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Making Depeche Mode: Speak And Spell



Depeche Mode: Speak And Spell announced the arrival of one of the most important synth-pop bands of the 1980s. Matthew Lindsay looks back on its making…

Depeche Mode: Speak And Spell
Depeche Mode: Speak And Spell cover

It would have been hard to be a young record buyer in 1981 and not get the feeling you were living through a golden age. Stylish stars gazed out from magazine shelves while sleek, polished pop filled the airwaves, beamed into the living room via Top Of The Pops. Duran Duran sashayed into the charts with Planet Earth, Adam Ant became a household name, and Spandau continued the success of last year’s debut, To Cut A Long Story Short.

Whatever retro comfort Shakin’ Stevens’ reheated rock’n’roll offered, this was synth-pop’s annus mirabilis. Myriad acts occupied the upper echelons of the charts with the electronic music Gary Numan had taken overground just two years previously. His futuristic star-shaped riposte to punk’s ‘no future’ had opened the floodgates.

It all came to a peak in 1981’s latter stages with a series of landmark long-players from Soft Cell, the revamped Human League, Japan, Heaven 17 and OMD, records that smuggled the weird and wonderful into mainstream pop.

Also hitting the shelves that October was Speak & Spell, Depeche Mode’s debut. To some, this band – perky, cherubic, with their album named after an electronic toy – were the runt of this litter. Depeche Mode: Speak And Spell displayed little of the depth of Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’s red-light experience, nor any of Tin Drum’s exotic muso chops or far eastern promise.

The records that it shared the racks with seemed like its older, more sophisticated brethren. Penthouse And Pavement had Brit-funk swing and conceptual big ideas, while Architecture & Morality plunged into ambitious Eno-esque soundscapes with proggy mellotrons.

Play Depeche Mode: Speak And Spell next to Dare with its synthetic orchestral sheen and bang-up-to-date LinnDrum wallop, and it’s a bit skimpy… like electro-skiffle.

What it did have that the others lacked was a wide-eyed innocence, the joyful naivety that the best, purest pop often effervesces with. It proved irresistible. Propelled by the No.11 success of New Life, previewed that September by top tenner Just Can’t Get Enough and a flurry of press, Speak & Spell was a success before it was in the shops, with large advanced sales.

It sailed into the Top 10, staying in the charts for 32 weeks – quite an achievement for a new band on an independent label.

Sessions took place at Blackwing Studios, nestled in the Dickensian backstreets of South London’s Borough district. Daniel Miller had discovered the facility putting the finishing touches to his Silicon Teens album, finding owner/engineer Eric Radcliffe sympathetic to his DIY approach.

On Speak & Spell, Miller’s proviso was simple: capture the “atmosphere and vibe” of Depeche Mode’s live act and add a few “experimental twists”. Synth parts were laid down in the live room much in the manner of a traditional band with Gore’s lead on the Yamaha CS-5, Fletcher’s bass from the Moog Prodigy, and Clarke’s rhythm on the Kawai 100FS (he’d also purchased a Roland Jupiter 4 that summer).

However, Miller chose to add several vital ingredients, including an ARP 2600 and a sequencer. The semi-modular synth, invented in 1971, was versatile, being previously used in rock (The Who’s 1972 Relay), funk (Stevie Wonder), and the outer-limits of sci-fi cinema (R2D2’s voice on Star Wars).

Miller used the machine, purchased from Elton John’s tour ensemble in ’79, to create both percussive effects and Speak & Spell’s super-clean beat. Toiling away to get the right kick drum on the ARP, Miller remained in the studio for hours after everyone else had left, honing, tweaking, and tightening everything.

If this seemed like a chance to turn Silicon Teens theory into living, breathing practice, Miller was no Svengali; he was merely responding to the group’s own request to fashion a radio-friendly, chart-bound sound.

Reviews: Depeche Mode – Speak & Spell & A Broken Frame – 12″ Singles

Depeche Mode: Spirit review

Engineer John Fryer remembers the group being “very young, very shy and very naïve”, with Gahan hiding behind his mic stand. Clarke, however, felt right at home, “like a kid in a sweet shop”. He watched Miller at work, impressed by the sequencer’s ability to lock things into timed precision.

Despite the principal songwriter having slightly more studio experience, Speak & Spell was very much a group effort. Gore provided two songs and lead vocals on another, and the mix involved all the band’s hands on the mixing desk, turning things on and off, taking cues. Afterwards they’d pile into Eric Radcliffe’s motor, testing rough mixes on his car stereo.

