(*All based on the numbered Volumes 1 to 116 unless otherwise stated)

The NOW series released its first album on 28 November 1983. To celebrate its 40th birthday, here’s 40 must-know facts about the UK’s favourite pop compilation…

1 NOW is the nation’s favourite music brand, with the numbered editions alone selling over 110 million copies in the UK in the first 40 years.

2 Up to and including NOW Volume 116, the numbered compilations have featured 2,409 different artists. Alphabetically, they start with A Great Big World (one appearance on Volume 87, April 2014) and end with Zombie Nation (one appearance on Volume 47, November 2000).

3 114 of the numbered volumes have reached No 1 in the Official Albums Chart. They have spent a combined total of 771 weeks at No. 1.

4 Robbie Williams has made 38 appearances on numbered volumes of NOW – 32 as a solo artist, plus six with Take That, and one each as a member of the charity projects Helping Haiti (NOW 75), Justice Collective (NOW 84), Artists for Grenfell (NOW 97), and World Music project 1 Giant Leap (NOW 52). Scottish DJ Calvin Harris (first appearance Volume 66, April 2007) and French DJ David Guetta (first appearance Volume 65, November 2006) have both made 36 solo appearances on numbered volumes.

5 Calvin Harris can claim the most different No. 1 singles on numbered volumes of NOW – between Volume 70 (Dance Wiv Me by Dizzee Rascal Featuring Calvin Harris & Chrome) and Volume 115 (Miracle by Calvin Harris and Ellie Goulding) he has appeared on 11 chart toppers, with 13 different collaborators.

6 Between Volume 1 and Volume 116 the numbered titles have featured 675 UK No.1 singles. NOW 88 had the most current / recent No 1 singles – 15.  (Note: only counting the four recent No. 1 singles on NOW 100)

7 NOW 1 (November 1983) to NOW 35 (November 1996) were all released on vinyl. The first NOW album to be available as a download was NOW 62 in 2005. The MiniDisc format was introduced with NOW 43 (July 1999) and ended with NOW 48 (April 2001).

8 Cassette tapes ceased in 2006 with the final release on this format being NOW 64 (a special commemorative edition of NOW 1 was released in July 2018 to coincide with the numbered series reaching 100 volumes).

9 NOW 4 (November 1984) was the first volume on CD. It featured 15 songs, compared to 32 on the LP and cassette formats. NOW 9 (March 1987) was the last numbered volume to be available as a single CD. Since NOW 10 it has been two discs every time.

10 The series took its name from a 1920s advertising poster for Danish bacon featuring a pig saying “Now. That’s What I Call Music” as it listened to a chicken singing. Richard Branson bought the poster for his cousin, Simon Draper, to hang behind Draper’s desk at the Virgin Records office.

11 NOW 1 featured 28 artists; Kajagoogoo, UB40 and Culture Club had two songs each, while Peabo Bryson and Roberta Flack doubled up for the duet Tonight, I Celebrate My Love.

12 NOW 1 was released in November 1983 and featured 11 of that year’s No. 1 singles, including Culture Club’s Karma Chameleon, the biggest-selling single of ’83 in the UK.

13 Eleven artists that appeared on NOW 1 have yet to make another appearance on a numbered volume.

14 Comedian, actress and singer Tracey Ullman voiced the first TV advert and appeared on the first volume as an artist with the No. 2 single They Don’t Know. Actor Brian Glover and DJ David Jensen also voiced early adverts, while Mark Goodier has been the voice of NOW since 1992.

15 David Guetta’s appearances have included seven UK No. 1s, and 34 different collaborators or featured artists. Four of the songs featured Nicki Minaj, while another four featured Sia.

16 Little Mix are the most featured group (28 appearances), ahead of Coldplay (24 appearances), Girls Aloud (21 appearances), and U2 (20 appearances).

