The Hits Album versus Now 4

In celebration of ‘Now 4’ arriving in full on CD, SDE explores the pop compilation battle to rule them all. It’s late ’84 and that pocket money isn’t going to spend itself – but which to choose? In the red corner, new kid on the block ‘The Hits Album’ and in the blue corner, the reigning champion ‘Now That’s What I Call Music’ (#4). Ian Wade is your guide….

November 1984, and one of pop’s most extraordinary years was drawing to a close, ending as spectacularly when every pop star imaginable ended up on the Christmas No.1. Duran Duran were in their pomp, Wham! had embarked on a gold run, the biggest new group in the country, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, had spent a quarter of the year at the top spot and while Michael Jackson was still everywhere, Prince and Madonna’s threat level to his crown had upgraded.

All while that was going on, there was another battle brewing…

Having reinvigorated the compilation market and leaving the likes of Ronco and K-Tel for dead, the first Now That’s What I Call Music had suddenly created a brand and the sales to suggest it could go far, having featured the biggest hits of 1983 together, chiefly from the Virgin/ EMI/ Polygram (now Universal) stables. Eyeing that success, the remaining major labels CBS (now Sony BMG), BMG and WEA (now Warners) glanced through the hits they’d accumulated during 1984 and cast themselves as rivals with the release of The Hits Album.

The Hits Album arrived with great fanfare a week before Now 4 and kept it bay, denying the emerging Now series another No.1, and making it the only Now to not top the charts. Ironically, it’s unlikely to claim a No.1 slot now as it’s now released the same day as latest installment Now 104. Now That’s What I Call Music 4 will forever be considered the bridesmaid to the rest of the series. The last laugh would be Now’s, though, as having agreed to stagger their releases in the future, The Hits Album strolled on to a varying degree of memorability onto nine official editions, and then sort-of rebranded over the remaining years with not much of a cohesive mood design wise. Now That’s What I Call Music, as we’ve established, has arrived at volume 104, and the brand also has a string of ace themed compilations covering Christmas, Forgotten 70s and 90s editions, and a second volume of Forgotten 80s coming soon too.

Now 4 also holds the record for Most Obscene Amount Spent On A Now Album (trust me, I’m sure Guinness are onto it) with copies of the limited edited down single CD version of the album – the first Now CD in fact – going for a whopping £700 on Discogs.

Back to November 1984 now, though, and pop fans faced something of a Sophie’s Choice. Many knew that they would be getting Now 4 in their festive stockings, but secretly wishing they had asked for The Hits Album instead, and vice versa. Others would impatiently huff through the season of ‘Last Christmas’ and Band Aid waiting for the shops to reopen so that they could either exchange or buy their favoured ones with record tokens. After a lengthy debate* (*a brief email exchange) SDE concluded that The Hits Album was the better of the two, but I (Ian) decided to conduct a scientific experiment to see if that was really true. So, I decided to pitch the two albums, track against track, to see and ultimately prove who the victor was after these 35 years of turmoil. Please find my findings attached.

(Hits) Freedom / Wham!
(Now) No More Lonely Nights / Paul McCartney

A very strong opening gambit, ‘Freedom’ was the overlooked chart-topper, a top-grade pop hit yes, but when you think of George and Andrew’s imperial phase in 1984 it’s usually the fourth single you think of, after ‘Wake Me Up…’, ‘Last Christmas’ and even George’s ‘Careless Whisper’. Outside of his work with The Beatles, Wings and the Frog Chorus, ‘No More Lonely Nights’ is one of Macca’s last huge classic solo singles and was, and now is presented on Now 4 in a special Arthur Baker mix that gives it the exclusivity brag.

Verdict: Now 4

(Hits) Like To Get To Know You Well / Howard Jones
(Now) Together In Electric Dreams / Philip Oakey & Giorgio Moroder

Dear old Howard, with his healthy relatable synthpop was fresh into his chart career with his top-selling debut album Human’s Lib and this summer hit based around a theme of world unity. Whereas, Phil Oakey and Giorgio Moroder had been operating at the Electronic Pop coalface for years, and really, when you have ‘Love Action’ and ‘I Feel Love’ on your CVs, it’s a no-brainer. Plus ‘Together in Electric Dreams’ has been drunkenly bellowed along to in more pubs, clubs and car journeys since its inception than any Jones number.

Verdict: Now 4

(Hits) All Cried Out / Alison Moyet
(Now) Why? / Bronski Beat

Alison Moyet had launched her solo career earlier in the year with the racy ‘Love Resurrection’, and was about to sell shedloads of her debut album Alf, yet Bronski Beat’s ‘Why?’ was a politically charged powerhouse of Hi-NRG. While we love Alison, the Bronskis get this.

Verdict: Now 4

(Hits) I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down / Paul Young
(Now) The Never Ending Story / Limahl

He’d end the year spending five weeks at No.9 with the that’s-more-like-it ‘Everything Must Change’, but Paul Young’s cover of the Ann Peebles number was a rum comeback single after the ubiquitousness of No Parlez. Limahl, however, was mid last-pop-gasp with his Moroder-assisted theme to the film of the same name, and has probably done better out of the PRS of it over the years.

Verdict: Now 4

(Hits) Big in Japan / Alphaville
(Now) Warning Sign / Nick Heyward

Cultural appropriation wasn’t the thing it is now, back in the 1980s, especially with the somewhat dodgy approach to the far east. Naturally Japan made it an art form and people turned a blind eye to them due to David Sylvian’s lovely hair, but the less said about Aneka’s ‘Japanese Boy’, the better. However! Alphaville were German and we forgave any patronising thoughts, as ‘Big in Japan’ is a solid classic. Nick Heyward’s ‘Warning Sign’ wasn’t shoddy either, but it was no ‘Favourite Shirts’, eh kids?

Verdict: Hits

(Hits) Self Control / Laura Branigan
(Now) Missing You / John Waite

Babys frontman John Waite’s hot city night-tastic ‘Missing You’ was a bit professional and boring back in the day, but with age comes wisdom and it’s grown into a top toe-tap. Unfortunately for this exercise though, he’s up against lungsmith Laura Branigan whose colossal “WO-OH-OH” assisted RAF cover about living among the creatures of the night wins on this occasion.

