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Back to NOW!

Back to NOW!

By Pop Rambler

Celebrating all things related to the variously compiled world of pop.
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NOW 11 - Spring '88: Mark Wood

Back to NOW!Feb 04, 2021

NOW 57 - Spring 2004: David Manero

NOW 57 - Spring 2004: David Manero

So, where were you in 2004?

The pop charts were as fast moving as Dame Kelly Holmes in Athens and every week brought another selection of shiny pop hits. 29 tracks topped the charts across the twelve months as pop buyers rushed to purchase the newest CD singles from their latest favourites. And unless you were the sparring, fall-out potty mouthed pair Eamon or Frankee , it was generally a one week reign at No.1! Phew!

The airwaves and TV reigned supreme in making and breaking the big hits of the year. Reality was biting all over the place; Chris Moyles and Terry Wogan were having breakfast with us daily whilst championing their own brands of hit makers such as Jungle champion Peter Andre (again!) and Katie Melua on the Beeb, whilst ITV was delivering a second slice of star making with Pop Idol. Michelle? Sam and Mark? And let’s not forget Fame Academy’s Alex and Alistair (you may already have)! The Svengali spotlight was shining brightly - if briefly - on plenty of 15 minute pop stars in 2004.

Britney was back with Toxic (and lots of left over wedding cake), Pharrell was producing just about everyone. Cover versions (and the instruction manual Cha Cha Slide!) were filling the dancefloor, Love Actually was delivering hits for Girls Aloud and Sugababes and both Keane and Snow Patrol opened their accounts with some mobile phone waving anthems that we’d hear again in different forms over the years!

Frank Ferdinand and Scissor Sisters too! Huge hits and even huger (is that even a word?) albums indicated that 2004 was a year of contrasts, contradictions, pace and change. Music was bristling but it was never boring! Oh, and don't forget your NOW ringtones people!

Join Radio 2 producer David Manero and I as we head back to the noughties to explore NOW57; the hits, the misses and everything else in between.

And find out why Kelly, Ozzy and DJ Casper probably won't be returning our (Nokia 3310) phone calls.

Oct 11, 202159:51
NOW 43 - Summer '99: Daryl Easlea

NOW 43 - Summer '99: Daryl Easlea

Summer 1999.

The End of the Century beckons.

As we prepared to send the clocks back to zero, millennium bugs threatened our very existence. David Bowie foretold us (well Jeremy Paxman, at least) that we were on the cusp of something exhilarating and terrifying and what this new Internet was going to do was unimaginable.

Party over, oops out of time..?

Not a bit of it, as the team at NOW That’s What I Call Music activate their latest release and it’s a hot one! The Popworld was in overdrive and the key word everywhere was Positivity. The kaleidoscope that was the ‘fin de siecle’ UK charts was encompassing something for everyone - Boybands!, Girlgroups! Solo stars from Girl groups! Superstar DJs! Even Hollywood film directors providing us with lifestyle coaching!

NOW43 had it all! Whilst the future pop masterminds such as Max Martin and Gregg Alexander plotted world domination for the next decade, pop fans revelled in this millennial musical feast! We were definitely at the end of something and whatever was coming next, NOW! was going to take us all the way!

Join writer, DJ, music consultant and millennial pop generalist Daryl Easlea as we relive the hits, misses and memories of this unforgettable last summer of the 20th century. As we unashamedly wallow in the ‘optimistic daftness of pop’, find out which track always saves a middle-age spread dance floor, who were 'the choppy haired trip hop darlings of ’99’, which act on the LP we are now calling the ‘Fisher Price Beta Band’ and why Cilla Black and Petula Clark have more to do with the pop stars on this LP than you may think!

And discover why Mel B (G?) and Cartoons probably won’t be returning our calls.

As The Chemical Brothers (euphorically said) HERE WE GO!

Aug 13, 202101:03:05
Back to NOW - We Are One!

Back to NOW - We Are One!

The podcast that celebrates the variously compiled world of pop is one year old.
Over the past twelve months, thirteen wonderful guests have joined me to open up gatefold sleeves, slip out cassette inlays and flick through CD booklets of their chosen compilation albums.
And in doing so, we’ve not only shared some great musical memories, we’ve also explored the shifting pop cultures of the past four decades and have recognised how these various artists collections do indeed stand as fond time capsules for our journeys through life.
So for this episode, here are some memorable moments - a compilation, if you will - from the first year of Back to NOW - including some previously unheard and extended clips.
In this anniversary episode, find out which NOW album Bob Stanley thinks was his first, the line up for Band Aid 1974(!), the Rebel MC's 'must have' items on tour and (in all its glory) the full horror Womble Hysteria!
Don’t forget you can hear the full episodes now at your favourite podcast sites and join in the conversations with myself Iain at the Poprambler Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.
I would like to say a massive thank you to all of my guests who’ve taken time to join me this year. It’s been privilege and a joy sharing in your musical journeys and as they say, we couldn’t have done it without you.
And to everyone that has listened and engaged in the podcast - thanks for all of your support and choosing Back to NOW!
The series now continues and I look forward to more guests, memories and stories coming very soon. Thank you everyone and stay tuned for more variously compiled pop!
Jul 29, 202134:21
NOW 16 - Autumn ‘89: Siân Pattenden

