8-track tapes

Mike Blakesley

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I just ran across my copy of the TJB's Summertime album on 8-track tape, which is the way I heard it for the first time. In other threads I have stated that I didn't like the album much upon first listen, and looking at the running order of the 8-track, I think it was the tape's fault that I initially thought the album was a stinker!

Here's the running order of the tape, broken down into the 8-track programs.

#1:
If You Could Read My Mind
Montezuma's Revenge
Summertime

#2:
Hurt So Bad
The Nicest Things Happen
Martha My Dear

#3:
Summertime
Jerusalem
Darlin'

#4:
Strike Up The Band
Catch a Falling Star
Martha My Dear

So.... I really like "If You Could Read My Mind," but it makes about the worst possible opening song for a TJB album. Why didn't they just swap programs 1 and 2 around and have "Hurt So Bad" as the opener, the way it is on the LP?

They have "Summertime" repeated with only 3 songs intervening...I love "Summertime" but that would make the song get old real fast. "Martha My Dear" repeats too, but at least there are always 5 other songs in between iterations of it.

Anyway, this lineup of the tunes just destroys the flow of the album. It wasn't until I stumbled upon A&M Corner that I pulled the album out of mothballs (having picked up the LP in the intervening years) and really gave it a good listen again, and when I had a chance to experience it the way it was meant to be heard, it's right up there with the other TJB albums on my heavy rotation list.

Sergio Mendes' Fool on the Hill 8-track was even more of a mess -- that one had THREE songs repeated. And the song list on the tape referred to them as "part 1" and "part 2," as follows, even though every iteration was the full version of the songs:

#1:
Fool on the Hill
La Pinha (pt 1)
When Summer Turns To Snow (pt 1)

#2:
Festa (pt 1)
Casa Forte
La Pinha (pt 2)

#3:
Scarborough Fair
When Summer Turns to Snow (pt 2)
Upa Neguinho

#4:
Canto Triste
Festa (pt 2)
Laia Ladaia

At least in this case they have sort of respected the album's running order -- the opening and closing songs are correct, and "La Pinha" sort-of has its rightful place at the middle of the proceedings,

I'm sure these things were done in order to avoid having to split songs at the program changes. But that still doesn't make it desirable. I think I'd have preferred the album in its true running order, with a fade-out here and there.

This is a good demonstration of why the 8-track was pretty much a throwaway format, which is sad considering it was a really big deal in the late '60s until the cassette took its place. Although, even if they'd given more respect to LP running order when designing 8-tracks, I doubt that would have done anything to slow down its demise.
 

Rudy

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8-tracks today are a throwaway for the most part, and like all tape, they suffer from magnetic losses over the years (especially given the poor tape stock all duplicators used, and the high-speed mass duplication). Yet the 8-tracks are also mechanically finicky on top of the other shortcomings. Any 8-track you try to play today suffers from two additional problems. If they use a foam pressure pad, that foam is pretty much disintegrated. (Very few used a felt pad with a spring-metal backing.) And, the adhesive that holds the magnetic tape to the foil sensor tape has dried out. Both require disassembling the cartridge to renew both the pressure pad and the metal foil tape. The players are also mechanically fussy, with more moving parts than other tape formats.

And then add in the odd sequencing of most tapes. Many tapes had rearranged track orders to even out the playing time per side, but 8-tracks obviously took that to an extreme. I agree that Summertime sequencing is horrid. Even if they didn't swap the programs, they could have put "Summertime" as the first track in the first program and improved it. I had my own copy on cassette when I was a kidlet and at least they only shifted around a few songs--they left the songs that opened and closed each side intact.
 

Michael Hagerty

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Sequencing and songs with track changes in the middle were among the worst things about the very bad format of 8-track tapes. I can't believe I suffered through five years of owning an 8-track player, but in the early 70s, automotive cassette decks were notorious for eating tapes and the quality of cassettes was pretty grim until better formulations and Dolby came along. Still, even in the 80s, there were some pathetic pre-recorded cassettes from major labels out there.
 

