Kid Stuff #10: When Children's Records Went to Hell

If you wonder why my generation (Gen X) is so damn jaded and cynical look no further than children's records.  Way before kids had things like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas to keep them entertained (and thirsty for violence), the children of the world actually used to set a record on a turntable and listen for 45 minutes.  Often, these records had a comic or picture book to read along to.

One thing that struck me while paging through the different sites devoted to these old children's records was the striking difference between those produced around the 1950's and those produced just a couple decades later.

Oh, isn't this precious? (There's that jaded cynicism again, sorry) So Dear To My Heart (1948) was idylic glimpse of boyhood in the good ol' days - sort of like Tom Sawyer, but more Disney-fied and saccharine.  Nothing against wholesomeness (God knows, it's in short supply these days), but every single kid's record from these days seemed more sweet and tender than the next!

And then there was the 1970's.... Who loves ya, baby?

I had this Kojak record as kid (and still do).  It's a far cry from So Dear To My Heart, that's for sure. Not that this is incredibly offensive or anything - I mean, it's not a Midnight Cowboy or A Clockwork Orange children's record. However, the wholesomeness has gone bye bye.

In this panel from the comic book that came with the album we find the a couple of criminals in a heated discussion in a high rise apartment.  The woman learns that Harry has murdered their accomplice, Marty.  She wants out of the whole shady business, and threatens to go to the cops.  That's when Harry straight up murders her ass.  "You'll tell them nothing.... BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG!"  Four slugs at close range as she begged for mercy.  That's cold. And it's on my children's Kojak record.  Take a listen to a little bit of the record if you have the time.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not preaching about how bad the violence was in children's records.  I'm just pointed out a striking contrast with the wholesome sweetness of the records from just 15-20 years prior.

To be totally honest, I'm not sure what the difference is.  I've talked about it with my spouse and came up empty. Obviously, there's a degree of wholesomeness that's been lost.... but it's something more.  Really, there's nothing particularly offensive in records about Kojak, The Bionic Woman, Welcome Back, Kotter etc... pretty harmless, actually.

I think it boils down to this (and this is kind of deep, so get ready): Times were not necessarily more wholesome in the 1950's, but the images that were allowed to filter down to children via TV, movies, comics (after the Comics Code was implemented), and music were way more sheltered.  "Sheltered" was a dirty word for "enlightened" parents of the 1970's, but in the 1950's it was all Beaver Cleaver and Mickey Mouse Club, if you get my drift.  Maybe that's why the Boomers rebelled so much.... just a thought.


Can you guess when the Disney album above was released? Was it 1960 or 1980?  If the busty chick in skimpy clothing clued you in that it's 1980, you are correct. 

And while I'm at it, I'll mention that Disney sucked in the 1970's.  Prior to the 70's, you had the early greats like Snow White and the later greats like The Jungle Book. However, in the 70's we got crap like The Apple Dumpling Gang and The Black Hole.  Disney wasn't revived until The Little Mermaid, and by then I was in college. (insert sad violin music here)

Certainly, Escape to Witch Mountain doesn't stack up against something like Cinderella, but hey it was a part of my childhood, and for that I have nothing but love for this film and its accompanying record.  And yeah, maybe Kojak and The Bionic Woman were less wholesome than the childhood records of the Baby Boomers, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.  Give me Kojak over So Dear To My Heart anyday.    


  1. I still have my Star Wars, Tron and Gremlins records! My kids enjoy them today! And I score an H.R. Puffnstuff record when I worked at a used bookstore.
    When the story is happening in your head it becomes more real than soaking up images on the screen.

  2. Great post! There is a marked different, without a doubt.

    And yeah, Disney was off-kilter for sure, in the 60s and 70s, I think. Apple Dumpling Gang and all that stuff. Bleh!

    By then, to me it was just Mickey stuff for kids and then move on to something else.

  3. That sure brought back memories! I remember all those read-a-along records made by the fine folks at Peter Pan Records!

    What still rings loudest in my mind, the record telling you to turn the page when one hears a particular trigger sound

  4. So wholesomeness lead to Utopian idealism (and a frustrated rebellion), while realism lead to cynicism?

  5. Why are people so hard on "The Black Hole?" I just watched it recently and it isn't terrible, compared to so many other SF movies. The music, the sound effects, the set design and some of the robot and space craft designs are pretty good. And there are Ernie Borgnine, Tony Perkins, and Roddy MacDowell. And I love that long final shot of Maximillian in Hell... "The Black Hole" is ridiculous, but the sound and visuals are worth a viewing, in my opinion.

  6. retrohound - Yes. The key is moderation; idealism and realism taken too far is unhealthy. However, you can be both idealistic and realistic - they're not mutually exclusive. It's when they are taken to an extreme, that rebellion and cynicism are the result.

    mporcius- Point taken. I literally haven't seen this since it was in the theater way back when. It does deserve a second look.

  7. If you loved the book-and-record comics of the '70s from Power Records (and their darker tales of superheroes, Star Trek, and more), check out:


    This guy uploaded the pages and the audio from the 45s for dozens of Power titles, so you can follow along with the audio right from the site.

  8. POWER RECORDS!!! I listened obsessively to Spider-Man in "Mark of the Man-Wolf" when I was a wee Propagatrix.

    Of course, for REAL fun, you must seek out "Stories and Songs About the Justice League" and listen to the song about Metamorpho, the Element Man.

  9. The voice actress on that Kojack record sounds like Mrs. Constanza from Seinfeld.

    My all-time favorite Power records was "Batman: Stacked Cards". Good stuff!

  10. I still have most of the dialogue from Power Records' Planet of the Apes series memorized!

    "Fate challenges Ursus to achieve greatness, folowwwwwww!!!!"

  11. For the innocent stuff check out kiddierecords.com

  12. Love the buffet of copyright ripoffs on that Disney Sounds Of OuterSpace cover. I ran my The Black Hole story tape into the ground for the battle sounds.

  13. Some of those records weren't bad, what if Matt Wagner did his record version of "The Hero Discovered, Mage" and we get to see a heroic, black girl named Edsel get wiped out & the hero takes The Excalibur Bat & takes down The Styx Hotel Casino. However that record doesn't exist. But it would make a good one.