Zero to 180 was browsing Lovin Spoonful‘s 7-inch releases on Discogs and decided to give a listen to an obscure 45 track, “Lonely” – a harmonica instrumental, as it turns out – only to discover upon further examination that this song was released as an A-side for the Brazilian market only!
“Lonely” Lovin’ Spoonful 1967
Zero to 180’s pleased to see Kama Sutra did up the occasion right with a picture sleeve:
Hey, wha’ d’ya know, “Lonely” (or “Solitário”) would also be tapped as a B-side for the Japanese market:
Wow – just discovered the existence of this entry in 45Cat for a US single release for “You’re a Big Boy Now” b/w “Lonely (Amy’s Theme),” with a date of “Jun. 1967” indicated but ultimately “unreleased” – what’s the story?
“God Only Knows” would be sequenced just after the opening track on side one of 1968’s Kafunta album, which enjoyed distribution in the UK, US, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, South Africa, Canada, and Japan. Arnold’s version of the standout track from The Beach Boys’ groundbreaking Pet Sounds would spend its entire existence confined to the album — except, however, in Italy (and nowhere else), where “God Only Knows” nobly served as the A-side of a 1969 single release.
RILASCIATO SOLO IN ITALIA
The reverse side of the Italian picture sleeve includes jukebox title card – plus photo!
“But seriously folks, this is pretty much a song no one should cover. In doing a cover version you either do something completely different with the song and/or top the original. The latter is as close to zero chance as you’ll get, and the former not likely to work considering the power of the original arrangement [#2 Pop – 14 weeks on the charts]. That said, P.P. does a decent job – doesn’t embarrass herself.”
An original copy of the 1969 Italian picture sleeve sold at auction in 2012 for 20 Euros.
This just in: Arnold’s “lost” album of songs recorded in the late 1960s/early 1970s – The Turning Tide – was finally released last August, as reported by Billboard. “Derek” (i.e., Eric Clapton) and the Dominoes (Bobby Whitlock, Jim Gordon and Carl Radle, along with Jim Price & Bobby Keys) served as backing musicians on three of the songs, while Madeline Bell, Doris Troy, and Rita Coolidge share vocals with Arnold on other tracks (with Clapton, Barry Gibb, Caleb Quaye and Arnold serving variously and/or collaboratively as producer).
Those familiar with Jimi Hendrix‘s song catalog might be amused by the quirky decisions made in various ‘foreign’ (i.e, non-US or -UK) markets around the globe — that’s right, it’s another romp through the 45Cat database not unlike the previous piece with The Beatles.
Let us begin our quest with “Burning of the Midnight Lamp,” Hendrix’s fourth UK single and an ‘important’ early composition — right away, we note that Germany produced a playfully expressive picture sleeve for this 1967 A-side release.
Norway, on the other hand, would take Hendrix’s ‘wild man’ stage persona and run with it.
Tragically humorous to see “Burning of the Midnight Lamp” as a B-side in 1969, paired with “Fire” for the UK market, however with the A-side mistitled as “Let Me Light Your Fire”!
New Zealand, Yugoslavia, and Germany would also confuse “Fire” with The Doors’ big breakout hit also from 1967 – pop music’s peak year – along with Spain, whose picture sleeve release (below) wins an award for most imaginatively literal interpretation.
“Burning of the Midnight Lamp” would also be used as a B-side on this 4-track EP from Portugal that was released in 1968.
“Burning of the Midnight Lamp” would receive somewhat of a promotion in Bolivia, where the song was sequenced as the second track (side A) of a four-cut EP from 1970 that features “Come On (Pt. 1)” in its first and only starring role as an “A-side” (EP also notable for “Love or Confusion” – a recording otherwise found only on Are You Experienced).
Some of Hendrix’s more adventurous songwriting efforts, such as “Are You Experienced”; “Third Stone from the Sun”; “Little Wing”; “Castles Made of Sand”; “House Burning Down”; “Rainy Day Dream Away” and “Still Raining Still Dreaming” (et al.) would not end up on a 45 release – or, at least, during his lifetime.