If Clarke’s lyrics sometimes veered towards the opaque, then Speak & Spell’s music had a shimmering transparency. Blackwing was a modest 8-track facility, but Clarke saw that such constraints were a blessing.

Uncluttered and svelte, each constituent part zings through the mix with bell-like clarity, with everything in service to the song. And yet through this efficiency, Speak & Spell dazzles, achieving a beautiful pop concision.

It’s a monophonic synth funhouse, bleeping and whooshing like the Space Invader games they played, teeming with counterpoint. Arpeggios chatter melodically throughout as if the one-note at a time lines were expressing things the young ‘unfathomable’ Clarke couldn’t.

The finished result came housed in a sleeve by photographer Brian Griffin, with graphic design by Barney Bubbles.

The cover image, a silver swan in a silver nest, wrapped in a plastic bag surrounded by a swirling crimson backdrop, confounded many – but it makes perfect symbolic sense for a debut album by a synth-pop act, heralding the birth of something new, at once artificial and natural.

If they were reviled by certain corners of the press, that wasn’t reflected in Speak & Spell’s UK reviews. It received near-unanimous praise, garnering rave notices from both the pop bibles and the inky weeklies. Morley in the NME actually preferred it to Architecture And Morality in his comparative review.

Equally laudatory were Sounds, Melody Maker and Record Mirror. All highlighted Speak & Spell’s unforced, unpretentious charm, rare in an age of arty overreach when pop was taking itself very seriously.

Mike Stand of Smash Hits agreed (“synthesizers and bubblegum go together like tinned peaches and Carnation”), but he also noted hidden depths (“there’s more to the Mode than meets the eye”). For all its neon-lit immediacy, there is a hint of danger here, what the same magazine’s Steve Taylor had called a “tinge of moodiness” back in July.

Ultra-pop might bookend Speak & Spell, but when you dig deeper you’ll find its mid-section to be a junior echo of Dare’s dark centre, interrupted only by the disconcertingly chirpy What’s Your Name?

Read our article on the cover art of Depeche Mode

Read our article on Depeche Mode’s Violator

There’s Basildon’s new town thuggery, a vaguely gay subtext, voyeurism and WWII, all chafing at the pop surface, jutting out at arty angles, hinting at the tough stuff to come.

Like most early 1980s pop, Mode were forged in the shadow of punk. No matter how upbeat Speak & Spell was, Clarke’s early fondness for post-punk alienation – see The Cure’s Three Imaginary Boys – still looms sporadically.

There’s still a hangover from synth’s first wave too, those acts Phil Oakey aptly dubbed “the alienated synthesists”.

In the US, Rolling Stone’s David Fricke gave it a chillier reception, his rockist response coming with a thinly veiled subtext: this was not ‘real’ music. For Fricke, synth-pop was another of the UK’s “six-minute fads”, Depeche were “PG-rated” and, he claimed, “the revolution will not be synthesized”. It already had been.

More open-minded was the New York Times’ Robert Palmer, who marvelled at the LP’s immaculate construction.

Despite the occasional mood swings, Mk.1 Mode brought, as then-music scribe Neil Tennant wrote, “a new warmth to cold electronic pop”, thawing it with harmonies and hooks. On Speak & Spell, Depeche Mode – perhaps more than any other group – made synth music relatable.

Existing in their own New Town orbit, they were their audience, less hyper-stylised than major label young bucks Spandau or Duran, less icy and remote than sophisticates like Sylvian. OMD even told Smash Hits they’d given up writing pop songs… they were leaving it to Depeche Mode.

Writer Simon Spence claims Speak & Spell was as momentous a first outing as The Velvet Underground & Nico – a stretch, perhaps, but the album does hang together with a fluency that adds up to something more than its parts. It’s a perfect pop album that’s far from perfect.

As with many debuts, there’s a nagging sense that it would have been improved by a different track selection, that Dreaming Of Me and Ice Machine could easily replace certain tracks (the former was included in the US).

Read our definitive guide to Depeche Mode

Depeche Mode: Songs Of Faith & Devotion

It’s also hard to view Speak & Spell away from what happened next. When Clarke and Depeche Mode emerged from their November ’81 split, both parties seemed to eclipse this joint effort. Yazoo’s Upstairs At Eric’s thickened the superfunk synthetics, refined the pop sensibility and had bolder experiments.

