Monday, May 2, 2016


Canadian businessman Philip Kives died this past week. He was 87 years old. The name may not ring a bell, but the company he founded will. Kives was the "K" in K-tel Records. Before the Now That Is What I Call Music CD series, K-tel gave people a chance to own 20 of their the top hits on one record or tape.

Before K-tel released their first record in 1966, compilation records contained only songs by that label or company's artist. Kives managed to create records which featured major hits, from competing labels, side by side. Then, he sold them at a budget price in chains stores like Woolworths, Wallgrens, Ben Franklins, T. G. & Y, and K-Mart (no relation) with the aid of flashy TV commercials.

Granted, K-tel's records were cheesy in the beginning. The first one was country music, followed by a polka record and then came the many Top 40 hit compilations. Originally, the covers were black and white with tiny photos of the artist on them.

In the early 70s, the record covers were usually multicolored with small, color photos of the artist and an over abundance of text that listed the names of every artist on the record. These records featured about twenty hits, some of which were shortened for time. Some would maybe feature fifteen hits, but would pad with early recordings by major hit artist, such as "Love You Til Tuesday" by David Bowie, "It Might as Well Rain until September" by Carole King, "Bless You" by Tony Orlando and "I Can See For Miles" by The Who.

By the late 70s, K-tel began putting together some two record sets, which allowed for longer versions of the songs. The artwork improved quite a bit, including a cover featuring Robby the Robot and one featuring a sexy blond singer named Kerry Ciardelli, who was later married to the inventor in Rollerblades.

About this time the Canadian produced comedy TV show began featuring a character named Harvey Ktel (like Harvey Keitel), a fast-talking, loud announcer, who specialized in voice-overs for record commercials, such as Stairways To Heaven. The character was played by Dave Thomas.

The 80s saw the records become more focused on, sometimes on one genre of music, such as new wave and heavy metal. These probably took a cue from the success of records devoted to country, soul (SUPER BAD) and novelty songs (GOOFY GREATS). The cover design was the biggest improvements. During this time, they released what many believe to be their best compilation, Rock 80, which contained a mix of new wave and power pop.

K-tel even had a hit LP. Kives saw the success of the Stars On's disco oldies medleys and decided to try apply the same formula, only with classical music. Hooked On Classic was a big hit.

Sadly, that was the last hurrah for K-tel. In the late 80s, the filed for bankruptcy, just missing the CD boom. Part of their problems were attributed to a controversy in America surrounding a collection of music from a popular British kids show called Mini Pops, which featured kids dressed as Madonna, Boy George and Prince singing their hits. Cranky American parents felt it was "immoral."

I wanted to do a post about K-tel, because I collect K-tel Records. Most collectors don't want them. I like the kitschish nature, as well as the musical nostalgia held within the cover and grooves.

I've created a Ipod playlist for a non-existent K-tel record of the 70s called "Make Believe - 22 original hits by the original artist" and an 80s K-tel record "Make Believe Two - Today's magical hits."

1. "Little Willy" - The Sweet
2. "Back Stabbers" - The O'Jays
3. "How Do You Do?" - Mouth & MacNeal
4. "Brandy" - The Looking Glass
5. "Don't Pull Your Love" - Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds
6. "Why Can't We Live Together" - Timmy Thomas
7. "Cum On Feel The Noize" - Slade
8. "I Am Pegasus" - Ross Ryan
9.  "Beach Baby" - First Class
10. "Dancing In the Moonlight" - King Harvest
11. "Rock The Boat" - Hughes Corporation
12. "Heartbeat It's a Love Beat" - The DeFranco Family
13. "Love You Til Tuesday" - David Bowie
14.  "Beautiful Sunday" - Daniel Boone
15.  "Bang Bang" - Cher
16.  "Smoke Gets In your Eyes" - Blue Haze
17.  "Who Do You Think You Are" - Candlewick Green
18.  "Treat Her Like Lady" - Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose
19.  "Look In My Eyes Pretty Woman" - Dawn
20.  "Hooked On a Feeling" - Blue Swede
21.  "Jolene" - Dolly Parton
22.  "Armed & Extremely Dangerous" - First Choice

1. "Sweet Dreams" - Air Supply
2. "Turn Your Love Around" - George Benson
3. "Going Down" - Greg Guidry
4. "Take It Easy On Me" - Little River Band
5. "My Girl (Gone, Gone, Gone) - Chilliwack
6. "Easy For You To Say" - Linda Ronstadt
7. "Trouble" - Lindsey Buckingham
8. "Is It You?" - Lee Ritenour
9. "Don't Talk To Strangers" - Rick Springfield
10. "One Hundred Ways" - James Ingram
11. "Run Home Girl" - Sad Cafe
12. "Waiting For a Girl Like You" - Foreigner

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