Before Spotify, there was K-tel records

On growing up listening to K-tel records, Top 40

wtopstaff | November 14, 2014 5:46 pm

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Neal Augenstein,

WASHINGTON – Searching for songs you loved, but don’t have on your playlist is one of the joys of the Internet, especially music streaming services, including Spotify and Rdio.

Long before the ability to do a Google search or cull songs from YouTube, music fans who heard their favorite tunes on the radio faced an expensive proposition — buy dozens of singles, albums or CDs — if they wanted to own the Top 40 hits they loved.

Enter K-tel Records.

By the early 1970s, K-tel TV ads promised “20 Original Hits! 20 Original Stars!” on a single album, sparing music-craving teenagers from having to fork-over hundreds of dollars.

“Oh, yeah, I remember the K-tel collection,” reminisces radio personality Albie Dee, who has spun the hits on stations including WPGC and dozens of others throughout the country.

“It was back when music was on the AM dial,” recalls Dee, who bought the K-tel albums as a teenager growing up in Connecticut.

Jeff “Goldy” Goldberg, whose disc jockey credits include Oldies 100 in Washington, D.C. bought K-tel albums as a kid, listening to Top 40 stations including WABC Musicradio 77 and WNBC in New York.

“Where, other than K-tel, could you find an album that went from KC and the Sunshine Band, to Alice Cooper, to War, to Frankie Valli, all on the same disc,” says Goldberg.

“Back then, Top 40 stations played all those different genres,” says Goldberg.

“Now, with radio stations being so specialized, you’d never hear R&B, rock, pop, country and soul on just one radio station.

K-tel albums secured the rights to release the hits by negotiating with the artist’s label, and jammed almost two dozen songs on a single 12-inch album.

“On the K-tel records it wasn’t exactly what you heard on the radio. A four minute song was now edited down to three minutes, so they could put more songs on one side of an album,” says Dee.

In 1972 and 1973, when vinyl or eight-track tapes were the only option, a 45 rpm single cost 99 cents at a music or department store. K-tel “22 Explosive Hits” albums cost $3.99. It’s far cheaper than buying each single individually.

Spotify and Rdio are paid services that allow a user to select a specific song. Other streaming services, including Pandora and iHeartRadio don’t allow for selecting a song on demand.

Follow @AugensteinWTOP and @WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2013 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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