The Duke - September 30, 2015

Bob The Builder.
Bob The Builder.
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What have Eiffel 65’s naff 1999 hit Blue (Da Ba Dee) and Bob The Builder’s even naffer Can We Fix It? theme got in common?

No, it’s not that the word naff is so often associated with them, or the fact that once you get them in your head they are hard to get out.

Their common factor is actually that Irish rock band Kodaline member Mark Prendergast recalled in the Independent last weekend that they both featured on the same edition of the legendary NOW That’s What I Call Music series.

The fact that he was wrong (Eiffel 65 were on volume 44 and Bob The Builder didn’t start fixing things until volume 48) is beside the point – except to NOW anoraks.

What matters is that like so many of us he grew up with the good, the bad and the really quite awful moments of rock, pop and dance being lumped together as strange bedfellows.

In the days before CDs and MP3s, this meant having to carefully lift the stylus (or fast forward the cassette) past the likes of The Commentators’ N-N-Nineteen Not Out to get to delights such as The Damned’s The Shadow of Love (on volume five).

But music fans suffered the rubbish because it was still cheaper than buying a couple of dozen singles and their often waste of space flipsides (look it up younger pop pickers!).

The first NOW collection was released in 1983 and included 11 songs which reached No.1 in the UK (for the record they were You Can’t Hurry Love, Is There Something I Should Know?, Red Red Wine, Give It Up, Total Eclipse of the Heart, Karma Chameleon, Too Shy, Down Under, Baby Jane, Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home) and Candy Girl.

Mint condition copies of the original vinyl collection are now worth a bob or two, so I regret not owning it. I do possess volume two, which isn’t worth much at all – probably because it contains such forgettable moments as Pipes of Peace by Paul McCartney and Julia & Company’s Breaking Down (Sugar Samba).

After that I dipped in and out of the NOW habit. I can still lay my hands on volumes three, four and five, then eight, nine and 10, then 12 and 13 – well you get the picture. I’ve got a summer selection from 1986 and the 1985 Christmas edition along with a 32 Swingorilliant Hits of the 80s Smash Hits edition.

But, for reasons dimmed by time, once I took possession of a CD player my NOW days were largely over (apart from the occasional impulse purchase from the Morrisons cheapo rack).

So, apart from the fact that the title recently reached volume 91, and has outsold every other album so far this year, why am I boring you with all this trivia?

Well, alongside the summer, winter, classic rock and even 21st Century NOWs, there’s now (sorry about that) about to be a book – predictably called The Now That’s What I Call Music Book.

In it Richard Branson (whose Virgin Records first spawned the concept) says the initial idea was to include as many hits as possible without cutting, fading or editing.

“There weren’t grand aspirations for the brand,” he admits. “We thought we were on to a winner, otherwise we wouldn’t have pressed ahead. However, I’d be lying if we thought it would turn into what it has today.”

I just wish I’d grabbed volume one when I had a chance.

The post still gets my pulse racing

It’s probably an age thing, but I still look forward to the sound of my mail arriving.

Granted, for the last few years, there’s only been one delivery a day and unless I’m having a very late breakfast I can’t read whatever the postie has crammed through the letterbox whilst snacking on toast and marmalade.

Unlike electronic communications, you don’t need a laptop or you don’t have to trawl through dozens and dozens of unwanted items before reaching one that is actually interesting or of any use.

Unlike a landline telephone, you don’t need a translator to be able to understand what is actually being communicated.

And, unlike a conversation, you don’t have to pay attention until you want to.

Old fashioned mail used to promise an element of surprise too – an invitation to a celebration, a small scale Premium Bond win, a Christmas card arriving in the middle of July or a bank statement saying you were actually in the black.

Not any more.

Take today’s missives – a Men United Prostate Cancer UK subs renewal, a reminder about funeral costs from Age UK, and another reminder that I’m supposed to be taking part in the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme.

It’s time to bring back pen pals!