 8 and at No.44 in the hit parade.

SLEEVENOTES: Well now you could have been forgiven for the parade of club acts causing problems but no, Don't Miss The Partyline is rather wonderfully referred to as a "Euro Rave Track [from] Belgium", Adamski's best friend is his dog Dis (but not Seal who co-wrote and sang Killer but failed to get a mention). "Little else is known" about Orbital although that would change given that they are still around 12 years later. Elsewhere there are references to Faith No More's use of African polyrhythms and humour is back thanks to the reference to the Inspiral Carpets being from a place "some 35 miles to the east of Liverpool".

DISTINGUISHING FEATURES: Step On. Loaded. Enjoy The Silence. Real Real Real. This Is How It Feels. Shine On. From Out Of Nowhere. Hey You. All in sequence. All on one glorious side. 'Nuff said?

NOW! THAT'S WHAT I CALL MUSIC 18

RELEASED: November 1990. This was an odd year for the Now series as the traditional summertime edition was missed out completely although this did at least leave room for a wide range of hits on the stocking filler release.

Now! That's What I Call Music 18
DESIGN CONCEPT: It is a fond farewell to the three coloured balls which had been around in one form or another since Now ... 3. We now enter a transitional period with a sleeve featuring the word NOW! in big white letters and "18" in shades of blue scattered around the background.

TRACKS: 32 Top Chart Hits ... 'bout time they changed that, really.

SIDE 1 TRACK 1: Beautiful South - A Little Time. Two and a half minutes of genius in anyone's book.

CHART TOPPERS: Three in a row to start off with the Beautiful South, Steve Miller Band and Elton John forming the opening sequence and Sinead O'Connor and The Righteous Brothers make it 5 out of 8 on Side 1. Bombalurina are sensibly relegated to the arse end of the collection.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS: Johnny Rotten makes his only Now appearance ever as PIL's Don't Ask Me pops up on Side 2 alongside Status Quo, Tina Turner and Robert Palmer. Once the grandparents are off to bed, pausing only to revel in the joy of the La's There She Goes, Disc 2 kicks into club gear. Hit remixes of Tom's Diner, An Englishman In New York and Close To Me make for a fun sequence of remixed tracks halfway through Side 3. On Side 4 Kylie gets funky on Step Back In Time, Technotronic get Megamixed, Betty Boo warms up for penning hits for Hear'Say with Where Are You Baby and yes, Timmy sodding Mallett topped the charts with Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini and gets his 1/32 share of the royalties.

ONE HIT WONDERS: The La's never graced the Top 40 again, Bass-O-Matic was a one-off hitmaking name for William Orbit, DNA did little else after remixing Suzanne Vega. Stevie V only had the one adventure but sadly Timmy Mallett had a second hit.

BIGGEST FLOP: Blue Pearl were no longer naked in the rain which meant Little Brother was stuck at No.31.

SLEEVENOTES: Unusually verbose but with so many remixes and covers on here there was plenty of material to work with. We are still not sure what made William Orbit a "Golden-eared remixer" though.

DISTINGUISHING FEATURES: Well, is it the number of covers (7), the number of remixes (4) or the presence of at least two classics in the shape of Nothing Compares 2 U and There She Goes that make this an interesting edition of the series? Not quite as jaw-dropping a collection as its predecessor but an illustration that the second half of 1990 wasn't half bad.

NOW! THAT'S WHAT I CALL MUSIC 19

RELEASED: March 1991

Now! That's What I Call Music 19
DESIGN CONCEPT: Another tweak of the logo with a purple and yellow two-tone colour scheme taking the stage. The gatefold shockingly breaks format here with the sleevenotes laid out laterally to read across rather than down.

TRACKS: 34 Top Chart Hits! Yes, for the first time since Now 12 we grow in capacity, Disc 1 boasting nine tracks on each side.

SIDE 1 TRACK 1: The Clash - Should I Stay Or Should I Go. Yes a jeans commercial, but what a commercial and the first time a re-release has the honours of kicking off a Now album.

CHART TOPPERS: Strummer's mob, The KLF (proving that this is indeed the 1990s), Enigma and Queen with Innuendo as Freddie Mercury bows out in style.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS: A true break in format here as once we get the Clash out of the way, the whole of Disc 1 is dance-oriented. With it comes the discovery that Scritti Politti introduced Shabba Ranks to the world on She's A Woman and that Boy George really was quite good when performing as Jesus Loves You. The era is defined by the rise to power of the KLF, C&C Music Factory making everyone sweat, EMF believing and the Gulf War turning Massive Attack into Massive but still allowing them to give the world the best dance single ever (so said DJ magazine a few years back) in the shape of Unfinished Sympathy. Disc 2? Ah well that contains Chris Rea, Free and Chris Isaak but also Oleta Adams, a long haired Rick Astley and a debuting solo Seal.