Depeche Mode’s A Broken Frame displayed more compositional nuance, beefier electronics, and a more lucid lyrical viewpoint. Crucially, Gahan grew into a far more potent vocalist, less timid, emerging from behind that mic stand.

Depeche Mode: Speak And Spell – The Sound of 1981

Ultimately, Speak & Spell captures a band in the white heat of its first thrilling moment, freezing the frame on a fleeting line-up in one brilliant flash.

It’s a supremely adolescent record, the sound of innocence on the brink of experience, as excited as the Basildon boys who made it on their first cheap day return to London, faces lit up by the glow of arcade machines or the lights of a first trip to the discotheque.

Speak & Spell strikes a balance between the familiar and the shock of the new, that inter-zone where so much perfect pop exists.


Depeche Mode: Speak And Spell – The Songs

New Life

“Immaculate!” exclaimed Simon Bates on TOTP. New Life embodied the bright side of synth-pop at the movement’s golden moment. Numanoid electro-noir met plinky-plonk optimism; the electronics are redolent of Kraftwerk’s Airwaves while harmonies take it to a 60s teen-dream crescendo (The Beatles’ Twist And Shout).

Despite its debt to German pioneers, it’s an avowedly English synth record, as if The Tornados’ Telstar had been the blueprint for the future. Occupying the charts for 15 weeks, New Life peaked at No.11. This was electronic music’s rebirth, a leap from the bleak, industrial 1970s into a shiny, ultrapop tomorrow. 

I Sometimes Wish I Was Dead 

The title suggested a morbid adolescent comedown after New Life’s high, but the song bounced along merrily, aglow with choirboy harmonies. A different version given away with Flexipop magazine rises even higher, the beat dropping out halfway through leaving the Mode carolling and churchy synths.

With that ‘happy, clappy, nursery rhyme’ simplicity, it’s pure Vince Clarke. Whistling synths zip through it like OMD’s Enola Gay, but strip away the ‘new sounds all around’ and you’re left with a pretty folk-pop melody reminiscent of Clarke’s faves Simon & Garfunkel.


From Living Doll to Roxy’s In Every Dream Home A Heartache to Kraftwerk’s Showroom Dummies, pop is full of mannequin fantasies. Sultry and sinister, Puppets is assembled from parts of all three… a taster of the darker ‘perv-pop’ they’d make after Clarke’s departure.

This time, unlike Master And Servant, Gahan is on top, operating this robotic-erotic machine, but wordsmith Clarke is pulling the strings from behind the synth. Puppets bursts with motifs and melodies.

Popping arpeggios flash back to the synth-pop building block Popcorn, while that elegant melody after the middle eight zooms forward to Pet Shop Boys. 

Boys Say Go!

Football terrace chants in a wind tunnel usher in a macho equivalent of Yazoo’s super-funk struts. It’s a comic book view of ‘boys getting together’ two years after Bowie’s Boys Keep Swinging.

Part-Basildon Beano bovver boy, part homo-erotic bum-shaker, Boys Say Go! was, for Smash Hits, “oddly menacing, gnawing at your nerves”. A live favourite, it was kept in their repertoire right up to the Black Celebration tour. 


Essentially Boys Say Go! part two, this is a chanty, futuristic floor-filler – more dystopia down the disco with that mechanical groove, a clinical beat, and robotic bass-lines while sparkling synths light up the dancefloor.

And like Boys Say Go!, NoDisco is another skeleton Moyet would flesh out on Yazoo. You can almost hear Don’t Go’s testifying vocals coming around the corner. 

What’s Your Name? 

Maybe Speak & Spell’s one duff track; was this a rebuttal of their pretty boy image, a satirical swipe at 80s club-land peacocks, or was it shy, unassuming Clarke taking potshots at aesthete Gahan singing his song? In fact, What’s Your Name? was aimed at the tabloids.

There’s a dose of campy, winking subversion to it, boys singing a girl group confection (early Composition of Sound gigs featured a Crystals’ Then He Kissed Me cover). But really it’s another cousin to Bowie’s Boys Keep Swinging, only paler and weedier, with pimples. 


Originally recorded as part of Some Bizzare’s Futurism compilation (where it was hailed as the highlight), Photographic restores the atmosphere.

