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Desc:I don't know what to say about this...
Category:Classic TV Clips, Horror
Tags:wedding, Cop, VH1, miami vice, New Jersey
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Comment count is 14
Old_Zircon - 2015-08-29
OH shit, Totally Obsessed actually aired? They shot the 8 track collecting one at my work, I'm probably in it but never saw it and could never find any information about it. I've checked every year or two.
Old_Zircon - 2015-08-29
Still not seeing it, but here's a very long Boston Globe interview with Angela, one of North America's biggest 8 track collectors, about filming it:

Reel obsession keeps 8-track tapes alive
Christopher Muther
The Boston Globe
Sept. 21, 2004 12:00 AM

For Hilary Brant, it was love at first sight.

Not the kind of love that invokes a chorus of gooey violins or a twirl in the sand on a scenic stretch of beach. But the love that blooms upon discovering a kindred spirit or a soul mate. It was at a yard sale 12 years ago that she spotted the stereo - undoubtedly referred to as a hi-fi in its halcyon days - complete with foam-covered spherical speakers, a turntable, and an 8-track player.

"It was 1992, and 8-tracks were at least 10 or more years out of fashion," Brant says. "I thought it would be a hoot to get some and play them, and they were really cheap. I decided that I would start collecting them. But I never thought it would turn into this."

What that fateful day turned into was an obsession for the 38-year-old. In the six-room Back Bay apartment she shares with her wife and her cats, Brant has amassed more than 7,000 8-tracks.

To those fully entrenched in the digital age of iPods and CDs, Brant's overflowing room of obsolete technology prompts the question: Why would someone invest so much time and money to collect a format notorious for its unreliability and clunkiness?

"There are lots of good reasons why the 8-track failed," she says. "But to me that makes them all the more charming and lovable. They just seem so campy and cool to me. Nobody has them. They're big, clunky, and obsolete. Basically they're a laughingstock. If you were ever the unpopular child in school, you can relate to the 8-track tape. That's why I love them."

Despite the fact that the last 8-tracks were phased out of retail stores in 1982 and from record clubs in 1988 (the last 8-track was released by either Chicago or Huey Lewis, depending on who's telling the story), there are thousands of people (they call themselves "trackers") who still collect the tapes. There are Web-based chat groups for 8-track collectors and dozens of websites with hints on how to care for the fragile tapes. There's even an 8-track documentary (Russ Forster's "So Wrong They're Right"), and before the Internet there was a 'zine called 8-Track Mind.

"It's really taken off since the advent of eBay," says Malcolm Riviera, who runs the 8-Track Heaven website (www.8trackheaven.com) and is regarded as something of a god in 8-track circles. "There are a lot more people than you'd think who do this. Not many of them have Hilary's passion. I can only think of a few people who are as devoted as she is."

Most of the bulky cartridges in Brant's apartment are contained in a single room that is packed floor-to-ceiling with all manner of 8-track paraphernalia. Even the closet is three layers deep in tapes. Look right, and there's Petula Clark grinning devilishly from under a blue cap. Turn left, and the Partridge Family is wishing you a merry Christmas. There's a box of broken, unspooled tapes, which resembles a plate of metallic spaghetti, awaiting repair. Under a table sit some 40 8-track players. Once-trendy plastic portable players in assorted primary colors adorn a high shelf.

The true centerpiece of this room is a faux fiberglass fireplace with imitation logs that glow orange, thanks to a piece of red tinfoil that rotates around the light bulb. Lift the mantel, and you'll find that the fireplace is actually an 8-track player.

"I found that in the trash," says Brant, who is wearing an 8-track T-shirt and a knowing grin. "Can you believe someone would throw that out?"

In fact, many of her prized finds were destined for the Dumpster - she still speaks fondly of the Thanksgiving she found a trash bag on the street filled with major 8-track booty, including the soundtrack of "Pete's Dragon." In addition to the occasional Dumpster dive or trash patrol, the rest of her 8-tracks come from thrift stores, used-record stores, flea markets, yard sales, donations from friends and co-workers, and, more recently, eBay.