Verdict: Hits

(Hits) Ghostbusters / Ray Parker Jr
(Now) Farewell My Summer Love / Michael Jackson

Now, ‘Ghostbusters’ crops up on both Now 4 and Hits, so gets two opportunities to impress the judges. Even up against an excavated oldie by a pre ‘all that business’ Michael Jackson, it stands tall. Will it triumph again in our scientific findings? (Clue: no.)

Verdict: Hits

(Hits) Thriller / Michael Jackson
(Now) Hello / Lionel Richie

Speaking of Jacko, whether he’s currently cancelled or not, there’s still no escaping the genius of Thriller and virtually every track off it released as a single. It was by far a mass discussion video event. Lionel’s ‘Hello’ also was a bit of a video event even if the ‘event’ bit of it was discovering that the lady he was mooning over was visually impaired and made a slightly creepy clay effigy of Mr Richie. Suddenly Michael Jackson becoming a zombie seemed more believable as a promo treatment.

Verdict: Hits

(Hits) I Feel for You / Chaka Khan
(Now) The War Song / Culture Club

Everybody remembers the first time they heard ‘The War Song’, and how it was followed by a mass “GOOD GRIEF”. Fair to say that it wasn’t a vintage Culture Club number. It’s almost wrong to pair it against the clattering Prince-written and Stevie Wonder/ Melle Mel assisted masterpiece that was Chaka Khan’s ‘I Feel For You’. Poor ‘The War Song’.

Verdict: Hits

(Hits) Caribbean Queen / Billy Ocean
(Now) Passengers / Elton John

Last seen on Top of the Pops in the late seventies in a tight light blue suit, Billy Ocean’s unexpected back. Back. BACK renaissance in the 80s began with ‘Caribbean Queen’ and before you knew it he was a trans-atlantic chart-topper. ‘Passengers’ isn’t particularly bad either, if not vintage Reg, but one can forgive him the odd misfire as he’d just got married during the accompanying album (Breaking Hearts) and was busy settling down with his wife.

Verdict: Hits

(Hits) Body / The Jacksons
(Now) Too Late For Goodbyes / Julian Lennon

Family fortunes time now, and I doubt even The Jacksons themselves can remember their Top 94 “smash” ‘Body’, whereas Julian was the freshly crowned Best New Act of the year in Smash Hits’ Reader’s Poll and looked set to set fire to the rest of decade’s charts. Ahem.

Verdict: Now 4

(Hits) Just Be Good to Me / The S.O.S. Band
(Now) Shout To The Top / The Style Council

As befitting a politically-aware musician such as Weller, his fans are really quite keen on voting, as a recent online poll suggested that ‘Shout To The Top’ was the Best Single of 1984. Hmmm. It wasn’t even the Best Single released that particular week (that was ‘Freedom’ by the Wham!). Anyway, ‘Just Be Good To Me’ still sounds enormous and amazing like a vast undersea city erupting to the surface (or something) plus effectively gave Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis their first big hit as producers.

Verdict: Hits

(Hits) Let’s Hear It For The Boy / Deniece Williams
(Now) Doctor Doctor / The Thompson Twins

A trope of many a talent show, such as Strictly is that the judges ignore previous efforts and focus on that one performance in a dance off. Deniece would win this category due to her magisterial ‘Free’ chart-topper hands down, but ‘Let’s Hear It For The Boy’ is a different kettle of light-80s frothy pop fish, and so ‘Doctor Doctor’ gets this by a nose.

Verdict: Now 4

(Hits) Dr. Beat / Miami Sound Machine
(Now) Sunset Now / Heaven 17

‘Sunset Now’ was great, but can you imagine yourself in a poolside bar mildly off your tits attempting a salsa to it? No. No you cannot. Hence Gloria Estefan’s Latin-flavoured tale of a disco-themed paediatrician gets the vote.

Verdict: Hits

(Hits) Lost in Music / Sister Sledge
(Now) Respect Yourself / The Kane Gang

You’d be forgiven for imagining that Sister Sledge essentially had one album – 1978’s We Are Family – seeing as they kept having hits from it some six years later. Of course, if we were discussing their 1985 No.1 ‘Frankie’ this would be a different outcome, but The Kane Gang’s cover of the Staple Singers classic pales somewhat up against Chic’s production even in a reswizzled version.

Verdict: Hits

(Hits) Purple Rain / Prince and The Revolution
(Now) Private Dancer / Tina Turner

Tina pretty much owes her career rebirth to Now. Her cover of ‘Let’s Stay Together’ was still on the ascent up the charts when it was included on the first Now album – the original sleeve notes had it as ‘destined to be a smash hit’. By the end of 1984 she’d rightfully become a huge solo star, thanks to the presence of her Private Dancer album, and this Mark Knopfler-written title track. But to pitch it against Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’, the title track from the film and album then currently halfway through a SIX MONTH spell at No.1 on the Billboard charts is, well, to put it mildly, unfair.

Verdict: Hits

(Hits) Careless Whisper / George Michael
(Now) It’s A Hard Life / Queen

Queen had managed to follow-up the career highlight of 1982’s Hot Space with 1984’s The Works, which saw them reverting to a more Queen-like sound with hits such as ‘Radio Gaga’ and ‘I Want To Break Free’. However ‘It’s A Hard Life’ isn’t either of those, and frankly isn’t even on the same level as ‘Careless Whisper’. Not much is.

Verdict: Hits

(Hits) Drive / The Cars
(Now) The Wanderer / Status Quo

While both acts would eventually be high points of the following year’s Live Aid, with Quo kicking off proceedings and The Cars’ ‘Drive’ soundtracking some harrowing famine footage. Alas, Status Quo’s Dion cover here was the first sign of a rot starting to set in with the be-denimed rockers, having spent much of the eighties so far ‘coked up and hating each other’ and turning the gents toilet at Sarm Studios during the recording of ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ into a buffet of sniff. Personally one would’ve pulled the plug after the release of 12 Gold Bars, but there’s no telling some people.