However, there are a couple unlikely Hendrix compositions that found themselves being issued in 7-inch format, such as side one’s ambitious (5 minutes and 29 seconds) closing track for Axis: Bold As Love – “If Six Was Nine” – chosen for the US & Australian markets in 1969 as the B-side to “Stone Free” (no doubt prompted by the song’s inclusion in the soundtrack to that same year’s classic counterculture film, Easy Rider).
“If Six Was Nine” — unlikely Australian B-side
Another unlikely Hendrix track found on a 45: “Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)” selected as the B-side for “Crosstown Traffic” in 1968 for the Australian market, while serving the same role in 1970 for the Yugoslavian market (although paired instead with “Voodoo Chile”) — the song’s only non-LP releases thus far known.
“Have You Ever Been” — unlikely Australian B-side
But without a doubt, the oddest Hendrix composition to end up on either side of a 45 is the epic underwater fantasy that fills an entire album side on Hendrix’s finest long-player — “1983 (A Merman I Should Turn To Be)” — which Barclay saw fit to release in 1972, along with another Electric Ladyland cut, “Come On (Part 1),” that, aside from Bolivia, could not be found on a disc measuring less than one foot in diameter [in fact, hilarious to discover that Iran beat everyone else to the punch when bootleggers issued “Come On” on this EP from 1968, the year of Electric Ladyland‘s release].
French 45 – 1972
This French 45 release from 1972 would be the sole non-LP release of beautiful ballad, “Drifting” (with nice vibraphone work from Buzzy Linhart), from the first posthumous LP, 1971’s The Cry of Love.
This pair of 45s from 1967 – Italy (left) & Spain (right) – shares the same design template, if not typography.
The cover design of this “Purple Haze” EP from Mexico (1968) also wins for ‘most literal’ — includes three tracks from the debut album, plus one (“Up From the Skies”) from the ‘new’ one, curiously enough.
“Freedom” b/w “Angel” 45 picture sleeve – Japan – 1971
Zero to 180 is stunned to discover that all three Jimi Hendrix Experience albums received radically different covers and sleeve designs when released in France on Barclay imprint, Panache, as shown below.
1967’s Axis: Bold As Love
1968’s Electric Ladyland
Hendrix, incidentally, would only merit one picture sleeve in his lifetime for the US market — debut 45, “Hey Joe” b/w “51st Anniversary” (released April, 1967 on Reprise).
Last month’s surprising (and under-reported) research results pertaining to The Beatles’ controversial association with K-Tel, I assumed, had tapped the well of Beatledom dry. So imagine my surprise when Zero to 180 researchers poked at 45Cat’s database with a stick and stumbled upon a treasure trove of curious and, at times, downright baffling decisions regarding Beatles 45 and EP releases in “foreign” markets around the world.
Thailand takes the proverbial cake, in terms of audacity, style, and sense of the absurd, with not a single vinyl offering having enjoyed input from EMI or The Beatles whatsoever. My favorite find among these brazen bootleg releases on Thailand’s Coliseum label is an EP that features four tracks from 1968’s ‘White Album‘ – all of them left-field song choices – but it’s the picture sleeve that wins a prize for sheer daffiness:
As one of the 45Cat catalogers notes, this 1968 EP enjoys the distinction of being the only appearance of “Martha My Dear” on a non-LP Beatles release. Only Finland would see fit to include “Happiness Is a Warm Gun” on a (legitimate) 45, while “Glass Onion” would remain an album track solely (if you exclude this unauthorized EP from Iran). “Savoy Truffle” very nearly suffered the same fate — until Mexico’s outsized fondness for George Harrison manifested itself in this impressive assemblage of four (count ’em) George tracks released in 1971, one year after the band had called it quits.
Guinness record for number of George songs on Beatles non-LP release
Actually, that same year Apple Mexico would issue four additional George-packed EPs, particularly notable for the Beatle whose first and only A-side — 1969’s “Something” — had come near the end of the Beatles’ recording career (where his output would be limited to one song per album side):
George’s “I Me Mine” would forever be confined to the Let It Be album, except in Mexico, where the song would be included on a 1972 EP, (also noteworthy for including album-only track “One After 909“), while Venezuela would go one step further by being the only country to issue this waltz on a 45. Also noteworthy is a planned-but-never-issued 5-song EP for the UK market of what would have been the only non-LP appearance of George track “It’s All Too Much.”
