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8 Track Nostalgia

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#1 GaryLShelton



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Posted 27 September 2017 - 06:07 PM

Does anyone remember the vintage 8 track tapes? For a little while, at least in the USA, they were the very most popular form of recorded music available. Their heyday was from the early 60's to the late 70's, though they certainly had been supplanted by cassette tapes by the mid-70's as the most popular portable form of music. Still, 8 tracks were a beast of their own. They had a neat feel to cha-chink into the dashboard of my sky blue 1973 Ford Maverick. Although we were later educated how awful they sounded (with the tape hiss and constant player hum), in those days they were a wonderful and dependable way of hearing one's favorite tunes on the go. Oh, you couldn't record on them or make playlists on them as today on a phone, but they were good for their time. They had their problems, though. Being tape they sometimes got jammed up inside the cartridges, or worse, eaten by the player. Not fun! I can still recall gingerly extracting a Deep Purple tape, among others, from my home player. The playing devices were always having a problem somehow (I suppose they were never made terrifically well), so I invested in the best machine out there at the time. I remember often thinking that that player was the one thing I never had to worry about breaking on that old car. :) That 8 track player was to be my first and only time on the leading edge of sound equipment. :)

Oh, but I almost forgot the simultaneously most endearing and despicable features of the 8 tracks. Since they were divided up into 4 "programs" (in stereo, so 8 tracks), the nature of the tapes meant that the songs on the 8 track were usually a different order than on the matching vinyl album to balance out the time for each program. Invariably--and more often than not--one or more songs on the tape would be divided over two of the programs because the song times didn't allow for a non-break of the song. You'd be listening to your favorite song and it would suddenly just fade out and be shortly followed by the click-clicking of the player changing to the next program, where your tune would fade back in where it left off. Sometimes they chose to not split up the songs this way. If they did it that, they placed an inordinate amount of silence at the end of the other programs to make all the times balance the longest channel. Either way, it was a terrible, horrible thing for any music purist, I am certain, though I must have never been one of those as I personally just got used to the 8 track idiosyncrasies. For example, even those darned pauses grew on me; a few times I remember thinking it was a bit weird to hear those split songs normally again off vinyl or the radio.

The true audiophiles on the mid-70's were already onto cassettes but 8 tracks were still big until the end of the decade. I remember always arguing with fellow high schoolers at the time about whether the new thing put out by so and so was his latest "album" or "tape". I, of course, was the album guy. Ironically, though cassettes certainly outlived records, by the late 80's we would both be wrong in that music was mostly CD's by then.

I have such a huge collection of these 8 track things back at my parents house, it reminds me how old I'm getting when I think of all the yards I had to mow to get the dough for the them. :) And, of course, one always had to decide between which technology he wanted to buy with such sweaty money, and so I was always torn between the portable 8 track tapes and good old vinyl. As my rather large record collection attests, vinyl won out most of the time. Nevertheless, I do have a decent collection of the large plastic cha-chinkers. I suppose one day I should try and see what I can get for them. But for now I'll think of them and those high school days of my youth fondly. I did eventually move to cassette tapes as my prominent car music but it was many years later when I got a 1984 Toyota Corolla, which I remember having the first cassette player I owned.

I wonder if 8 tracks were actually in other countries like England. I suppose they were. I see in the photos that follow that an 8 track exists of Pink Floyd's The Wall album. I guess I can stop thinking of that as Floyd's new album now. :)

If you are completely unaware, due to the curse of youth, what I am talking about with these 8 track tapes, here's a few pictures to give you an idea.

Led Zeppelin II 8 track https://imgur.com/gallery/96pXK

https://m.ebay.ca/sc...k floyd 8 track

Below is some good reading on 8 tracks. I didn't know there had been a National 8-track day on April 11, 2016! I should have pretended to pop one into a player in honor of the day. :(


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#2 queenbee1



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Posted 27 September 2017 - 06:28 PM

Gary I remember.

#3 Don_Homer



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Posted 27 September 2017 - 07:30 PM

Its before my time (unfortunately). Is this also related to 808, 909 ?

We had a casettedeck and I had a walkman :).

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#4 GaryLShelton



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Posted 27 September 2017 - 09:15 PM

The 808 and 909, if I'm understanding you correctly, refer to model numbers of the TR Roland drum machines. My brother plays guitar and had one a very long time ago. I'll have to ask him the model. He's almost as old as me so his was probably the model 101. lol :)

No, 8 tracks were simply the forerunners to cassette tapes.

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#5 DarthRemark



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Posted 30 September 2017 - 10:39 PM

I remember, though they were well on their way out by my time (I was born in 1967).  I remember they were pretty clunky.  One of my cousins had a 77 Firebird with an 8-track.  That was a cool car. 

#6 Unladen Swallow

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Posted 01 October 2017 - 08:53 PM

I've never seen 8 track here in the UK. I had to google what you mean. We had different types of cassettes though. 


I certainly see a lot more vintage vinyl shops around. There's one near my home city selling retro vinyl records, even ones for pink floyd :) Though now CDs are dying out,  as most people get their music on their phone, mp3 player, or computer. 

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#7 rgillis783



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Posted 03 December 2017 - 11:49 PM

Gary thanks for the stroll down memory lane. Had great discussions with my brother during 70's , about 8 track  vs. cassette. I was the cassette proponent but my dad sided with older son. My dad brought 8 track not just into cars but the house. You might remember the old stereo cabinets size HUGE ! About length of the couch. With in 3-5 years not only did 8 track lose to cassette but stereo systems were geared to the small even micro size. Vinyl is trying to make come back maybe 8 track /never know. In regard to the inception of CD my first exposer to this new tech was Roxie Music - no hisss skip it was amazing.

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