Verdict: Hits

(Hits) Hard Habit To Break / Chicago
(Now) East Of Eden / Big Country

Chicago had morphed from bluesin’ rockers to smoochy balladeers, before levelling out into a sort-of Cab FM power ballad afterlife with the likes of ‘Hard To Say I’m Sorry’ and ‘Hard Habit To Break’. Big Country meanwhile had binned the tartan affectations of their breakthrough hits and become one of the UK’s big new rock bands set to follow then-fellow rivals U2 into the stadiums.

Verdict: Now 4

(Hits) All Through the Night / Cyndi Lauper
(Now) Pride (In The Name Of Love) / U2

Speaking of which, this is where U2 began their properly big phase. The first single off The Unforgettable Fire had become their biggest hit to date, and within the next 12 months they’d be one of the biggest bands in the world. Cyndi wasn’t having a terrible 1984 either to be fair, but she herself would concede that ‘Pride’ is the better number of these two.

Verdict: Now 4

(Hits) Sister of Mercy / Thompson Twins
(Now) Listen To Your Father / Feargal Sharkey

Still quite post-Undertones, Feargal’s first foray into the solo sphere after his collaboration as part of The Assembly, was this Madness-assisted number that has got lost in time due to ‘A Good Heart’’s success, but still sounds great up against the decidedly flimsy ‘Sister of Mercy’. Now, had it been the actual Sisters of Mercy

Verdict: Now 4 

(Hits) Skin Deep / The Stranglers
(Now) Tesla Girls / Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark

‘Skin Deep’ was a great, if somewhat smoother, side of The Stranglers after their first brace of jolly hits about murderers, rapists, ladies’ bottoms and heroin, although OMD’s 1984 chart resurgence after 1983’s ill-selling masterpiece Dazzle Ships saw them back on top with a string of smashes.

Verdict: Now 4 

(Hits) Each and Every One / Everything but the Girl
(Now) The Second Time / Kim Wilde

No one stands in the way of our love for the charms of Kim Wilde, even if ‘The Second Time’ barely registers with even her biggest fans. Accompanied by – as was the law in 1984 – a video filmed during a nuclear attack, ‘The Second Time’ seems a lot of effort up against the breezin’ jazzy charms of Everything But The Girl.

Verdict: Hits

(Hits) Smooth Operator / Sade
(Now) Human Racing / Nik Kershaw

Ipswich was put firmly on the UK pop music map during 1984 thanks to the Duran-feted, be-snooded singer-songwriter Nik Kershaw and his handful of hits, but the world’s coffee tables belonged to Sade and her swoonsome Diamond Life long-player. Plus, you could probably recall ‘Smooth Operator’ at gunpoint, whereas a verse of ‘Human Racing’ might prove tricky.

Verdict: Hits

(Hits) Gimme All Your Lovin’ / ZZ Top
(Now) Ghostbusters / Ray Parker Jr

Ray Parker Jr may have dispatched early Jacko earlier, but on this occasion, up against the turbo futurist-boogie of ZZ Top – who broke through that year with Eliminator, and soon everyone’s key fact was that the one without a beard was called Frank Beard – he doesn’t stand a chance.

Verdict: Hits

(Hits) Jump / Van Halen
(Now) If It Happens Again / UB40

We will gladly put the case for UB40 being utterly magnificent for their first seven/ eight years of existence, but even so, Van Halen’s ‘Jump’ operates in a different orbit of amazingness entirely and wins this by a large margin.

Verdict: Hits

(Hits) Footloose / Kenny Loggins
(Now) Jump (For My Love) / The Pointer Sisters

Kenny Loggins’ ‘Footloose’ was the bane of many a motorist’s life, encouraging the youth to fight smalltown oppression by dancing on top of cars. For that reason alone we’re Team Pointer Sisters.

Verdict: Now 4 

(Hits) Apollo 9 / Adam Ant
(Now) Hot Water / Level 42

Perhaps Adam Ant’s last splash before his extremely odd appearance at Live Aid the following year, ‘Apollo 9’ is a clattering astronaut-themed glam romp which is seated close to the main table at the wedding reception of his output. Although ‘Hot Water’ holds fonder memories for this correspondent as they were the first band he saw live around this time and they fair blew his mind.

Verdict: Now 4

(Hits) Modern Girl / Meat Loaf
(Now) Sexcrime (Nineteen Eighty-Four) / Eurythmics

Literally the sound of the year, soundtracking the fun-free film adaptation of George Orwell’s book 1984, Eurythmics showed off their new sampler to great effect with all its “sex-sex-sex-sex-s-s-s-s-sex-sex-sex-CRIME” stutterings. No shade to Meatloaf’s ode to female empowerment, but ‘Sexcrime’ still shines as an example of a band mid pop-goldrush.

Verdict: Now 4

(Hits) Some Guys Have All the Luck / Rod Stewart
(Now) Somebody’s Watching Me / Rockwell

Yes, everyone loves Rod and Rod covering Robert Palmer’s cover of The Persuaders’ 1973 hit is great and all, but the sole hit by son of Motown inventor Berry Gordy, Rockwell’s ‘Somebody’s Watching Me’ featured backing vocals by Michael and Jermaine Jackson and is far more year-appropriate.

Verdict: Now 4

(Hits) Teardrops / Shakin’ Stevens
(Now) Madam Butterfly (Un Bel Di Vedremo) / Malcolm McLaren

He turned rock ‘n’ roll on its head with SHOCK, appalled society and tried to destroy the establishment, but by 1984 Shakin’ Stevens’ luck was starting to run out. Meanwhile having invented scratching, African rhythm and skipping, Malcolm McLaren turned his hand to bringing opera to the masses in a way Queen never managed, and literally grafted bits of Puccini’s tale of doomed romance into a tune while having a bit of a mutter over it.

