Hungry For Hits was released in mid-May 1984. That’s about six weeks after Now That’s What I Call Music II.
K-Tel had played a major part in the “featuring original artists” compilation revival of the late 1970s / early 1980s and now wanted to muscle in on the action. This foray was short-lived and didn’t make it past the first hurdle – presumably due to the lack of licensing support from other labels.
The sleeve features an unusual image – a ravenous-looking wolf. The text is written in bloody ink. Three of the tracks were also included on Now 3 which followed on 23 July. Curiously they represented some of the biggest hits here – Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time (#3), The Special AKA’s Nelson Mandela (#9) and The Weather Girls’ It’s Raining Men (#2). Other top 10 smashes included Shakin’ Stevens maudlin scene-setter A Love Worth Waiting For (held off pole position by Lionel Richie’s equally morose Hello), Depeche Mode’s metallic People Are People and the smoothness of Sade’s Your Love Is King.
But it’s the (relative) failures that fascinate. Hungry For Hits is memorable because it primarily consists of also-rans, follow-ups to successful hits and long-forgotten pop memories. Nik Kershaw’s endlessly catchy Dancing Girls and Matt Bianco’s superior-to-Lazy-Bed that is Sneaking Out The Back Door. Remember Captain Sensible’s anti-Falklands conflict lament? It’s here and easily slides into Alvin Stardust’s sweet-yet-likeable I Feel Like Buddy Holly.
There’s radio-friendly soul in abundance with The Gap Band, Jeffrey Osborne, Phil Fearon, Shannon and The SOS Band all providing memorable moments. One Blood’s slice of reggae Give Me Tonight is a genuine obscurity which didn’t even make the top 75 while novelty numbers from Weird Al Yankovic and Mel Brooks liven up the third quarter. Indie fans will savour the underrated Eighties by Killing Joke and The Smiths backing Sandie Shaw on Hand In Glove.
Side 4 is a mish-mash of wildly different styles that manages to work surprisingly well. You get Dead or Alive in a less-polished mode (covering KC and The Sunshine Band) alongside Hazell Dean’s hi-NRG classic Searchin’ with Eurovision entrants Belle and The Devotions’ storming Love Games. This is supplemented by a dour King Kurt number (Mack The Knife), Japanese performance artists The Frank Chickens (fresh from supporting The Fall) and some super funkiness from Paul Hardcastle (You’re The One For Me / Daybreak / A.M. condensed into four minutes). The album concludes with a hip hop classic from Break Machine – the joyous Street Dance.
Nik Kershaw – Dancing Girls
Break Machine – Street Dance
Sandie Shaw – Hand In Glove
Captain Sensible – Glad It’s All Over
Lest we forget
Belle and The Devotions – Love Games
What K-Tel didn’t do next: Hungry For Hits 2
Against all odds Hungry For Hits reached #4 in the UK album charts.
To keep the momentum going K-Tel should have released a second volume during October. That would have allowed them steal a march on Now 4 and the first Hits Album. The summer of 1984 was a memorable one for many reasons and there were sufficient quality tunes to make for a decent follow-up. In a parallel universe Hungry For Hits 2 could have looked like this:
