Saturday, April 17, 2010

K-Tel Hell

One obscure little aspect of music lying around the house were some of those album collections of the hit songs of the day, compiled and packaged and even hawked on TV by your friends at K-Tel and Ronco. We had a half-dozen or so of those things, and sometimes they were played all the way through, or just a few select cuts were played with any regularity.
Some of the album covers were entertaining or funny, sometimes (in the case of one album) with a sticker promising KC and Andy Gibb POSTERS!--INSIDE!.

Some songs were great, some were utter garbage, and some were just plain embarrassing (and I'm speaking of the turn of the '70s into the '80s). Like, for every good song by Elton John or Linda Ronstadt, there would be cuts by KC and the Sunshine Band or Rick Dees. I seem to remember the first time hearing Black Sabbath anywhere was from a collection called Power Rock, and sure enough, there was "Paranoid" on it.

As the years went on, the song selection on these records could be interesting. One was called Rock 80, with new cuts by Cheap Trick, the Ramones, The Pretenders, Gary Numan and others. There was another called Radio Active, with new hits by the Police, the Who, Genesis and others of the new MTV era.

There were a few compilations with songs that were just fun to listen to, mostly from the Ronco label, some of them even endorsed by Don Kirshner himself (...wow!). I began to hear songs like Dr. Hook's "The Cover Of The Rolling Stone" and "Wildwood Weed" by Jim Stafford, each containing references that I was way too young to understand, but just hearing the voices on the records was hilarious enough. Thanks to this kind of upbringing, I knew about Cheech & Chong and Hudson & Landry as much as I did about Ernie & Bert!


One favorite of my sister's was Don Kirshner presents FUN ROCK, which featured mostly a lot of top-40 hits from the bubblegum period of the early '70s, but she liked it a lot. It had stuff from Ray Stevens, Sam The Sham, the Archies, the Lemon Pipers, and the 1910 Fruitgum Company. Pure corn, in retrospect, but it grew on me, and it was fine enough for someone who wasn't even in school yet.

One day, my sister was at school, but the record player was on that morning, and I recognized "Winchester Cathedral" from what I thought was FUN ROCK playing. When it ended, I knew that "Woolly Bully" was coming up next, right? No. It was another K-Tel album playing, one called Best of Britain, which I hadn't heard yet.
And what song came on after that...?

"I AM THE GOD OF HELLFIRE! AND I BRING YOU...!"

Holy shit! I though Satan himself was behind me in the living room, bellowing at me...but, no, it was Arthur Brown with the song "Fire", which frightened the life out of me, and then excited me. I had never heard such a frantic mix of menacing vocals and organ before, but I loved it as soon as it was over, and couldn't wait to hear it again. Later on, on the same album side, I got to hear cuts by the Kinks and the Zombies that would also make a strong impression on me.

But there was one song on another collection that never did, and one that I really, really hated. It was "Playground In My Mind" by Clint Holmes, with that nauseating chorus in the song that goes "My name is Michael, I got a nickel...". You know the rest (I sure wish I could forget it). I would literally leave the room whenever I heard the song playing.

So, for every good song, there was a really bad one.

But, the seed had been sown.

5 comments:

gesegal said...

So that's how it all started. From K-Tel to Crazy World....those K-Tel albums are gateway albums. Some of that and three weeks later you'll want the needle.

Playground In My Mind was the most hated song of my friend and ex-roommate Emily. If I ever wanted to make her scream, I'd start singing that.

Namowal said...

Leave it to K-tell to make sure that "oldies-that-you-don't-even-hear-on-the-oldies-stations" aren't forgotten, even if they're atrocious.

TERRY FULK said...

Yes I am looking for ACD that is make it out by dawn Kirchner presents fun rock 20 original hits made out by Runco. Please let me know where I can get the CD instead of the LP thank you

TERRY FULK said...

Yes I am looking for ACD that is make it out by dawn Kirchner presents fun rock 20 original hits made out by Runco. Please let me know where I can get the CD instead of the LP thank you

TERRY FULK said...

Yes I am looking for ACD that is make it out by dawn Kirchner presents fun rock 20 original hits made out by Runco. Please let me know where I can get the CD instead of the LP thank you