ONE HIT WONDERS: The Source, 2 In A Room, Praise, Stevie B and, sad to relate, the Railway Children and the Banderas.

BIGGEST FLOP: The Railway Children at a disgracefully low No.24 with Every Beat Of The Heart, although Belinda Carlisle's Summer Rain was only just ahead.

SLEEVENOTES: The suggestion that Bow Down Mister is a "My Sweet Lord for the 90s" does not inspire confidence but in fairness they were quoting another unnamed source. The KLF's past history as the Timelords is nicely referenced, Rick Astley is now the Michael McDonald of Newton-Le-Willows whilst even You Got The Love is correctly flagged up as a bootleg mix gone legit.

DISTINGUISHING FEATURES: Ashley Abram clearly now has the structure of the Now albums down to a fine art as even Hale & Pace's Comic Relief effort fails to sound out of place. By now the series was wearing like a pair of comfortable slippers.

NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL MUSIC! 20

RELEASED: November 1991. Again we miss out on a summer release but once again this does actually make the Christmas edition far stronger thanks to having a larger pool of songs to choose from.

Now That's What I Call Music! 20
DESIGN CONCEPT: The brand new logo (and one that still persists to this day) makes a triumphant debut on a luxuriously warm gold and orange sleeve.

TRACKS: For the first time ever the sleeve does not advertise the number of hits, it is almost as if it is assumed everyone knows there are at least 30 hits on here. In fact there are 35 on here, the odd number thanks to the fact that one of the 8 tracks on Side 4 is twice as long as the others, thus precluding a 36th entry.

SIDE 1 TRACK 1: Vic Reeves and the Wonderstuff - Dizzy. Good to start with a bang, but wouldn't U2's The Fly (which takes third place) have been a far more interesting prospect?

CHART TOPPERS: Vic Reeves, U2, Color Me Badd and Jason Donovan.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS: Where do you begin? Sunshine On A Rainy Day, Set Adrift On Memory Bliss, Saltwater, Walking In Memphis, Sit Down, and even the Pet Shop Boys doing Where The Streets Have No Name all combine to make this another great collection. No KLF this time but instead Cauty and Drummond appear as the Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu (It's Grim Up North), Voice Of The Beehive do I Think I Love You miles better than Kaci or even The Partridge Family ever did whilst we even get Monty Python and Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life thanks to some bloke on Radio One. Also notable is the appearance of Prince performing on a Now album for the first time ever, his only previous involvement being as writer of a track on Now ... 18.

ONE HIT WONDERS: Color Me Badd, the JAMMS technically and Marc Cohn. Serve him right for his sense of humour failure over Raving I'm Raving a year later.

BIGGEST FLOP: Alison Moyet with the sadly underrated This House. Only a No.40 hit.

SLEEVENOTES: Hmm, reference to Vic Reeves' real name - check. Reference to Julian Lennon's parentage - check. Nonsensical quote from Marc Cohn re: Walking In Memphis - check. Reference to Voice Of The Beehive coming from "Big, Bad, Hippy, Dippy, LA" - check. The right mixture of jokes, facts and a potted history of Slade. What more could you wish from a set of sleevenotes?

DISTINGUISHING FEATURES: So why the 35 tracks? Well the 35th is the full length album version of Don McLean's American Pie which at twice the length of your average track is surely the longest one ever to appear on any Now album. As the series hit another milestone it seems appropriate that it did so right at the end of the Cream era.

Of course it didn't stop there. Now That's What I Call Music! Albums are still something of a chart fixture and instant bestsellers even in an era of CD-burners and MP3 downloads. November 2002 marked the release of Volume 53 making it the most long-running series of albums in chart history. Not bad really for a an album inspired by an advert for Danish bacon.

Oh yes, and our hero Ashley Abram still compiles them all, his company Box Music now with a virtual monopoly on the business of producing compilation albums.

Shelling out £5.99 after saving their pocket money for 12 weeks: James Masterton, Matthew Rudd.

NOW ... 1 | NOW ... II | NOW ... 3 | NOW ... 4 | NOW ... 5 | NOW ... 6 | NOW ... 7 | NOW ... 8 | NOW ... 9 | NOW ... 10 | NOW ... 11 | NOW ... 12 | NOW ... 13 | NOW ... 14 | NOW ... 15 | NOW ... 16 | NOW ... 17 | NOW ... 18 | NOW ... 19 | NOW ... 20

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