22/7/2012 4:42 pm  #1

8-track tapes, anymone?

I find myself wondering whether some of our Bing Crosby fans, dedicated recording collectors that many of them have been for years, were ever bitten by the 8-track tape bug?  It was really the first widely successful player that could be installed in automobiles or other vehicles, though the cassette tape replaced it in that area after only a decade or so.  In-home 8-track players, playback decks, and recorders were also made. 

I have just recently purchased an old Panasonic 8-track playback deck...to have just in case I run across a have-to-have Crosby or other recording in that format.  Do other Crosby fans on this forum count some 8-track cartridges among your treasured collections?  What challeges might you have found either in maintaining the players or the cartridges, the latter of which seem to be almost universally affected by deteriorating and easily breakable tape splices and decaying pressure pads or rollers after all these years?

If some old cartridges I have found to test this vintage Panasonic are representative, I will be spending much more time on cartridge maintenance than on player maintenance.

In any case, I would very much like to read of other Crosby fan's 8-track tape collections (past or present), and any related stories or horror stories.  Please post them below.


22/7/2012 6:31 pm  #2

Re: 8-track tapes, anymone?

I believe that I have one back in Australia (there you are Jeremy) - Bing's 'Merry Christmas' or later 'White Christmas' album.
A rugby mate in Vancouver B.C. gave it to me. However, I have nothing to play it on.


22/7/2012 7:10 pm  #3

Re: 8-track tapes, anymone?

I am still into cassettes, LPs, and CDs - but not 8 tracks. They are too undependable for me.


23/7/2012 6:56 am  #4

Re: 8-track tapes, anymone?

On the whole, I went straight from LPs to CDs. I do remember having a large number of Philco shows on cassette in the 80s, but can't remember where I got them and they are long gone now - replaced by Dave Bennett's excellent (but sadly incompleted) series on CD. I always thought that the 8-track cartridges looked too bulky and unwieldy...

(By the way - good to hear from you Ron. Hope you're well.)

Last edited by jeremyrose (23/7/2012 7:21 am)


23/7/2012 11:26 am  #5

Re: 8-track tapes, anymone?

They never became as popular in the UK as they were in America, though they were supplied as accessories in some cars.

I have no direct experience of them but had friends who had them and who were not happy - jamming, wear and ''wow'' were all mentioned as adverse characteristics. I have seen a few cartridges for sale and there were quite a number with Bing.  Ebay US currently list a couple of dozen, including, surprisingly, ''Seasons'' 


Personally I'd be dubious about used examples of the cartridges themselves, as the potential for damage due to wear is high. (The layers of tape rubbed against each other as the reel rotated).


23/7/2012 4:45 pm  #6

Re: 8-track tapes, anymone?

Richard Baker wrote:

. . . .Personally I'd be dubious about used examples of the cartridges themselves, as the potential for damage due to wear is high. (The layers of tape rubbed against each other as the reel rotated).

Yes, Richard, the continuous loop design of the cartridges does necessitate that continual sliding.  The backsides of the tape have a slippery graphite coating to mitigate wear to whatever it slides against, but that also means that graphite particles can build up on the machine's capstan and the cartridges' tape rollers, reducing the traction they are supposed to have.  Then getting pulled out of the center of the spooled tape and then rolled around an acute bend are things that tend to over time wreck or dislodge the foil-tape splice that keeps the loop together and tells the machine to switch between each of the four stereo program sections.

Since the cartrdges' tapes play at 3 3/4 ips (inches per second) and use narrower tracks on the tape, reel-to-reel tape enthusiasts, with higher speed capability tend to look down on the 8-track format for fidelity reasons. While compact cassettes run even slower and also have very narrow tracks, they seem to have been much more dependable and can sound surprisingly good on decent equipment.  There seems to be a wide range of cassette manufacturing quality, but I've never had much trouble with most of the ones I have.

I know that radio stations relied heavily on cartridge tapes, and even for hit songs for a period of time.  I had a little experience recording commercials on them in some part-time radio work in the early 70s.  But those might have been 4-track mono tape cartridges.  A different design: I don't think they had the tape roller in them.  Fidelity was good enough for AM radio aparently.  Misbehaving cartridges would have been replaced quickly, but most must have been dependible enough to have been adopted for professional use.

     Thread Starter

07/9/2012 7:13 am  #7

Re: 8-track tapes, anymone?

Pardon my ignorance, but I'm curious about the background on Dave Bennett's series of Philco shows on CD. Are these still available? They are different from the Redmond Nostalgia CDs?

My brother had an 8-track deck back in High School, but it seems like they were only popular for a short time, we had more LPs and casettes. By college I was buying LPs and taping them myself, since you could get better quality tapes and retape if the casette wore out.

8-tracks didn't seem to have very good sound quality, and they had other quirks. I remember a Monkees Greatest Hits 8-track that switched programs right in the middle of a long song; I can still hear it clunking over in the middle of "Shades of Gray".

There are some rarities that were only available on 8-track, one I know of was the original album by the country group The Flatlanders which only came out on 8-track in 1972, and wasn't reissued until it came out on CD in 1991 (as "More a Legend than a Band") after the three main participants had achieved solo fame, and the original album turned out to have a nice traditional/alternative country sound way ahead of its time. Don't know if there are any Bing 8-track only rarities.

Those 8-tracks may still be at my mom's house, although I doubt if there is a working player. Now I'm curious to see what's there next time I visit, but I don't think we had any Bing 8-tracks, just LPs.


09/9/2012 2:10 pm  #8

Re: 8-track tapes, anymone?

In the few 8-tracks I've acquired to learn about the format, I have found a couple on which a long song was faded out before a track-switch, and then several seconds later it started up where it left off on the new track.  This was typically done on 12" classical 78rpm albums when movements were longer than what could fit on a side, but it is rather laughable in a late '60s and later format.  Old cartridges, even in fairly safe storage, amost certainly have foam pressure pads that have deteriorated, and are very likely to break at the splice the next time they are played.  I did find an ebay seller who tests, and apparently reconditions cartridges he sells.  (I have tried reconditioning/repairing a few with mixed results.) I got a great Art Van Damme Quintet jazz album on 8-track from this ebay fellow.  Those I have learned of Crosby on 8-track are all albums I have on LP, so I can't speak of rarities.

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