11 Things You Might Not Know About Now That's What I Call Music!


Whether it was a late-night television commercial or a Walmart display, chances are you've come across Now That's What I Call Music! These greatest-hits compilation CDs debuted in the U.S. in 1998 and feature track lists made up of the hottest singles in music. And while the 69th installment was released earlier this year, the brand is actually much older across the pond. For a closer look at this best-of series—including why a pig was involved in its creation—check out our liner notes.

  1. Now That's What I Call Music! was created in the UK.

The back cover of the first Now That's What I Call Music! album, which included a picture of the vintage poster that inspired its name.Bradford Timeline, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Now That's What I Call Music! didn't originate in the United States. The brand actually dates back to 1983, when UK record labels Virgin Records and EMI teamed up to create a compilation of popular acts under contract, like Phil Collins, Tina Turner, and UB40. The idea was that the bigger names would draw attention to lesser-known artists included.

  1. The name Now That's What I Call Music was inspired by a poster of a pig.

While executives at Virgin were brainstorming possible titles for the release, they took note of a poster for Danish bacon that Virgin founder Richard Branson had bought from a general store as a novelty. The poster featured a singing chicken and a pig who was apparently happy with what he was hearing. Above the pig, a caption read: "Now. That's what I call music." That's what Virgin decided to call the record.

  1. Each Now That's What I Call Music! album is meant to be a time capsule.

The first Now That's What I Call Music! album, which was released in November 1983.Bradford Timeline, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The first UK installment of Now That's What I Call Music! sold 900,000 copies and was a huge success. From that point on, three albums were released annually, and the selection process has largely remained the same. Jeff Moskow, who oversees the tracks for the U.S. edition, told TIME in 2014 that the brand's priority is to provide a snapshot of popular music in a given era. Moskow looks at radio play, album sales, and streaming figures as well as social media followings to determine what's relevant in the culture. "You're supposed to be able to grab Now 4 or Now 25 or Now 50 and appreciate the music of that particular moment," he said. "Now is meant to give you that picture."

  1. No one was sure Now That's What I Call Music! would work in the U.S.

Now spent 15 years in the UK before Sony and Universal, which jointly produce the albums, decided to bring it to the United States in 1998. At that time, U.S. retail outlets didn't necessarily have shelf space devoted to compilation CDs—plus, different record labels rarely worked together. Producers had to convince them that including popular songs wouldn't cannibalize an artist's own album sales—instead, it would likely have the opposite effect, bringing new listeners to acts they might not have been exposed to otherwise.

  1. Not all artists are interested in participating in Now That's What I Call Music!.

In order for a track to appear on a Now release, record labels and artists need to give their consent. Speaking with Thrillist in 2017, Moskow said that younger artists tend to be more enthusiastic about getting their music out to a wider audience, while more accomplished artists who have perhaps been around a little longer are more "pensive" and reluctant to offer permission. Bruce Springsteen is one example of an artist who has yet to say yes to Now.

  1. There's no cursing allowed on Now CD tracks.

When a track has been selected, producers are careful to obtain the radio edits, which typically have any expletives present on the album version removed. The reason is the target audience of Now can skew heavily toward adolescents. The compilations are often played in cars for kids to sing along to, and cursing might invite the wrath of parents.

  1. There's a reason no artists appear on Now That's What I Call Music! covers.

Now That's What I Call Music! 5, which was released in the U.K. in August 1985.Bradford Timeline, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The first Now release in the UK featured a collage of some included musicians (Phil Collins's likeness was on there twice—both as a solo artist and as a member of Genesis), and the next three also had promo shots of artists like David Bowie, Annie Lennox, Culture Club, Queen, and Lionel Richie. But starting with the fifth installment, which only showed the early-days mascot pig, subsequent releases have almost always featured a graphic instead of any artist photographs. That's because it's already a challenge to secure permission to license songs: Any last-minute problems with getting approval for a photo would only complicate the process and could conceivably delay the album's release.

  1. Some songs aren't the right fit for Now compilations.

Now tracks are typically divided into three categories: current hits, recent hits, and songs that might be hits in the near future. For the most part, all of the selections are generally upbeat. When Moskow pursued the politically charged Grammy winner "This Is America" by Childish Gambino, both he and the record label agreed that it was ultimately too potent and serious for the collection.

