Music History

Is This the Worst At-Work Music Ever?

I remember being dragged through K-Mart by my mother on the way home from music lessons. I’d hide out in the sporting goods section looking at hockey sticks or in the store’s modest record department. There are two things that still stick with me: the “Attention K-Mart shoppers blue light specials” and the awful music that was played throughout the store.

Boing Boing tells the story of Mark Davis, a former K-Mart employee in Naperville, Illinois. Each month, corporate headquarters mailed out a cassette tape to all stores featuring official K-Mart music. He eventually amassed 56 of these cassettes and has uploaded them to those that this material may be preserved for all generations.

OK, I have to admit this is a strange collection. In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, I worked for Kmart behind the service desk and the store played specific pre-recorded cassettes issued by corporate. This was background music, or perhaps you could call it elevator music. Anyways, I saved these tapes from the trash during this period and this video shows you my extensive, odd collection.

Until around 1992, the cassettes were rotated monthly. Then, they were replaced weekly. Finally sometime around 1993, satellite programming was introduced which eliminated the need for these tapes altogether.

The older tapes contain canned elevator music with instrumental renditions of songs. Then, the songs became completely mainstream around 1991. All of them have advertisements every few songs.

If you’re interested in some kind of horrible self-harm on an audio level, go here. Here’s a sample of what you’ll find.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38040 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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