Many prefer the earlier, dirtier version, but this polished remake does have nerve-shredding tension and release, plus a firework display of synths. Miller noted that the young Depeche “weren’t touched by the art school aesthetic”, but Photographic is tinged with it – the opening lyrics could be the mounting of a modern art installation.

The music tells the real story though, fusing electro-gloss with clanging disturbances, getting deep inside the lensman’s mind.

Tora! Tora! Tora! 

From the pen of Martin Gore, taking its title from a Japanese military code meaning ‘complete surprise’ (it’s the title of the film dramatisation of the 1941 Pearl Harbour attack). Gore’s fondness for early League comes through, with Being Boiled-style pulses and deep, doomy synths. Predictive of A Broken Frame’s denser soundscapes, it’s bolstered by an almost tribal rhythm.

Gahan is mostly a ghostly presence here, reflecting, like that spooky theremin noise, the macabre lyrical imagery; war, death, nightmares, skeleton. The first glimpse into the Gothic imagination of Martin Gore that would later run riot all over Depeche Mode. 

Big Muff 

One of many Mode instrumentals – Nothing To Fear, etc – Big Muff’s huge, marauding synth parts more than make up for the lack of vocal. It was tagged by some as Eurodisco; others, such as Smash Hits, compared its future-funk to Stevie Wonder, himself an early adopter of Speak & Spell’s magic component, the ARP 2600. A live highlight, Big Muff stayed in their set after ’81. 

Any Second Now (Voices) 

A dreamy electro-ballad, penned by Clarke, sung by Gore, woven from the same synthetic gossamer as Kraftwerk’s Neon Lights (a different instrumental version appeared on Just Can’t Get Enough’s B-side).

On an album that often feels airtight, this beatless lullaby opens the sound up, drifting away with artificial marimbas (chimes that would resurface on Erasure’s Wild!).

At the centre of this web of delicate textures, glinting in the cinematic lyric, was Speak & Spell’s most heartfelt moment. Clarke’s compositions would wear their heart on their sleeve more and more, from Yazoo’s Only You to The Assembly’s Never Never to Erasure, aided by the often unguarded Andy Bell.

Gore’s tender vocal also foreshadows the off-kilter Mode ballads he’d write and perform, emotionally naked and sonically layered.

Just Can’t Get Enough 

Speak & Spell’s final track, Just Can’t Get Enough, is in many ways Mode Mk.1’s zenith. On this No.8 smash, all vestiges of synth past are gone, replaced with pure electro-pop, raging with hormones and dance-floor ready (hear the crowd erupt during its intro at Chichester’s Off The Record gig). When Morley praised their “relentless friskiness”, he could have been describing this irrepressible ditty.

For Clarke, pop tunesmith par excellence, this was no aberration. But that poppiness, as fizzy as soda, was precisely what the remaining group would soon disavow. Even the 12-inch sleeve seems eager to move on, projecting them into their kinky, industrial future.

For some hard hearts, Just Can’t Get Enough has been dimmed by over-exposure like that other ‘81 synth-pop evergreen, Don’t You Want Me? As the 80s progressed, electronic pop became increasingly conventional; don’t blame Just Can’t Get Enough’s deceptively simple pleasures, though.

Around that infectious riff and vocal, there’s nuance, counterpoint, bubbly synth brass, and an exhilarating zoom in the breakdown, predating Freeez’s IOU by two years. It’s both of its time and timeless, as idealistic as She Loves You or I Want To Hold Your Hand, as giddy as the pangs of first love it has soundtracked across youth club disco floors over the years.

Like those early romances that burn so bright and brief, it’s the sound of a line-up that within two months after its release would cease to exist.

Check out Depeche Mode’s website

Read our 2019 interview with Gary Numan




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The Story Of Now That’s What I Call Music




Now That's What I Call Music
Now That’s What I Call Music Vol 1

Now That’s What I Call Music! was many people’s introduction to chart music when they were young. Classic Pop traces the story of the big daddy of all compilation series… By Paul English

The Now That’s What I Call Music! brand is quite simply a phenomenon. Initially launched by EMI and Virgin in November 1983, it’s currently now at volume 109 with spin-offs and other series bringing the total number of releases well past the 250 mark.

Right from the beginning, Now… looked different to other compilations with its liner notes, artist photographs and generally luxurious feel.

