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.