New Wave Compilations: The Day K-Tel Got HIP!

K-Tel | UK | LP | 1981 | NE 1156

Various: Modern Dance UK LP [1981]

  1. Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark: Joan Of Arc
  2. Japan: Quiet Life
  3. The Human League: Love Action
  4. Heaven 17: Penthouse + Pavement
  5. Depeche Mode: New Life
  6. Simple Minds: Sweat In Bullet
  7. John Foxx – Europe After The Rain
  8. The Cure: Charlotte Sometimes
  9. Gary Numan: She’s Got Claws
  10. Visage: Fade To Grey
  11. Landscape: Einstein A Go-Go
  12. Fashion: Move On
  13. Japan: Visions Of China
  14. The News: A World Without Love
  15. Simple Minds: Love Song
  16. Heaven 17: Play To Win
  17. Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark: Enola Gay
  18. The Human League: Open Your Heart

The other day, Version Crazy, one of the blogs I follow posted a rundown on the Virgin Records compilation “Machines” and that got me thinking about the ultimate New Wave compilation that I ever ran across. In fact, it’s even better than a New Wave comp, since it’s a specifically New Romantic compilation, and noting that “Machines” was a Virgin effort, this one is packed to the gills with Virgin-released material. The thing that makes it indisputably cool is that it bears the normally ignominious K-Tel imprint!

It was one day while browsing the import cutout bins [yes, import cutout bins – let that phrase sink in…] at Record Mart that my friend Tom first came upon “Modern Dance.” He held it up in disbelief as we scanned the cover, thick with many of our favorite bands, yet still possessed of a K-Tel logo! Tom ended up buying it because ultimately, he owned less of the material on it but also, let’s face it… it’s so heavily salted with genius that how can one not support K-Tel’s most amazing comp ever?

I think we happened across this album some time in early ’82, judging by the contents. For example, there are two Human League singles from “Dare” but neither of them are the monster “Don’t You Want Me,” which was the fourth single pulled from that album that ended up being the Christmas #1 chart winner for 1981. “Europe After The Rain” was released in August of 1981. I bought it at the time of entering college as a freshman. That suggests to me that this album was compiled no later than Fall of ’81 for the Christmas market for that year in advance of “Don’t You Want Me’s” meteoric rise. That would give it enough time for unsold cut out copies to make their way to the cheapie bins at Record Mart in Orlando, Florida several months later.

Check out that lineup of material. Is there another album that captures the energy of the sacred year of 1981 any better than this? Okay, so it’s missing Ultravox, but still…!! It’s got John Foxx instead! And you’ve got to love the cheesy rip-off of the iconic first Visage album cover. Those dancers in profile in the background are a dead giveaway, as is the heavily retouched cover photo. You can almost detect the whiff of the imminent arrival of Patrick Nagel onto the rock scene with the “Rio” album!

The thing that strikes me, looking at this 30 years later, is how bulletproof the song selection is. The singles that make this up are all best of breed that paint an electric picture of the 1981 UK pop scene, which revolved around the New Romantic movement. Synthesizers and fashion shaken into a potent cocktail of effete poise. The single band that probably didn’t belong here, stylistically, was The Cure, but even so, one has to admit that “Charlotte Sometimes” fits into this lineup like fingers into a fingerless, fishnet glove [with black nails]. Every one of these songs has resided in my Record Cell since day one… with one glaring exception.

Who in the world were The News? Is their cut a remake of the Peter & Gordon sixties hit? The Magic 8-Ball of Music says “no.” Has anyone out there ever heard of this band or heard this record? If so, can you elucidate, please? That’s what the comment field is best for! Maybe I should spring for a copy of it so I can re-create this fine compilation as a REVO edition? In the mean time, let us praise K-Tel for getting this album so very right. The only other attempt they made that comes close is perhaps grist for another post, one day soon!

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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8 Responses to New Wave Compilations: The Day K-Tel Got HIP!

  1. VersionCrazy says:

    It is a mouth-watering selection, other than The News, as you highlighted – at the time of course, it would have been dreadfully unhip to go near a K-Tel production! But so much good stuff on there.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      VersionCrazy – Unhip in the UK, perhaps. By 1981 I was already into ironic post-modernism! My friends and I used to spend hours rooting through the sort of albums that wouldn’t get written up by ReSearch for at least 15 years! We were excited by this album, not only for its impeccable contents [save for The News] but specifically because it was from our Canadian friends, K-Tel! Whoever compiled it was probably kindred spirit. That said, it’s telling that unsold cut-out copies managed to make their way across the Atlantic to get flogged for $2.99 at a record store in Orlando, Florida not more than eight months later!


  2. Echorich says:

    What I find interesting here, save, again, for The News, is that I own every single track and the albums from which the came. Even more important is that every one of these albums was filled with classic, truly untouchable material. Possibly the only band here that after 30 years I have little interest in listening to is Fashion. But Fashion, at the time, like Landscape, were part of that transistion from the end of the Art Rock/Pop era and beginning of Electronic Pop/New Wave era.
    Best I can do on The News seems to be that they were a Greater London based band, released a few tracks on an indie London label.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – Rethink Fashion!! “Fabrique” is a monster of a synth-funk album!!!! I am in awe of this record! It is my favorite Zeus B. Held production!!!! If I ever get my life back, I will produce the “Re-Fabricated” REVO CD with every ounce of sonic wonder that the band issued apart from that album, with the inspired Dee Harris at the helm! All 12″ mixes! All 7″ mixes! Even DJ pool material!


      • Echorich says:

        I will take that challenge on Monk! Always willing to listen to a band from another’s point of view to see if I am missing something… I am a Zeus B. Held fan based on his work with both Wylie and Cope, two of my Scouse rock heros!


  3. Vlad says:

    Don’t know if it’s still relevant, but I actually own all singles by The News :o) I don’t know a great deal about them, though. And nobody seems to know – one mysterious band with un-Google-able name! Here’s one rather brief post on them:

    “A World Without Love” is their second single. The first was “Audio Video”, a minor UK chart hit in the fall of 1981. I bought all the other stuff on the strength of it, hoping other singles are as good as this – not really, as it turned out.

    And they did record a cover – it’s their third single “Hole in My Shoe”. As for music – an early synthpop, what was called “futurist” back then, but not ominous like, say, Numan, rather light stuff in Buggles vein. I naturally prefer their debut single – it’s fun and upbeat, that’s the one you can go for. “World” seems to be rather mundane in comparison, like 70s pop given a vaguely “futuristic” sheen.

    I too was surprised to see it compiled – that was a band with a very short lifespan that mostly flew under a radar. I have a soft spot for such underachievers, though.

    Funny: this compilation was advertised in the “Smash Hits” magazine and they mentioned this band saying “an old Sal Solo band”! Which is, of course, not true – those were another The News (and, I must say, their single “Blue Thru” is great!) :o)


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Vlad – Your comment was fantastic! Thanks for reactivating this thread and spreading enlightenment. With what you are saying, the thought occurs that perhaps The News were compiled so heavily because not just the advertisement in Smash Hits made that error. Maybe everyone did? As for anyone recalling The Buggles, I’m more than fine with that.


  4. nlgbbbblth says:

    A truly seminal album for me. Here’s my take on Modern Dance –

    I also have ripped the album for Mixcloud –

    K-Tel may have been unhip but they – along with Ronco – have provided the soundtrack to my earliest musical memories (1980 – 1983) so I spent most of the last 12 months reviewing the compilations of that period.

    There was a sequel of sorts on a different label. Modern Heroes on TV Records

    Liked by 1 person

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