NOW 16 - Autumn ‘89: Siân Pattenden

It’s autumn 1989 and a decade where pop has transformed itself into an all encompassing mass culture is drawing to a spectacular close.
Ten years have seen huge growth in music sales and an explosion of genres, with rock morphing through glam metal and beyond, disco had danced through electro towards a new house, and hip hop had grown from the streets of New York to become an emerging and exciting influence on global pop culture. The nineties are almost here, but first the Now That’s What I Call Music team are set upon closing this unforgettable decade with some fireworks.
NOW 16 provided the narrative for this time and as you would expect contained the diverse snapshot of the UK Charts we had come to expect from the country’sfavourite compilation LPs. Tears for Fears were back, Back, BACK with a huge slice of psychedelic love power pop in tune with the chart’s positive vibe, alongside fellow returning performances from the likes of Tina Turner, Wet Wet Wet and the sensual Kate Bush. However, as always, the album also celebrated the diversity and excitement of the charts with the vibrance of the ever growing dance and hip hop scenes thanks to Technotronic, Neneh Cherry, De La Soul and Rebel MC. Throw in some glorious pop gems from the likes of Shakespear’s Sister, Deborah (not Debbie) Harry and Jimmy Somerville and you have the technicolour pop party that is NOW 16!
And did we mention three bonus tracks on the CD as well? Phew!
Join author, artist ( and host of the Bigmouth podcast Siân Pattenden as I as we explore the pop culture landscape as the 80s turned into the 90s. Expect a swingorilliant serving of pop stories from Siân’s time at Smash Hits (who controlled the office stereo?) as well as shiny tales and musings including (amongst other vital things) how Erasure enlisted neighbouring indie rockers for some ‘drama’, being on tour with Big Fun (and Sonia!) and which NOW 16 star made ‘advances’ on the young Miss Pattenden! And does anyone know anything about the whereabouts of Fresh 4 and Lizz E?
Parties have to end, history speeds on, and things always turn out to be much more complicated than they first appear. And, as 1989 teaches us, everything will sooner or later change again. John Harris.
Jul 08, 202101:09:18
NOW 10 – Autumn ’87: Justin Quirk

NOW 10 – Autumn ’87: Justin Quirk

Autumn 1987 and the pop world is at a crossroads. Some of music’s Big Names are in need of some inspiration, trends were fast moving and the decade that brought us a plethora of pop glitz and glamour was looking for some direction to the next chapter.
As always, the NOW! team were on hand to gather up all that was happening across the charts and NOW 10 provides a fascinating snapshot of a very distinctive moment in time – both in the world of culture and beyond.
From Freddie Mercury’s grandiose operatic Olympic opening to M/A/R/R/S cutting and pasting up the rulebook of dance through a variety of 80s ‘sophistipop’ and not forgetting a sizeable gathering of shiny Glam Metal stars, this volume certainly had it all!
Join Justin Quirk, writer of ‘Nothin’ But A Good Time – The Spectacular Rise and Fall of Glam Metal’ and myself as we navigate the hits, misses and memories of NOW 10 and autumn 1987.
Find out why metal and disco are more closely linked than you may think, what makes Bananarama a national treasure, what happened to a-ha’s video mannequins (yes, really!) and what really turns a Festive Fairtytale into a Christmas Classic.
And , we’re still not expecting a callback from Hue and Cry…
Jun 01, 202101:16:26
NOW 13 - Autumn '88: Pete Paphides

NOW 13 - Autumn '88: Pete Paphides

It's November 1988, and the latest chapter in the successful NOW compilation series is launched - and looking at the cover, it really is heading out of this world! 

And what an interesting period Autumn 1988 was! Shiny pop classics from the likes of Yazz, Erasure and Brother Beyond rubbing shoulders with seasoned artists rediscovering the glories of the charts - that's you Bryan Ferry, The Hollies and Tom Jones! 

Meanwhile new and exciting dance acts were looking to the next decade with Inner City, Bomb the Bass and The Beatmasters flying the dancefloor flag. Oh, and did we mention ACIEED?

Rap was (weirdly) looking back to the 60s and several experienced acts of the 1980s were having a slight 'identity crisis'. What do you do, when you're not really the Next Big Thing anymore?

