8 Track Tapes - The Best Music Was on the Worst Format

Some kids these days, will sink a couple thousand dollars into a car’s sound system.  You can hear ‘em coming a mile away, base turned way up and quarter panels vibrating, and trunk lid rattling.  That never happened when the 70’s, there was no car stereo made that would drown out the sound of dual pipes with glass packs.

People take sound systems two seriously these days.  Sure, we wanted a way to avoid disco on AM radio, but we had our priorities.  First we needed a cool set of wheels and tires, and dual exhaust.  Then, and only then, would we worry about spending money on a car stereo.



It was a fairly high priority item however, and one way or another, we’d find a way to have tunes in our ride.  More often than not, we went with an under the dash, 8 track player.  They were fairly cheap and easy to install.  Nothing needed to be disassembled for installation.  Some guys didn’t even bother to mount them.  They would wire them up with a trailer wire harness, and lay them on the front seat, so they could unplug them and throw them in the trunk, if they ever parked in an area where they were worried about them getting stolen.

Speakers were just as easy.  Two old home stereo speakers in the back seat with about a mile of speaker wire were all that was needed.  That way, you could have an outdoor party anywhere. You just set one speaker on the hood, one on the trunk, and you were a mobile D.J.  I recall many a beer party out in some field, with AC/DC “Highway to Hell”, playing for over four hours straight.



8 track tapes were awesome, just stick it in and it played.  Usually, most of the time, sometimes.  It seemed like there was an inverse relationship between how much you liked a particular tape, and how well it played.  You couldn’t tell the difference between the tapes by looking at them, just some played well, and some didn’t.   Often you could remedy a poorly playing tape, by sticking either a matchbook or pen cap under the end of the tape cartridge when it was in the player.  They were the ultimate 8 track tape accessory, and should have been included with the purchase of both the player and the tapes.

8 track tape player accessories


Neither 8 track tapes, 8 track players, or the popularity of either lasted very long.  About the longest you could get out of either a heavily used tape or player, was about a year.  In the ‘70’s, the shoulders of the roads were littered with the carcasses of old 8 track tapes and ribbons of tape stretching for what seemed like about a mile.  The frequency of seeing that, quickly diminished after the ‘80’s arrived, and by the time that decade was half over, it had disappeared entirely, signifying an end of an era.  Since then, the sound systems have been getting better, while the music has been getting worse.

4 comments:

  1. Oh my gosh. Now that's a memory. I remember as a little girl whenever we would get in the car to go to town, my mom would always put in her favorite 8 tracks. Hank Snow, Hank Williams and another Hank that I forget. Me and my sister would groan and roll our eyes. If I remember correctly, those always came through loud and clear.

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    1. Merle Haggard always sounded good on 8 track, so did Charlie Rich, and let's not forget Elvis or Johnny Cash.

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  2. being a 90s kid, the new technology came late to us in India, but we had stereo, with mounted speakers then, and they still played tape, didnt have an 8 track but a cassette player. cars were filled with cassettes, which were never really bought but all mix tapes that were handed out by friends or asked off. but yeah you could see the miles of tapes on the sides of the roads and what not. and yes the technology has gotten better, and music has gotten worse! definitely.

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    1. That's interesting. Was the music you listened to mostly what we listened to here in the United States or was it mostly music produced in India? Also, are you, and are many people from India, fans of the rock group, Queen? Their lead singer, Freddie Mercury, was born in India. Also I understand that they still make a lot of cool stuff in India. They currently manufacture what we call here in America, call "hit and miss" engines (the ones with the huge flywheels) which can only be seen here at antique farm equipment shows. Thanks for reading.

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