Verdict: Now 4

(Hits) Hole in My Shoe / neil
(Now) Gotta Get You Home Tonight / Eugene Wilde

It’s hard to really indicate how revolutionary riotous house share sitcom The Young Ones was to a new generation obviously quite au fait with seeing punks decapitated by train tunnels, neurotic virgins fighting fascism with poetry and in-jokes about Cliff Richard before Motorhead suddenly turn up in the living room. However, by 1984 after the second and final series ended, Neil (played by Nigel Planer) was eking out the public’s enthusiasm with his own album, based around his hopeless hippy character. The truth is, you’d gladly not care about hearing ‘Hole In My Shoe’ again, but have probably subconsciously had plenty of exposure to Eugene Wilde’s loverman smooch ‘Gotta Get You Home Tonight’ over the years. While he may not have troubled the charts again, Wilde’s career as a songwriter for the likes of Britney, Backstreet Boys and, um, Victoria Beckham have seen his songs sell over 60 million copies. Fancy that!

Verdict: Now 4

 Final score:  Now 4 = 16 – The Hits Album = 16

So there you have it. Conclusive PROOF that the two albums are equal in their magnificence. Admittedly, both albums had a few stinkers between them, and Now 4 missed a trick by not obtaining ‘The Wild Boys’ or ‘The Power Of Love’ to boost its appeal, but then Hits could’ve wooed something like ‘Holiday’ or ‘Like A Virgin’ from Madonna. The peculiar thing is that, in this new world of labels and licensing, all the labels involved are almost one big mass, and it’s Sony who are now reissuing Now 4, there could’ve feasibly been an opportunity to reissue The Hits Album on CD to see how it would fare today. Anyway. Hopefully you’ll agree with these actual facts and chip in with your congratulations below *turns off notifications*.

Now 4 is reissued today as a two-CD set.


CD 1

1. No More Lonely Nights / Paul McCartney
2 Together In Electric Dreams / Philip Oakey & Giorgio Moroder*
3 Why? / Bronski Beat*
4 The Never Ending Story / Limahl
5 Warning Sign / Nick Heyward
6 Missing You / John Waite*
7 Farewell My Summer Love / Michael Jackson
8 Hello / Lionel Richie
9 The War Song / Culture Club*
10 Passengers / Elton John
11 Too Late For Goodbyes / Julian Lennon*
12 Shout To The Top /  The Style Council*
13 Doctor Doctor / The Thompson Twins*
14 Sunset Now / Heaven 17
15 Respect Yourself / The Kane Gang
16 Private Dancer (Single Edit) / Tina Turner

CD 2

1 It’s A Hard Life / Queen
2 The Wanderer / Status Quo*
3 East Of Eden / Big Country
4 Pride (In The Name Of Love) / U2
5 Listen To Your Father / Feargal Sharkey
6 Tesla Girls / Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark*
7 The Second Time / Kim Wilde
8 Human Racing / Nik Kershaw
9 Ghostbusters / Ray Parker Jr*
10 If It Happens Again / UB40*
11 Jump (For My Love) / The Pointer Sister
12 Hot Water / Level 42
13 Sexcrime (Nineteen Eighty-Four)/ Eurythmics
14 Somebody’s Watching Me / Rockwell
15 Madam Butterfly (Un Bel Di Vedremo) / Malcolm McLaren
16 Gotta Get You Home Tonight / Eugene Wilde

*on the original 1984 single CD edition, along with Duran Duran’s ‘The Reflex’, Tina Turner’s ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It (instead of ‘Private Dancer’), Phil Collins’ ‘Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now) and Queen’s Radio Ga Ga (instead of ‘It’s A Hard Life’)

This is the original track listing to The Hits Album

1 –Wham! Freedom
2 –Howard Jones Like To Get To Know You Well
3 –Alison Moyet All Cried Out
4 –Paul Young I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down
5 –Alphaville Big In Japan
6 –Laura Branigan Self Control
7 –Ray Parker Jr. Ghostbusters
8 –Michael Jackson Thriller
9 –Chaka Khan I Feel For You
10 –Billy Ocean Caribbean Queen
11 –The Jacksons Body
12 –The S.O.S. Band Just Be Good To Me
13 –Deniece Williams Let’s Hear It For The Boy
14 –Miami Sound Machine Dr. Beat
15 –Sister Sledge Lost In Music
16 –Prince And The Revolution Purple Rain
17 –George Michael Careless Whisper
18 –The Cars Drive
19 –Chicago (2) Hard Habit To Break
20 –Cyndi Lauper All Through The Night
21 –Thompson Twins Sister Of Mercy
22 –The Stranglers Skin Deep
23 –Everything But The Girl Each And Everyone
24 –Sade Smooth Operator
25 –ZZ Top Gimme All Your Lovin’
26 –Van Halen Jump
27 –Kenny Loggins Footloose
28 –Adam Ant Apollo 9
29 –Meat Loaf Modern Girl
30 –Rod Stewart Some Guys Have All The Luck
31 –Shakin’ Stevens Teardrops
32 –Neil (2) Hole In My Shoe

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[…] SuperDeluxeEdition laboratory held an public inquest into the time when The Hits Album thwarted Now 4 during Christmas 1984, and obviously cocksure at their success, The Hits crew naturally thought a second volume was a […]


With Ghostbusters scoring for both sides, Hits wins 21-11 for me. It really was a strong compilation. I used to have it on tape and from memory, Thriller and Purple Rain were the obvious edits. But any CD reissue could probably include the album versions of these, as well as restoring any other edits and early fades on the original release.

I really hope Sony get on the case and start reissuing the Hits series!


Great article Paul, I wasn’t alive until Now 7, but I’m a huge fan of 80’s Pop music and these CD reissue’s of the early Now albums has been the perfect opportunity to dig deeper in to the 80’s pop realm.
I’ve been listening to Now 4 a lot over the weekend, and while there are a few bangers I’m fully aware off (Together In Electric Dreams, Never Ending Story, Missing You, Private Dancer, Sex Crime), there are quite a few songs I’ve never heard before, which, I’m actually really enjoying discovering and adding to my 80’s collection (Warning Sign for example).
Out of interest I compared it to my Hits vinyl, and listening through, there does seem to be some more bigger classics like Careless Whisper, Purple Rain, Drive. However, Side D is pretty much redundant, as indicated on your comparison review.