Apple Mexico’s casual use of Sgt. Pepper tracks on other 1971 EPs (“Lucy in the Sky,” as well as “Help From My Friends,” and album showstopper, “A Day in the Life“) would seem to be unparalled among EMI affiliates while, at the same time, oddly sacrosanct. And for some quirky reason, it is Italy – not the UK – who enjoys the distinction of having issued the world’s only Sgt. Pepper 45 the year of the album’s release.
Must point out that the Sgt. Pepper EP released on Thailand’s TK label is almost certainly not the work of the band — the bizarro song selection [“All You Need Is Love”; “Lovely Rita”; “Baby You’re a Rich Man”; “Things We Said Today”] being a major tip-off. As 45Cat contributor Tylerl notes with exasperation on the world’s behalf:
“Why ‘Things We Said Today’?? Weird. Needed ‘For the Benefit of Mr Kite’ instead. It’s not on any 45 or EP worldwide. Sad.”
(Bam-Caruso also hits it on the head with his observation “another strange Thailand EP with an inspired sleeve.”)
Sgt. Pepper EP – but with only one track from the album!
“Strawberry Fields Forever” is one of those monumental A-sides from AM radio’s golden age — and yet Odeon Japan would do the unthinkable, when the label made the tragic and misguided decision in 1967 to dilute the song’s seismic impact by leading off instead with a throwaway track from the previous year (“Bad Boy”) that sounds considerably out of its depth.
A recent documentary tribute to “Hey Bulldog,” the group’s last true collaborative effort, would note the song’s exclusion from single release during the band’s lifetime — a factual statement, if you ignore the track’s inclusion on a 1969 EP issued by Thailand renegade label, Coliseum.
the famous Yellow Submarine cover, and yet only one track from the album!
Thailand’s labels would, indeed, take liberties with not only song selection but cover design, as well. For instance, the band depicted on the 1968 EP below most definitely is not the same group that recorded “Sexy Sadie” (Lennon, by this point, wearing a beard and “granny” spectacles) and “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me and My Monkey.”
Note, too, this 1968 EP’s use of a still image from the iconic “I Am the Walrus” sequence in 1967’s Magical Mystery Tour film for a collection of ‘White Album‘ tracks!
However, no one can top Portugal as the only country authorized to include the ultimate Beatles psychedelic track – “Tomorrow Never Knows” – on a vinyl platter whose diameter measures less than one foot (sorry, Iran – I don’t think you got permission).
While there’s no denying James Brown’s pivotal musical influence, Cochran and his backing band, The C.C. Riders, bring their own creativity to bear on “Chopper 70” — an appropriately high-adrenaline way to bring to a close an album that bears the gritty title, Alive and Well and Living in a Bitch of a World:
“Chopper 70” Wayne Cochran 1970
Pastorius would join the band by 1972, when Cochran & C.C. Riders had made the big move to Epic, an imprint of almighty Columbia. Two years prior, Cochran and company would record a pair of albums for King (with the first issued on its Bethlehem subsidiary) that would both be released in 1970.
Wayne Cochran & the CC Riders: ALIVE AND WELL and living in …
… a b*tch of a world
Dave Dexter, in his “Dexter’s Scrapbook” column for Billboard, would file this report on Cochran in the May 23, 1970 edition:
“Platinum-haired Wayne Cochran was driving a garbage truck in Georgia, the father of three sons. Today’s he’s a sizzling nitery star, with his C.C. Riders, and a big gun on Starday-King disks. He blames parents for the generation gap: ‘In this world today, you’ve got to change, you’ve got to move with what’s happening and that way you’ll never grow old. The kids do their thing in order to dig what they are digging more, not so they can hate the kid next to them. I’ve never seen a fight at a teen-age concert and I think I never will.’
Does that make sense, assuming you dig what he’s digging?”
Zero to 180 regrets waiting until now to sing the praises of Cochran, who left us only a couple months ago, as it turns out. Cochran’s large horn-heavy ensemble, I would learn from Matt Schudel’s obituary in The Washington Post, was famously unrelenting, as their “shows had no stopping point: The band kept vamping from one song to the next, as the music and audience reached a point of frenzy.”
