Did I Really Want One of Those? 4. A Pre-Now! Era Compilation Album

Not arf!

28th December 2013: Now leaving Outpatients’ department at Stepping Hill Hospital. Shouldn’t have bought that blasted copter. Or rather, I shouldn’t have tested it in the park after being ran over by a mobility scooter. It was my own fault for not watching where I was going. Now writing these notes in my diary in a taxi. My smartphone has ran out of juice. Still, the pork pies were a good alternative to the Turkey Curry (thank you Stockport CCG for this!).

With minutes to go till getting home, Capital Gold is playing Jigsaw’s one and only hit from 1975 (Sky High). I’m sure somebody up there doesn’t like me…

You return home, find there’s absolutely nothing on the TV besides Strictly Come Dancing or An Audience With David Cameron. Instead, you dust down your turntable and delve in to your record collection. Alongside 10cc’s eponymous début, Frampton Comes Alive! and Back In Black, you find this oddity.

A blue label reading ‘Chart Hits ’81’.

Yes, a K-Tel compilation album which topped the album charts in 1981. Sadly it is disc one which doesn’t have the excellent Outlaw by Gerard Kenny. Nor Panic by The Scoop. But it does have Bad Manners’ Can Can and Hooked on Classics.

Chart Hits ’81

In the pre-Now! That’s What I Call Music era, K-Tel along with Ronco specialised in budget priced compilation albums as well as gadgets. Chart Hits ’81 was one example. Prior to 1983, the running times on each track was modified to ensure each album had 20 tracks for example. ‘Highest possible reproduction’ or something similar would be the weasel word to belie the fact that 20 tracks on a single LP meant moolah for Messr Kives, Popeil and Company.

For many people, it was a cheap way of owning the songs of your favourite artistes, instead of buying singles or taping off the radio. It was a formula that stood of test of time till the arrival of MP3 players, file sharing and YouTube changed all that. Their compilations may have peed off a few musos but K-Tel’s and Ronco’s albums were a pretty profitable sideline to artistes. Not only by cost-conscious fans but also in introducing listeners to new artistes they wouldn’t have dreamed of buying in Woolworths or local record shops.

What’s more, with a Buy One Get One Free offer thrown in, what was there not to like in the days before Now!… compilations became double LPs as standard.

*                                *                                *

1981 price: £4.99 or thereabouts (also from Woolworths, John Menzies, WHSmith, Boots).

2013 price: from 50p to £3.50 (depending on condition and outlet, from car boot sales to secondhand record shops).

S.V., 04 December 2013.


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