Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Stereo 8

By 1967, you weren't cool if you didn't have 8-tracks. Born out of our love for the car, cheaply made, cheaply produced (but at album prices) 8-track cartridges came without the lyrics or the inserts (no mustache cut-out for Sgt. Pepper, no lenticular cover for Her Satanic Majesties Request), just portability. The concept, originally known as Stereo 8 was created by a consortium of Lear Jet, Ampex, Ford, General Motors and RCA. Ford started to factory-install 8-Track players as early as 1965 on the Mustang, Thunderbird and Lincoln models, and that same year RCA jump-started 8-Track production by releasing 175 8-Tracks from its RCA Victor catalog. 

The production/audio quality was rank, the cartridges themselves were cheap and easily broken, and how many of us drove around shoving matchbooks under the tape to make it play correctly (the movable head design was flawed as it was unable to maintain head alignment), still there was something about it; something fabulous about playing the songs you wanted to hear in the car. At times, part one of a song was on a different side than part 2 (such as Joni Mitchell’s "Down to You;" note Asylum's mislabeling as "Down On You"), so the concept took its toll on the integrity of the music, and yet there were occasions when to eliminate negative space, bands added extra content (such as Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here.) The era of portability was upon us.

And of course, all songs are enhanced by an audible hisssssssss.

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