My first Now! album – the NME team remembers

Ahead of this week's landmark release of 'Now 100', NME writers remember their first 'Now' album

Dan Stubbs, Commissioning Editor
‘Now That’s What I Call Music 4’, 1984

My first Now! album was both an odd one and an embarrassing one. Odd, because it wasn’t on cassette or vinyl or CD but a VHS tape; embarrassing because it was ‘Now 4’, which is from 1984 and blows my stage age out of the water. I was four, and I don’t really know how this tape came into our possession, only that it wasn’t in the proper sleeve and my dad brought it back from work one day. It had an edited selection of tracks from the album, and the interest my sister and I had in it largely centred on a handful of tracks: Ray Parker Jr’s ‘Ghostbusters’ (ghosts, Ghostbusters, what was not to like?), Culture Club’s ‘The War Song’ (generally considered the worst thing they ever put out but oddly thrilling to two tiny kids with its dumb-as-hell message of “war, war is stupid, and people are stupid” and accompanying funny dancing from Boy George) and Giorgio Moroder & Phil Oakey’s ‘Together In Electric Dreams’, one of the purest pop songs ever recorded. They’re all within the first 10 tracks, suggesting we rarely made it to the second half of the VHS, where delights included OMD’s ‘Tesla Girls’ and Depeche Mode’s ‘Blasphemous Rumours’, distracted most likely by the twin thrills of Grange Hill and what was for tea. MISTY EYED NOSTALGIA OVER. I’m not crying, honestly.

Track I put on repeat: Limahl, ‘The Neverending Story’ (not on the video, disappointingly)
Track I skipped: Tina Turner, ‘Private Dancer’

Thomas Smith, New Music Writer
Now 42, 1999

I don’t remember how or when I got this one, but one thing I am sure of: I rinsed this CD to shit. Even when my collection expanded over the ensuing years, 42 was the one I went back to. There’s some right stinkers on it, too – Cartoons and The Venga Boys – but those were the ones I revisited most, because I was an annoying little shit. Anyway, there’s some serious Not Annoying or Very Embarrassing gems in here though. Armand Van Helden’s ‘You Don’t Know Me’ and Mr Ozio’s ‘Flat Beat’ opened up my horizons to pop music that could be cool and not totally naff – while it was the first time I heard the weepy side of Blur in the shape of ‘Tender’. A wild ride, indeed.

Track I put on repeat:  Cartoons – ‘Witch Doctor’
Track I skipped: Boyzone – ‘When The Tough Gets Tough The Tough Get Going’

Nick Reilly, News Reporter
Now 59, 2005

To this day, I can’t listen to Now 61 without reliving the weird image of my house getting flooded.  It happened in early 2005, and an eventual insurance payout meant that I was allowed to choose the CDs that were to replace my now knackered discs. When you’re 12, a Now CD feels like the perfect option, doesn’t it? You’re *still* not entirely sure what music you like, so you go for the album that quite literally has a bit of everything. The first disc, for example, might be the only record in the world that features Tupac and James Blunt back to back. The second is equally fucking mad – Roll Deep is immediately followed by Charlotte Church. But that’s the strange beauty of Now Records, there’s something for everyone – and it’s this winning formula that has allowed them to reach the 1-0-0.

Happy birthday, Now! Here’s to the next 100.

Track I put on repeat:  ‘Feel Good Inc’ – Gorillaz
Track I skipped: ‘Axel F’ – Crazy Frog

Sam Moore, Writer
Now 50, 2001

2001 was a truly magical time for music, as Now 50 clearly attests. Sophie Ellis-Bextor! The Dandy Warhols! Sum 41! True icons of popular music, all gathered in this purple-and-lime fronted CD. 11-year-old me could barely contain his excitement as the likes of City High’s ‘What Would You Do’ and Daft Punk’s ‘Digital Love’ blasted through my Sony stereo speakers, while OPM’s ‘Heaven Is A Halfpipe’ far-too-easily convinced me at the time that, yes, in heaven there’ll be somewhere I can skate. So many bangers, so little time. It’s still, incredibly, available on Amazon for the princely sum of £8.80 – if you missed out the first time round, do yourself a favour now.

Track I put on repeat: D12 – ‘Purple Hills’
Track I skipped: Kate Winslet – ‘What If’

El Hunt, Writer
Now 48, 2001

I can say with complete confidence that one of the greatest moments of my childhood was when my mum brought home ‘Now That’s What I Call Music! 48’ from Safeways supermarket (remember Safeways!?). Thinking about the high-calibre selection of noughties pop gems to grace this compilation – Samantha Mumba’s ‘Always Come Back To Your Love’, Nelly Furtado’s debut single ‘I’m Like A Bird’, and the once-again-relevant ‘Whole Again’ by Atomic Kitten (thanks Gareth Southgate) – leaves me clammy with excitement. I’d also be lying if I claimed I don’t rinse a fair majority of these 2001 pop bangers on a regular basis, seventeen years later. That horrific U2 track can get to fuck, though. The utterly bizarre decision to include Papa Roach’s ‘Last Resort’ also holds a large crossover appeal with another of my favourite music collections of all time; the soundtrack to Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2.

Track I put on repeat:  Atomic Kitten – ‘Whole Again’
Track I skipped: U2 – ‘Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of’

Luke Morgan Britton, Writer
Now 34, 1996

I should probably lie and say that I bought Now 34 for Blur’s ‘Charmless Man’, Underworld’s ‘Born Slippy’, 2-Pac’s ‘California Love’, or even Mark Morrison’s ‘Return Of The Mack’, but I can’t. I actually bought – or got my parents to buy – the cassette because it included the holy trinity of 1996 pop bangers: ‘Wannabe’, ‘Mysterious Girl’ and ‘The Macarena’. Forgive me, I was six years old. I could also probably lie and say that through listening to the 42-track collection, I discovered a lot of the music that I love today. But again, I can’t. I probably skipped past ‘The Day We Caught The Train’ to get to ‘Ooh Aah… Just A Little Bit’. Actually, I’m not even sorry, that’s still a banger.

Track I put on repeat: Peter Andre, ‘Mysterious Girl’
Track I skipped: Boyzone, ‘Coming Home Now’ (even six-year-old me knew this was trash)

Charlotte Gunn, Editor

Shine Too, 1995

This is hopefully exactly the type of pretension you’d expect from an NME employee, but I genuinely never owned a ‘Now’ album. I was such a dedicated indiehead in my school days that I had no interest in pop. I could not understand how my classmates were for Blur, Oasis AND Boyzone at the same time. It irked me no end. ‘Shine Too’ was my ultimate compilation album.  That series of tapes introduced me to Belly, The Stone Roses, Teenage Fanclub and so many others. They were a brilliant snapshot of a formative era in music and I owe so many of my favourite bands to their carefully-curated lists. Of course now, my tastes are a lot broader. In this genre-blurred age, gimme any ‘Now’ album and it’s the pop bangers that’ll undoubtedly be on repeat. Ah, nostalgia, it’s a wonderful thing.

Track I put on repeat: Elastica – ‘Waking Up’
Track I skipped: Change – ‘The Lightening Seeds’