17 Girls Aloud have clocked up the highest number of consecutive appearances – 13 volumes – with a track in every album from NOW 54 (April 2003) to NOW 66 (April 2007).

18 Between Volume 34 (August 1996) with Wannabe and Volume 47 (November 2000) with Holler the Spice Girls had nine different No. 1 singles on numbered NOW titles. The individual group members have made 27 solo appearances  – Geri Halliwell has made eight, Emma Bunton six, Melanie B five, Melanie C five, and Victoria Beckham three).

19 Ed Sheeran is the only artist to appear four times on one numbered volume – NOW 113 in November 2022 with his own track Celestial, and as featured artist on Peru (with Fireboy DML), My G (with Aitch), and For My Hand (with Burna Boy). Dua Lipa has appeared three times on two occasions (NOW 96, April 2017 and NOW 108, March 2021), as has Khalid (NOW 98, November 2017, and NOW 101, November 2018).

20 Since his first credit on Volume 37 (July 1997) with Backstreet Boys and Quit Playing Games (With My Heart), Swedish songwriter Max Martin has written or co-written 88 different songs on numbered volumes of NOW. He had a hand in four different songs on Volume 78 (April 2011) – one each by Avril Lavigne, Britney Spears, P!nk, and Katy Perry – and four on Volume 94 (July 2016) – two for Ariana Grande, one for Justin Timberlake, and another for P!nk.

21 Alongside the numbered volumes, by the end of October 2023 NOW will have released more than 260 themed or genre specific titles covering titles like Christmas, Dance, Disney, Eurovision, Football, Musicals, Party, Running, and Summer.

22 The first themed NOW release was NOW Dance: The 12″ Mixes (May 1985), which included the strapline, “2 hours of wicked mixes to keep you moving all night long.” It featured 20 songs, four of them by artists making a unique appearance on any NOW title.

23 The different iterations of NOW That’s What I Call Christmas have sold a combined total of approx. 4 million copies in the UK, making it one of the biggest selling album titles of all time.

24 Since NOW began in 1983 22 Christmas No. 1 singles have appeared on numbered NOW albums. Only You by The Flying Pickets was the first on Volume 2 (March 1984).

25 In 2021 NOW launched its new year-specific ‘Yearbook’ series – despite the brand’s long history this series has so far seen more than 700 UK chart hits making their first appearance on any NOW title.

26 NOW 70 (July 2008) holds the record for the biggest first week sales of any NOW title, with 383,002 copies sold.

27 The success of the NOW brand in the UK resulted in 30 variations for local markets worldwide, beginning with the Netherlands and Spain in 1984, Japan in 1988, and the US in 1998. The US released their 87th numbered volume in August 2023.

28 The longest song title on a numbered NOW is Where The Streets Have No Name (I Can’t Take My Eyes Off You) by Pet Shop Boys on Volume 20 (November 1991 – 49 characters excluding spaces). The February 2021 NOW Country collection saw a first appearance for the Bellamy Brothers with If I Said You Have A Beautiful Body Would You Hold It Against Me (63 characters).

29 The shortest artist and title combination is 17 by MK on NOW 98 (November 2017).

30 The longest track on any numbered volume of NOW is Don McLean’s American Pie at 8 minutes and 34 seconds (NOW 20, November 1991), while Wings by Jonas Brothers (NOW 114, April 2023) is the shortest at 1 minute and 58 seconds.

31 Willow Smith, was just nine years-old when she appeared on NOW 78 (April 2011) with her No. 2 hit Whip My Hair. Captain Sir Tom Moore was 100 years-old when he appeared alongside Michael Ball on NOW 106 (July 2020) with their No. 1 version of You’ll Never Walk Alone.

32 The first song to appear twice on numbered volumes of NOW was Alive and Kicking by Simple Minds (NOW 6, November 1985 and NOW 23, November 1992). The first song to appear twice by different artists was Twist and Shout – Salt ‘n’ Pepa on NOW 13 (November 1988) and by Chaka Demus and Pliers with Jack Radics and Taxi Gang on NOW 27 (March 1994).