Choppers for the teenyboppers: vintage 1970 Raleigh ad
Jackie Gleason, who wrote the liner notes for Cochran’s self-titled 1967 release on Chess, would call the singer (who would often leave the stage to take his show out into the audience) “the wildest guy I’ve ever seen in my life.” Gleason’s dance ensemble leader, June Taylor, apparently “took ideas for her dancers from the C.C. Riders choreography” during Cochran’s extended mid-60s run at Miami’s major soul club, The Barn.
I count 12 musicians in this photo (courtesy of Discogs)
Impossible to write about Cochran without making reference to Cochran’s mountainous dome of hair. Neil Genzlinger, in his New York Times obituary, would point out who inspired the decision behind the hairdo’s platinum color — Johnny and Edgar Winter (“Every time the lights over their heads changed colors, their hair changed colors. And I said, “Now there’s the color, if I could figure out how to get it”) — thanks to Cochran’s appearance on Dave Letterman’s NBC Late Night show in 1982.
UNESCO World Heritage Site
(Photo from Michael Ochs Archives via PITCHFORK)
Cochran’s first stint with King would last about two years – from late 1963 through early 1965 – before similarly brief runs with Mercury (1965-66) and Chess (1967-68). King founder, Syd Nathan, would pass the year prior to Cochran’s return to the label (now renamed Starday-King), whose first single release would be an elaborately-arranged two-part Beatles mash-up medley of “Hey Jude” and “Eleanor Rigby.”
King Records Turns 75! Cataloging the Classics
Big tip of the hat to Tim Garry of School of Rock – Mason, OH for allowing Zero to 180 the opportunity to compile a list of classic recordings put out by King Records (and its subsidiaries) in time for the label’s 75th birthday celebration. This special tip-top list of nearly 200 songs – stretching from the mid-1940s to the early 1970s – is a fascinating cross-section of popular music styles (secular, as well as sacred) from the original rock ‘n’ roll era and beyond. This PDF document is to be updated over time, as additional classic King recordings are identified by talent scouts embedded here and abroad — click on link below:
I was ready to abandon K-Tel for greener pastures, when I recalled with great amusement a K-Tel hits collection that someone (okay, Tom Avazian) once tenderly pressed into my eager hands. I can’t imagine anyone would be shocked that a label famed for recycling older tunes had thieved its title – Gimme Indie Rock – from a song by former Dinosaur Jr. bassist, Lou Barlow … and then oddly omitted the title track!
Includes a Dinosaur Jr. song in lieu of Sebadoh’s title track – ironic?
No one should be surprised that a label known for being a step or two behind contemporary pop music trends would embrace 80s and 90s punk and “alternative” rock by the dawn of the new century (I hear some of you grumbling this is not your father’s K-Tel). Nor should anyone be taken aback that this double-disc set from 2000 is a CD-only release that was never pressed onto good ol’ vinyl.
Gadzooks: [insert name of indie band below] on a K-Tel collection!
The CD cover would also break the K-Tel mold by being a 6-panel foldout poster, with liner notes provided by Option Magazine‘s Scott Becker and a quote at the top of the page attributed to Minutemen frontman, D. Boon (“The how, the why, the where, the who – can these words find the truth?”) from a song – “The World According to Nouns” – that was, in fact, written by the group’s bassist, Mike Watt! Oh, K-Tel…
To read Scott Becker’s essay, save image to hard drive and magnify in image viewer
Generally speaking, Zero to 180’s rule of thumb (you may or may not be aware) is to feature under-celebrated studio songcraft that is, minimally, 20 years old, thus enabling indie and punk to fall fairly within the scope of this music history blog. Previous attempts to feature more contemporary sounds, Zero to 180 realized belatedly, would not be a good fit for a historically-oriented website, something that should have been apparent at the outset (nothing personal, Roy Sludge – you know I love you).