For many people, these releases are totally tied to nostalgia. They represent the building blocks of a record collection with their contents exposing young listeners to a wide variety of music hanging together in a logical sequence. The person responsible for this was Ashley Abram, who in 1983 was creating compilations for Ronco, and joined the Now team just before the second volume.

He remembers those early 1984 days: “The first Now album had the whole year to choose from but there was only a limited period of time to compile Now 2 and a more limited pool of tracks. Now 1 had cleared big names like Rod Stewart and Genesis and coupled them successfully with current pop acts and we felt it was important to do this for the follow-up.

“We managed to get David Bowie and Eurythmics who’d refused permission for the first one and ended up striking a deal with Queen on the agreement that they would appear in the TV ad and be the first track on the album. On the basis that it would encourage other ‘superstar’ acts, Virgin and EMI went to great lengths to clear The Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney for Now That’s What I Call Music 2 as well.”

After a hugely successful summer with Now 3, a new rival entered the market which meant that CBS and WEA started to refuse tracks for the next instalment of Now, instead keeping them back for their own compilation, The Hits Album.


Now That's What I Call Music
Now That’s What I Call Music II

However, Now That’s What I Call Music 4 sold a million copies and, in addition, to the regular vinyl and cassette also came out as a 15-track CD, which now sells for over £500. Abram looks back: “When the CD format first appeared, there was no blueprint for compilation clearances and, as I remember, it took a long time to get agreement over what royalties should be paid to the artists etc.

“We wanted to put out a CD to test the market but couldn’t get approvals on a number of the tracks on Now 4, so we ended up with a truncated version and also using tracks from previous albums. From memory, it sold around 2,000 copies max!”

By 1985, the series had settled into a regular release pattern and started to diversify into spin-offs with Now Dance – The 12 Mixes and Now The Christmas Album both appearing. The first two Now Dance volumes were well-received but didn’t sell in massive quantities so it was put on the back-burner until 1989.

Abram explains: “The original Now Christmas album was an interesting one. Lots of record company people didn’t want to release it at the time because they thought it would only sell for a week before 25 December and then we’d be left with all the stock.

“Also, at the time they said I couldn’t put Bing Crosby and Slade on the same album and that Jona Lewie wasn’t a Christmas song! However, we managed to convince the relevant people, got the rights to bring it back for the next few years and a successful version still exists 32 years later. Sales-wise we were more than vindicated as Now 6 and Now Christmas dominated the charts that December.”

Now That's What I Call Music
Now That’s What I Call Music 26

The track flow on the Now albums was key to telling a story and building the mood. There are many examples: the love trilogy towards the end of Now 13, OMC being followed by OMD on Now 34 and the memorable side-long house and indie sequences on Now 11 and 17 respectively.

Deciding on inclusions was an ongoing process for Abram: “I was constantly monitoring the charts and new releases and obviously Top Of The Pops as it had a big effect on chart positions. As the series developed and became successful, record companies began suggesting tracks for inclusion, so I had a good idea of what was around but the albums had to be mastered around a month before release in those days, so there was always an element of trying to predict the hits!”

One fundamental flaw of retrospective compilations is that they tend to cherrypick songs whereas the Now albums tended to give a snapshot of pop trends over a four-month period. Sometimes mistakes would occur or a rare version would be included.

Read more: Now II reissue review

Now 4 starts with Arthur Baker’s Special Dance Mix of Paul McCartney’s No More Lonely Nights as it was the only version that his management would approve for licensing. Meanwhile, Pet Shop Boys were involved in two such instances: the original Mark Stent Mix of Go West kicked off CD2 of Now Millennium Series 1993, while on 1986’s Now 7 we got treated to the Alternative 7” of Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money).

Abram recalls: “They were done deliberately – at least most of them were! In the 80s and 90s, the Now albums had long lead times but there was always pressure to get the mastering done very quickly. Component parts came into the studio in large numbers so it was always chaos in Abbey Road with packages of master tapes arriving the whole time so not everything always went exactly to plan.

“I think on Opportunities…, PSB didn’t mind which mix we used but when they found out we’d used the alternative version they asked EMI for a couple of boxes of samples of Now 7 as they thought it might become sought after at some point because of the alternative mix!”

Now That's What I Call Music
Now The Christmas Album

More time capsules of long-forgotten tracks include novelties like The Commentators’ N-N-Nineteen Not Out on Now 5, a parody of Paul Hardcastle’s 19, which describes the poor performances of England’s cricket team. Another is Karel Fialka’s synth-and-drum combination Hey Matthew which graced Now 10 and deals with a father questioning his son’s television choices.

