K-tel Records

Ask me what some of my favorite albums are and you’ll get a short list of ones that I would make it to the desert island with me – Tattoo You by The Rolling Stones, Beauty and the Beat by The Go-Go’s, Kings of the Wild Frontier by Adam and the Ants. I know these records up and down, and I never get tired of them.

But ask me about important records, ones that take me back to a time and a place, ones where when I see the cover of them a smile comes across my face . . . that’s another story.

Many of those records looked something like this.

K-tel records: Power Play

Or this.

K-tel records: Full Tilt

And this for the lighter, easy-listening moments in your life.

Easy listening 80s hits compilation from K-Tel Records

And especially this.

K-tel records: High Energy

I loved my K-tel record collection.

K-tel records were the original “Now, That’s What I Call Music” compilation albums of the greatest (and maybe not so greatest) hits of the time, the company has been cranking out records since the 1960s.

Besides having amazing hit singles, K-tel also had amazing television commercials.

The joy of these albums was the insane variety of music that was on each and every one of them. Hard rock, soft rock, pop hits, and instrumentals; sometimes they even snuck a country song on there.

These records were sold at record stores as well as drug stores; I have vivid memories of walking up to Woolworth’s with my grandmother and buying one.

One year I purchased this:

K-tel records: Radio Active

Talk about an important album . . . oh my God. The Who, The Police, and The Go-Go’s? And I’d never heard Devo’s cover of Working in a Coal Mine. Throw in Rapture by Blondie and a little Hall and Oates, and you’ve got vinyl magic.

And variety! Where else could The Commodores hang out with The Moody Blues?

This record was so important to me that I couldn’t get the cover out of my head. I even considered getting the guy holding the two lightning bolts as a tattoo (don’t worry, I didn’t) or the music out of my head . . . even as an adult. I have often wished hard that I hadn’t purged it from my collection.

So I got a new copy of it. And now it lives in a place of honor. It’s music and art, all in one, hanging in our guest bedroom.

Radio Active K-tel record

Thanks K-tel records, for the greatest hits soundtrack of my youth.

Author: Lori Ferraro

Lori is a writer and actor living in Portland, OR. Her website, Drawn to the 80s, is where her 5 year old draws the greatest music hits of the 1980s. She is a blogger for The Huffington Post and her own blog, Once Upon a Product, is where she writes about important things like beauty products, music, her obsession with Mick Jagger and of course...the 80s.

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  1. Yes! I was a huge fan of these albums as well. It started early for me as I had all of the commercials for these collection albums from all genres memorized and would recite them verbatim as a youngster.

    Now, I search the web or a record store (if you can find one) often for these treasures. When I find one of my favorites, it’s like striking gold.

    By the way, your guest bedroom looks totally awesome!

    Rock On

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    • There’s even a Doc about Phillip Kives and His K-Tel empire titled “As Seen On TV!: The K-Tel Story”,now on You Tube,in 3 Parts!

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  2. In a fit of boredom some time back, I’ve ended up “reproducing” many of these K-Tel albums with my MP3 and CD collection. With a quick Google search of album titles and covers, I took the short/single versions of most songs, put them in the original K-Tel order, download the cover and stick it up into my Itunes and revamp some of those days when all I collected were those K-Tels. My two favorites had always been that Radio Active album, and Rock 80’s.

    Great article. Thanks for sharing.

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      • Loved this post, I loved k tel

        And, I noticed the abba poster in the guest bedroom. Abba was the compromise music with my mom lol

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  3. Dearest Lori thank you so much for thisoffering of information. I’m a soft-hearted guy who became completely lost in daydreams while somewhat hiding under my parents dinner table with huge headphones on, listening to some of the K-tel vinyl albums. We only had a few, two of which I still remember; “Star Power” and “Full Tilt”, like you example above.
    I’m 47 now so you know what that means— I was a junior high kid and younger when those albums came out, which for some reason is an age looked at as embarrassing, awkward or foolish from those who don’t slow down and think. I think that age is the cross roads bewteen when your senses are magnifying everything while adult hormones and fresh uncluttered brain cells are starting to concentrate. This makes an elixer in your mind that helps you effortlessly get swept up in the moment.
    Another reason I’m very happy to see your site here is because I lost even more hair (not much left anyway) trying to simply find a list of early 80’s K-tel album songs. I had no idea how huge their world of products extended. The internet drives me crazy most of the time anyway, but MAN!! I could not narrow it down. I was happy just to see someone mention the subject! At least you had some words about it and a couple of the albums I’ve seen before right up front. I’m terrible at searching for info, mainly because I foolishly expect the algorithms or whatever google uses for searching to only bring up what I asked for; early 80’s pop albums from K-tel. What a mess.

    Anyway… thanks.

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  4. K-Tel was a Canadian company, headquartered Winnipeg, Mantoba. Music wasn’t its nly product, just its most prominent money maker.

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