Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Gennaro Castaldo Watch: Provincial perspective

The 25th anniversary of Now That's What I Call Music - and the "collector's edition" re-release of the first edition is a trigger for the Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph to think back over the decades. And who better to call for a catch-all thought or two on compilation albums than Gennaro Castaldo?

Gennaro Castaldo, of HMV Kettering, says the Now series has become an institution among music fans.

Hang about... "of HMV Kettering"? Have times got so hard at HMV that their Chief Quote Executive is having to pull a few shifts out in the regions? Or do all the branches have their own Gennaro Castaldo, perhaps stored alongside the promotional cut-outs which managed to get to the end of their sales period without being stolen by local youths?

Still, Gennaro Castaldo-Kettering, share your thoughts:
He said: "I think prior to Now! there were not really any compilation albums featuring the original songs."

Clearly, this can't be the London Castaldo, who would never say anything so obviously false. What about the Chart Hits collections, for example? Or Motown Chartbusters, come to that?
"There used to be some fairly cheesy compilation LPs such as Ronco, which featured currents songs but performed by someone else. Now! came along and effectively created a whole new genre that was original songs by the artists we heard on the radio."

Eh? Now might have weaponised the genre, but the suggestion that before 1983 there was only Top Of The Pops style cover version collections is absurd.
"At the time there were not many other ways of getting those songs so to suddenly get them all on an LP or CD was a great innovation and people responded to that. They were collections of the best songs of the year so if you were a real fan of popular music the job was being done for you."

If you were a real fan of popular music, you'd presumably buy the singles - Now, surely, was designed for the people who quite liked pop but not to the extent that they wanted the music when it came out. And surely only the first Now was a "best songs of the year" collection, given that the second one came out in April 1984?
"For years sales of compilation albums started to slow and the advent of downloading meant you could create your own playlist but we have found Now!, in particular, has remained resilient because someone has done that work for you."

You've done the "someone has done the work for you" bit already.
"Now! is a strong brand and is part of the culture that also gave us Top of the Pops and the Sunday chart rundown. It represents a fantastic snapshot of the most popular songs of the time and has become something of a collectors' item."

The first dozen or so are actually only a snapshot of some of the most popular songs on EMI and Virgin, but you take the point.

Incidently, the Evening Telegraph seems convinced that the whole thing was Richard Branson's idea:
It was the brainchild of Richard Branson, who was boss of Virgin Records at the time.

He was chairing a meeting in his office when the revolutionary suggestion was made that they release all their hit singles of that year on one album. Better still, if they got EMI involved they could make it a double album.

The name of the album came from a poster on Branson's wall for Danish Bacon Factories, which featured a cartoon pig craning his ear to the sound of a cockerel with the accompanying caption 'Now that's what I call music'.

Surely not even Richard Branson would try to claim that? Stephen Navin, John Webster and Simon Draper cooked up the idea, surely?. If only we had our own Gennaro Castaldo to hand, we could check.


5 comments:

James said...

"There used to be some fairly cheesy compilation LPs such as Ronco, which featured currents songs but performed by someone else."

Castaldo added "And hostess trollies! Remember them? And Busby? He was brilliant! And that game 'Track and Field' on the Spectrum, where you had to hit the buttons really fast. And Spangles! Whatever happened to them? They were wicked! And what about popping candy? Did you know that stuff ACTUALLY made a kid go mad? And the A Team! They were great! We used to play A Team at lunchtimes, but everyone wanted to be Mr T. And do you remember Chorlton and the Wheelies? What was THAT all about?! Whoever made that must've been on DRUGS! Is that enough for you? Let me know if Stuart Maconie's already covered any of those, I can do more if you need it."

James said...

Oh, and...

"Hang about... "of HMV Kettering"? "

The reporter misheard. That should have read 'Gennaro Castaldo, of HMV Catering'. He'll be in charge of the fizzy pop and pic-n-mix when HMV rolls out the youth-club refits.

Anonymous said...

So do any of the readers of this blog live near Kettering to go check if this is true? Could we actually find where the ACTUAL Gennaro Castaldo is? Does he hand out words of wisdom to customers of the store?

simon h b said...

I like the idea he might roam the racks, peering over your shoulder and offering instant analysis: "The New Seekers? They're the foremost British folk band of the last fifty years..."

Anonymous said...

I can't help but suspect his description wouldn't reach 14 words without the placement of the obligatory "Coca-Cola".

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