Rudy

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8-tracks really held on for a while longer since surprisingly, truckers still used them quite a bit. The idea wasn't bad, but the execution left a lot to be desired. And mechanically, the tapes did not age well at all.

We never owned one, but my dad borrowed a car once that had an 8-track player in it, and I thought it was the Coolest Thing Ever since you could play your own music in it. :laugh: We'd only had cars with AM radios up to that point.
 

Bobberman

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All the comments posted here along with the very quick deterioration of the tape itself are the very reasons why I Avoided 8-track tapes that is why i preferred the Vinyl LpS to me They Were the Real Deal.
 

Mike Blakesley

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The first music machine I owned, in around 1970, was an 8-track portable by Lear Jet...you had to change programs manually. I sold that one and traded up to the next model which did the program-change automatically. I had two car decks before cassettes took over. Our family also had a boat with an 8-track in it.

The one cool thing about 8-track was how you could switch between the four programs. If you didn't like a song, you quickly learned how to avoid hearing it...."OK, so I don't like 'Summertime,' so if I switch to program 3 when that starts I can hear my favorite tune, 'Darlin'!"

There is a website out there right now that sells 8-track tapes that have been "renewed." Basically they have replaced the foam pad, and redone the splice with new sensor tape. Price: $12.99 for a tape alone, $35 for a tape along with a CD or mp3 copy of that tape. Pretty dumb...it doesn't address the tape-deterioration problem, and you could buy a MUCH better sounding version of the tape on a factory CD for about a third of the price or less.
 

Rudy

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Maybe they are banking on the hipsters to embrace 8-tracks like they did the cassettes... :rolleyes: Sure, let's revive another dead format. :laugh:

I have a box of a couple dozen 8-tracks I bought in a bulk deal but never played. Some were even still sealed. Haven't bothered trying to sell them lately since the last time I tried, there was no interest in them. They'll go as a package deal when I unload the 8-track deck, another gadget I have no use for (since I have other audio projects I want to work on instead). I still wouldn't mind having one around but, I would instead find a deck that has already been refurbished. I only wanted one around in case I came across a rarity I could not find in any other format but so far, in 35+ years of collecting, that has yet to happen. :laugh:

8-track did fulfill a need at the time. And it didn't take long before something better eclipsed it.
 

DeeInKY

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We wore out a number of 8-track tapes back in the day. Sometimes you would end up with a big blank space on one program and then everyone just waited for the click so the music would start again.

By the way, what caused them to stick and keep repeating one program? That griped me in a major way. :realmad:
 

Rudy

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By the way, what caused them to stick and keep repeating one program? That griped me in a major way. :realmad:
That would be a failure in the tape player. Either it wasn't reacting to the foil to switch tracks, or the mechanism itself was stuck and wouldn't advance. The tape has four sets of two stereo tracks, and the tape head would have to shift slightly to read the next pair of tracks. That is actually the major problem with the 8-track deck I have--the mechanism needs to be disassembled, cleaned and relubricated. (That is in addition to any electrical issues caused by components that have drifted in value.)
 
8-tracks and cassette, ultimately, had the SAME condensed track bandwidth size alotted by the head (even though 8-tracks used 1/4" tape stock).
But...REEL TO REEL *beats* 'em all! (you CAN'T equate the technical parameters of it to OTHER tape formats).
 

Mike Blakesley

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Cassettes used 1-7/8" per second tape speed, compared to 8-tracks 3-3/4". Reels use 7-1/2", so it all combined to give a lot more tape "real estate" to every second of sound. So it's like comparing apples to oranges.

The 8-track was a creature of the automobile industry first and foremost. Sound quality was secondary to convenience. (You can also tell that by looking at car speakers of that era...they were terrible!) The only reason 8-track migrated to home units was so people could take their car tapes indoors.
 

Captain Bacardi

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I used to have a Sanyo stereo system that could record 8-tracks. I would buy blank tapes at Radio Shack and do various compilations of jazz and big band stuff. I used to have a portable 8-track player that I would take to the lake or the pool at the apartments that I lived in at the time. I had to drown out all the crappy disco garbage that others were playing!
 

