There are a lot of great record labels out there. look, Apple as a brand has already appeared in this list. And for a bunch of music fans knocking together a list of memorable and great brands, it is inevitable that a few record labels would show up. That said I wonder if anyone sitting around that fateful table own many K-Tel records. It is a great brand, a memorable one certainly, but not really for any of the right reasons.
The K is for its founder, Phillip Kives. The Tel was for Television. Hence me showing you the logo where you often saw it.
K-Tel was not JUST a record label. It also made some “handy” gadgets which we never knew we could live without. They still do: look at the Clever Cutter here which makes “Food preparation easier, quicker and safer with less mess”. How does it do this? Well they appear to have made a pair of scissors with one blade and one chopping board side. Its a mental idea which was probably invented in a shed by someone who never does any cooking, and then flogged to K-Tel who saw a niche in the market. And that niche in the market is mentals who buy stuff off of TV ads. Click through on that link to watch the K-Tel masters of advertising in action. There is never a device that is sold on just one key point. There is always an “And that’s not all…” . K-Tel like Ronco were the masters of pointless devices flogged via the tube. One assumes for the simple fact that if you ever saw any of these devices in a shop you would not the flimsy build and obvious design flaws. In the Clever Cutter alone:
a) Anyone see that onion shooting across the room when the scissors hit a curved bit of skin
b) All the onion bits falling on the floor
c) The food gunk getting caught in its works.
Never mind the quality though, watch the ads. And the ads I particularly lover were those for K-Tel records. Tatty compilation after compilation promising 20 Number Ones!!! Super Hits!!! And these were original artists, 7″ mixes like wot you would hear on the radio (though often mastered lower so they could fit them all on the thin grooved records). All contributing to some sort of secret war between K-Tel and Ronco*. TV advertised though also availible in the shops (no fear for the quality there), K-Tel hoovered up the rights from small labels and stuffed them on to all we had before Now That’S What I Call Music came along. Now albums were the same idea as the K-Tel hits compilations, but had stuff from major labels too – thus muscling K-Tel out of this market. But they continued through the eighties and nineties, slightly daunted, pumping out rave albums. And every now and then on eBay you’ll see and album like the 20 Great Truck Driving Songs, which makes you want to stop and wallow. (And learn how to count, as it notoriously has 24 tracks on it, possible recycled from an earlier trucking compilation).
These days K-Tel is floundering a touch. On the one side it should be able to make a bob or two from all those music rights it snaffled in the seventies and eighties, and is doing deals with iTunes left right and centre. At the same time it is well aware of its own slightly kitsch legacy, which is bad thing. The classic K-Tel website referred to in this interview has been bought out by K-Tel themselves, and now hides in web limbo. AND THAT’S NOT ALL!
Actually it is.
*Who I actually preferred for their tremendous film themed compilations such as Raiders Of The Pop Charts (NOT a double album, rather Buy One Get Two for Free!).