Join author, journalist and broadcaster Pete Paphides as we explore an LP packed with interesting tracks that tell an even more interesting story of pop as the eighties began to draw to a close. And having Pete onboard, we also discuss his exciting new record label Needle Mythology and his wonderful 2020 biography 'Broken Greek' - a story of chip shops and pop.

Find out how the Isley Brothers infiltrated (at least) three tracks, what makes a classic Big Eighties Ballad, the band that were auctioned off to Stock, Aitken and Waterman, which artists on NOW 13 have 'the kindest faces' and what links Trevor and Simon and Wee Papa Girl Rappers. 

And find out why Hue and Cry probably won't be returning our calls.

Apr 27, 202101:15:38
Now, That's What I Call Music: Alexis Petridis

Now, That's What I Call Music: Alexis Petridis

Every story has a beginning and in November 1983, EMI and Virgin came together to create their own piece of compilation history.
And so it was, that a poster of a certain pig signalled a change in how various artists would be viewed and consumed from NOW on. As the first Now That’s What I Call Music LP curated thirty of the years biggest hits, the story of pop in 1983 was much more.
Whilst the popstars of the 80s were either splitting up, missing the chart mark or simply going stratospheric in the US, the pop path was blown wide open to a range of new stars, one hit wonders and some hugely memorable moments.
And a shimmering summer soundtrack signalled that one of the decades most colourful years would be remembered for many great reasons. And a few others too...
Join writer and chief music critic for The Guardian Alexis Petridis as we revisit the iconic first NOW LP and explore the pop culture of 1983 that launched it. Along the way find out which pop act made the first (and possibly biggest) impact on Alexis, why Summer ‘83 is still so memorable and which of the acts on that double album won’t be returning our calls.
Mar 19, 202101:10:40
NOW 8 - Autumn '86: Johnny Kalifornia

NOW 8 - Autumn '86: Johnny Kalifornia

It’s Autumn 1986 and the charts are once again filled with a glittering array of colourful, confident pop. The post-Live Aid landscape of 1985 has enabled its stars and supporting cast to build their singles and album popularity. Shiny new CDs are ensuring an aspirational digital era is on the way. But the singles chart still manages to reign supreme with an exciting range of tastes and flavours - from the Nile Rodgers produced funk of returning popsters Duran Duran, to the polished, sharp R’n’B courtesy of Janet Jackson and Cameo. And as the eighties moved on, new acts such as the Pet Shop Boys and Swing Out Sister were making their mark and looking onwards to ’87. As always, the NOW compilation series captured a moment in time, as we moved from the dance joy of Mel and Kim through the glorious Peter Gabriel & Kate Bush and onwards to a soap opera wedding that gave us a certain barman’s Big No.1 ballad! Oh, and did we mention HITS 5? Join Radio 2’s ‘Sounds of the 80s’ producer Johnny Kalifornia and I as we first of all explore his love of pop growing up, before we head back to the chrome covered pop of ’86.  Expect starring roles for Kim Wilde, Grace Jones, Robert Palmer and find out why Boris Gardiner and Don Johnson probably won’t be returning our calls.
Feb 22, 202157:49
NOW 11 - Spring '88: Mark Wood

NOW 11 - Spring '88: Mark Wood

It’s Spring 1988 and pop music is BIG once again!
And as always, NOW That’s What I Call Music is there to capture the charts in all of its late 80s bombast as symbolised by Volume 11 and THAT wonderful, mirrored skyscraper cover.
The Pet Shop Boys are reigning supreme in their imperial phase, the girls are conquering the charts from Kylie to Belinda and Vanessa to Sinead.
But change is in the air as the decade draws to a close and as the BPM increase so does the excitement – a whole side of House signals that dance music has the charts and the UK under arrest!
Join Universal Music’s Mark Wood and I as we revisit his musical influences and why NOW11 is such an important time capsule for him.
Along the way expect starring roles for Kylie, Bomb the Bass, Blondie and The Wombles (!) and find out all about one of Mark's biggest musical passions - what The Guardian describe as ‘Britain’s Greatest and Strangest Nightclub’ - Duckie.
I Know You’re Gonna Dig This!
Feb 04, 202101:00:23
Compiling Stories: Bob Stanley

Compiling Stories: Bob Stanley

For this special episode, I am joined by musician, writer, DJ, and film producer Bob Stanley.

Bob is a founder member of Saint Etienne, and a regular contributor to amongst others, The Guardian, The Times and Record Collector. Bob has compiled and produced an enviable collection of compilation albums for his own record label Croydon Municipal and with a host of collaborators for Ace records.
Bob shares his love for 70s compilations albums, library culture, the joy of discovering forgotten tracks and the wonderful nature of sequencing that the likes of K-Tel and Ronco provided us with.
We also explore the evolution of NOW through the 80s, how dance music came to the fore in the ‘90s and why we love collecting music in the UK.

