IN DECADES PAST, records store shelves were filled with tons of compilation records featuring top hits from various artists. The K-Tel variety always used big bold fonts and tiny pictures of the musicians whose songs appeared on the album. However, the vast majority of these types of records followed a very strict formula when it came to their album covers. They contained two and only two items: (1) a plain track list and (2) a stone cold fox dressed to kill. That’s it. Here are a whopping 45 examples, and I think you’ll agree – the formula works!
It should be noted that 99 percent of these records are not from the US – they were perhaps a bit too risqué for mainstream America. The K-Tel records of The States were much more tame and palatable for large chain stores to put on the shelves. European sensibilities didn’t seem to mind the smoking hot babes in very little clothing decorating their compilation LP’s; however, they were definitely not a good fit for mass consumption in The States.
It should also be mentioned that most of these compilation records did not feature recordings by the original artists. So, while “Hot Hits 15” above says it contains “Crocodile Rock”, it’s unlikely Elton sings it. In fact, some of these were such rip-offs that the tracks were not only cover versions, but instrumentals. Indeed, you never knew what you were getting into when you picked up one of these records: original tracks by original artists… or elevator music versions of your favorite hits.
What in the name of all that is holy would compel someone to lay down five bucks to hear a crummy cover version of Kenny Roger’s “Coward of the County”? A short skirt and cleavage, that’s what. Don’t underestimate the power of a scantily clad woman to make a man do stupid things.
Next to the boring and wildly unsexy K-Tel records, Top of the Pops was the most popular variety of compilation records.
Take note of the staggering variety of top hit compilation records there were. K-Tel and Top of the Pops may have been the most popular, but they were by no means the only game in town. 12 Tops, Parade of Pops, Made in England, Hot Hits, .. the list is endless. I’ve tried to include a variety in this list to illustrate the amazing diversity, all adhering to the same template: a simple list of the tracks alongside a stone cold fox.
Only on a top hits record can you find “Shaft” and “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” living in perfect harmony. It’s a beautiful thing.
You’ll notice that the song “Popcorn” pops up on an inordinate number of these top hits records. Say what you want about the song , it’s an amazing pop culture artifact if only for its longevity and international success. The song was a hit literally around the world from Ireland to the Ukraine to Taiwan. Unfortunately for the composer, Gershon Kingley, a lot of the time foreign bands were covering the song with no royalties paid. “Popcorn” simply crossed too many borders to keep track of!
It has historical significance since it was one of the first examples of a successful synth pop song. Kingsley wrote it in a whopping 30 seconds, and put it on an album Music To Moog By (1969), which easily could have gone unnoticed along with so many other “Music to (fill in the blank)” albums of its ilk. Upon its release in 1972 by Hot Butter, literally hundreds of cover versions sprouted up around the globe and it landed on more than its fare share of top hits albums.
There’s our old friend “Popcorn”.
… and even more “Popcorn”. I’ll stop here – I think I’ve made my point.
These top hits albums aren’t just a good resource for smoking hot babes striking a pose for the easily duped male consumers – the women’s fashions are also extremely interesting. It’s like taking a walk through a vintage fashion catalog designed by horny 1970s males.
Some of the fashions are…. (how do I put this delicately?)…… interesting.
She’s wearing striped socks which reach up to her thighs, and a top made out of what looks to be Muppet fur. Like I said – the fashions are interesting.
Here’s another above-the-knee striped sock for good measure….
Let’s see if you’ve been paying attention. What would compel an ordinarily rational human being to buy cover versions of “My Ding-A-Ling” and “Ben”?
Answer: Side boob.
From Scandinavia to Eastern Europe to Latin America – the faultless template remained intact. Simple track list with scantily clad mama. A universal model that remained unbroken throughout the 1970s.
Album oriented rock has long since died; we live in an age where the single is all that matters. No one cares about the album as a whole, just the hit single. It would seem that our times are perfectly suited for the compilation record. Yet, since things have migrated to mp3s and iTunes, there’s no room for the sexy album cover to work its magic on unwary males. Sadly, it seems these mildly erotic top hits records will forever remain a thing of the past.
I imagine the photographer commanding his models to “look sexy…. maybe start rubbing yourself.” Hence, the preponderance of chicks sensually manhandling themselves. It’s a gloriously synergistic combination of eroticism and awkwardness that words can’t describe.
Also take note that these “top hits”, “hot hits”, ‘smash hits”, etc. often weren’t even currently on the charts. These record companies weren’t above using the “track list + sexy girl” template on some tired moldy oldies as well.
Disco was perfectly suited for the top hits album. It was single driven (no contextual link to their respective LP’s whatsoever), and it was so synthetic and beat driven, it almost didn’t matter if it was the original artist.
The top hits girls were like an extension of Page 3. Nothing wrong with that.
Truth be told, it was hard to find Scandinavian top hits records to include in this article. This isn’t because there were so few; rather, because they so often contained nudity. The Swedes took the template to a whole new level that was consistently NSFW. The Germans were no slouches either.
Many famous artists had their start working as anonymous studio musicians churning out the cover versions included on these records – Elton John, Larry Adler, and David Bowie to name a few.
In addition to providing work for aspiring musicians, the top hits records also provided work for aspiring models. You may recognize many of the girls in this post. Please leave a comment if you can identify them.
I think this “Chartbusters” record earns the award for strangest attire…. and that’s saying something considering the peculiar clothing her top hits colleagues were prone to wear.
Why were there so damn many of these? Are males so easily swayed by a glimpse of feminine booty that they completely lose the ability to reason? Well, there are two simple reasonable reasons for picking up one of these records (aside from the cleavage):
1. Availability: You didn’t have to go to a record store to pick a top hits record. They were found at bookshops and supermarkets. Due to their ubiquity, they were a lot more likely to be snatched up via an impulse buy than your average LP.
2. Cost: It’s a lot more economical to purchase a budget priced cover hits LP than purchase all 12 singles.
Hot Hits were the first to saturate the market with compilation LPs. Their motto was “Can you tell the difference between these and the original sounds?” You absolutely could, but it didn’t matter. The records sold by the hundreds of thousands, uncontested until the Top of the Pops records emerged in 1968.
At that point, it became a war between MFP (Hot Hits) and TOTP. TOTP was the first to instigate the cheesecake template (up until ’68, MFP had been using bland covers akin to K-Tel) and ultimately TOTP would emerge victorious.
You might have noticed that this whole top hits phenomenon was as white as the wind-driven snow. European covers rarely featured women of color.
Now we arrive in the 1980s. By then, the cassette tape was rearing its ugly head, and the LP would soon become an endangered species. Naturally, the sexy top hits albums also went bye-bye. You needed a big canvas to broadcast your vinyl vixens. The microscopic picture on the cassette simply didn’t have the dimensions to lure horny men to impulse buy. Thus, the Golden Age of the Top Hits Template came to a close.