Billy Dojcak

June 1984, Akron, Ohio.
Drove all the way there for a graduation.
Found a Camelot Music.
Here I acquired Now 1!
Couldn’t wait to get home and play it. Of course I had the singles, but not having to get up to change the record was nice.
So I’ve always been a Now fan.
I do have some Hits, but not as good.
Now always had superior artwork. Hits covers look like a brochure from the optometrist.


Hits was a better album in my opinion. I would love to see it re-issued.


New “Now 4” doesn’t have all the same versions as original “now 4”, they did get “No More Lonely Nights” correct though. Respect yourself is the album version and there’s about 3 or 4 others that are not correct. It’s still an improvement to the previous re-issues. I’d love the job of reissuing them. I managed to compile digitally like for like “nows 1 – 4” apart from the correct 7” of Double Dutch from “now 1”.
Would love the Hits 1-4 to get the same treatment

Paul English

9 errors in total Stephen.
Obvious ones are Eugene Wilde, Kim Wilde, Kane Gang, Nick Heyward
Also Big Country, Culture Club, Thompson Twins, Style Council, OMD

Full list here – https://apopfansdream.wordpress.com/words/now-cd-errors/


I genuinely wish that one day before I kark it, someone dusts off the Warning Sign 7″, the other version does my head in!


My interest in the Now series was short lived. By passed the first two because I had the tracks that I liked on either 12″ or 7″. Decided to reign in my purchases in the advent of further volumes. Turned out to be a good decision as i became prolific and bought 3-7 on vinyl and the truncated 8 on cd (also bought my only volume of the Hits album series, no 8, also on cd). The only others i bought after that were Now dance ’86 (12″ versions), Now dance 902 & 903, forgotten 80s and a Now volume sixty something to stick on when we were entertaining at Xmas. I’ve already bought the cd reissues of 3 & 4 and will do the same with 5-8. Would be nice to have Now dance 86 on cd but can’t see that happening.

Chris Squires

It wasn’t long (for me at any rate) where the composition of the charts in the UK radically changed from my tastes. From being a double album of 32 Pop hits, pretty much all of which I knew well and could subscribe to it felt as if it suddenly changed within 5 years or so to something different, plainly because the charts changed… songs like Pump up the Volume, Pump up the Jam, Ride on Time and “groups” such as Bomb the Bass, Krush, Jack ‘n Jill, Beatmasters…. in Nightclubs playing Pop music you could dance to rather than what it became playing only Dance music…. Being in a club in West Bromwich 1985 and dancing to “Look Mama”…. unbelievable within a few short years.

So from being 17 in 1984 and Now and the charts mattering to me by the time I had a job and been through University it had all completely changed and I remember being in an Our Price, probably Stafford or Crewe and reading the tracklist of the latest Now, Now 17 and it was totally Alien to me. Bizz Nizz, E-zee Posse, Tongue n Cheek and JT and the Big Family? Such a far cry in 6 short years from Howard Jones, Duran, Paul Young and Thompson Twins.

I guess that is how it should be. Music moves on. I don’t think I did.

Many here will also have a number where they felt Now no longer spoke to or for them.

Calico Moonchild

I am also of the generation to which these compilation series’s were a symbol. I was given the “Hits 5” VHS in Christmas 1986 and the “Hits 7” Double Cassette a year later. I honestly never understood the appeal of either brand of compilation. I was/ am a pop kid and will be to my dying breath but I never did blindly like every (at that time) contemporary group/ artist who ever graced the Top 40 with a Hit!

Was it rare that I preferred to invest my pocket money in The singles and albums of bands and artists that I did/ do like? To steep myself in the artistic statement and over arching theme of whatever album my favourites were working, at the time?

Perhaps as a collection of melodies that neatly dovetail in a specific (now perceived as) nostalgic sequensual Running order , these collections may evoke warm memories for some but if that’s not the appeal then I’m lost. By the very nature of being corporate compilations (as opposed to artistic album statements), these collections defy all appeal to me.

However my awareness that these specific past volumes now have an appeal that extends beyond the contemporary setting of the originals is something of a revelation and now makes me wonder if there was something I might have discovered on these collections that I otherwise might have missed, as a gateway to artists I never gave any more to than a cursory glance.

Paul English

@ Calico Moonchild

Don’t think it’s necessarily an either / or choice.

I’ve bought thousands of albums and singles from bands / artists I like AND I have collected pop and dance compilations since day 1. For many people, these releases are totally tied to nostalgia. They represent the building blocks of a record collection with their contents exposing young listeners to a wide variety of music hanging together in a logical sequence.

One fundamental flaw of retrospective compilations is that they tend to cherrypick songs whereas the Now albums tended to give a snapshot of pop trends over a four-month period. OK – you needed to complement these with the Hits Albums, but looking back, they’re a great time capsule and unlike some music listeners, the compilers didn’t discriminate between what was cool and what wasn’t.

As the 1980s moved on, I started widening my tastes but kept buying the compilations to keep in touch with the charts. There was always a snobbish attitude towards them – usually came from the rock and indie camps. I bought Sonic Youth’s EVOL and Now 7 at the same time in 1986 and will never forget the record shop guy’s look of approval followed by disgust and contempt.

Kevin Sims

These are unusually important albums to me. Now 4 was the first album I ever owned and – less than a week later – Hits was the first album I ever bought!
I was 13 when Christmas 1984 arrived, and massively into The Beatles and Paul McCartney.
So when my main present was my first music player (a Saisho TV/radio/cassette player!) I was delighted to receive the double-tape version of Now 4 – opening with Macca’s No More Lonely Nights, which I loved … except I was hugely disappointed to listen and find out it was a dance remix.
I got over it, however, and grew to love Now 4. In fact, in comparison my copy of Hits (bought from Boots with a voucher) barely got a look-in.
So it’s Now 4 all the way for me – although a recent look through the Hits tracklist (I found a pristine vinyl version in a charity shop that my 14-year-old son insisted on buying for me!) left me and him amazed at just how many fantastic songs it contained.