With the launch of his latest compilation, Café Exil: New Adventures in European Music 1972-1980, Bob also provides an insight into his own process of creating compilation albums; where inspiration comes from, his favourites and what themes he is looking to curate next.
Dec 13, 202056:20
NOW - The Christmas Album: Ian Wade

NOW - The Christmas Album: Ian Wade

It's Christmas!!! In this episode we shamelessly deck the halls, crack open the eggnog and pass around mince pies in honour of NOW - The Christmas Album. Cue, sleigh bells! Join pop pundit & musician Ian Wade and I as we celebrate the classic festive compilation. From Band Aid to Bing Crosby via Slade, Macca and a dazzling array of hits, the first off-shoot LP from the NOW brand set the tinsel-drenched tone for all Christmas compilations that came afterwards. And of course, as it's Christmas, we provide a second course of glittering insights and rambles about lost classics, missing tracks and basically, why we all love our festive favourites so much at Christmas. Grab your favourite tipple, pull a cracker and enjoy a very seasonal Back To NOW!
Nov 19, 202001:13:16
NOW 2 - Spring ’84: Simon Philo

NOW 2 - Spring ’84: Simon Philo

In 1984, it wasn't George Orwell's Big Brother that was beaming out of our TVs, it was (to quote Rick Astley), the Ruddy Big Pig.
As the year began, the first NOW LP was dominating the charts, but its successor was not far behind.
As sequels go Now, That's What I Call Music 2 was pretty spectacular, bagging the top spot in the LP charts for five weeks and proving that the most successful compilation series in history was well and truly here to stay.
To explore the album, I'm joined by Simon Philo, lecturer in Popular Music in Society and American Studies at the University of Derby. In a 25-year career in higher education, he has made it his mission to introduce as many students as possible to the joy of popular music.
Simon is also the author of British Invasion: The Crosscurrents of Musical Influence (2015) and Glam Rock: Music in Sound and Vision (2018) and presents shows on Radio Free Matlock and Stranger Radio.
As well as revisiting the LP - the big tracks, the forgotten tracks and those great one-hit wonders, Simon and I also explore the pop culture that shaped his musical journey towards the Spring of 1984 and beyond.
Expect supporting roles for Kate Bush, The Dooleys, Dollar, Cyndi Lauper, The Smiths and Thomas Dolby. Discover why Matthew Wilder and Re-Flex probably won't be returning our calls, the record Simon threw out of his pram and what the difference really is between a banger and a clanger.
And as it is 1984, a healthy dose of Global Nuclear Annihilation thrown in too.
Oct 23, 202001:00:04
NOW4 - Autumn 1984: Richard Drew

NOW4 - Autumn 1984: Richard Drew

Joining me for this episode is RTS Nominated TV Production Designer Richard Drew. As well as ‘creating the magic’ for, amongst many others, The Inbetweeners, Friday Night with Jonathan Ross and most recently After Life, Richard describes himself as a self confessed Pop Fan since he can remember.

Richard and I explore the pop landscape of autumn 1984 and whilst NOW 4 was gearing its assault of the album charts, a new compilation LP was preparing to HIT back.

Richard also shares some of his personal musical memories and influences; how his mum sold the Beatles to America, how OMD rescued him from Trevor Horn and how one lunch break he found himself duetting with Paul McCartney.

Expect supporting roles in this episode from a neon lit array of stars including Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Ultravox, Hazell Dean and find out why ‘Ice And The Falling Rain’ may just be the great lost 80s classic!
Oct 02, 202056:20
NOW 5 - Summer '85: Simon Galloway

NOW 5 - Summer '85: Simon Galloway

1985 - a positive jamboree of pop and a fascinating year for the increasingly competitive compilation LPs. As NOW! faces stiff opposition from the record companies in the shape of HITS & OUT NOW! amongst others, the gloves were off for a slice of the various artists market. At the centre of the year sits the Big Pig and NOW 5. But how did this expanding market affect the tracklist for the UK's leading compilation summer offering? And how did NOW! regain it's place as the nation's favourite compilation LP? Join Simon Galloway (The Giddy Carousel of Pop) and myself as we battle our way through the hits, misses and headlines of this pivotal year of pop. Along the way, we discuss early musical memories, Live Aid, the exploding UK dance scene, home taping (killing music!), Smash Hits, nostalgia culture, the 'rotten side 4 syndrome', Paul Hardcastle's driving tips and much more!  I hope that you will enjoy sharing in our 1985 memories and insights. If you do, please spread the word and let me know your thoughts at or on Twitter with myself, Iain, @poprambler.
Sep 10, 202001:04:10
NOW 17 - Spring ‘90: Michael Mulligan
Sep 10, 202057:40
NOW 7 - Summer ‘86: Pete Selby
Jul 29, 202055:39
Back To Now! Trailer
Jul 24, 202001:03