Hebrew School

Because I wanted your Jewish 8-tracks

Tooling around Park Slope yard sale remnants on a Sunday afternoon a month or so ago, I spied an 8-track cassette of Martha and the Vandella’s Dance Party. That’s the one with “Dancing in the Street” on it. I admired the beauty of the format and the way the faded artwork had been pasted just so. I began to think of the ephemeral nature of audio formats, this particular one being larger in dimension than my 80-gig iPod, though much lighter and made of plastic.

I bought a fifteen dollar 8-track player on ebay and hatched a scheme to see what other 8-tracks I could find– or, better yet, play. With a view toward the most interesting audio being the most discarded and overlooked, I imagined my pathological music hoarding instinct and the 8-track as perfect bedfellows. While a boon for record companies and manufacturers at the time, the 8-track’s success was followed closely by that of the cassette tape, which quickly eclipsed the former as it was jettisoned. And so I sought out the underdog not for a hazy nostalgia, but more to find the silver lining in a cloud.

While I’d heard that posting a plea in one’s status update on facebook.com often yielded surprising results (i.e., getting only what you ask for, etc.), this did not do the trick. I felt abused. Why couldn’t my collection of high school and college classmates, who were practically my friends before, come through for me with a pile of degraded retro crap? The system had broken down.

Panicked and suddenly encumbered by 15 or so pounds of quality GE parts, I had given up, but Jill prevailed in a day with a quick post to Freecycle Brooklyn. A few more emails, a bike trip to Cobble Hill and an exchange of pleasantries with a friendly stranger– ending with the delightedly exclamatory remark, “You’re taking them all?“– and we had our haul.

71 8-tracks. Click the picture for greater detail.

Along the way we found a few more. Of note, Cher’s eponymous third album, originally released in 1966, a lot of Barbra, a lot of Neil. The Captain and Tennille seem to be the archetypal 8-track act as the lion’s share of their career is concurrent with the medium’s life and death.

Volume 2 of Yehudi Menuhin and Ravi Shankar’s famed duets.

Sadly, I can’t exactly get the sound quality out of these tapes that an audiophilia nervosa patient might expect, but what I can get– hissing, whirring pitch shifts, bleeding of songs into one another– is sheer bliss.

* * *

Check out the music page today for a song written in the language of love, which is all you need.



3 Comments so far
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My second favourite French song is “Je Fait Tu” by Emmylou Harris, second only to Daniel Lanois’ “Under A Stormy Sky”, not including the Nous Non Plus catalogue, of course.

“Still Crazy After All These Years” is really over-rated in my opinion. I just can’t shake the fact that Paul Simon sounds like an asshole during the whole album.

Comment by Marv

Okay, that pick of Barbara is divine.

Comment by noble pig

[…] Because I wanted your Jewish 8-tracks […]

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