Record 1 Side 1
01 Black Lace – Agadoo
02 Tracey Ullman – Sunglasses
03 Nena – Just A Dream
04 Spandau Ballet – I’ll Fly For You
05 Chris De Burgh – High On Emotion
06 Status Quo – Going Down Town Tonight
07 Billy Idol – Eyes Without A Face
08 Kane Gang – Closest Thing To Heaven
Record 1 Side 2
09 Pointer Sisters – Automatic
10 Phil Fearon and Galaxy – Everybody’s Laughing
11 Trevor Walters – Stuck On You
12 Special AKA – What I Like Most About You Is Your Girlfriend
13 Windjammer – Tossing and Turning
14 Animal Nightlife – Mr Solitaire
15 Jeffrey Osborne – On The Wings Of Love
Record 2 Side 1
01 Mighty Wah! – Come Back
02 Lloyd Cole And The Commotions – Perfect Skin
03 The Smiths – William It Was Really Nothing
04 Bluebells – Cath
05 Depeche Mode – Master and Servant
06 Blancmange – The Day Before You Came
07 Ultravox – Lament
08 Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – Never Turn Away
Record 2 Side 2
09 Shakin’ Stevens – A Letter To You
10 Shakatak – Down On The Street
11 Divine – You Think You’re A Man
12 Hazell Dean – Whatever I Do (Wherever I Go)
13 Sade – When Am I Going To Make A Living?
14 Break Machine – Break Dance Party
15 Ollie and Jerry – Breakin’. . . There’s No Stopping Us
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An interesting effort by K-Tel, but by now the game was up for them and Ronco. Your ‘possible’ listing of a follow-up is very interesting and I’m sure with a bit of ‘thematic’ jiggling around would have been a pretty solid commercial prospect. Well, I’d’ve probably bought it, that’s for sure!
Cheers Paul; I wasn’t quite sure when K-Tel ran out of road in terms of financing. There’s plenty swathes and pockets of uncompiled / tricky to find chart hits from that era that could have been mopped up by a second Hungry For Hits or a third Out Now. Or even Now sticking to a three per year schedule [which they deviated from in 1985, 1986, 1987, 1990 and 1991].
I don’t think K-Tel’s financing was the problem – it was just there was nothing much left for them once the EMI/Virgin and CBS/WEA camps had snaffled the tracks for their new compilations. (Even Phonogram/Arista/MCA got in on the act with the short-lived ‘Out Now’ in 1985 – not to mention the big-budget advent of Telstar) So wisely, K-Tel retreated themselves into repackaging single artist ‘Best Of’ compilations – I think one of their last big hurrah’s was George Benson’s ‘Love Songs’
True – they would have been dealing with a niche concept [non top 20 hits] that could have been a tough sell. We’d love it now of course – seeing as so many singles have fallen through the cracks. I’ll be covering the Telstar Greatest Hits Of albums shortly [1985 – 1994 anyway]. The first two are vinyl only and don’t have too many unique tracks. 1987 is particularly good as it has some leftfield choices and remains the only place for a couple of 7″ edits-on-CD.
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Telstar’s Hits Hits Hits (not to be confused with Ronco’s 1981 compilation of the same name) was released in autumn of 1984 and mops up some of that Hungry For Hits 2 wishlist. I will reviewing it in 2017.
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I had this at the time. Jeffrey Osborne is remembered only for a certain ballad – why not this toe-tapper? And why has that Stevie Wonder-associated Gap Band number fallen out of popular memory? One Blood’s song (Get In Touch With Me) is an obscurity which stuck with me – and I never thought of it as reggae (knowing naught of the band). But, be honest, it’s the guilty pleasures we remember most – Mel Brooks, Weird Al, King Kurt murdering their namesake Mr Weill…and the Frank Chickens (and those accents! Decades passed before I ever heard the Wanda Jackson original of Fujiyama, back in ’84 I could not decipher one word of it).
Last but not least – this, importantly, my first exposure to Killing Joke (btw: a song plagiarised by Nirvana is not “underrated” !)
It’s like a rabbit hole this one, an alternative late spring. You’ve named most of the highlights. Not mad on King Kurt but Mel Brooks still a jam. I hadn’t heard the Eighties v Come As You Are video when I wrote the review but see your point. Love Like Blood gets a lot of play so the underrated tag on Eighties is comparative.
Nice to see Nena’s ‘Just a dream’, The Mighty Wah, Windjammer and ‘High on emotion’, ‘Perfect skin’, ‘The day before you came’, ‘Cath’, ‘Lament’, ‘Breaking…’ also those on ‘Hitsx3′ included. And here’s an addition; ”Ullo John got a new motor?’ by Alexi Sayle.
Great choice! Sadly has never made it to CD. Love the Nena tune.