NOW Thats’ what I call Music advert from 1989.

Devised by Ashley Abram of Box Records (a consultancy specialising in producing compilations), the series took its name from an advertising poster for Danish meat products which showed a pig listening to a whistling cockerel. The pig became the Now! series’ mascot for a while, making its last appearance on Now That’s What I Call Music 5.

The first Now! compilation appeared in 1983 and collected thirty UK hit singles from that year on a double vinyl LP or cassette. The concept of a compilation of recent hit singles was not new; Ronco and K-tel had been issuing single-disc collections since the early 1970s. However, by spreading tracks across two discs instead of one, the Now! series was able to achieve better sound quality (tracks were often edited to fit a running time on K-Tel and Ronco single disc compilations). In addition, since the albums were a collaboration between major record companies, a greater number of major hits could be included (the first album in the series boasted of “11 number ones” on its sleeve, something previously unheard-of). The album went to number one and soon had a major rival in CBS/WEA’s The Hits Album which adopted a similar format to Now! The two series co-existed for the rest of the 1980s.

The sheer longevity and ubiquity of the Now! series in the UK has led to its becoming something of a cultural icon. Many people now collect the albums as a series, something made easier by the fact that the series was a hit from the start, so even the long-deleted early albums are easy to find second-hand.

Although the rate of release varied in the early days, it has now settled down to three per year: one release around Easter, another during the summer break (to pick up some of the summer’s dance hits), and a third around November (in time for the Christmas). The latest in the series, Now That’s What I Call Music! 70, was released on 21 July 2008. The UK series continues to follow the double-album format, now exploiting the capacity of the CD to include forty – forty-five songs over its two discs. At the current time, the Now series are only released on CD and digital download formats.

The most successful has been 1999’s Now That’s What I Call Music! 44, which has sold 2.3 million copies and is the 46th best selling album in UK chart history, and the biggest selling compilation album ever. [1] 2008’s Now That’s What I Call Music! 69 sold 382,759 units in the first week of sales, the biggest ever first week sale of any Now album beating the previous record of Now 57 in 2004.

Mark Goodier has been the voice of Now! adverts since the 21st volume in 1992, going back to his days with BBC Radio 1.

Although starting out on vinyl records and cassette tapes, the formats in which the albums have been released on have changed over the years:

  • Unabridged (double CD) full versions of Now were first available starting with Now 10 in 1987.(however there was a Now 4 CD that featured songs from Now 2, 3 & 4)
  • Vinyl editions ended in 1996 with Now 35.
  • MiniDiscs of the now series started with Now 43 in 1999 and ended with Now 48 in 2001.[ citation needed ]
  • Related ring tones from the Now series started with Now 54 in 2003.
  • Now 62 in 2005 was the first Now album to be released as a digital download across online music stores, and the first that allowed you to unlock a secret Now 62 area on the Now website, with features such as exclusive interviews and music videos.
  • Cassette tapes ceased in the mid-2000s.

Robbie Williams is the artist to be featured the most times in the UK Now! series. In the first 69 Now!’s he has appeared 29 times (including 4 times with Take That). His first appearance was with Take That on Now 22 with “It Only Takes a Minute” and his most recent appearance was on Now 66 with “She’s Madonna”. Kylie Minogue is second with 21 appearances, starting on Now 11 with “I Should Be So Lucky” and features on Now 70 with “In My Arms”. U2 are third with 18 appearances, starting on Now 4 with “Pride (In the Name of Love)” and most recently on Now 66 with “Window in the Skies”. Girls Aloud are in fourth place with 17 appearances, starting on Now 54 with “Sound of the Underground”, and most recently on Now 70 with “Can’t Speak French”. They also hold the record for the most consecutive appearances, appearing on 13 straight Now! albums between Now 54 (“Sound of the Underground”) and Now 66 (“I Think We’re Alone Now”). Britney Spears is in fifth place with 15 appearances, starting with #1 single, …Baby One More Time, and more recently, Break The Ice on Now 70.

 

[edit] Spin-offs

In addition to the main “Now That’s What I Call Music” series, there have been a number spin-off compilations in the UK using the name, including:

  • Now Dance – a series in its own right, these compilations originally consisted of 12″ mixes of current hits. They now focus on 7″ mixes of recent dance hits, and a “Very Best of Now Dance” compilation has been released.
  • At least two different series of year-by-year “retrospective” compilations, covering 1983 to 1995, and 1980 to 1999 respectively (the latter known as Now! – The Millennium Editions).
  • At least two “best-of” compilations covering the entire “Now!” series.
  • At least one tie-up with Smash Hits Magazine in 1987, called Now Smash Hits [6] (Smash Hits later went on to release their own compilations).
  • Christmas releases, including some classic Christmas favourites
  • Video releases, including video cassette editions of many early ‘Now!’ compilations, and (more recently) yearly DVD video releases.
  • Other releases include “Now Karaoke” and the interactive DVD “Now That’s What I Call A Music Quiz.”

A more complete list can be found at the list of Now That’s What I Call Music! albums.

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