Mike Blakesley

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I had several 8-track recorders. The best was a Wollensak machine - had a minutes/seconds counter on it. A lot of "60 minute" tapes really had as much as 66 minutes or more of tape in them. I used to spend hours screwing with lists of songs to make compilation tapes that had no "continued" songs. Yes it's true, I had no life back then.
 

Rudy

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I had 'em all...and I use none of them regularly today. That tells me something right there. :D Although I do have the cassette deck nearby, since I need to transfer some tapes to digital after the holidays. Mostly school recordings and some old family tapes.
 

Michael Hagerty

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Reels, cassettes and 8-tracks....man, that was a long time ago. I'm beyond even CDs now. I put 'em onto my computer and then use Spotify's "local files" option for playback.
 

bob

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hi guys happy new year, as i was reading the above posts if any one would have the 8 track tape of the greatest hits tjb the first one with tijuana taxi as I do, I guess they did this for time, the lonely bull is a bit longer and zorba the greek is edited in

the middle. it starts with the two trumpets playing in harmony. also I would like to share this with all of you guys as Rudy did mention those old foam pads they rot out. well last year I found a web site that I would like to share with all of you.

just goggle or yahoo search kates track shack and when the search comes up click on the first link is says home page kates track shack then when that page come up go to the top and click on repairs then scroll down and click on win gib foam pads

those are are the ones then they sell the metal clips as well. I ordered them my self all you have to do is pry open at the top very carefully with a flat blade screw driver take out the old pads clean the debri and put the new pads in then click it closed

and it sounds like just the day you would buy a 8 track tape in the store. then as for the foil sensing they sell that as well. all you need is a splicing block for 1/4 inch like the old reel to reel tapes and but the two ends together and put on the new

sensing foil you got your old 8 track to play again with the new pads and sensing foil.

take care
bob
 

Rudy

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I could sum up the whole thing and say 8-tracks are the proverbial turd in the audio punchbowl. :D
 

DeeInKY

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Watched a couple episodes of Soundbreaking and they were discussing how format changes occurred because a better way had been found to reproduce the sound, 8-tracks being the exception. :D
 

Mike Blakesley

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Yep, cars back then were not exactly the sound chambers they are today, so convenience won out over sound quality. 8-track took the portability of 4-track and amped up the convenience by making the tapes self contained. (4-track had the pinch roller built into the tape player, where 8 track has it in the tape cartridge.
 

Rudy

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Watched a couple episodes of Soundbreaking and they were discussing how format changes occurred because a better way had been found to reproduce the sound, 8-tracks being the exception. :D
I missed out on an opportunity to see a screening of Soundbreaking when Don Was came to town. A local public radio DJ hosted it, and had a Q&A after the session. Naturally it was a weekday at a time I couldn't make it out to the studios.

As for format changes, they probably didn't get to the degraded sound of MP3 files yet. :D
 

KentTeffeteller

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Remember too, that 8 track running orders got shuffled to eliminate silent periods on tracks and interruptions in the middle of track changes. And not just truck drivers used Stereo 8 late in the format's life, many people in the USA South and Midwest also clung to Stereo 8 later than most of the country. Also, the better HiFi component 8 track decks like the Akais, the Wollensaks, the Pioneers, the Sonys, the Panasonic/Technics, the Fishers and Sanyos were very respectable performers frequency response wise (competitive with cassettes of the era in all but wow/fluttter being better on the cassette end)
 

Mike Blakesley

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I think the dumbest "innovation" during the 8-track era was RCA's decision to use plastic pinch rollers. Higher quality tapes had rubber rollers with a nylon center. RCA's single-piece plastic probably has stood the test of time since plastic doesn't dry up the way rubber did, but back in the day, RCA tapes were notorious for dragging,. If you didn't have perfect alignment of your player, or if the tape reel was slowed the slightest bit by friction (from wear due to hours of use), and if the spring/roller assembly that held the tape in place was the slightest bit worn, your tape would drag or play erratically. We replaced a LOT of RCA tapes back in the day.
 
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