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JUST what you’ve been waiting for: Kmart’s piped in music 1988-1993 is now online
11:30 am


JUST what you’ve been waiting for: Kmart’s piped in music 1988-1993 is now online


Just when you thought you’d heard it all when it came to collector specificity—“I only collect Beatles original press on Vee-Jay!” “I only collect sealed Firestone Christmas records!”—something like this comes along and leaves you in kind of minor awe. There’s long been a collectables subset that’s coveted private press records and tapes meant for distribution only among employees of a certain business. Broadcaster April Winchell shares rather a lot of such unintentionally comical material on her completely amazing MP3 sharity page; highlights include the infamous 1979 McDonald’s flexi-disc and a KFC “inspirational” pep-talk. This is related, but I’ve never heard of anyone doing it before. Via Chart Attack:

Mark Davis worked behind the Service Desk at the Naperville, IL Kmart in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Every month, corporate office issued a cassette to be played over the store speaker system — canned elevator-type music with advertisements seeded every few tracks. Around 1991, the muzak was replaced with mainstream hits, and the following year, new tapes began arriving weekly. The cassettes were supposed to be thrown away, but Davis dutifully slipped each tape into his apron pocket to save for posterity. He collected this strange discount department store ephemera until 1993, when background music began being piped in via satellite service.


22 years later, Davis has done the world the extreme favor of uploading all that material to It’s amazing how quaint so much of it seems now. This compilation of pharmacy ads, for example, is full of really straightforward, just-the-facts announcing; the total absence of any heavy emotional manipulation like we’re subjected to in ads now is conspicuous here to the point where these almost sound robotic:

This call to action to visit the paint department was from the turn of the ‘90s, but with the exception of some sfx near the beginning, it sounds like it could have been scripted and recorded in the early ‘60s. Advertising sophistication grew much more rapidly than this in that time period, I wonder how Kmart could have been so stuck in the past.

Here’s an example of something less specific, an hour and a half of music and ads. It’s pretty strictly formatted: one blandly soothing contemporary pop/jazz song, one call to action, repeat repeat repeat. There are more than 50 of these, again, at


Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Merry Crassmas: Anarcho-punk goes Muzak (+ bonus Penny Rimbaud interview)
America circa 2013 in a nutshell: The ‘Wal-Mart Cheer’ is the most depressing thing you’ll ever see

Posted by Ron Kretsch
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