Are you old enough to remember the 8-track tape? While vinyl is probably the favorite for my ears, 8-track tapes hold a special place in my heart (and storage in my garage). Along with drinking water from the hose, Pop Rocks, Big Wheels, The Brady Bunch, and Pong, 8-tracks were part of my childhood. I remember listening to many 8-track tapes on our annual trek from California to North Dakota each summer in the motorhome. I never even questioned why some songs faded and then clicked over and faded back in. That’s just how it was. My favorite 8-tracks were John Denver’s Greatest Hits and The Partridge Family’s Up To Date. That’s right. A little bit country and a little bit rock and roll.
The 8-track tape was around from the mid 60’s to the early 80’s. It was invented by the same guy who built airplanes. William P. Lear invented the Lear Jet Stereo 8. The cassette, which was less bulky and didn’t require fades, showed up in 1962 and had taken over by the late 70’s. As cassette tapes were taking over in the late 70’s, the 8-track was fading (no pun intended…..well, maybe).
I remember there being a whole wall of 8-tracks at my Tower Records store. Then there was just a small section. Then there was nothing except for maybe the bargain bin. I thought that was a sad time for me. I never ever imagined that Tower Records would just be completely gone one day. That’s a topic for another blog and one that’s too sad for me right now.
Cars & 8-Tracks
Back to the good ole 8-track tape. Ford first introduced the 8-track in their vehicles in 1965. Score! It was available as a dash-mounted option in their Mustang, Thunderbird, and Lincoln cars. They had other models available where you could add a hang on tape player. It wouldn’t be part of the dash, but still oh so cool.
When Ford came out with the 8-track option, RCA released 175 titles from their label. This included artist Henry Mancini, who my dad loved. I remember hearing his greatest hits 8-track on our summer drive to Turtle Lake, North Dakota. Think Moon River, Baby Elephant Walk, Days of Wine and Roses, and The Pink Panther. Mancini was a cool dude.
In 1971, Daisuke Inoue took an 8-track player and added a microphone, amplifier, and a coin box. He called it the Juke 8 and sold 25,000 of them. Sadly, Inoue did not patent this item. He must be kicking himself today as karaoke machines are everywhere and he makes nothing. (All is not lost though as he got a mention in my blog.)
I did a lot of Columbia House clubs back in the 70’s. You could get 13 8-tracks for just a penny! When that offer expired, I would just hop over to RCA and join their club. When that offer expired, I went back to Columbia House. You get the picture. I think those clubs made their money on people who weren’t organized.
Fleetwood Mac’s Greatest Hits is probably the last big album that was released on 8-track. I think I only have that on CD, but I do still have tons of 8-tracks. They’re stored in my garage and with the elements, my guess would be they no longer work. Still, I can’t seem to get rid of them. They’re part of my childhood. Maybe I’ll just choose a few to keep and discard the rest. We’ll see……