  1. There's a lot of thought put into the track order.

The jewel case for the U.S. version of Now That's What I Call Music! 4, which was released in July 2000.Christo Drummkopf, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Curating a Now release is more than just selecting a bunch of songs. Moskow spends a significant amount of time putting the chosen songs in a precise order. Faster and more upbeat tracks typically start the albums, with slower ballads in the middle. If a country song is included, it's usually on the back end (such as Jason Aldean's "You Make It Easy" as track 16 of 17 on 2018's Now 66. Now also tends to minimize any pauses between songs so it feels like a continuous stream of music. Most songs begin on what would have been the next beat of the one that just ended.

"Anyone who's ever made a mix tape or really worked on a playlist knows what that art is," Moskow told TIME. "It's trying to make the music make sense, taking a bunch of different types of music and a bunch of artists and putting it in an order, a sonic tapestry, that makes sense for the listener."

  1. Now is still selling strong thanks to cars.

In an era of streaming music, it's hard to imagine people reaching for physical media. Yet Now continues to sell CDs on both sides of the pond, and there's a good reason why. Many cars are still equipped with CD players, making a Now disc an appealing option as a driving soundtrack. A physical disc is also an impulse purchase and easy to grab when a person is in need of a quick gift.

  1. Now That's What I Call Music! once thought of doing away with the numbers.

With Now celebrating more than 100 installments in the UK (Now 102, which features two recent hits by Ariana Grande, comes out in April 2019) and 69 in the U.S., it seems unthinkable that the brand would have ever wanted to move away from the numbering system. But early on, there was concern labeling a record "21" or "40" might lead consumers to believe it was something outdated. The numbers actually became an asset, and people now identify their first Now purchase with a number. To date, the series' most impressive figure is 250 million, the total number of albums sold worldwide since its launch in 1983. In the U.S., Now has sold more than 100 million copies. Not bad for a bunch of mixtapes.

Amazon's Under-the-Radar Coupon Page Features Deals on Home Goods, Electronics, and Groceries

Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Now that Prime Day is over, and with Black Friday and Cyber Monday still a few weeks away, online deals may seem harder to come by. And while it can be a hassle to scour the internet for promo codes, buy-one-get-one deals, and flash sales, Amazon actually has an extensive coupon page you might not know about that features deals to look through every day.

As pointed out by People, the coupon page breaks deals down by categories, like electronics, home & kitchen, and groceries (the coupons even work with SNAP benefits). Since most of the deals revolve around the essentials, it's easy to stock up on items like Cottonelle toilet paper, Tide Pods, Cascade dishwasher detergent, and a 50 pack of surgical masks whenever you're running low.

But the low prices don't just stop at necessities. If you’re looking for the best deal on headphones, all you have to do is go to the electronics coupon page and it will bring up a deal on these COWIN E7 PRO noise-canceling headphones, which are now $80, thanks to a $10 coupon you could have missed.

Alternatively, if you are looking for deals on specific brands, you can search for their coupons from the page. So if you've had your eye on the Homall S-Racer gaming chair, you’ll find there's currently a coupon that saves you 5 percent, thanks to a simple search.

To discover all the deals you have been missing out on, head over to the Amazon Coupons page.

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Jimi Hendrix’s Connection to Hogan's Alley—Vancouver's Lost Black Neighborhood

Marjut Valakivi, Public Domain // Wikimedia Commons
Marjut Valakivi, Public Domain // Wikimedia Commons

From the early 1900s through the 1960s, Hogan’s Alley—the unofficial name of Park Lane, an alley that ran between Union and Prior Streets in Vancouver’s Strathcona neighborhood—was a multicultural area that hosted an enclave of Black Canadians, largely immigrants and their descendants, who had resettled from American states to find work, generally on the Great Northern Railway system.

As a result of rampant racism and housing discrimination within the city, many of Vancouver's Black residents also migrated there, establishing numerous businesses including Pullman Porters’ Club, famed eatery Vie’s Chicken and Steak House, and the African Methodist Episcopal Fountain Chapel, the city’s only Black church at the time, which was partly spearheaded by Zenora Rose Hendrix—a pillar of the community and grandmother to legendary rocker Jimi Hendrix. Yet, despite the neighborhood's thriving business and cultural scene, city officials didn't hesitate to level Hogan's Alley and displace its many residents when it got in the way of an ill-conceived government construction project that was eventually abandoned altogether.

As national uprisings in support of the Black Lives Matter movement continue, racism has been declared a public health crisis throughout the U.S. following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and other Black citizens at the hands of law enforcement. Standing in solidarity with Americans calling for an end to police militarization, cultural advocates in Vancouver have been outraged by the harsh treatment of protesters in the United States. Growing frustration in the area has prompted a demand for the once-bustling, historic Black community of Hogan’s Alley to be recultivated as a cultural, commercial, and residential center for Black Vancouverites.