For many years, the only way you could obtain a CD version of Tears For Fears’ Everybody Wants To Run The World (recorded to promote Sport Aid) was on the spin-off CD-only Now ‘86 released that year.

Flying the flag for obscure sophisti-pop were The Ward Brothers’ Don Was-produced Cross That Bridge on Now 9 and Waterfront’s superb Cry on Now 15. And back to Paul Hardcastle: his Top Of The Pops theme, The Wizard, appeared on Now 8.

After five years of uninterrupted success, compilation albums ended up being placed in their own chart from January 1989. Abram attributes this to, “pressure from US companies on their UK counterparts i.e. Warner/Sony as they couldn’t understand why their superstars were being kept off the top by Now!

From then on, the series went from strength to strength as the CD format finally took a foothold in the public consciousness. After truncated CD releases of volumes 8 and 9, Now 10 was the first to include the same songs across all three formats. Meanwhile, Now 16 offered three bonus tracks to purchasers of the silver discs which went some way towards compensating against the complete absence of any No.1 singles. 

The series dropped back to two annual releases for 1990 and 1991 (there were three Now Dances in 1990) before settling into a thrice-yearly pattern from 1992 onwards. While it continued to come out on vinyl, sales of that format from Now 21 onwards were very low and continued to decrease.

Now 35 – emerging in November 1996 – was the last double LP and regularly fetches up to £100 due to its scarcity. It’s certainly the only compilation where you’ll find Boyzone and Björk sharing vinyl space. As the end of the decade approached, Now 44 became the best-selling volume, shifting a massive 2.3 million copies – many of them purchased to soundtrack New Year’s Eve Millennium parties.

Nearly 40 years later, the brand shows no sign of stopping with Now 110 expected later this year.

Ashley Abram is no longer involved – his last compilation was Now 81 in 2012 – with Jenny Fisher taking over. “After I stopped doing Now, I had a run of big compilation albums with Sony such as Sugar Sugar, Be My Baby and I’m Every Woman but I haven’t done any new comps for a couple of years and have no plans to do anything more as things stand – so I guess I’ve retired!”

Read more: Now That’s What I Call Music I reissue review

Read more: Top 15 Pop Compilations

Check out Now’s website here

Competition from the hits factory

After the unequivocal success of the first three Now albums, it was inevitable that competition would emerge. The Hits series began in November 1984 as a joint venture between CBS and WEA with its first effort stealing a march on Now 4 by being released a week beforehand. This was a winning strategy as The Hits Album topped the charts for seven weeks and kept its rival off the coveted Christmas No.1 slot.

It came loaded with a number of US acts; indeed the television advert just focused on Prince, The Cars and Chicago with the four sides loosely divided into pop, soul, romantic and rock themes. Up until 1988, Hits proved to be a powerful adversary – licensing the likes of Madonna and Bruce Springsteen – and was essential listening for those who wanted a rounder picture of the Top 40. Hits 2, 4 and 6 were particularly strong in their track selections.

With the ninth volume, the compilers decided to omit the numbering, which resulted in the arguably weaker Now 13 establishing the upper hand. From then on, momentum was lost. Successive re-brands (Monster Hits, The Hit Pack) and a 1993 re-boot with Telstar on board led to the series having an inconsistent feel.

From December 1995, BMG and Warner Brothers re-established a regular release pattern with up to five volumes per year which certainly gave the Now! team a serious challenge – particularly as the Hits’ spring and autumn releases would come out before their Now equivalents. The series bowed out with Summer Hits 2006, leaving Now! as the only hits compilation brand still going in the UK.

The Best Of The Rest

There was still room for other compilations – many of whom were short lived. K-Tel’s swansong Hungry For Hits came out between Now 2 and Now 3 and is stuffed with also-rans, follow-ups to successful hits and long-forgotten pop memories like Sandie Shaw’s Smiths cover Hand In Glove. Chrysalis and MCA’s Out Now! appeared in 1985 and lasted two volumes: the first is most enjoyable as it lurches from Billy Bragg to Killing Joke.

