What's so great about Now That's What I Call Music 48?

By Mark Savage
BBC Music reporter

Image caption,
The compilation has a starring role in Peter Kay's Car Share, which returned last week

Who wants a copy of a 16-year-old compilation album? Quite a lot of us, it seems.

Sales of Now That's What I Call Music 48 surged last week, after the double CD ("featuring 41 top chart hits!") provided the soundtrack to the BBC sitcom Peter Kay's Car Share.

It even entered Amazon's compilation chart, despite being out of print, on the strength of second-hand sales.

Prices shot up too, rising from as little as 11p to more than £20.

Image source, eBay
Image caption,
Cunning eBay sellers added "Car Share" to their descriptions and bumped up the price

In the show, supermarket employee Kayleigh Kitson (Sian Gibson) announces it's her favourite album, much to the horror of her curmudgeonly carshare partner John Redmond (Kay).

He prefers Fleetwood Mac's Rumours: a classic, no doubt, but one which lacks Now 48's impressive roster of six number one hits (not to mention two solo singles by former members of the Spice Girls).

Music from the 2001 compilation permeated the first episode of the show's second series, prompting that unlikely interest in hand-me-down copies.

Ahead of the broadcast of episode two on Tuesday, we take a look at some of Now 48's more interesting moments.

Hear'Say - Pure And Simple

Image caption,
Will love blossom for John and Kayleigh?

At the end of the first series of Car Share, Kayleigh moves house, meaning her lift to work (and burgeoning romance) with John is no longer necessary.

She gives him a copy of Now 48 as a parting gift. "I've got two copies," she explains, "our Kieran used to fiddle Britannia*".

Inside is a note reading: "Track two is from me to you, you're a star. Love always, Kayleigh."

Series one ended and series two began with that song - Pure and Simple - which brings a tear to John's eye.

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Hear'Say were fairly short-lived, calling it a day less than two years after forming

Famously, the song was the UK's first ever talent show number one, emanating from the awkwardly-punctuated Hear'Say, who were cobbled together by ITV's Popstars series in late 2000.

To watch the show now, it's unbelievably clunky, with none of the sheen and polish of X Factor or The Voice. There isn't even a live audience, as the show (like a lot of the early reality shows) presented itself more as a documentary than a competition.

The single is similarly laborious, borrowing heavily from All Saints' Never Ever, and displaying none of the cartoonish energy you'd associate with co-writer Alison Clarkson - aka Betty Boo.

Bet you can still sing it, mind.

*Note to younger readers: The Britannia Music Club was a company that used to send CDs through the post, usually offering an unbeatable introductory offer ("get six CDs for a pound") before fleecing you dry for the rest of your subscription period. Everyone who joined inevitably ended up with a copy of Meat Loaf's Bat Out Of Hell, whether they wanted it or not.

Shaggy ft RikRok - It Wasn't Me

Image source, Reuters

The top-selling single of 2001, beating even Kylie Minogue's almighty Can't Get You Out Of My Head, this was Mr Boombastic's biggest hit.

Inspired by one of Eddie Murphy's classic stand-up routines, it finds Shaggy consoling RikRok, who's been caught cheating on his girlfriend with the girl next door.

No matter how damning the evidence, his advice is to deny everything. "She saw me kissin' on the sofa (it wasn't me) / She even caught me on camera (it wasn't me)."

However, while writing the song, Shaggy worried about alienating his female fanbase.

"It was like, 'ok but this might offend a lot of people, we're talking about infidelity and making fun of it,'" he told NBC. "So we came up with a disclaimer at the end that says, 'I'm gonna tell her that I'm sorry for the pain that I caused.'

"So even though I'm playing the bad guy, at the end of it he [RikRok] is saying, 'I'm not taking your advice. Everything about it is wrong.' And that's how we win the ladies back."

Martine McCutcheon - On The Radio

A high-energy cover of Donna Summer's disco classic, this was former EastEnders' star Martine Kimberley Sherri Ponting's final chart hit in the UK.

It's pretty inoffensive stuff, but that didn't stop the NME giving it zero stars and carping that, "Martine McCutcheon continues to try and convince us she's a pop star and not just a dead barmaid."

U2 - Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of

Image source, Getty / PA
Image caption,
Bono said he didn't want to write a soppy song about his friend

One of U2's most underrated singles, Stuck In A Moment was written in response to the death of INXS singer Michael Hutchence in 1997.

The star had been a close friend and sometime rival to Bono, and they would spend summers together in France before Hutchence took his own life, shortly before INXS's 20th anniversary tour of Australia.

The song is "a row between mates," Bono told Rolling Stone in 2005.

"You're kinda trying to wake them up out of an idea. In my case it's a row I didn't have while he was alive. I feel the biggest respect I could pay to him was not to write some stupid soppy song, so I wrote a really tough, nasty little number, slapping him around the head.

"And I'm sorry, but that's how it came out of me."

Bob The Builder - Can We Fix It?

Image caption,
Can Bob conquer the charts? Yes he can!

The 2000 Christmas number one, this is somehow the 140th best-selling single ever in the UK.

Fragma featuring Maria Rubia - Everytime You Need Me

The beauty of revisiting the Now albums is that they obliterate pop's habitual revisionism.

Fragma's dance hit may have spent five weeks in the top 10 in early 2001, but it's all been erased from history (it was played once on UK radio last month, by Tamworth's community radio station TCR FM).

But don't feel too sorry for them: This is a pretty flimsy affair, from the generic trance beat to the throwaway lyrics - "You know I will be there / You know I really care."

In fact, Now 48 has more than its fair share of forgettable also-rans. Bonus points to anyone who can hum Kaci's Paradise, or Joe's Stutter.

Coldplay - Don't Panic

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Coldplay's track is short and sweet at just over two minutes

Coldplay's third appearance on a Now... compilation (after Trouble and Yellow) is something of a rarity for the series: as Don't Panic never officially charted in the UK.

One of the band's earliest songs, it was performed at their first ever gig, and was included on their Blue Room EP before being re-written and re-recorded as the opening track of their debut album, Parachutes.

At just 2 min 17 secs, it is one of the shortest songs ever to feature on a Now album. Oasis's Songbird is shorter, though, clocking in at 2 min 04 secs.

Mya - Case of the Ex

A slinky R&B number that's notable as the first UK chart appearance of writer-producer Christopher "Tricky" Stewart - who went on to create Rihanna's Umbrella, Beyonce's Single Ladies and Justin Bieber's Baby.

Eva Cassidy - Somewhere Over The Rainbow

Image source, Blix Street Records
Image caption,
Sir Terry championed Eva Cassidy, who struck a chord with her delicate vocals

Almost unknown when she died of skin cancer in 1996, singer Eva Cassidy posthumously took the charts by storm with this fragile, haunting cover of Somewhere Over The Rainbow.

Recorded years earlier, it was ignored upon its release - until Terry Wogan heard it, and immediately played it on Wake Up To Wogan, his Radio 2 breakfast show.

"The e-mails, phone calls and faxes flooded in", said his producer Paul Walters. Subsequent plays brought the same response: people told how they had to stop their cars because they were in tears.

When Top of the Pops 2 aired a 1992 video of Cassidy singing the song in December 2000, the BBC switchboard was inundated with requests from viewers inquiring about the American singer; sales took off at an incredible speed.

Cassidy's startlingly intimate interpretation of Over The Rainbow has long since become the standard.

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