Discogs’ chronology of K-Tel releases doesn’t separate by regional markets, which makes sense from an archival standpoint if not an ease-of-use one. It can make it difficult to pinpoint items of interest, especially during those high-volume years of most interest to me. I’ve sifted through the listings a half dozen times already, yet each pass still yields up some gem I’d overlooked because it was buried in a full page of German-language country-western comps.
Then there’s the even more infuriating flip-side of that extreme signal-to-noise ratio — stumbling across some eminently fascinating LP, only take a closer look and discover it was produced for the European or Australian markets.
In nearly every case, it’s an instant dealbreaker. Providing there’s even a copy to be found in the usual places, the added expense of overseas delivery put the question of “how much do I really want this” into sharp focus. I wouldn’t turn down a 1979 space disco compilation down for a tenner, but it’s not worth triple that after P&H and a side of “will it ever get to me” is factored in to it.
The whole appeal of second-hand K-Tel stuff rests in it being a cheap (and usually tinny) vehicle for trashy nostalgia. If I’m going to spend big, it’s going to be in pursuit of truly cherished records. (And even then, I have pretty fixed limits.)
I’ve only thrown caution into the wind for two specific K-Tel imports, and New Wave was one of them.
The 1979 release was limited to Scandinavian countries, offering the Nordic nations a weird and wild peek into the poppier side of the punk revolt.
A1 Blondie – Dreaming
A2 The Jags – Back Of My Hand
A3 XTC – Making Plans For Nigel
A4 Street Band – Toast
A5 Flying Lizards – Money
A6 Stiff Little Fingers – Straw Dogs
A7 Madness – The Prince
A8 Patti Smith – Because The Night
B1 The B-52′s – Rock Lobster
B2 Plastic Bertrand – Ca Plane Pour Moi
B3 Generation X – King Rocker
B4 The Monks – Nice Legs Shame About Your Face
B5 The Specials - Gangsters
B6 The Skids – Charade
B7 Secret Affair – Time For Action
B8 Sex Pistols – Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle
And what a tracklist it was. The sixteen songs present a fascinating if incomplete glimpse of the pre-MTV, pre-New Romantic scene which barely registered in the States, but spawned a number of chart hits on the opposite side of the Atlantic. There’s the last gasp of first wave Britpunk, the dawn of 2-Tone ska, punk-adjacent oddities, power pop, and a handful of crossover cuts from America. Almost all of it appeared elsewhere in my music archives, but there was something compelling about having it all bundled in a single mass-market package for side-at-a-time listening.
And it included the Secret Affair’s mod revival anthem “Time for Action,” which was almost enough to seal the deal by itself.
As luck would have it, I found a listing for a decent condition copy from a seller in Germany. Even with shipping, it came in just shy of my upper limit for album purchases (and actually arrived sooner than another LP I purchased from a Western Massachusetts retailer that same afternoon). It was worth the risk because it was such an offbeat rarity and I knew it was something that would get regular play on my end.
It has since become a staple of my “something to throw on after getting home from work” roster of records, a nice way to ease into the evening while dealing with the menagerie and figuring out what to have for dinner.
(Not “Toast,” which Maura has called a “really stupid song.” I can’t really argue with her on that one, either.)