Now That’s What I Call a Christmas Gift.

Receiving music as a Christmas gift was often a lottery when I was growing up in the 80s, would the present giver get it right? Looking back at my record collection from that time it appears they had a 50% chance of achieving this, I was into heavy metal then so Randy Crawford and Showaddywaddy’s greatest hits were a bit of miss. But one thing offered possible salvation - a copy of the latest ‘Now That’s What I Call Music’ LP.  A stalwart of many festive gift lists, the concept caused the collective aunties and uncles of the UK to give a sigh of relief when the concept was first launched in 1983 (with Canada and the USA following in 1988 and 1998 respectively). The launch meant that your unmusically minded relation could shop for your gift without having to darken the door of their local town’s intimidating record store and instead track their prize down in their local Woolworths or even Boots the Chemist. For cash strapped teenagers the Now series also meant that they could sample a wide variety of music and for many it was the first place they heard legendary bands such as The Smiths, Pulp and Radiohead.

Now That
Now That's What I Call a Christmas Gift

There had been compilation albums before, but they were generally limited to dodgy cover versions of the top twenty, usually sounding like they’d been recorded in a submarine or if you were lucky a few number ones padded out with lots of filler. It wasn’t until Virgin Records reached chart dominance in the early 1980s that they realized that if they joined forces with EMI that the idea of an album of the year’s hits could be a very lucrative money spinner. Of course this collaboration meant that some artists were never featured as they were on other labels, so if you wanted to hear Madonna you were out of luck, but nevertheless the first Now release boasted 11 number ones on it’s cover.

Other companies tried their hand at the format, CBSs Hits series happily co-existed for most of the 80s but nothing had the Now staying power. Other countries soon joined the franchise – though perhaps not quite as many as Imagesound’s global reach of over 150 locations! Other titles were soon added too – Dance music got it’s own series, and there have been regular releases for Christmas, Fitness and even Dad Rock.  Still going strong Now That’s What I Call Music has just released number 110.  Now available on Spotify, the Now series has even been called ‘the first playlist’.

To get you going on the compilation trail here are some facts and figures about the series:

  • Robbie Williams is the most featured artist with 30 hits as of 2019
  • The series was named after a poster on Virgin executive Simon Napier’s wall – a 1920s Danish bacon ad of a pig telling a chicken ‘Now That’s What I Call Music’
  • U2 are the band that have appeared over the most decades
  • The Now Christmas Album is the UK’s seventh best selling LP and has outsold Dark Side of the Moon

Over the years, Now has appeared on many different formats – some gone forever – minidiscs anyone, with others like vinyl making a reappearance but what makes them special is their ability to pull together a selection of tracks that makes a great playlist – and that’s what Imagesound can do for you too! Whether you’re looking for a change of mood in your current venue or a start-up Imagesound can help you with the perfect playlist!

 / By Paul Stead, UK

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