And yet, it’s as if Zero to 180 has learned nothing, as today’s piece sidesteps protocol by ignoring Gimme Indie Rock in favor of a modern rock track — power pop, to be more precise — that is a mere 12 years old, but is already showing alarming signs of being consigned to the dustbin of history:
“Misadventures of the Campaign Kids” King of Prussia 2007
Such an obvious lead-off track, Zero to 180 is a little disappointed to discover “Miseducation of the Campaign Kids” to be the third song on King of Prussia‘s 2007 CD release, Save the Scene. The opening chords would seem to be a loving nod to Paul Weller’s demo for The Jam’s “That’s Entertainment” — could that have been the songwriter’s intention, I wonder. Yes, there are five YouTube clips of this compelling King of Prussia track, and yet the total combined “views” of these audio clips do not even total 5,000 — a musical injustice that this history blog is attempting to remedy.
Lyrics to the song can be found here on Bandcamp, where you can also buy the album for only $6.99 – a bargain. Thank you, as well, to Zero to 180 science correspondent, Paul Guinnessy, for once forwarding a flash drive filled with 3.42GigaBytes of songs (e.g, “Misadventures”) from artists – including King of Prussia – who appeared at the 2008 South by Southwest music conference in Austin, Texas. NPR, in fact, would give the band some coverage, describing the King of Prussia’s debut album as “a trippy collection of songs with elements of ’60s folk rock.”
News Flash: Zero to 180 Filters Out the Rubbish!
The Zero to 180 screenshot above, by the way, shows this music history blog in its infancy at a time when I was still grappling with scope and content issues. After five years and over 700 posts, I finally cottoned onto the necessity of adding several filters to help readers (to the extent they exist) pick out the few interesting bits amidst the mountains of refuse. Consequently, Zero to 180 now has added a handful of “buttons” at the top of the screen to help minimize wasted time you will never ever get back —
Just for fun, find a casual fan of Barbra Streisand‘s music, and study her/his reaction closely when you play a fairly obscure track – “Come Back To Me” – for his/her virgin ears:
“Come Back to Me” Barbra Streisand 1973
Believe me, Zero to 180 is just as stunned as you are to find Streisand’s name attached to a history piece on “experimental pop” — and yet here we are, thanks to 1973’s Barbra Streisand … And Other Musical Instruments being included (#34) in Mojo’s list of The 50 Most Out There Albums of All Time in their March 2005 issue, alongside such (truly) outre artists as Ennio Morricone, John Coltrane, Holy Modal Rounders, Hawkwind, Funkadelic, Captain Beefheart, and (of course) Sun Ra.
Mojo’s Jonny Trunk explains the album’s concept, as a whole —
“The soundtrack to Barbra’s fifth TV special, the plan was to explore – literally (and laterally) – the world of sound and music, as opposed to the world of just Babs again. This Barbra is on a sonic world trip, and the luggage is piled very high, indeed — percussion from all global villages including darabukas, gagakus, o-daikos and baglamas, as well as Moogs, mellotrons, Studers, Arps, a Putney (!) and a Tempophon. And don’t forget the bagpipes. They’re from Ireland.”
“Come Back to Me,” one of the more experimental tracks on the album, finds Streisand, as Trunk playfully puts it, “talking to herself through delay pedals.”
Avant-Streisand: Experimental Pop – emphasis on Pop
Would you be surprised to learn that Billboard would deem …And Other Musical Instruments to be one of their “Top Album Picks” for the week of November 10, 1973?
“Since this is the soundtrack from her TV special, there are plenty of effects one can only enjoy with all the senses. But since you can’t see the things going on as Barbra walks through all the visual settings which are at the core of the program, your imagination has to take command. Nonetheless, her fine tones and majestic power are sheer entertainment. There are lots of off-beat ideas, like an Indian raga effect on ‘I Got Rhythm’ and sound effects on ‘The World Is a Concerto.’ ‘Glad To Be Unhappy’ is Barbra at her ballad best. Ken and Mitzi Welch’s arrangements for TV provide an interesting experience on record.”
The commercial response to Barbra Streisand’s most daring work – before and forevermore – can be shown in the album’s Billboard rankings:
entered the Pop chart at #146 for the week of November 24, 1973;
advanced to #115 the following week, December 1, 1973;
before beginning a downward descent — #132 the week of February 9, 1974;
down to #149 the following week, February 16, 1974;
hanging on at #191 the week of March 9, 1974 before dropping from the charts.
Ten years later, Billboard‘s Paul Grein would report in his “Chart Beat” column that the TV special, unfortunately, had been “poorly received.” 38 years later, a test pressing of Streisand’s … And Other Musical Instruments LP would fetch $30 at auction in 2011.
