As mentioned previously, my recollections of Chart Action 83‘s track list experienced a good deal of inflationary haziness during the two decades between losing and replacing my copy of that crucial compilation. It grew to include every fondly remembered slice of pop fluff heard on WHTT (“Boston’s HOT HIT radio!”) over the course of that year, instead of the (still pretty impressive) three or four most favored cuts which did end up on the actual product.
Given how prolific K-Tel was with its releases, it stood to reason that there were other compilations from that time frame which did include some — if not most — of the “missing” songs. My initial response to this epiphany was one of wary ambivalence. I owned most of these tracks already, some of it many times over and across multiple media formats. Did I really need to seek it out yet again?
Absolutely, because I’m an obsessive idiot.
The task was far more complicated than I expected it to be. Comprehensive chronologies of K-Tel releases are few and far between and riddled with omissions. The Discogs database was an invaluable tool, as always, but its search function struggled under the sheer volume of entries returned. K-Tel didn’t just release a shitload of records during the Seventies and Eighties — they released them in multiple versions across multiple markets while re-using titles and fiddling with track lists. It can be a fun rabbit hole to fall down during a lazy afternoon’s browsing, but it also makes seeking out specific entries an exercise in frustration. (Not to mention the disappointment upon discovering a promising synthpop or space disco collection was only released in Sweden or Italy and now impossible to find at a reasonable price.)
Despite the hassles involved, I was able to narrow things down to a quintet of releases dating from late 1982 through the end of 1983. The first of these I purchased (not counting Chart Action 83 itself) was Hit Explosion.
It is the third K-Tel record discussed in this feature to use the “Hit” plus “[Noun]” title construction. It will not be the last one.
Here’s the track list.
A1 Toni Basil – Mickey
A2 The Go-Go’s – Vacation
A3 Joe Jackson – Steppin’ Out
A4 Haircut One Hundred – Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl)
A5 Joan Jett & The Blackhearts – Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)
A6 Rod Stewart – Young Turks
A7 The Steve Miller Band – Abracadabra
B1 Pat Benatar – Shadows Of The Night
B2 Laura Branigan – Gloria
B3 Santana – Hold On
B4 A Flock Of Seagulls – Space Age Love Song
B5 Rush – New World Man
B6 REO Speedwagon – Keep The Fire Burnin’
B7 Survivor – Eye Of The Tiger
The selections trend towards the early phase of my Top 40 awakening, and includes a number of 1982 releases (along with 1981′s “Young Turks,” which caught a chart updraft thanks to MTV).
The space of a year can feel so fleeting when you’ve hit the gray side of thirty. In a child’s reckoning of time, it can feel like forever — especially when said year marked the amorphous boundary between late childhood and early adolescence, as it did in my case. There’s very clear-to-me difference in how I perceive the overall tone of Hit Explosion versus that of Chart Action 83. It’s subtle, but it’s there, like sitting on the floor beside the kitchen table while the grown-ups talk as opposed to sitting at the table with them.
1983 was when the boundaries of my universe expanded, curfews were pushed back, and new frontiers (well, the shopping plaza and multiplex by the highway) became accessible without direct adult supervision. The moment encapsulated by Hit Explosion straddles that developmental line, with songs like “Mickey” or “Vacation” or “Abracadabra” indelibly associated with some psychic jumping off point between the two worlds.
The changes weren’t even that pronounced in the grand scheme of things. I didn’t forsake my action figures or comics or video games, or suddenly exhibit a newfound level of maturity. But, again, everything takes on a epic scope when you’re a kid.
Even with those associations and a pretty solid set of songs, Hit Explosion comes off as a fairly empty experience to my middle-aged ears. There’s no novelty to the tracklist or nostalgic connection to the object itself, just an inexpensive bundle of music I either already own or could live without ever hearing again.
(Sorry, Haircut One Hundred, but it’s the truth.)