On The Record: K-Tel’s Cruisin’ Series






On The Record is a series of articles, meditations, and investigations into musical works of note. We begin with a kitsch curiosity that has stood the test of time, a series devoted to a cult of nostalgia that have become totems of their very own.

In the 70’s, K-tel was a record label known primarily for scattershot compilations of greatest hits that people who didn’t often buy music might grab, as any given release from the label might have a lot of the songs one would hear on the radio on the way to and from work. The records were well known (and often maligned) as a result of their corny advertising campaigns. If the term “As seen on TV!” wasn’t invented by K-tel, it had to have been close. Plus, they sold mood rings.

The literal translation of the word nostalgia- “pain from an old wound.” While the wounds were still fresh, K-tel released a series of comps with comic panel covers detailing the year by year coming of age of a couple of baby boomers, teen rebels without a clue when the Rock & Roll hit in the late 50’s, then through the turbulent 1960’s.

It’s certainly not a new idea. That saga’s been done in movies, TV, literature, everything. But never in comic strip form, and never right on an album cover. Note how the style of the art changes with each release, from cartoonish to stylish to, finally, stark and realistic. The lovebirds have had their fun, and are entering the 1970’s as squares. Pop Art in action. Click to enlarge the drama.