Hendrix, Beatles, the Stones … and Streisand: K-Tel Luminaries
Barbra Streisand – whose considerable commercial heft makes her, according to the Recording Industry Association of America, the world’s best selling female recording artist – would famously relax her “No K-Tel” policy in order to allow “Evergreen” (Theme from A Star Is Born) to appear on 1981 K-Tel release The Elite (US, Canada, Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, and the Netherlands), as well as 1981’s The Platinum Album (UK, Scandinavia, Spain, Italy, Greece, New Zealand & Australia).
Streisand would also give consent for the inclusion of chart-topping hit “People” (from Funny Girl) on K-Tel Brazil’s Sucessos Nunca Esquecidos, as well as special 2-LP set, Stars for Jerusalem, in partnership with Columbia Special Products, under the auspices of The Jerusalem Foundation.
True or False? Led Zeppelin have appeared on a K-Tel album.
The band that famously refused to do TV appearances did not, generally speaking stoop to K-Tel‘s level of crass commercialism. Led Zeppelin cultivated such a mystique amongst their fanbase, in fact, that it was thought the band didn’t deign to do singles — obviously untrue when you browse their 7-inch output on 45Cat (each and every Zep album was accompanied by a 45 release, don’t kid yourself).
And yet, unbelievably, Led Zeppelin once said yes to K-Tel: 1980’s The Summit, released by K-Tel UK & Ireland — an album that includes “Candy Store Rock” (from 1976’s Presence), fittingly as the final track:
“Candy Store Rock” Led Zeppelin 1976
Does the band get forgiveness points, since “proceeds from this album are contributed to The Year of the Child to help sick and handicapped children”?
“Hot on the heels of the Kampuchea concerts, K-Tel rush-released The Summitin January 1980, featuring a baker’s dozen of tracks from rock royalty, all of whom donated their proceeds to UNESCO’s The International Year Of The Child (1979). Kurt Waldheim, then secretary-general of the United Nations, was crucial in organizing both the Concerts for the People of Kampuchea and The International Year Of The Child projects.”
Zep on K-Tel cover!
<click on image for maximum resolution>
In 2003, Jimmy Page would even make the CD cover, when “Misty Mountain Hop” made an encore appearance on Time-Life’s Do It Again from the ‘Legends’ series (with liner notes from Ben Fong-Torres), also in synergistic partnership with Warner Special Products.
11311 K-Tel Drive = Minnetonka, Minnesota:
The New “Hitsville USA”?
Thanks to family members strategically located in Minnetonka, Zero to 180 is grateful to have had the opportunity to visit 11311 K-Tel Drive, the corporate headquarters of K-Tel International since 1975, as any music scholar will tell you.
K-Tel’s service in maintaining the commercial vitality of our great nation’s pop hits – long after their initial “expiration date” – has been widely mocked, which is sadly short-sighted, given the company’s honorable efforts in fighting Madison Avenue attitudes (i.e., old = bad) that have unmistakably infiltrated popular consciousness due to a relentless bombardment of advertising that fetishizes newness for the sake of newness.
K-Tel would celebrate 35 years of success in grand style with a supplemental 17-page advertisement in the March 8, 1997 edition of Billboard.(pages K-1 through K-17) that includes messages of congratulations from Sony Music Special Products, EMI-Capitol, Polygram, Curb Records, Select-O-Hits, local heroes The Trashmen, The Castaways, Steppenwolf’s John Kay, the Marshall Tucker Band, and Ernest Evans himself (a.k.a., Chubby Checker). These 17 packed pages include a profile of founder Phillip Kives (K-Tel = Kives Television), who “starred in what may have been the first infomercial: a five-minute spot in support of a non-stick frying pan,” plus a history of the music label (“Original Hits! Original Stars! K-Tel’s Super Gold Music Machine Rolls Right On”) that states the company’s musical inventory to be “approximately 2,700 masters, dating from the ’50s up through the ’80s and beyond.”
Just months after terminating a deal that would have divested its music assets, K-Tel International has restructured the music company and set ambitious plans to become an online music retailer and a distributor of other labels’ recordings.
