The history of Now That’s What I Call Music!
Now That’s What I Call Music! (1983 – present) is the biggest selling compilation series…ever! It is also the longest selling branded compilation album in the UK.
The first Now! Album, boasted an impressive 11 number one singles and was a collection of thirty tracks from that year, released on double vinyl LP and cassette. The repertoire was entirely original and unlike some of it’s competitors none of the music was edited to fit the running time – hence the need to spread the album over two discs.
The idea for the phenomenon that is the Now That’s What I Call Music! series was born in the Virgin Records offices of Richard Branson in Vernon Yard, just off Portobello Road.
It was the brain-child of the then Head of Licensing and Business Affairs at Virgin Records – Stephen Navin (Virgin 1979 – 1990) and Jon Webster (General Manager 1983 – 1988).
A collection that would include original versions and none of the watered down edits that were rife on their competitor albums.
The idea was taken to Simon Draper (Managing Director Virgin Records) and the launch plans got underway. Virgin teamed up with EMI and the then Managing Director, Peter Jamieson (MD of EMI Records 1983-1986)
Jamieson had had similar plans for EMI to launch such a compilation but was so impressed with Virgin’s ideas, music and enthusiasm that he immediately agreed to the partnership. The deal was negotiated and finalised on Richard Branson’s boat moored in Little Venice.
Richard Branson loved visiting the little bric-a-brac shop on Portobello Road, called Dodo’s. He had an ulterior motive, of course, he liked the woman that owned it. Any excuse he could find, he’d go down to the shop to talk to her! He was always being cajoled into buying things but finally gave in when he found an old 1920s Danish Bacon poster of a pig singing Now That’s What I Call Music! to a chicken, producing an egg ! He thought the poster was perfect for his cousin (the then head of A&R at Virgin Records and later Managing Director) Simon Draper. Branson said:
“He was notoriously grumpy before breakfast and loved his eggs in the morning, so I bought him the poster, framed it and had it hung behind his desk !”
It was at a later meeting in Simon’s office with Peter Jamieson that they were discussing potential names of the new compilation when the poster caught Peter’s eye, so when he saw the poster of the pig and the chicken……
“Seeing the poster with the same title on it that had become so familiar to me was serendipity, ‘fate’ even, and I knew then that this had to be the title of our series. It was a powerful and meaningful statement in its own right, and when abbreviated to ‘Now’, gave the ultimate contemporary message”.
(Incidentally, Branson went on to marry the woman in the Bric a Brac Shop – Joan Templeman.)
And so…the series was born and its success can be summed up by Mark Goodier…:
“Now That’s What I Call Music! has always been a hit because every edition brilliantly distills each 2 or 3 months in pop. When a collector like me reviews the collection of Now albums, it’s an accurate journey through the last 2 and half chart decades.”
(Mark Goodier‘ Smooth Radio’ & The Voice of Now since NOW 21)
‘Now That’s What I Call Music’…..the ultimate home of pop!