The History of K-Tel
March 26, 2007 9:48 AM   Subscribe

Philip Kives, the "K" in K-Tel records, built his pioneering record label by cramming up to 24 songs on low-fi compilation LP’s (later cassettes, 8-tracks, and CDs) and aggressively marketing them with TV ads. What's your favorite K-Tel album?
posted by Chinese Jet Pilot (33 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
'K-Tel's Disco Dynamite (K-Tel TU 2490) didn't even bother matching the tempos or anything - just start one record, then fade down the other one. So the 135 BPM drum pattern in Vicki Sue Robinson's "Turn The Beat Around" crashes into the 130 BPM drum intro in the O'Jays' "I Love Music." And that's the least jarring transition on that whole album.'

That record sounds like fun.
posted by davy at 9:59 AM on March 26, 2007

Fun post, thanks.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:06 AM on March 26, 2007

Wow, I was just thinking about doing a K-Tel Records post. I guess I don't need to now. Thanks so much for posting this. One of the first tapes I bought (4th grade) was a K-Tel album. I remember it had Joan Jett and Joe Jackson... Haircut One Hundred maybe.
posted by sleepy pete at 10:09 AM on March 26, 2007

I got K-tel's Power Play for Xmas in '79. Awesome.
posted by jsavimbi at 10:11 AM on March 26, 2007

My favorite? Rock '80. Still have the battle-scarred vinyl at home.

But it looks like they're starting to move in on Ron Popeil's territory now.....

On preview- Sleepy Pete, was it Rock 80?
posted by Challahtronix at 10:15 AM on March 26, 2007

That's easy, man: Freedom Rock
posted by Flashman at 10:17 AM on March 26, 2007

Is that Freedom Rock?

Ok, it's not K-Tel, but same idea.
posted by psmealey at 10:18 AM on March 26, 2007

Damn you, Flashman!
posted by psmealey at 10:18 AM on March 26, 2007

K-Tel is also the source of one of the more remarkable incidents of 1998 Internet stock speculation. Check out the share price graph. The volume data is just as remarkable.

KTEL stock had been at a solid $5-$8 for years with practically no trading activity. Then in 1998 a rumour started that K-Tel would sell music via the Web. Internet speculators quickly pushed the stock price up to $30+. Some traders thought this was ridiculous and shorted the stock, but it's such a small issue there was a nasty short squeeze that kept the prices high. It took a long time for the price to come back down.

I see now there's a second price spike, not sure what the story was there. K-Tel never became the next Amazon and now the company is nearly worthless at $0.05 a share.
posted by Nelson at 10:18 AM on March 26, 2007

Mine is definitely the one that came out in the early seventies called [a number of][smash/dynamite/explosive] Hits!. It had Spill The Wine on it. Anyone?
posted by Turtles all the way down at 10:23 AM on March 26, 2007

Very nice post CJP.
posted by nola at 10:48 AM on March 26, 2007

Please don't make me decide.

BTW, they didn't just do music.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:14 AM on March 26, 2007

No, Challahtronix, my first K-Tel tape was Hit Explosion, released in '83, which someone is trying to sell for $30 on eBay.
posted by sleepy pete at 11:17 AM on March 26, 2007

There was a great documentary that aired on CTV's "W5" last year, on the history of K-Tel. (Narrated by SCTV's Dave Thomas, who could do a dead-on impression of K-Tel's commercial announcer, Bob Washington.)

Challahtronix, even before they made records, K-Tel made cheap merchandise. Much of Ronco's product line was rebranded K-Tel stuff, until the two companies had a falling-out.
posted by evilcolonel at 11:23 AM on March 26, 2007

My parents had several Rock and Soul records from K-tel in the late Seventies. They were always afraid I would scratch their precious records ... what a different media experience compared to listening to the very same music on an iPod.

