Today’s news (Telegraph Business Section) that Sony is likely to buy the EMI share of the NOW series, a sale forced upon Universal by EC idiots, but one of the few that make sense, as Universal were the other 50% partner in the series, prompts some more “where has the time gone” memories.
Thirty years ago I was Marketing Director at EMI and mid autumn 1983 took a phone call from my compatriot at Virgin (then still a highly successful stand alone company), the mighty Jon Webster. The brain fades fast these days, but this conversation still sticks.
Basically it went like this: “You’re having a lot of hits, we’re having a lot of hits. Instead of giving them all away to Arcade or Ronco or K-Tel (independent companies who were first to realise the power of television to sell records), why don’t we do it ourselves”
I was as excited as Jon about this, and we both quickly relayed the idea to our bosses, Richard Branson and Peter Jamieson respectively. They met in Branson’s office off Ladbroke Grove and chewed it all over, but were stumped for a title. On Richard Branson’s wall was this poster. A series was born, courtesy the Danish Bacon Company’.
The first two LP’s (LP and cassette in those days, friends) were masterminded by others, but come NOW 3, I was leading a division at EMI which had catalogue exploitation as its hub, and we took over. The pig was King, so for NOW 4, we decided we could walk on water and came up with a TV ad (someone must still have it) which featured virtually no music! It was the pig, swaggering along singing badly to some fuzzy sounds emanating from his headphones (Walkman era), with a very posh voice saying “This swine is listening to NOW 4, 32 of the finest hits….etc”. The only ausdio track I remember is “Who you gonna call, Ghostbusters” sung in the actor’s very Northern accent. We thought it was the bee’s knees, the dog’s bollocks or indeed the pig’s trotters, but the men upstairs went ballistic and immediately consigned it to the trough. The pig didn’t care – we still featured him as if in the proverbial sun sh*t in the “Music Week” advert, and the record still sold a million plus copies.
Peter Jamieson was probably right to veto our creativity, but definitely wrong when he said he couldn’t see the series going into double figures! It’s now rapidly approaching Vol.100. The pig was laid to rest decades ago, but we will always remember what he started.