There were also magazine tie-ins, both compiled by Ashley Abram: Just Seventeen’s Heartbeats (1989) is an impeccable selection of frothy pop and breathless romantic numbers while Smash Hits’ numerous compilations were perfect summations of the year’s pop action and also came with great sleevenotes. Telstar’s rather predictable annual Greatest Hits Of series commenced in 1985 but one of their unsung jewels was a one-off: The Dance Chart (1987), which includes rare single edits from The Concept, Timex Social Club and Whistle.

Read more: Top 40 Synth-Pop Songs



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Queen to launch pop-up shop on Carnaby Street




Queen the Greatest
Photo copyright Queen Productions

In celebration of five decades in music, the mighty Queen will feature in a dedicated pop-up shop on Carnaby Street opening later this month.

The shop, named Queen The Greatest will open on Tuesday 28th September 2021 until January 2022 with a line-up of limited edition music releases, fashion collaborations and lifestyle products with weekly product drops and events. 

Each month will have a theme; Music, Art & Design and Magic, with visual installations that act as storytelling from each of Queen’s five decades. 

The Queen The Greatest store will take visitors on a journey over two floors, from 70s thrift store (Freddie and Roger had a stall in Kensington Market), 80s iconic live performances and tours, 90s record store, 00s DVD homage through to 2010s tech concepts. 

The new store, created in partnership with Bravado, Universal Music Group’s merchandise and brand management company, features all of the hallmarks of the band. The store includes an apparel collection including exclusive collaborations from a host of fashion brands including Champion, Wrangler and Johnny Hoxton jewellery.

The Champion collection features unisex T-shirts and sweatshirts, with a nod to the fashion brand’s heritage. Denim pieces from Wrangler, some adorned with iconic song titles, sit alongside solid gold and silver jewellery from British jewellery designer Jonny Hoxton, known for his tongue in cheek jewellery that fill the sweet spot between traditional craftsmanship and underground pop culture.

The proceeds from an exclusive Freddie Mercury T-shirt will go to the Mercury Phoenix Trust. The charity was founded by Brian May, Roger Taylor and Jim Beach in memory of Freddie Mercury and raises vital funds and awareness for HIV/Aids.

“We are pleased to collaborate with Bravado on this project, which will be an exciting experience for everyone to come to London and enjoy,” the band said in a statement. “Carnaby Street was the perfect spot for the store to celebrate five decades.”

Queen the Greatest


The band’s continuing album and single releases will be a big part of the shop’s pulse. Limited edition music will be available to buy throughout music month with drops every week including a limited edition of a Greatest Hits vinyl, exclusive to the store, as well as both current and new solo releases from Brian May and Roger Taylor.     


Showcasing a line up of collaborative partners including Japanese designer Tokolo, a limited-edition bear from Steiff and a first viewing of a soon to be released pinball machine.


Fusing the magic of five decades of Queen with the magic of Christmas. Product includes Rubik’s Cube, Christmas jumpers, cards, wrapping paper and accessories.

The store will feature screens showing archive Queen performances and Instagrammable moments that fans won’t want to miss. For those unable to travel to the store, a selection of items including the vinyls will be available online.

Queen The Greatest – 57 Carnaby Street, London, W1

28th September 2021 – January 2022 

Monday – Saturday: 11am – 7pm / Sunday: 12pm – 6pm






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Primal Scream announce Screamadelica tour dates




Primal Scream have announced that they are to return to live show with a series of sets celebrating their classic Screamadelica album.

The band will play three dates in July 2022, performing their 1991 album in full. 1 July see them play Queen’s Park, Glasgow, before heading off to Castlefield Bowl in Manchester on 9 July and then London’s Alexandra Palace Park on the 16th.

This year, of course, was the 30th anniversary of that indie-dance classic, and this Friday will see the release of two new versions of the album. A 10-disc 12” Singles Box compiles nine replicas of the singles from the original album campaign alongside Andrew Weatherall’s recently unveiled ‘Shine Like Stars’ remix, all pressed on 180-gram heavyweight vinyl. The second release is the album’s first ever picture disc format.

The previously unreleased Demodelica collection then follows on 15 October. It provides a new insight into the album’s creation, with a variety of early demos and work-in-progress mixes. It will be released on digital, double-vinyl, CD and C90 cassette formats. The package will be completed with new liner notes by author Jon Savage.

 All three releases are available to pre-order here.

Tickets for the dates, listed below, go on general sale from 9am on Friday, 17 September. They will be available from and

Read more: Top 40 Synth-Pop Songs



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