Don't we all do compilations ourselfes these days? Anyone remembering mixing tapes for friends and loved ones? And even doing funky covers and designs on the tapes? There is no modern equivalent for this ...
posted by homodigitalis at 11:39 AM on March 26, 2007

Note to self: Include your Flickr link of Mix tapes before hitting [Post Comment] ...
posted by homodigitalis at 11:41 AM on March 26, 2007

Intresting; thanks CJP. When I saw this picture of Kives I had to wonder if it was taken with an AE-1. And I can't wait to see all of those albums on iTunes!
posted by TedW at 11:54 AM on March 26, 2007

I second Rock 80 - first thing I thought of when I saw the post topic! Still have mine at home, too, very beat up, and still listenable.
posted by Miko at 12:15 PM on March 26, 2007

Can somebody in the US try calling the number for Freedom Rock?

posted by srboisvert at 12:16 PM on March 26, 2007

srboisvert: I just get a busy signal. I assume it's because it's getting flooded by calls from MeFites.
posted by Kattullus at 12:33 PM on March 26, 2007

It's impossible to pick a favorite K-Tel album. They were all mix and match.

The modern version of K-Tel is MusicSpace. You have likely seen the TV ads.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:08 PM on March 26, 2007

I begged and begged for Hit Machine for my 11th birthday.

That little chuckle in "Moonlight Feels Right" is still one of the creepiest ever sounds in a pop song.
posted by pernoctalian at 2:55 PM on March 26, 2007

Anyone remembering mixing tapes for friends and loved ones? And even doing funky covers and designs on the tapes? There is no modern equivalent for this ...

Funny, I know lots of folks who go to a great deal of effort doing funky cover art and sometimes even liner notes for mix CDs... Admittedly the new-fangled stuff is typically done in something like Photoshop while the average mix-tape label was often hand-crufted, but the customizing/creative impulse seems much the same.
posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 4:30 PM on March 26, 2007

What does it say about the music industry that K-Tel can round up one or more members of 50s/60s bands, bring them into the studio, re-record old hits (I'm guessing that the songwriters would have to be licensed, right?), then putting out crap compilations of such tunes, thereby becoming infamous for crap re-recorded compilations but still remaining profitable to the point where doing this sleazy crap makes more money than just licensing the original recordings themselves?
posted by kimota at 4:43 PM on March 26, 2007

Nice post, CJP!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:57 PM on March 26, 2007

I don't have one myself, but I figure the parents of this firefighter did.
posted by dhartung at 5:00 PM on March 26, 2007

Yeah, there's nothing I despise more than finding, in tiny print, "New stereo recordings by the original artists." Either that, or "... as performed by the Twilight Singers." I know licensing can be troublesome, but c'mon.
posted by adipocere at 6:11 PM on March 26, 2007

pernoctalian, That chuckle always made wonder what the singer from Starbuck was doing while recording "Moonlight Feels Right."

I had Souled Out, Dynamite, Music Power, Out of Sight, Looney Tunes.....heck, I guess I had almost all the K-Tel albums of the early to mid-1970s. When I was a kid, I used to make my own K-Tel mix tapes - getting out a stack of my 45s, and recording a line or two from the chorus of each one with no breakes in between so that I had what sounded like a 30 minute K-Tel commercial.
posted by Oriole Adams at 6:13 PM on March 26, 2007

Still got my Rock 80 8-track floating around somewhere in my closet. Personally, I think K-Tel is nowhere near as cool as Pickwick Records.
posted by inthe80s at 6:43 PM on March 26, 2007

Definitely The Reels' Beautiful.
posted by Wolof at 8:59 PM on March 26, 2007

Believe in Music. 22 Original Hits, Original Stars. How can you not love an album with Donny Osmond singles on side 1 AND side 2. Plus Rod Stewart (Maggie May), Cher (Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves, the theme to Superfly and Long Cool Woman by the Hollies. I wore the vinyl out on this one as a pre-teen in the early 70s.
posted by scottfree at 1:32 AM on March 27, 2007

I'm still waiting for "Best of Booty House Volume 1" comes out.
posted by rifflesby at 6:52 AM on March 27, 2007

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