"To me, it's hard to see why anyone wouldn't think these are incredible," she says, glancing around at the smiling faces of the Osmonds and Helen Reddy. "Especially with all the good-looking players out there. You'd think their appeal would be obvious to everybody."

The fact that the 8-track ever managed to proliferate during the 1960s and 1970s before experiencing a speedy death in the 1980s is still something of a mystery. Unlike its cousin the cassette, the tape is a continuous loop that can't be fast-forwarded or rewound. The 8-track is divided into four programs, and often songs are chopped in half as the player makes a loud ka-chink sound and changes from one program to the next.

"That was an annoyance to a lot of people," says Michael Fortes, a 27-year-old collector in San Francisco. "But to me it was something different that I enjoyed. The B.J. Thomas song 'Mr. Mailman' just doesn't sound right to me when I hear it fully intact, since I was raised on the 8-track version."

Brant delights in pointing out that many times a program change would occur during an 8-track's one big hit.

"There's the Sister Sledge 8-track that has 'We Are Family' on it," she says. "And the program changes in the middle of 'We Are Family,' which is the only song anyone knows from that album."

Those peculiarities only seem to excite collectors more. Why else would people be willing to pay up to 0 for a pristine copy of the "Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols" 8-track, or spend 10 years searching for the Thompson Twins' "Into the Gap" on 8-track?

In many cases, 8-track collections begin out of necessity. Riviera, who has a collection of 25,000 8-tracks in his North Carolina home (plus an 8-track player in his Volvo), started collecting because he was broke, and most 8-tracks could be had for only a quarter or 50 cents. John Book, a 33-year-old collector in Washington state, began because many of the albums he was looking for could not be found on vinyl or CD.

"Maybe it's a case of telling the world, 'You know what? Eight-tracks aren't a forgotten stepchild. I will show respect.' There's an appeal to its flaws," Book says.

For Brant, the decision to go 8-track was initially driven by economics. She had little money in 1992 and players and 8-tracks were dirt cheap. But she also confesses to possessing a "collector's personality," which is clear on a stroll through the rest of her apartment. A long, narrow hallway is filled floor-to-ceiling with books that she has found at her job in the used books department of the Harvard Book Store. In the middle of the living room sits an aluminum Christmas tree (complete with multicolor light wheel nearby), that she estimates has been spreading holiday joy year-round for four years now.

Brant's passion for collecting 8-tracks has landed her a spot on the VH1 program "Totally Obsessed." Earlier this month, film crews interviewed her and filmed her Dumpster diving for tapes in Allston. She expects that her segment will air sometime in October.

"The people who are totally obsessed with things on this show are apparently a lot crazier than me," she says. "So they did their best to make me look totally crazy so I'd fit in. They asked me all the wackiest questions, like, 'If your house was burning, would you save your 8-tracks first?' (She wouldn't.) So they could make me look totally obsessed."

She stops and ponders this a minute, then adds:

"I guess I am unusually obsessed, because I don't know anyone else who has this many 8-tracks in their house. But I don't think it's a problem."

Her motives for collecting go well beyond a love of bulky, plastic cartridges. Brant is attempting to collect a copy of every 8-track ever made because she has a dream. She someday wants to share her fondness for 8-tracks with the world.

"I aspire to start an 8-track museum," she says. "What I need is a rich patron. Hopefully someone like Bruce Springsteen or Elton John will come along and think an 8-track museum is a great idea and donate the royalties from one of their songs. With funding, think of what you could do with a museum. You could have a video component with the history. The place could be decorated '70s galore with shag carpeting. It would be a time capsule of the 8-track years."

While she's anxious to share her 8-tracks with the world, she appears apprehensive at the idea of removing the collection from her house. Not only would it leave her with an empty space in her apartment, but it would also leave her separated from her love.

