One of the saddest side effects of the digital music explosion in the late '90s and early '00s was the decline of the made-for-television compilation. Nevertheless, companies like Razor & Tie and Time Life still continue to put out monstrous collections of music for you to order online and by phone, full of pop memories and hidden gems.
In 2011, you are likely to see video compilations for sale, like the Midnight Special box sets than ones filled with music you could just as easily download for cheaper, or - gasp - for free. And once you found those songs, you can burn them to your own disc, and leave out songs you don't want, like possibly John Waite's "Missing You" if it bothers you or reminds you too much of Spring Break '85.
Rocks Off remembers staying up late, as the paid-programming ads took over network television to watch just the infomercials for some of these compilations, but we never ordered one of them. Still when we see them in pawn shops and thrift stores we always buy them. We can't describe to you the ecstasy of Cool Rock after a long day at work.
In the '70s, K-Tel Records was one of the first companies on the scene repackaging the biggest hits of the day into affordable compilations you could order in magazines and off a toll-free hotline. Operators standing by. These days, series like Now That's What I Call Music still exist, just releasing their 38th edition since October 1998.
The commercials, especially the long-form ones, hosted by semi-celebs from their respective eras, were a quick and dirty education in the best and worst in pop. They also ignited our love of AM pop-rock like Electric Light Orchestra, The Captain & Tennille, Pilot, and Harry Nilsson. Aural Xanax if you will.
The oldies and classic country-centered comps led us to a multitude of wild-goose chases looking for the Ink Spots and Jimmy and Jimmie Rodgers. The recent soul and R&B ones are buttery delights that led us to dusty bins of '45s.