Lovely article. Think your right with your choices except I would go for Chicago over Big Country. Had forgotten all about Hard habit to break but heard it recently and slightly ironically given the title ended up listening to it repeatedly

Paul English

My what-might-have-been tracklist for Now 4 if The Hits Album hadn’t been released:

Side 1
01 Wham! – Freedom
02 Giorgio Moroder with Philip Oakey – Together In Electric Dreams
03 Limahl – The Never Ending Story
04 Ray Parker Jr – Ghostbusters
05 Chaka Khan – I Feel For You
06 Pointer Sisters – I Need You
07 John Waite – Missing You
08 Tina Turner – Private Dancer

Side 2
01 Duran Duran – The Wild Boys
02 Howard Jones – Like To Get To Know You Well
03 Alison Moyet – All Cried Out
04 Alphaville – Big In Japan
05 Spandau Ballet – I’ll Fly For You
06 Heaven 17 – This Is Mine
07 Blancmange – The Day Before You Came

Side 3
01 Queen – It’s A Hard Life
02 U2 – Pride (In The Name Of Love)
03 Style Council – Shout To The Top
04 Level 42 – Hot Water
05 Bronski Beat – Why
06 Kim Wilde – The Second Time
07 Laura Branigan – Self Control
08 Nik Kershaw – The Riddle

Side 4
01 George Michael – Careless Whisper
02 Culture Club – The Medal Song
03 David Bowie – Blue Jean
04 Eurythmics – Sexcrime (Nineteen Eighty Four)
05 Murray Head – One Night In Bangkok
06 Malcolm McLaren – Madam Butterfly
07 Paul McCartney & The Frog Chorus – We All Stand Together

Peter m

Gloria over Gregory? Nah don’t think so.


BMG weren’t involved in the first couple of HITS albums, if I recall. This explains why ‘Ghostbusters’ can be on both compilations, as well as each having a Thompson Twins track.

John McCann

So no not on compilation stipulation from early on then. She was a unknown and would have probably signed any contract put in Front of her,after all she was peeling to make ends meat,the tail dont wag the dog,


In Australia, we had a series of comps released by EMI (with the cooperation of other labels) that ran from 1980 to (I think) 1988. Titles included 1980 The Music, 1981 The Sound, 1982 With A Bullet, 1985 On Fire etc. It rankles me that these haven’t been replicated for the digital age. Surely they wouldn’t be expensive to produce and those of us of a certain age would snap ‘em up.

Love the site, Paul, especially on Saturdays. Keep up the great work.

Jonathan Williams

Would be interesting if someone did a track by track listing of Now 4 versus Now 104 I love and bought both can’t live in the past all your life.. Oh and despite owning all of Now 10 to Now 101 on double CD I avoided Nows 102 and 193 too much songs from the shows etc.
the second Now 104 disc is still crap tho apart from Camilla


A couple years ago I saw a new CD of “H’its Huge”. I was really excited, but turns out it was just a completely new 80s compilation using the HH artwork.

This website has photos and tracklists of Australian compilation albums from the 60s, 70s and 80s: http://www.oz-compilation-albums.com/

I too would love to see those comps get CD reissues. Some of the later ones (87. 88. 89) had original CD formats. I’ve been slowly collecting them over the past few years. Can go for anywhere between $30-$100 AUD.


Here’s some news about the ongoing early “Nows” re-issue project – Someone put Paul English in charge of compiling the “Now 1” to “Now 10” CD re-issue project. So, we will definitely see the “Now” re-issues from Number 5 to Number 10 as well which makes me being overjoyed about it all.

No More Lonely Nights

I was 12 in 84′ – I taped the charts on Sunday teatime, poised over the pause button like an international jewel thief. It was nerve wracking waiting for the presenter to speak

A fantastic year – minus the unforgivable middle 8 of “Private Dancer” which makes me cringe to this day

Nice post SDE

Chris Squires

Nice work Ian – the second article of yours I’ve read in a day as last night I was reading the notes you wrote for Act whilst luxuriating to Snobbery and Decay, which I only bought back in the day because I thought the “Ah – aaaahs” sounded like it belonged on a Stephen TinTin Duffy b-side…by-the-by.

I put it at a slight victory for Now4 although I disagreed with about half of your verdicts I really enjoyed the moment and the memories.
I know there is probably some statistical thing for 1984 being the best year in Pop but I think it’s simpler than that for me. Being 17 for pretty much the whole year and in the tween years of Lower and Upper VIth it was the first time I ever felt like (in the words of the Pink Ladies) I ruled the school. I can remember songs from this year like no other. Once University or work starts you are exposed to far wider and more eclectic influences but in the narrow cloisters of a BOG-standard Birmingham comprehensive it felt like the world of Pop was ours.

A year when real music could be bought in Boots and WHSmiths and you could spend a whole Saturday in nothing but record shops. Buying 12″ double packs and shaped picture discs without moaning about the diminished sound quality or the record company “double-dipping”, why wasn’t this released earlier and the words “Cash in” weren’t staple….. Happy Days indeed.


I really like The Second Time. Think it’s one of Kim Wilde’s hidden gems.

Mike the Fish

I dunno, it seems a bit creepy to hear her sing what seems like a boudoir song written by her brother.


Oh, that was fun to read!
By the way, Sony BMG isn‘t anymore (Defunct October 1, 2008). It‘s now called Sony Music!


I’m surprised no one has mentioned the early fading of some of the tracks on The Hits Albums. That was a lame way of getting more songs on I guess. The “Now” albums win for that reason alone.


They must have learned that from K-tel.


LOVED reading this, and scrolling down REALLY slowly to see if my guesses matched with yours!!

This really was my pop heyday, so it was a great tread down memory lane, looking forward to more like this!! Thanks SDE for sweetening my evening!!

“How can you stop when my whole world’s exploding?” c/o Kim Wilde

Joe Atari

it’s worth saying Madonna had one of those “not on compilations” stipulations on her contract from quite early on, probably 1984, which is why she won’t appear on many 80s compilations at all, if any. Michael Jackson also had this as soon as the Now series began to sell in big quantities. A great read, and I think i agree with almost every verdict. Thank God also they got rid of that awful pig quite soon after this. These compilations were always calculated, and despite the nostalgia, I think its the songs not the brand, that people really care about.


