Kieran O’Mahony’s first vinyl album, in 1983, was the debut of music’s most enduring compilation.
IT was top of my Christmas list 30 years ago. I got my first record, Now, That’s What I Call Music (NOW), named after a 1920s Danish bacon poster. It was a double vinyl with 30 chart tracks.
That compilation was pop nirvana. No more taping off the radio to make my own mixes. I had the real deal.
The series is still going strong, with NOW 86 topping the sales charts.
My first record has a treasured place in my record collection. Its grooves are just about intact. My amateurish attempts at hip hop scratching, to imitate The Rocksteady Crew, didn’t help. While the ’80s were all about hi-fi music systems and stereo sound, mine was more low-fi and mono on our ancient record player.
Listening to that record now, on my upgraded turntable decks, some of the tracks, from the likes of The Cure, Simple Minds and The Human League, still sound fresh. Pop gems from Heaven 17, Kajagoogoo and Duran Duran brilliantly captured the music of 1983.
The NOW series has gone from vinyl to cassette to CD to mini-disc to the digital download. Not only is it the biggest compilation series, it is also the longest-selling branded compilation. We’ve had NOW Disco, NOW Christmas, NOW Disney and NOW Relaxing Classical.
Number 86 in the series is as relevant today to pop music fans as it ever was, with sales confirming it as the second-fastest selling album of the year, after NOW 85. My teenage nieces buy each release religiously and they look at me aghast when I tell them I have the first one.
They didn’t think the series was that old, nor that I have the first one on vinyl. I guess there’s no point mentioning cassettes to them.
With access to music so instant today, through various platforms like iTunes, Spotify, and not to mention illegal downloading, you would be mistaken for thinking that the NOW series had met its match in the pop world. If anything, NOW has a more important place in the music industry, and it shows no signs of slowing down and is entering the digital world through the launch, last year, of the NOW app, which creates a library of all the music included on the EMI NOW music archive.
Alex McCloy, head of digital at NOW Music, says people will always have time for the NOW compilations.
“There will always be an appetite for curation and NOW continues to capture the music of the last few months and package it into an easy accessible product. With new technologies and platforms, the need for a guide, to cut through, becomes stronger than ever and, as such, the potential of the brand in the digital space is extremely exciting. The NOW app has also performed extremely well, with a new version to launch very soon and we are very excited about the music app space and the new products and services we can offer our consumers.”
What is also remarkable is the market value of many of the NOW compilations. If you own a CD copy of NOW 4, then go look for it, as you could make close to €500 by selling it on Ebay.
As only a limited number were ever pressed on CD, back in 1984, it’s become a collector’s item for many NOW fans. Unfortunately, I only have a cassette copy of it.
“I’m not surprised at all that some of the NOW compilations can command a lot of money as there is a real affinity to the brand. It can be very personal as people remember their first NOW album, the format they got it on and the music and period it encapsulates,” says McCloy.
David O’Donovan, manager of Golden Discs in Patrick Street, Cork, says NOW 86 is their second-biggest seller, being pipped to the top spot by One Direction, of course, who feature on NOW 86, along with the likes of Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus.
Well, I’ve made my list for this Christmas and, yes, Santa, I have been good. Let’s see, will he get it right again 30 years on? Fingers crossed.
Now, that’s called success
1. The first NOW sold over 1.1m copies
2. NOW 85 is the biggest Summer NOW in the history of the series.
3. NOW 44 is the most successful NOW album to date with 2.3m units
4. Robbie Williams (below) has appeared on more NOW albums than anyone else (28 times)
5. Despite her massive success, Madonna (right) has never appeared on a numbered NOW compilation and Michael Jackson has appeared once (NOW 4 back in 1984).
6. Girls Aloud have featured consecutively on 13 NOW albums. And that’s more than any other artist.
7. Now 86 is the second fastest selling album of 2013.
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