As part of the change, the company has tapped Mark Dixon, its top financial executive, as COO of the music unit, K–tel International (USA), which remains based in Minneapolis. The corporate offices, however, are moving to Los Angeles, where company president David Weiner will oversee the music unit, international operations, a direct-marketing subsidiary, a home video imprint, and a new Internet venture. Weiner says the move will enable K-Tel to “tap into a larger talent pool.”
By mid-December, Weiner says the company will launch K-Tel Online and develop the site over the next year into a major Internet retailer to compete with CDnow, Music Boulevard, and World Wide Web sites operated by traditional music chains. At the site www.ktel.com, consumers will also be able to order customized CDs made up of tracks from the company-owned catalogs.
Alas, Greg Beets would break the sad news — “Where were you when you found out K-Tel declared bankruptcy and shut down its U.S. music distribution subsidiary?” — in the May 4, 2001 edition of the Austin Chronicle. Turning popular wisdom on its head, Beets points out that “although K-Tel’s buffet-style MO [modus operandi] seems quintessentially American,” the company was actually founded in Winnipeg, Ontario in 1962, before Kives moved operations to Minneapolis in the early Seventies.
Kives wasn’t the first (that would be Art Leboe’s Oldies but Goodies series), and he wasn’t without competition (Ronco and Adam VIII), but “it was K-Tel,” Beets observed, “that truly cultivated the form into a pop culture institution ripe for parody.”
K-Tel’s Krass Kommercialism: A Tribute by Greg Beets
During the Seventies, K-Tel’s marketing ploys had the same seedy appeal as a carnival barker’s come-on. The pitch was fast and furious, with deftly spliced snippets of music, song titles rapidly scrolling across the screen, and an overcaffeinated announcer imploring you to order now. Some aficionados swear the ads said K-Tel albums were not available in stores, even though they were — at unhip outlets such as drug and discount stores.
You won’t find a much better snapshot of pop music in the early Seventies than 1972’s Believe in Music. Named for Gallery’s “I Believe in Music,” the album kicks off with the 1-2-3 feel-good punch of “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” by Looking Glass, “Beautiful Sunday” by Daniel Boone, and “Sunny Days” by Lighthouse. Throw in Donny Osmond, the O’Jays, and a few more weird obscurities like Mouth & MacNeil’s “How Do You Do?” and Bulldog’s “No,” and you have a bass-ackwardly definitive compilation rivaled only by Nuggets.
Maybe K-Tel butchered art for profit. But even if that were true, does it make K-Tel any worse than a record company padding a marginal artist’s album with filler? Though it came at the expense of artistic vision, K-Tel’s Seventies output was nothing if not value-driven. Where else could you get up to 25 hit songs for the low, low price of $5.98 ($7.98 for 8-track)?
That said, the sonic quality of vintage K-tel albums is truly awful. You’ll find better low end on a distant AM radio station, and the flimsier-than-Dynaflex vinyl ensures quick scratches if you so much as breathe too hard on it. And no discussion of K-Tel would be complete without mentioning the blinding colors and screaming fonts utilized in the subtle-as-a-meat-cleaver cover art. But, as the tired old saying goes, that’s part of the charm.
Note: Beets would also voice the widely-held notion that “respectable artists, such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, never showed up on K-Tel” — a view that, as Zero to 180’s recent research has revealed, does not withstand factual scrutiny.
It still boggles my mind that Ronco somehow found a way to compile an album featuring tracks from top pop acts – Jimi Hendrix, Buffalo Springfield, The Beatles, and the Byrds – one would not normally associate with TV-advertised hits labels, such as Ronco.
Jimi Hendrix – third artist listed after The Beatles
In light of this knowledge I began to wonder: Is it possible Jimi Hendrix has appeared on a K-Tel album?
Answer — Yes! K-Tel Japan would include “Purple Haze” on 1971’s 20 Dynamic Hits – an album that would also feature a Beatles track (admittedly, 1961’s “My Bonnie” with singer, Tony Sheridan).
Perhaps the strangest release of all would be K-Tel Australia’s The Legend of Hendrixalbum (date unknown).
