Now that's what we (still) call music!

The 'definitive' pop compilation's 70th volume has become a surprise bestseller on iTunes. Tim Walker revisits the hits of a lifetime
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The Independent Culture

Somewhere at the bottom of a box in the attic is your very first Now! compilation, chock full of what you once called music. Dig it out and you'll likely find a wide-angle snapshot of the culture just before your tastes crystallised, when the possibilities were still endless, when you could have become a punk or a pop-tart, a raver or a rocker. Now! That's What I Call Music catered to budding music fans of every stripe. This week, the series' 70th instalment became the fastest selling compilation ever on iTunes. After 25 years and 2,701 tracks, its curators are still the pop chart's most successful fashion followers and tastemakers.

1983
Volume 1
One to remember: The Cure, "Love Cats"
One to forget: Men Without Hats, "Safety Dance"

1984
Volume 2
One to remember: Frankie Goes to Hollywood, "Relax"
One to forget: Paul McCartney, "Pipes of Peace"

Volume 3
One to remember: Tina Turner, "What's Love Got to Do With It?"
One to forget: Gary Glitter, "Dance Me Up"

Volume 4
One to remember: Ray Parker Jr, "Ghostbusters"
One to forget: Michael Jackson, "Farewell My Summer Love"

1985
Volume 5
One to remember: Duran Duran, "A View to a Kill"
One to forget: The Commentators, "N-N-Nineteen Not Out"

Volume 6
One to remember: Eurythmics, "There Must be an Angel (Playing With My Heart)"
One to forget: Cliff Richard, "She's so Beautiful"

1986
Volume 7
One to remember: Peter Gabriel, "Sledgehammer"
One to forget: Chris de Burgh, "Lady in Red"

1987
Volume 8
One to remember: Run DMC, "Walk This Way"
One to forget: Status Quo, "In the Army Now"

Volume 9
One to remember: Bon Jovi, "Livin' on a Prayer"
One to forget: UB40, "Rat in Mi Kitchen"

Volume 10
One to remember: The Pogues & Kirsty MacColl, "Fairytale of New York"
One to forget: Billy Idol, "Mony Mony"

1988
Volume 11
One to remember: Kylie Minogue, "I Should Be So Lucky"
One to forget: 2 Men, a Drum Machine and a Trumpet, "I'm Tired of Getting Pushed Around"

Volume 12
One to remember: The Timelords, "Doctorin' the Tardis"
One to forget: Tiffany, "I Think We're Alone Now"

Volume 13
One to remember: Erasure, "A Little Respect"
One to forget: Milli Vanilli, "Girl You Know It's True"

1989
Volume 14
One to remember: Morrissey, "The Last of the Famous International Playboys"
One to forget: Samantha Fox, "I Only Wanna Be With You"

Volume 15
One to remember: Soul II Soul, "Back to Life (However Do You Want Me)"
One to forget: Jive Bunny and The Mastermixers, "Swing the Mood"

Volume 16
One to remember: De La Soul, "Eye Know"
One to forget: Oh Well, "Oh Well/Oh Well"

1990
Volume 17
One to remember: Primal Scream, "Loaded"
One to forget: Paula Abdul, "Opposites Attract"

Volume 18
One to remember: Sinead O'Connor, "Nothing Compares 2 U"
One to forget: MC Hammer, "Have You Seen Her?"

1991
Volume 19
One to remember: Massive Attack, "Unfinished Sympathy"
One to forget: Vanilla Ice, "Play that Funky Music"

Volume 20
One to remember: James, "Sit Down"
One to forget: Color Me Badd, "I Wanna Sex You Up"

1992
Volume 21
One to remember: Wet Wet Wet, "Goodnight Girl"
One to forget: 2 Unlimited, "Twilight Zone"

Volume 22
One to remember: Utah Saints, "Something Good"
One to forget: Ugly Kid Joe, "Everything About You"

Volume 23
One to remember: Tasmin Archer, "Sleeping Satellite"
One to forget: Billy Ray Cyrus, "Achy Breaky Heart"

1993
Volume 24
One to remember: Stereo MCs, "Step It Up"
One to forget: Snow, "Informer"

Volume 25
One to remember: New Order, "Regret"
One to forget: Chaka Demus & Pliers, "Tease Me"

1994
Volume 26
One to remember: Radiohead, "Creep"
One to forget: M People, "One Night In Heaven"

Volume 27
One to remember: The Smashing Pumpkins, "Disarm"
One to forget: Doop, "Doop"

Volume 28
One to remember: Blur, "Girls and Boys"
One to forget: Tony Di Bart, "The Real Thing"

Volume 29
One to remember: Oasis, "Cigarettes and Alcohol"
One to forget: Shampoo, "Trouble"

1995
Volume 30
One to remember: Portishead, "Glory Box"
One to forget: Rednex, "Cotton Eye Joe"

Volume 31
One to remember: Pulp, "Common People"
One to forget: D:Ream, "Shoot me with Your Love"

Volume 32
One to remember: Paul Weller, "Broken Stones"
One to forget: Cast, "Alright"

1996
Volume 33
One to remember: Supergrass, "Going Out"
One to forget: Babylon Zoo, "Spaceman"

Volume 34
One to remember: Underworld, "Born Slippy"
One to forget: Spice Girls, "Wannabe"

Volume 35
One to remember: Faithless, "Insomnia"
One to forget: Deep Blue Something, "Breakfast at Tiffany's"

1997
Volume 36
One to remember: No Doubt, "Don't Speak"
One to forget: Mark Morrison, "Horny"

Volume 37
One to remember: The Verve, "Bittersweet Symphony"
One to forget: Hanson, "MMMBop"

