Try to explain 8-Track tapes to a kid and you’re likely to get a puzzled stare. They are certainly archaic by today’s standards, but in the 70s these mechanical marvels allowed us a way to carry the music we wanted to hear into the car, the school lunch room or even the beach. Try that with a record player.
The 8-track tape debuted in 1958 as the first practical portable music format. Finally, one could carry a collection of music with them, rather than always waiting for their favorite song to come on the radio. Want to listen to some Beach Boys while hanging at Jones Beach? Want to share the latest Led Zeppelin with all of your friends on the school bus? Want to be serenaded by Pink Floyd as you sat in traffic on the L.I.E., the 8-track was your friend.
Of course, most friends have an annoying habit or two, and the 8-track was no exception. The format basically divided an album into four sections, each about 8-12 minutes (something nature hadn’t intended). This meant that songs from said album were usually presented in a different order, sometimes with longer efforts (Freebird, anyone?) cut in half by a rather annoying click as the tape switched to the next track. It was a rarity to find an album where the songs remained intact and in the same order.
The tapes were also especially vulnerable to the elements. Leave your box of music in the car on a hot summer day and it might sound a little more psychedelic than intended during playback. Tapes commonly wore out and snapped, and repair was no easy task. Eventually, the compact cassette was developed, a smaller and superior medium that debuted in the mid-70s and had all but taken over with the arrival of the 80s.
Still, there are some that swear by their 8-tracks out there, and there are a number of classic albums that can fetch a pretty penny among collectors. If you have an old box of 8-tracks in the garage, you might be able to finance a small vacation should you have any of the titles most sought.
Today, the thought of carrying around 10 songs in a plastic container the size of a small paperback book seems unfathomable in a world filled with iPods. But the 8-track certainly had its charm, and it allowed many of us to listen some great music on the go.
If you have fond memories of your 8-track tapes, or any other related recollections you’d like to share with the community, please don’t be shy! Leave your thoughts in our comments section.
I possessed only three 8-track tapes in my lifetime, but what great tapes they were. The Beatles “Let It Be,” I picked up at a records warehouse on Old Country Road (where Century 21 store is now). I dont recall the name of the store, but it was a warehouse open to the public. Mostly crap records. My neighborhood Veterans Hall used to have annual bazaars around Chrismas time, (remember those?) and that’s where I bought “Abbey Road” 8 track tape. The third tape was the Beatles “Rock and Roll Music” which was a compilation album. However I purchased that in a KMart in Florida.
As the years went on, I collected LP records for a while, but then sold them all to start a CD collection.
Barry, thanks for the comments. Abbey Road was one of the 8-tracks that I owned as a kid as well. To this day, when I hear that music, it brings be back to those days of youth on Long Island. My parents eventually noticed my Beatles adoration and took me to “Beatlemania” on Broadway. I’ve been a huge fan of the fab four ever since.
Again, thanks for sharing those memories with all of us!
I have hundreds of factory sealed 8 tracks that I want to sell !! LOL !!
I have fond memories of my uncle’s 8-track juke box…listening every summer at his pool with the windows open so we could hear the music.
My dad’s favorite genre was Jazz, followed by Blues. He had a brand new Cadillac Coupe DeVille that we kids thought was the most magical car ever because he messed with us and made the doors unlock and the windows go up and down without appearing to be doing anything.
That car went nowhere without a BB King, Nancy Wilson, Miles Davis, or Gladys Knight 8 track tape in the stereo. No. Place. I don’t have proof, but I do believe the car wouldn’t even start without a tape in.
I used to listen to The Stranger by Billy Joel on 8 track. Even today I can remember the click during “scenes from an Italian restaurant”
I am looking for an 8 track player. The one I have just given up on had 2 speakers. Do I need separate speakers as most ads don’t mention them
I owned one 8 track – ELP Works. The were good compared to cassettes because you could at least advance to another song., but too big.
Mostly I can remember me and my brother in the back seat of the Mark IV with our big sister monkeying around with the Hall and Oates 8 track, while our mom and dad got the groceries for the week at Holiday. She’s Gone seems to be the song that sticks out the most, listening to that in the parking lot with the windows open on a late Sunday morning.
I was born in 1972, and my folks had 8-track tapes in their car. Since many of these were Broadway cast albums/movie musical soundtracks, I have these tapes to thank for my love of musical theater. I knew every song from West Side Story before I ever knew the plot!