33 Other songs with more than one version on numbered NOW albums include When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going (Billy Ocean Volume 7 / Boyzone Volume 42), Higher Love (Steve Winwood Volume 8 / Kygo & Whitney Houston, Volume 104), I Think We’re Alone Now (Tiffany Volume 12 / Girls Aloud Volume 66), You Got The Love (The Source Featuring Candi Staton Volume 19 / Florence + The Machine Volume 74), Mambo No. 5 (Lou Bega Volume 44 / Bob The Builder Volume 50), Valerie (The Zutons Volume 64 / Mark Ronson feat. Amy Winehouse Volume 68), and Dancing On My Own (Robyn Volume 76 / Calum Scott Volume 94), and most recently two different covers of Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car – (Jonas Blue feat. Dakota Volume 93 / Luke Combs Volume 116).

34 Duran Duran can boast the longest spread of tracks across the numbered volumes of NOW. They appeared on the very first Volume of NOW in November 1883 with their No. 1 hit Is There Something I Should Know, and made their eleventh appearance on Volume 116 (July 2023) with Black Moonlight.

35 They are ahead of Tina Turner, who also made her first appearance on the first Volume of NOW with the No. 6 hit Let’s Stay Together, and made her 15th appearance on Volume 115 (July 2023), when her anthemic 1989 single The Best returned to the Top 40 following her death the previous month.

36 Also boasting a span of 115 volumes are the Rolling Stones, who first appeared on Volume 2 (March 1984) with Undercover (Of The Night), and most recently on Volume 116 with Angry.

37 Kylie Minogue’s appearances span five different decades. She made her first appearance on Volume 11 (March 1988) with her No. 1 UK chart debut I Should Be So Lucky, and her 32nd appearance on Volume 116 (November 2023) with Tension. She also appeared on the Helping Haiti charity single on Volume 75 (March 2010).

Photo by Edward Cooke

38 Since NOW began there have been seven primarily instrumental UK No. 1 singles, and all have appeared on numbered volumes of NOW – ‘Doop’ by Doop (Volume 27, March 1994), Block Rockin’ Beats by Chemical Bothers (Volume 36, March 1997), Flat Beat by Mr Oizo (Volume 42, March 1999), ‘9PM (Til I Come) by ATB (Volume 43, July 1999), Axel F by Crazy Frog (Volume 61, July 2005) Singin’ In The Rain’ by Mint Royale (Volume 70, July 2008), and Animals by Martin Garrix (NOW 86, November 2013).

39 Family Facts: Bob Marley & The Wailers made their first appearance on a numbered NOW with One Love/People Get Ready on Volume 3 (July 1984); Bob’s son Damian Marley was on Volume 62 (November 2005) with Welcome To Jamrock, while his grandson Skip Marley featured on Katy Perry’s Chained To The Rhythm on Volume 96 (April 2017). Neneh Cherry made her first appearance on Volume 14 (March 1989) with Buffalo Stance, while her daughter Mabel made her own debut on Volume 98 (November 2017), 28 years later. Billy Ray Cyrus made his first appearance on Volume 23 (November 1992) with Achy Breaky Heart while his daughter Miley first showed up on Volume 76 (July 2020) with Can’t Be Tamed.

40 Hollywood stars who have appeared on NOW include Will Smith (Volume 26, November 1993, with D J Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince and Boom Shake The Room), Ewan McGregor (Volume 38, November 1997 with PF Project and Choose Life), Kate Winslet (Volume 50, November 2001 with What If), Nicole Kidman (Volume 51 with Robbie Williams and ‘Something Stupid‘), Brittany Murphy (Volume 64 with Paul Oakenfold and ‘Faster Kill Pussycat‘), and Hugh Jackman (Volume 102, April 2019 with ‘The Greatest Show‘).