"It would be weird having them all out of my house," she says, looking around. "And I can't give tours of them here. It's too messy to pass as a museum."


"People always focus on the flaws, but they have to realize that between 1965 and 1970 the 8-track was the best portable tape system there was," says Malcolm Riviera, webmaster of the 8-Track Heaven website.

The 8-track was the brainchild of William Powell Lear, the inventor of the Learjet. Although there were a number of continuous tape-loop formats already in existence, Lear patented his invention in 1965 and began aggressively marketing the format. All 1966 Fords offered an in-dash, factory-installed 8-track player. The following year, Chrysler and GM also offered 8-tracks.

"They really started taking off around 1967 because Lear was good at marketing," sa ys collector Hilary Brant.

But by the 1970s, it was clear that the cassette, which was developed around the same time as the 8-track, was more durable, sounded better, and was more compact than the 8-track. Another problem was that in the 1970s the quality of both 8-track tapes and players were dropping dramatically, giving 8-tracks a bad reputation. A quadraphonic 8-track system extended the life of the format for a few years, but by the late 1970s, the 8-track was quickly losing ground. The final 8-tracks hit store shelves in 1982. Today, record club 8-track releases from artists such as Madonna and Prince, along with punk rock 8-tracks, are among the most sought-after by collectors.

Old_Zircon - 2015-08-29
It looks like she may have been cut in favor of that guy who had surgery to look like a cat. Probably because she's not crazy at all.

If I remember right she and her wife were one of the very first same sex couples to get married in Massachusetts, incidentally.

Boomer The Dog - 2015-08-30
Great article! Can't bark I'm into 8-Track, I used to have players but haven't for years, but her dedication is great! She's following her dream, latching on, not letting it pass by. Hard to believe they didn't use her story on the show about obsession, but they may very well keep the videos and put her in another show later, it's hard to believe they'd scrap her segment once they filmed it.

I got players and tapes the same way, as closeouts, flea markets, trash cans, and a few unreeled tapes along the side of the road. One of those was an orange plastic tape of LaGrange by ZZ Top found several miles down the road as I was going to a local theater to see one of my favorite Dog movies around 1980.

It was in the dirt and unspooled a bit, so I brought it home and figured out how the tape wound through, then Scottish taped the two sides of the magnetic tape back in a loop. It did play, but had an issue where it slowed down more and more, then would speed up again. Needed more graphite, I think that's how they lubed the tapes.

It was a debate between 8-Track and cassette for a while. One of the good things about Stereo-8 was that the sound quality could be better than cassette. 8-Track had 8 tracks on a fourth inch tape, cassette was 4 tracks on an eighth inch tape, so track width was close to the same, however, 8-Track moved at double speed, 3-3/4 inch per second, compared to 1-7/8 for cassette. That could give stereo 8 higher fi, better highs, lower noise and lower wow and flutter.

The problem, at least in my experiences, 8-track tape handling was as good as cassette, because the 8's head had to move vertically to access other tracks, and that system seemed to be harder to keep aligned. Some of the 8-track mechanisms were strong and heavy, with one pound flywheels on the capstan though, and would be pretty easy to keep running today.

I had ideas of using 8-track in my radio studio as a poverty stricken version of a broadcast cart machine, but ended up going all cassette, it was cheap, and almost every cassette player also recorded, which wasn't true for 8-Track.

Cassettes were getting better tape formulations, and Dolby B noise reduction, so cassette eventually got a lot better and won out.


Old_Zircon - 2015-08-30
They aren't my thing but the shop I worked at back then had a HUGE stock of them, somewhere in the low 5 digits, maybe more (a lot were in storage so I usually only saw a thousand or so at at time). For me, the notable thing about them is they're the only practical source left to get 1-mil, graphite lubricated 1/4" tape, which is what you're supposed to use in tape echo units even though nobody really does anymore. Including me, usually.