The Rise and Fall of Hogan's Alley

Ross and Nora Hendrix, Jimi Hendrix's paternal grandparents.Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Zenora “Nora” Rose Hendrix was born in the States, but became a much-admired member of the Hogan's Alley community. Nora (who, like her grandson, was a talented musician) was a cook at Vie's, a restaurant that was frequented by jazz icons including Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, and Louis Armstrong during concert stops.

Jimi, who was raised in Seattle, forged a strong bond with the area during summer visits with his grandparents and via a short stint living with them, during which he attended first grade at Vancouver’s Dawson Annex School. He returned to the area in the early 1960s, where he regularly performed at local venues like Dante’s Inferno and Smilin’ Buddha.

At the same time Jimi was building his reputation as a world-renowned musician, the city of Vancouver began work on a development project to replace and expand the Georgia viaduct. To accommodate its redevelopment, which included the construction of a new interurban freeway, parts of the city would need to be destroyed. Hogan’s Alley was among the neighborhoods that city authorities had deemed disposable because, according to the Vancouver Heritage Fund, it had a reputation as “a center of squalor, immorality, and crime.”

Vancouver’s Chinatown was yet another neighborhood that was at the top of the list to be razed to make way for the Georgia viaduct and its new freeway, but Chinatown residents and the Strathcona Property Owners and Tenants Association (SPOTA) were able to effectively protest and shield that area from demolition. Though many of Hogan’s Alley’s Black residents participated in protests against the urban renewal agenda that was aimed at wiping out their neighborhood, they were unsuccessful.

In 1967, work on the first phase of construction began, effectively erasing the western half of Hogan’s Alley and forcing many Black families to leave the area in search of new housing and better opportunities. Though the building of the freeway was eventually stopped, it was too late for the residents of Hogan’s Alley.

Gone But Not Forgotten

Hogan's Alley: Then and NowMike via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

In the near-half-century since the demise of Hogan’s Alley, no other cultural epicenter for Vancouver’s Black community has sprung up to take its place. Today, even within the city, the story of Hogan’s Alley and its dismantling is largely unknown—though there have been various efforts made to ensure that the neighborhood and its importance to the city’s history are not forgotten.

When the city revealed its plans to remove the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts in 2015, the announcement received a lot of attention in the area. In June 2020 activists—including members of the Hogan's Alley Society, a nonprofit organization that works to highlight the contributions of Black Vancouverites to the city’s history—held a peaceful protest wherein they occupied the viaducts in order to bring attention to the role the structures played in the decimation of Hogan's Alley. While they're happy to see the viaducts go, the protestors want to make sure that the city fulfills its promise to erect a Black Cultural Center in the structures' place and restore a vital part of Vancouver's lost Black history.

Dr. June Francis, chair of the Hogan’s Alley Society, told Global News the viaducts were “a monument to the displacement and the oppression of the Black community ... [Hogan’s Alley] was erased by the actions of the city.”

While the city promised to build a cultural center where Hogan's Alley once stood, Francis said two years have passed with no actions taken to fulfill that commitment. "I expect the city, actually, to come out with a definitive statement to these young people to say 'We believe in your future and here is our response to you,'" she said.

A Shrine to Jimi

Vancouver's Jimi Hendrix ShrineRunran via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

In 2019, Nora Hendrix Place—a three-story, 52-unit, modular housing facility—was opened in the former Hogan’s Alley area to provide temporary shelter to the city’s homeless population. According to The Star, “The building will be run by the Portland Hotel Society and have a focus on supporting marginalized groups experiencing homelessness, while also including design elements shaped by Black culture.” But Nora’s famous grandson hasn't been forgotten either.

In the 1990s, a Jimi Hendrix Shrine—a small, fire engine red temple—was created where Vie’s once stood. It was an homage to Jimi’s career and the time he spent in Hogan’s Alley, complete with vinyl records, concert flyers, and letters from Jimi to his grandmother. Though the space is currently closed, its creator, Vincent Fodera, hopes to not only upgrade the shrine but to eventually have a 32-foot statue of Jimi towering over it.

While few physical reminders of Hogan’s Alley remain today, thanks to the lasting contributions of the area’s residents—including the Hendrix family—and the tireless efforts of its preservation advocates, the legacy of Hogan’s Alley’s will hopefully once again become an indelible part of the cultural fabric of Vancouver and its history.