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
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."
BEFORE CASSETTES, CDs, OR THE iPod
"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.