3rd known photo of Hendrix on a K-Tel album cover
18 tracks in all – note the curious decision to include a Noel Redding composition, “She’s So Fine”:
1. Hey Joe
2. Purple Haze
3. The Wind Cries Mary
4. Burning Of The Midnight Lamp
5. Stone Free Again
6. All Along The Watchtower
7. Foxy Lady
8. Voodoo Chile
9. Crosstown Traffic
11. Like A Rolling Stone
12. Ezy Rider
14. Johnny B Goode
15. Blue Suede Shoes
16. Gypsy Eyes
18. She’s So Fine
“She’s So Fine” Noel Redding’s Jimi Hendrix Experience 1967
Of course, all of this begs the question — why no Hendrix tracks on US K-Tel releases? Was Warner Brothers afraid that the appearance of a Hendrix track on a K-Tel album might inflict damage on his viability in the marketplace, given the snobby rock press?
“My Bonnie” on this 1972 4-LP set = only US K-Tel LP Release to feature The Beatles!
The Stones on K-Tel: The Truth Is Out There
1982 would prove to be the year the band made the momentous decision that permitted K-Tel UK/Ireland to sell a 2-LP (mostly monophonic) “greats”-only package, Story of the Stones, in Great Britain, as well as Spain, Portugal and (“unofficially”) Japan and Singapore.
Track listing: any quibbles, Stones fans?
The following year, the Stones’ Organization then made the staggering decision to allow “Satisfaction” the honor of kicking off K-Tel’s Best Party Album in the World — a various artists release that would also include “Get Off My Cloud”!
Any Other Ronco LPs with Hendrix Tracks?
Q: Besides Do It Now, are there any other Ronco LPs that feature Jimi Hendrix tracks?
A: Yes! “All Along the Watchtower” would join 43 of its closest friends for Ronco UK’s soundtrack to the film, Stardust, from 1974.
Additionally, in 1974 Ronco Netherlands would release 44 Golden Hits of the Sixties, a 2-LP set that included (you guessed it) “All Along the Watchtower.”
In 2016, Heritage Auctions (“the world’s largest collectibles auctioneer”) sold two acetates of Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland album — note that the Columbia label for the left image reads “Electric Landlady“(!)
double-Click on image for Super-maximum resolution
“Electric Landlady”: Inspiration for Kirsty MacColl’s 1991 album
Melbourne-born, Helen Reddy would begin her career in 1963 laying down vocals for a Consulate cigarette jingle with Bob Young and His Orchestra.
Reddy’s win on Australian Bandstand would, according to Discogs, spur her big move in 1966 to the United States, where two years later, she would make her official debut in the pop marketplace with Fontana 45, “One Way Ticket.”
Monty Montgomery, Music Director for Bakersfield’s KERN would select “One Way Ticket” as Billboard‘s ‘Best Leftfield Pick’ for the week of May 11, 1968. The song would hit #83 nationally in Australia in May, 1968.
From the songwriting team of Stephen (“Sesame Street“) Lawrence & Bruce Hart
For uncertain reasons (though likely due to runaway 1972 smash hit, “I Am Woman“), K-Tel made an executive decision to include this Laugh-In-era track on a collection of US radio hits from primarily 1973 (i.e., James Brown’s “The Payback“; Love Unlimited’s “Love’s Theme“; Incredible Bongo Band’s “Bongo Rock“), thus indirectly helping to direct attention to a melodic sense and production sound that seem very much out of place with the rest of the song’s surroundings:
“One Way Ticket” Helen Reddy 1968
American music consumers would find itself treated to “One Way Ticket” via 1974 K-Tel release, Dynamic Sound, while discerning Canadian ears would discover the track on 1974’s Music Power, amidst such 1973 highlights as Edgar Winter Group’s “Free Ride“; Kool & the Gang’s “Jungle Boogie“; and Al Wilson’s “Show and Tell.”
Helen Reddy + Shirley Bassey + Dusty Springfield = butterfly
Aside from the K-Tel and Pickwick LP releases above, “One Way Ticket” otherwise found itself orphaned as a non-album single until the song’s inclusion as a bonus track for the 2-album-on-one-CD reissue No Way to Treat a Lady / Music, Music in 2005 — but for the Australian market only!
As has been pointed out elsewhere, Reddy is the first Australian artist to win a Grammy (for the aforementioned “I Am Woman”), as well as top the Billboard Hot 100 chart.