21 July 2012

The "Now That's What I Call Music" Pig

Ah, the Now That's What I Call Music pig! Here's the original version, lapping up melodies from his farmyard pal. This was how the Pig debuted on the first Now album sleeve in 1983.

Didn't really grip me. It seemed quirky to use a 1920s Danish Bacon advertising picture on the back of an album cover, but it was definitely a "hmmm..." moment rather than a "gasp-in-ecstasy-at-visual-delight" moment.

So, how had this quirky idea come about?

The story began in 1983 at the offices of Virgin Records, London, England. The people responsible for the basis of the NOW idea were the then Head of Licensing and Business Affairs Stephen Navin and General Manager Jon Webster. The idea was simple. A collection of unedited contemporary hits. In partnership with EMI, the idea took wing. Pigs might fly? Not in this case. Solid, long-running success was - and still is - the result.

And how did the pig come in? Well, this was down to Virgin Records supremo Richard Branson, who bought the old Danish Bacon factories poster, reproduced at the top of this blog post, from a bric-a-brac shop in Portobello Road. Framed, it made a perfect present for Richard's cousin, Virgin Records executive Simon Draper. Richard recalled years later:  “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 !” 

Incidentally, Richard's main reason for visiting the bric-a-brac shop was the fact that he liked the woman who owned it. He later married her.

Back to the main story. The framed piggy poster soon caught EMI Managing Director Peter Jamieson's eye. He later said: “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”.

And so, our porker pal was on the road to '80s stardom.

At first, the pig seemed set for just one NOW album cover - the very first. He took a break for Now 2.
For Now 3, the pig swept out of its '20s farmyard and into the 1980s by donning dark glasses.

Still a bit "hmmm..." really, I thought...

But for Now 4, in 1984, the album sleeve porker artwork became rather better, far more realistic, almost photographic, and the now thoroughly mid-1980s pig added personal stereo headphones to its trendy glasses and assumed a rather uglier facial expression.

Suddenly, t'was bliss.

I got heavily "into" The Pig.

Clever TV advertising helped.

 There were several telly ads for Now 4, and in the shortest Mr Posh-Geezer came across my piggy friend, listening to his personal stereo and minding his own business.

"This SWINE is looking very pleased with himself," said Mr Posh-Geezer, highly annoyed.

"That's 'cos I'm listenin' to 32 chart hoggin' hits and you're not!" said the pig, in a broad Yorkshire accent (Brian Glover provided the voice).

Mr Posh-Geezer said no more.

Pig it! Piggy gets his kit off for this stunning 1984 double page magazine ad.
Nows 1, 2 and 3 also had video compilations, but Now 4 was the first to also appear on new fangled campact discs.

On a million trillion T-shirts in the mid-1980s, Frankie said "Relax".

The Pig said "Oink".

I managed to persuade my local record shop to let me have the cardboard window display for Now 4, featuring the adored porker, and stuck it to my bedroom wall.

Whilst the most popular pin-ups of the mid-1980s included the likes of Madonna, Samantha (or "S'manfa") Fox and Linda Lusardi, I had the Now Pig.

Like all good things, my Now Pig fixation came to an end.


The cover of
Now 5 in 1985 featured the Pig, but the artwork lacked the realism of Now 4, and the Pig had, in my very humble opinion, quite lost it - sporting a colourful 1980s shirt (very nice!) and a lollipop behind its ear - looking every inch a cartoon.


I had high hopes for the future - surely Now 5 was just a glitch? But when Now 6 arrived, the Pig was absent.


The Now 4 pig remains one of my top favourite items of 1980s pop culture.


My bedroom in 1985 - complete with the Now Pig cardboard display and my Pye Tube Cube (read all about it here). My bedroom was often described by my friends as "The Pit" back in the day - and indeed I thought it was a bit of a dump myself. But hoovering was beyond me and, looking back now, from the vantage point of a tired, forty-something mortgage slave, my old bedroom and those irresponsible long ago days seem like Paradise Lost!



Paul said...

The 1984 pig artwork was pretty fine. I loved the beady eye seen through the glasses!

Anonymous said...

Love the bedroom!

Sonia Lovely said...

I adore your room - you '80s boy! xxx

Drew said...

LOL! But of course! x