Volume 38
One to remember: All Saints, "I Know Where It's At"
One to forget: Chumbawamba, "Tubthumping"

1998
Volume 39
One to remember: Robbie Williams, "Angels"
One to forget: Aqua, "Barbie Girl"

Volume 40
One to remember: Fatboy Slim, "The Rockafeller Skank"
One to forget: Billie, "Because We Want To"

Volume 41
One to remember: Stardust, "Music Sounds Better With You"
One to forget: Vengaboys, "Up and Down"

1999
Volume 42
One to remember: Divine Comedy, "National Express"
One to forget: Mr Oizo, "Flat Beat"

Volume 43
One to remember: New Radicals, "You Get What You Give"
One to forget: Baz Luhrmann, "Everybody's Free (to Wear Sunscreen)"

Volume 44
One to remember: Britney Spears, "...Baby One More Time"
One to forget: Lou Bega, "Mambo No 5"

2000
Volume 45
One to remember: Tom Jones & Stereophonics, "Mama Told Me Not to Come"
One to forget: Shania Twain, "Man! I Feel Like A Woman!"

Volume 46
One to remember: Coldplay, "Yellow"
One to forget: Tom Jones & Mousse-T, "Sex Bomb"

Volume 47
One to remember: U2, "Beautiful Day"
One to forget: Craig David, "7 Days"

2001
Volume 48
One to remember: Gorillaz, "Clint Eastwood"
One to forget: Hear'Say, "Pure and Simple"

Volume 49
One to remember: OutKast, "Ms Jackson"
One to forget: Geri Halliwell, "It's Raining Men"

Volume 50
One to remember: The Dandy Warhols, "Bohemian Like You"
One to forget: So Solid Crew, "21 Seconds"

2002
Volume 51
One to remember: Beverley Knight, "Shoulda Woulda Coulda"
One to forget: Daniel Bedingfield, "Gotta Get Thru This"

Volume 52
One to remember: Sugababes, "Freak Like Me"
One to forget: Liberty X, "Just a Little"

Volume 53
One to remember: Busted, "What I Go to School For"
One to forget: Paul Oakenfold, "Starry Eyed Surprise"

2003
Volume 54
One to remember: Justin Timberlake, "Like I Love You"
One to forget: One True Voice, "Sacred Trust"

Volume 55
One to remember: 50 Cent, "In Da Club"
One to forget: Fast Food Rockers, "The Fast Food Song"

Volume 56
One to remember: Beyoncé feat Jay-Z, "Crazy in Love"
One to forget: Nickelback, "Someday"

2004
Volume 57
One to remember: Kelis, "Milkshake"
One to forget: Justin Timberlake, "I'm Lovin' It"

Volume 58
One to remember: Kanye West, "Through the Wire"
One to forget: The Rasmus, "In The Shadows"

Volume 59
One to remember: Eric Prydz, "Call On Me"
One to forget: Duncan James and Keedie, "I Believe my Heart"

2005
Volume 60
One to remember: Doves, "Black and White Town"
One to forget: Athlete, "Wires"

Volume 61
One to remember: Hard-Fi, "Hard to Beat"
One to forget: Crazy Frog, "Axel F"

Volume 62
One to remember: Girls Aloud, "Biology"
One to forget: tATu, "All About Us"

2006
Volume 63
One to remember: Will Young, "All Time Love"
One to forget: Chico, "It's Chico Time"

Volume 64
One to remember: Gnarls Barkley, "Crazy"
One to forget: Sandi Thom, "I Wish I was a Punk Rocker (with Flowers in my Hair)"

Volume 65
One to remember: Razorlight, "America"
One to forget: Fergie, "London Bridge"

2007
Volume 66
One to remember: Take That, "Patience"
One to forget: Kaiser Chiefs, "Ruby"

Volume 67
One to remember: Klaxons, "It's Not Over Yet"
One to forget: Enrique Iglesias, "Do You Know? (The Ping Pong Song)"

Volume 68
One to remember: Mark Ronson feat Amy Winehouse, "Valerie"
One to forget: Shayne Ward, "No U Hang Up"

2008
Volume 69
One to remember: Adele, "Chasing Pavements"
One to forget: Scouting for Girls, "Elvis Ain't Dead"

Volume 70

One to remember: The Ting Tings, “That’s Not My Name”
One to forget: Mariah Carey, “Touch My Body”

The most prolific artist

Robbie Williams has appeared on Now! compilations a staggering 29 times since his solo debut single, a cover of George Michael's "Freedom", which appeared on Now! 34 in 1996. Some compilations feature two Robbie Williams tracks, such as Now! 39 ("Angels" and "Let Me Entertain You") and Now! 41 ("Millennium" and "No Regrets"). Prior to his solo career, he also appeared on plenty of earlier editions with Take That. His last appearance was on 2007's Now! 66, singing "She's Madonna" with the Pet Shop Boys.

The first edition

Now! That's What I Call Music was first released by Virgin and EMI in December 1983 and soon reached No 1, selling more than 900,000 copies. The opening track was Phil Collins's best-forgotten cover of The Supremes' "You Can't Hurry Love", but the collection also included Culture Club's "Karma Chameleon" and Heaven 17's "Temptation"

The bestseller

Now! 44 is the biggest selling compilation in the series' history, shifting 2.3 million copies. It's a particularly poppy collection, featuring the first single by Britney Spears, as well as songs from the likes of Backstreet Boys, Ronan Keating and S Club 7.

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