Strangely, the hits compilation managed to get the final singles from each of Madonna’s first 3 albums, this must have been a contract thing, these were Borderline, Dress You Up and La Isla Bonita. Even her last single releases were great.


Hi Ian,

Your article hits the mark – fun, informative, and choosing song ‘winners v losers’ where people can agree, disagree, or agree to disagree; all leading to memories of our lives. Perfect reading.

I agree that Just Be Good To Me by The S.O.S. Band sounds ‘enormous and amazing’. It has aged well.


They should definitely reissue The Hits Album!. It’s track listing to my taste is massively superior to The Now album. I’d buy it for The SOS Band track alone, which I’ve loved ever since I had it on home recorded cassette! Do you know how HARD it seems to be to hear that track in full these days ( shame on you Soul Woman compilation). Even the Beeb always play a shortened version which fades out just as it really gets going!


I bought both of these and as can be seen by the tied status they were both top notch selections showing the state of the chart in the latter half of 1984.

1984 has to be one of my favourite years for music, I think not only because of the quality of the songs released, but also because it was the first year I was in full time in a proper job (not YTS) and had lots of disposable money to buy singles, lps and a good amount of older second hand records as well.

Jim Vandegrift

Thanks, really enjoyed this. The Jump comment made me laugh out loud. Good stuff.


@daveid76 the next Now albums on CD was 8 and 9 but they only contain a limited tracklist according to the LP versions. Now 10 was the first 2 disc version with full tracklist on CD



Cosmo Castanza

19 – 13 to Hits for me.

It would be 0 – 0 and 32 spoilt papers on the latest 21st century disaster.

Paul Nesmith

Too much American stuff on the Hits Album,16 in all whereas The Now series was more British inclined with only 8 tracks from the U.S which is why i was more disposed to the Now franchise,it reflected the UK charts better and feels more familiar of the pop music i was listening to on the radio at the time so its a NOW 4 Verdict for me


Great great great. A thoroughly enjoyable and highly amusing read.


Glad to see someone else finds Queen Hot Space their career highlight. Assuming this was not ironic. And btw Body Language is their best single. And Staying Power their best album track. Unless that was a single too somewhere.

Inner Space

Body Language – Queens best single ever.

No doubt about it.


Michael McA

Hot Space has some great stuff on it and it’s nowhere near as bad as some might say – I personally much prefer it to The Works – and anything afterwards – but a ‘career highlight’ is pushing it – Sheer Heart Attack – A Night At The Opera – A Day At The Races – News Of The World – Jazz – all much better – and while I’m here (Paul) I’d hardly say OMD (bar 1 Top 10 with Locomotion in 1984 and 2 other Top 10’s in 1991) had a ‘chart resurgence’ and ‘string of smashes’ after Dazzle Ships – in fact IMO Junk Culture was their first weak album and most singles after Locomotion barely bothered the Top 30.

(Sorry for being picky.)

Billy Dojcak

It is a great song.


Did all subsequent NOWs come out on CD after 4?

SDE Hall of Fame

No more CDs until Now 8, which like Now 9 was a single disc ‘highlights’. I think Now 10 was the first proper double CD. So in theory we have five more reissues, although they might just carry on after that even though the others won’t be ‘new to CD’.

Martin Kilroy

Not “new to CD”, but a lot of the mixes may well be new to Now albums on present form!




Level 42. Really…
Entertaining read Ian. Thought my 80s knowledge was good but some things must have passed me by.


This article was hysterical; I loved it!

However, I do take exception to to Eugene Wilde over Neil. Neither were that popular in my part of the US. But I had a friend who went to Ireland to visit his girlfriend at the time Neil was on the charts, and he brought me back a copy of “Hole In My Shoe”. It’s a classic song, one I’ve never gotten tired of hearing. And, much like “The Young Ones”, it was something that only could have happened in the 80s.


I’m with you on Hole In My Shoe. Of its time and great for it.

Paul Taylor

Fantastic read, and great memories for me as a 14 year old. I believe the Sister Sledge re-issue of ‘Lost In Music’ was only re-issued/remixed on 12 inch in 1984? I heard Paul Gambachini say that on one of his Saturday afternoon retro chart shows.
If that was the case, the edit on the Now compiliation must be the original 7 inch? And if it was only released on 12 inch in 84 then it did very well just selling in this format – thinking New Order here and their 12 inch only releases!


The Nile Rogers version was only on 12” , I believe the standard version made it to 7 as well though , but it was the Remix that got traction with LeBon on Bvox too

One of the first records I ever bought!


Great and very funny article; particularly loved the ‘career highlight’ quip regarding Hot Space…

Inner Space

I have been compiling my own charts as a teen, based on the Luxy weekly Top-20, which was, of course, based on the official uk singles chart, but I must admit that I really never thought of comparing two tracks by different artists head-to-head, like this. Interesting….while some of these pairs look like good matches – fit for a showdown, others are really hard to compare at all…..so some tough choices there.

For example, I would never pair up Everything But The Girl with Kim Wilde in 1984……someone like Working Week – who had a huge 1984 with their classic debut – would be a much better choice.

As for some of the chosen tracks…..

The Second Time is easily my favorite Kim Wilde single of all time. Not the best song musically or lyrically…..but it still has that great synth intro / bass synth hooks that get me every time, even after all this time….
1984 was / is probably get greatest year – Teases & Dares album….. as far as production values / soundwise. The Touch – another even bigger flop – still sounds amazing sonicaly. Lovers On The Beach – 12″ extended version b-side to remember.

Sister Of Mercy – another favorite……probably their best single overall. 9-min 12″ is a classic.

Incidentally, I seem to remember Kim once saying that Tesla Girls is the worst song ever……by OMD. Wouldnt agree at all.

Human Racing ….. goes for me into the category of one of the best ballads of 1984.

