January 8, 2009

Look Back at 8-Track

This isn't quite a look back at 8-tracks...I just wanted to name the title of the blog that because it rhymed. I am, however, going to talk a little about this particular 8-track. This project from Ray was released in 1970. The label that Ray was signed to was Barnaby Records, what some might consider an independent label now. The label had a series of distributors that would get Barnaby music into record stores and on radio. The distributor at the time of this album's release in 1970 was CBS, which as you can see, they were using the Epic banner, too. Epic was a label owned by CBS Records. The distribution of Barnaby material shifted from CBS to GRT by the mid 1970's. The change in distributors was evident on the color of the label paper seen on each album and single: the CBS era was solid blue, which you see off to the left, while the GRT/Janus era had a surreal color of bright yellow and an image of a tree with a melted record hanging over the side of a tree limb.

An 8-track tape gets a lot of jokes by those who remember them. The concept was devised to make it easy to listen to music without having to pull out a vinyl album and place the needle down on a record. Also, an 8-track was also suppose to make listening to music headache free because there was no skipping and hissing or any of that stuff that accompanies playing music on a record player. However, almost every new invention or every product that grabs a consumer's eye with claims to be "something new and different and much better than what's currently out there" often have their own brand of problems and drawbacks.

The 8-track tape jokes often center around how easily it was to hear pieces of other songs while listening to the current track selected. Often the sound would bleed into another song so that when one would hear "Everything Is Beautiful", for example, it wouldn't be far-fetched to make the claim that one could also hear another song from the album in the background. The 8-track had a variety of problems including vibration...I can still remember being in a car with my grandparent's and I pushed in a Dave Dudley 8-track and all you could hear a lot of the time was a thumping vibrating sound which affected the sound quality as you could imagine. Also a problem was the eating...the tape machine, usually portable, but often built into late '70s model record player sound systems, had a notorious reputation for eating the tape so that when you'd go to listen to a tape, you'd be in the car singing along and then suddenly you'd hear sounds you wish you didn't hear...the song would abruptly come to an end and you'd go and pull out the 8-track only to find inches upon inches of tape caught inside the tape player.

So, unless you had a knife or something in your car, the tape would just have to sit there until you returned home. Amazingly, though, 8-tracks because of their compactability and the elimination of having to turn it over to the other side to hear the rest of the album, they became an "overnight" success in the mid to late '70s. Cassette tape, I should point out, was also available at this time as well but those creations never caught on until the early to mid 1980's. In an example of companies attempting to make the population even more lazy, "auto reverse" was invented for cassette tapes...because people didn't want to simply turn their cassette's over, they'd let the tape run out to the very end and then you'd hear a 'click', the tape would rewind itself as it played songs from the other side of the tape...a process known as auto-reverse...so a person could leave their cassette in their machine and not even have to bother with flipping it over. Then CD's came along and eliminated the entire use for cassette tape altogether...on a CD you don't have to turn it over...it plays and plays and plays but due to it being a digital product, it is far more advanced than tape or vinyl.


  1. Hi There
    Do you happen to have the lyrics to the OM song ?

    Would love to make a poster of the words...



  2. Oh, I wish I knew the lyrics word for word but I do not. My best guess is to play the song and pause it, writing down the lyrics as you go. It's a rather long song as you know.

  3. I can't believe how much you know about Ray.. Awesome blog. Keep up the good work.

  4. thanks for the comment, anonymous! would you believe I thought I had my blog's set up to where comment notifications would be sent to my e-mail address and here all this time they weren't! that's why i was so late at replying to the January 17th comment...now everything's in order and working...but I can't believe I over-looked that minor things of e-mail notification set-up.

  5. Hey let's not pick on 8-tracks too much; with a little care and common sense they don't bunch up and snap at the splice. Taking care of them is part of the fun; something CDs (and digital downloads even moreso) are seriously lacking in.

  6. Thanks for the comment...you're right, 8-Tracks can stand the test of time if kept in good shape, just as vinyl and cassettes can...but the 8-track, however, is notorious for wearing out quicker. I mean, my grandparent's and I would play 8-tracks while in the car to and from wherever and it never occured to us that they'd wear out because of their compact nature and we assumed they were manufactured to withstand repeated plays...but anyway, many who've experienced the 8-track seem to have similar experiences that I did.

    I have a collection of vinyl albums that to my ears are impeccable...there's no scratches or skipping...there may be a snap or a pop every so often in a song but not in such a way that diminishes the sound quality...so yes, just like vinyl, if kept in good shape they're still listenable but 8-tracks wore out too easily by comparison to vinyl and even a cassette tape.

  7. Thanks for commenting on my blog. I remember buying an upscale "auto-reverse" cassette deck for my car in the early 80s. When we went to CDs, I kinda missed the silence between sides that you get with a cassette or album. That brief respite to savor side 1 and prepping for side 2.

  8. That silence you speak of in my opinion was a big reason why CD's became so popular...when cassette's became popular, at the end of side one, you could fast-forward to the end and then flip the tape around and play side two.

    Well, someone came up with the invention of auto-reverse...a person could fast-forward to the end of side one and then just leave the tape inside and it clicked. Once it clicked, side one would rewind itself as side two played. I think people got tired of dealing with vinyl and cassette...laziness probably...an invention that would enable one to not have to deal with flipping the cassette around to play side two.

    Then CD's eliminated all of that. Then people became annoyed with the CD over the course of time and now a lot of people buy MP3's on-line and add them to their computer's or Ipod's so there's no dealing with a CD at all.


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