Boomer The Dog - 2015-08-30
Wow, all of those machines might have ended up in places like Olson Electronics, a surplus seller that would sell the chassis complete with preamp, then you were supposed to make your own cabinet I guess, and have it as part of your stereo system, DIY.

That was the thing about 8-track, the tape was so thick, which made for a large pancake of it just to get a whole album on, it was something like ten minutes times 4 stereo tracks. I used to think the great system would be to use 1/4" tape in a cassette at 3-3/4 ips, but then that might be as big as a video tape. The genius of 8-track was making the single reel that spools back onto itself, so then you only have one reel.

I guess with that feed-back system track switching, and that the tape would go past the head 4 times to listen to the whole album, it had to be tough tape!

I could see that tape being great on a tape delay unit, like an Echoplex. I've only personally used one of those, a friend's dad's that we borrowed to make reverb radio promos once.

There's another endless loop cartridge system, don't know the name and haven't looked it up, but it used a large tape cassette, made tough and to high standards. It had multiple tracks of the Beautiful Music format on it, so I think it was used for background music in offices, maybe even airliners, and I found it in 3M's trash.

I think Lear made a decent system, it did work and lots of people had them because they wanted their albums in the car. It could have probably gotten a lot better if it had been around for a while longer, like cassette which had double 8's longevity.


Old_Zircon - 2015-08-30
"I used to think the great system would be to use 1/4" tape in a cassette at 3-3/4 ips, but then that might be as big as a video tape."

Boomer, prepare to have your mind blown:


I've seen exactly one of these in my life (one machine and one blank tape that came with it).

Boomer The Dog - 2015-08-30
Sony did it. I could only imagine what kind of fidelity that could have had if it had been developed as much as cassette, and hit long playing times with really thin tape.

I think of radio broadcast use a lot with different formats, and Elcaset would be nice for some things, especially if they had portable decks for event gathering, where you'd want a tape to pop out and change fast, rather than stringing a reel.

It might have been good in the studio too, but radio was entrenched in open reel so much at the time, and for a long time afterward too.

I can see other things, like if Elcaset pulls the tape out like a VCR, they could do things with it like apply helical scan heads, and have some sort of AFM or PCM put on it. It sure would have been smaller than using a VCR to do the same thing, and pre-dated DAT by ten years if they could have done it.

Thanks Wizard Of O.Z., you're the Baum! Post if your friend's 8-Track collection story gets on a show somewhere, I'd dig seeing it.



Old_Zircon - 2015-08-30
It doesn't pull the tape out or anything, it really is just a cassette that uses stock twice as wide and is proportionately bigger. I can't remember for sure but I think he one I saw might have been three head, too, which would put it well into the league of the higher end Nakamitchi stuff.

That RCA 1/4" cassette format from the 50s that the Wikipedia page mentions is something I'd never heard of before today.

chumbucket - 2015-08-31
I'm not sure how 8 track tape material holds up over time though. Just about all of my dad's collection withered to practically dust or were so weakened over time that they just snap in the player. His player worked great for decades though.

Oscar Wildcat - 2015-08-31
In my limited experience with the things, the part that poops out is most often the inferior grade of foam used to hold the tape to the heads. It just crumbles to dust, as you describe. The tape was still good though, but for the parts coated with the byproducts of the foam's decomposition.

But gentlecats: consider this. A NJ policeman just tried to gay marry Tubbs at his Miami Vice wedding. Tubbs blesses the union with some free style rapping. The bride is...not amused. Is that not worthy of a bit of discussion?

Imagine, if you will, driving the New Jersey Turnpike and being pulled over by this guy...

Hailey2006 - 2015-08-31
They also did an episode on Stalking Cat (Dennis Avner) the guy who was trying to turn into a cat!

yogarfield - 2015-08-30
"Hello, I'm Fred Willard. I masturbate in theaters like that PeeWee guy."
chumbucket - 2015-08-31
I kind of get this obsession. I owed 3 Crockett style jackets while in middle and high school. I was also sure I'd spend my adult life living on a boat in some tropical marina.
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