I also love Its A Hard Life – only realized many many years afterwards how / why he nicked that intro from Pagliacci……

Adam had better singles in his solo career (Desperate But Not Serious), but catchy as hell Apollo 4 has an appeal for me that still works……


Tesla Girls really is awful. I love OMD but that song has never done it for me. Talking about OMD, a deluxe reissue of Sugar Tax is way overdue. A very underestimated album full of melodic songs. Much better than anything they put out in the late 80’s IMHO.


Nooooooooo. I absolutely love Tesla Girls and never forgive them if it isn’t on the setlist of any tour.

Tim South

Kim Wilde being mentioned here , her first three albums are being reissued in the new year on vinyl and as 2CD/DVD sets on Cherry Red

Marcel Rijs

Are you kidding me? Kim’s ‘The second time’ was the very definition of 1984. It was all-out, unashamed, nuclear-blasting, XL-Design-underwritten, technicolor, scream-yer-lungs-out pop. It was the very reason for buying the accompanying VHS video of ‘Now 4’. This article just confirms what we already know: comparing songs is like comparing apples with raspberries. (I do like EBTG’s ‘Each and everyone’ too, but, you know…. it pales in comparison.)

Mikey Roberts

Great article Ian and Paul – I’m back there standing in WH Smiths in Birmingham in autumn 84 agonising over where my paper round money would be going… eventually it was NOW, and I played it to death. But fair play: in hindsight I would go for HITS.

I feel for you vs The War Song is so not a fair match up it’s actually funny. I remember seeing Culture Club live on that tour for the ‘Waking up with the house on fire’ tour, and George, bless him, introduced The War Song as ‘a great song’. With a straight face.

Some incredible memories in that set of songs though: Wham’s greatest single (IMHO); Paul Young going all adult and later on introducing me to Tom Waits; and my mate Kev attempting to breakdance to I feel for you in the school playground.

You’ve made a happy man very old etc.

SDE Hall of Fame

I have fond memories of both compilations… at least five of the acts (Bronski Beat, Culture Club, The Stranglers, Adam Ant and John Waite) where in the studio performing when I was in the audience on Top of the Pops on 4 October 1984!!


I thought for a minute The original Hits Album was coming out on cd

Bernard O’Hara

Great article. I must admit I didn’t think it was going to be that interesting (I’m not really a fan of 80’s music) – but there was a heck of a lot of good stuff around in 1984 – as this demonstrates. Brilliant stuff, well done

Tim Abbott

Ian, did you describe Queen’s Hot Space as a ‘career highlight’ as a test to see if people were still reading? I agree with you but I might be the only one…


Electric dreams over anything is a definite miss for me. Love The Human League and aspects of Moroder but I have never understood why this song is so popular.

And as much as I love the Thompson Twins, I don’t think Doctor Doctor is one of their best songs (even Sister of Mercy is better) and Let’s Hear it for the Boy is a classic 80s upbeat song (the sequence in Footloose that features the song is a joy).

Dr Beat over Sunset Now – come on??!!

But absolute worst of all is not picking Warning Sign – unforgivable!

Great article all round – thanks for the entertaining read.

Daniel Bostoc

I disagree with this entire comment. You lost me at Electric Dreams, as that is such an anthemic moment.

Derek Langsford

I was at college at the time and really disliked Electric Dreams (and still do) as it sticks out like a sore thumb on all Human League collections. So poppy versus the more serious HL material of the late 70s and early 80s.

I generally dislike compilations like this. Diverse tracks juxtaposed like listening to the radio, only predictable, and maybe liking a half or so of the tracks. I rarely hate any tracks on single artist albums I buy, but these releases usually have a few.

Craig Hedges

Christmas 1984 I had Now 4 on vinyl off mom and dad, The Hits Tape from Nan and Grandad and Santa brought me the shaped picture disc of Ghostbusters, so I got the song three times, just one problem…. I didn’t like the song!

and in answer to Ian
‘Closing in on empty spaces
winners laugh too soon
a paper world with paper faces
beneath a paper moon’

and I didn’t google it, Is there a prize?


At the time, I moved from NOW to HITS but came back to NOW for 5. Looking at it today, the teenage me and I are still in agreement, I am happy to say. Hits wins it for me. A fun read, Ian, but I am far from gruntled to see McCartney’s NMLN beat Wham’s Freedom.


Wow this is a great article! You keep finding new ways to enhance this website and pull ppl in Paul. Well done.
I agree with almost all assessments except that Paul Young’s “Playhouse” is my favorite Paul Young track. That bass rocks. And I prefer Alison Moyet “All Cried Out” over “Bronski Beat’s “Why”. I love Bronski Beat but “Why” is not a great song. Always thought something’s missing from that song. May be the synth riff is a bit too stiff. Moroder would have done a better job with that. It doesn’t really pull me in the way Moroder’s “I Feel Love” does from which the synths of “Why” are somewhat ripped. Ironically “I Feel Love” is also covered by Bronski Beat.

Inner Space

I`m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down is an amazing cover. The bass by Pino Palladino & the solo guitar are wonderful and 12″ 9min+ version is surely legendary by now.


Had a great time reading this. Personal Top 5 of these hilarious comments:

1) I Feel for You vs. The War Song
2) Drive vs. The Wanderer
3) Thriller vs. Hello
4) Each and Every One vs. The Second Time
5) Just Be Good to Me vs. Shout to the Top


I think you’re being mighty unfair to the wonderful “Warning Sign” by Nick Heyward. Big in Japan is crap, but I otherwise mostly agree with your choices. Unfortunately there are so many good songs up against one another – it was a great year for music, no doubt. I really don’t like that Arthur Baker remix of No More Lonely Nights. The synth bell sounds remind me of 80s BBC Christmas TV trailers…urghhh.

Inner Space

Couldnt agree more about Warning Sign. I think its his best single of the entire career after the glorious North Of A Miracle album, and it especially shines on the wonderful 12″ versions – there were two of them – Bullet To Your Head remixes are great.


The regular 12 inch mix is awesome. I play it regularly.

Mark Swift

I’ll always have soft spot for Hits 3 as it was my introduction to both Prince and Bruce Springsteen.