8-Tracks: the music of my generation

Published 9:43 am Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Scanning Facebook one day last week while at lunch, I ran across an interesting item from MeTV….apparently a network that airs nostalgic programming.

They published a piece on their website that featured the top (I guess, the best-selling) 8-Track tapes of 1969. For the younger generation reading this column, an 8-Track was magnetic tape sound recording technology that was popular from the mid-1960s to the late 1970s when the compact cassette format took over. While youngsters of today can listen to their play list (aka music) downloaded onto an iPod or MP3 device either in their car, at home or walking down the street, the 8-Track users of my generation could not enjoy such freedom….but I prefer the music of 60’s, 70’s and 80’s far and above what’s available today, no matter on what type of device it’s played.

But enough about my personal preferences, according to MeTV, here are the top 8-Track tapes as listed on the final Billboard chart of 1969:

#1 – Iron Butterfly: In-A-Gadda-Da-Vita

#2 – Blood, Sweat & Tears: Blood, Sweat & Tears

#3 – Crosby, Stills & Nash: Crosby, Stills & Nash

#4 – Johnny Cash: Johnny Cash at San Quentin

#5 – Hair: The American Tribal Love Rock Musical

#6 – Creedence Clearwater Revival: Bayou Country

#7 – Donovan: Donavan’s Greatest Hits

#8 – Blind Faith: Blind Faith

#9 – The Beatles: Abbey Road

I didn’t purchase my first 8-Track player until 1973. That was so long ago that I forgot which brand name I purchased, but it was connected to a pair of chrome Pioneer speakers that would put to shame anything on the market today…and that incudes speakers used by the “Boom-Boom” guys who travel up and down my road at night playing what I guess is music from their cars (all I can make out is the “boom-boom” of the bass; I cannot comprehend any verses of a song or any accompanying musical instruments).

Despite the passage of four years from ’69 until I purchased my first 8-Track player, of the nine best-selling 8-Track tapes of 1969, I owned six (Hair, Cash, and Donavan excluded).

I also remember owning “The Captain and Me” – a 1973 release by The Doobie Brothers. One of my favorite songs of all time – “South City Midnight Lady” – is on that album. On the 8-Track, that song would “break” in the middle of a track…meaning their was a brief pause while waiting for the other side of the track to kick in.

While on the subject of what devices we used to listen to music back in the day, I recall my very first car (at age 16 in 1969) had an AM only radio. We had to purchase an FM converter (a small box that attached under the dash) to listen to the very few FM stations in our area at that time.

One of the reasons I purchased a brand new Toyota Celica GT in 1976 was because it had a built-in AM/FM stereo radio. I purchased that car from Bones Toyota in Roanoke Rapids (back when they were located on the Avenue at the site of an old A&W Root Beer drive-in restaurant). The car was sitting under the old drive-in canopy and when I sat in it for the first time I tuned the radio to K-94 FM (the rock and roll station of that time which was located in Moyock). That station came in “wall-to-wall and tree-top tall” on that day in Roanoke Rapids.

That car also had a built-in stereo cassette player….so it was so-long to 8-Tracks and hello to my new form of recorded music.

Those were the days, my friends.


Cal Bryant is Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be contacted at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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