I released the Chuck Charles "Hiya" record in 2021. As far as I'm told, only two artists worldwide released new albums on 8-track tape that year: Hank Williams III and me.
That's a fair question. For years I've been kind of bugged by vinyl afficionados just like I'm annoyed by previous craft beer enthusiasts and people who say they don't watch TV (see My TV Friends). It seems like an affectation and something to talk about at parties in lieu of actually having a personality.
I grew up listening to vinyl. And yes, I do know and experience the "warmth" people talk about when they mention vinyl. But not to the extent that vinyl evangelists seem to fetishize it.
You Want Hiss?
The noun I hear vinyl hipsters use a lot is the "hiss" of a record. Again, I get it. It's a beautiful sound that triggers a lot of sense memory for me personally as well.
But do you want hiss? I'll give you some hiss. You'll hear so much hiss on an 8-track you'll lose your mind. If you play it just right, you can manipulate the songs' speed by lifting up or pressing down the tape cartridge just like DJ's used to scratch LPs on turntables.
My History With 8-Tracks
8-Tracks had their day, more or less for about 8 years in the early 1970s. I know 8-tracks catch a lot of shit as a joke format from the past but their reign as a sellable format in popular record stores lasted about as long as cassettes and definitely way longer that DATs.
We had a player in our giant stereo console growing up, right next to our shag carpet where it belonged. The biggest advance credited to the 8-track was that it was the first listening format you could play your own music in a car.
I definitely remember our 8-track player in our family's Pontiac. We lost those in the great Pontiac fire when I was a child in the passenger seat with my dad driving and I noticed heat on the floor. We pulled over and as it turned out the bottom of the car was on fire. We pulled over and watched the whole car burst into flames. Make no mistake, as a 7-year-old at the time - it was awesome! But as for our car 8-track cassettes, there were no survivors.
8-Tracks Are Stuck In Time
You're not going to find Miles Davis "Kind Of Blue" as an 8-track (too early for 8-track) or the Flashdance soundtrack (too late). I think the last one to come into our house was the American Gigolo soundtrack. Lay off, I'm sure your mom had a thing for Richard Gere, too.
Lots of best-of compilations. Peaches & Herb were right in the wheelhouse, just as much so as Chicago's first 8 albums and Foghat.
Who Manufactured It For Me, You Ask?
Great question. For years, since The Bigfellas' previous guitarist Shaun Randall repaired an 8-track motor for a player I got at a yard sale - I've been buying 8-tracks online. I've been buying from a place in Houston called "Kate's Track Shack". The list out there inventory online and you can buy whatever they have for a few bucks a pop.
But I've been availing myself of their grab bag. I send them $10 and they send me eight 8-tracks. The rub is that I have no choice over which ones. But I'll say this: I've never been disappointed in what they sent me. Whenever I've done it, there's a great cross section of something like the Average White Band, the Barry Lyndon soundtrack, John Denver's Greatest Hits, The Ohio Players, Who's Next, Andy Giib's "Shadow Dancing" and a few more. It's like Christmas morning when that box arrives in the mail.
Anyway, Kate and her husband also offer the service of making an 8-track. As soon as I finished mixing Hiya, of course I was gonna have them make me a batch to sell.
The rub on making an 8-track is that there are four "sides", basically four sections which all have to be the same length. You can't have three four minute songs on the first three sides at 12 minutes each, then "side four" be just one six-minute song. They have to be equal. So I had them mix up the order. Fine. Who cares. Who listens to full albums anymore anyway.
But I mention this as nostalgia for anyone old enough to remember. This requirement had them sometime stop a song at the end of a side midway through the song, where the 8-track player would flip the tape head player over with a grotesque motorized clicking sound.
So in 1981 you could have easily heard: BASS-BASS-BASS ï¿½" CLICKCLICKCLICKCLICKCLICKCLICK ï¿½" then Freddie Mercury: "Another one bites the dust."
There are collector markets for every format. Go down the rabbit hole online. You'll find collectors of Edison wax cylinder records. You'll find cassette people. And you'll find a hardy band of 8-track enthusiasts known as "trackers". Rick of Backyard Green Films and I may even make a video series on various music format through the years.
Anyway, if you have a "tracker" in your life - send them our way for a rare original release on 8-track.