What was the last album to be issued on 8-track tape?
U2’s Joshua Tree in 1986.
Check out http://www.8trackheaven.com
While checking out the above site, I saw that there are some bands who, as a sort of lark, made 8-tracks of recent albums. The Melvins had one of these in 2000.
In case you find this (the 2000 releases mentioned in my previous post) interesting, it’s
When I was a college DJ in the early 90s, we used “carts,” which were essentially 8-tracks, to do station identifications, public service announcements, etc., but I don’t know if this is a common practice anymore.
Yep, we had those, too. We also used them to record playlist tracks that were played more often than usual. Of course, this being 1991, our cart of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” got worn out quickly.
<nitpick> NAB Carts are 1/4" 2-track tapes, 8-tracks are, as the name implies, 1/4" 8-track tapes. Just FYI</nitpick>
Well, Arken, you’ll at least point out that broadcast carts (at least, most of 'em) sped the tape through at 7 1/2 ips.
If you could put an 8 track into a broadcast cart deck it would get eaten alive.
Yeesh. And I thought I was nitpicking.
Might as well nitpick some more!
Similarities between 8-tracks and radio station “carts”:
- Both have an endless loop of 1/4-inch tape wound into a plastic, rectangular housing (though 8-tracks are opaque, whereas radio station carts – the tops anyway – are usually transparent).
Differences between them:
As noted, the speed at which the tape plays and the number of tracks on the tape (1 for mono carts, 2 for stereo carts, 8 for 8-tracks)
The pinch roller, (a rubberized wheel that mates with a turning capstan in the unit to enable the tape to move) is built into the housing itself of each individual 8-track tape. But for radio station carts, it’s built into the playback unit. The wheel pops up through a hole in the bottom of the cart when the play button is pressed and engages the capstan.
At the “beginning” of an 8-track’s endless loop, there is a piece of sensing foil. When this passes by the head after one complete cycle of the tape, a signal is sent that switches the playback unit’s heads to the next “program” (i.e., 1, 2, 3 and 4). On a radio station cart, an electronic signal is imposed at the beginning of the recorded material. When the loop cycles around, this signal is sensed and the tape is stopped, leaving it “cued up” to the beginning again. On some cart machines, you can also put a secondary electronic tone at the end of the recorded material to automatically trigger another event, such as playback of a different cart machine, etc.
As someone else indicated, most of this is arcane knowledge by now, as all but the smallest, most primative stations have gone to recording everything (music, commercials, promos, etc.) onto a computer hard disk.
[P.S. In my college days, we had a dormitory radio station that broadcast via carrier current signal to our dorm. You picked it up great if you were inside, but it faded as soon as you walked out the door. Our resident electronics whiz actually took an old 8-track player from a car and modified it to work as a cart machine. He got it to run on AC instead of DC, and rewired it so that when the sensing foil passed the head, it stopped rather than switching tracks. We then rewound old 8-track shells with 70 seconds worth of tape and had our own “carts.” I thought this was pretty cool.]
OK, I see the listing of The Joshua Tree as the last 8-track on 8trackheaven.com, but dig aroudn there and you’ll find a picture of an 8-track of George Harrison’s Cloud Nine, which I believe came out in 1987 (the Wall of Sound GH discography backs me up and I know that’s when it was a big hit in Germany, where I was at the end of '87/'88).
Thanks for the link to 8trackheaven.com.
When I went to the site, I clicked on the “8-track FAQ” link, which contained the question “When did they stop making 8-tracks?”. Here’s part of the answer:
That seems to be later than “Joshua Tree” AND “Cloud Nine”.
I’m sure some of you out there have some affection for this format, but I’d just like to say “I’m glad it finally died, and not a moment too soon.” I mean, sound quality was atrocious, rewinding was impossible (“fast” forwarding was available on some players), and the format was inconvenient (some albums actually had to have their songs rearranged or split so they’d fit on a track). Yes, I know that it was conceived as an in-car format (where, at the time, sound quality was relatively unimportant), but when the compact cassette came to be used as a music storage medium in the mid-70s, I maintain that at that point the 8-track became obsolete.
BTW, I was of the impression that the 8-track format was based on (or inspired by) the NAB cart. Anyone know the story? The discussion above doesn’t shed light on this theory.
Indeed they did…frequently. And in one case, arranging the tracks so that they would time out relatively evenly on all four tracks proved so unmanageable that the music itself was tinkered with. On the 8-track version of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” the “Sgt. Pepper (Reprise)” was artificially lengthened by copying the verse and splicing it on again, nearly doubling the song’s length.
“Inspired by,” perhaps, but as I noted, there were in reality more differences than similarities between carts and 8-tracks. It should also be noted that there was a 4-track music cartridge format that preceded 8-tracks but never really caught on.