Ridiculed today as the essence of obsolescence, the clunky, primitive 8-track tape brought about a social change of the same magnitude as the epochal Supreme Court decisions and the counterculture movement of the 1960s.
The 8-track tape, introduced in 1965, consisted of an endless loop of standard ¼-inch magnetic tape, housed in a plastic cartridge. On the tape were eight parallel soundtracks, corresponding to four stereo programs. Although it was developed by Learjet for aviation playback, the technology became an instant success when auto makers began installing tape decks in cars. Prior to the 8-track tape, music playback at home was limited to vinyl records, expensive reel-to-reel decks and the radio,and, in the car, to AM radio only. The easy-to-use, self-activating decks and small, lightweight cartridges for the first time allowed the driver, and not the radio station, to choose the music, thus insuring the format’s success. The popularity of the system encouraged the rapid development of 8-track tape components for home stereos, capable of recording and playback, making it possible for listeners to access their music on a single, portable format, at home and in the car. With its ease of use and flexibility, the 8-track tape quickly overtook the sale of large, heavy, fragile,vinyl records, to become the largest segment of the retail music market in the early 1970s.
To be sure, 8-track tapes had their drawbacks. While the self-playing, endless-loop required no attention while driving, it could not be fast-forwarded, rewound or cued, only played through. To hear a certain song, one had to listen the entire track. Fitting the 10-12 songs of an album into the tape’s four 10-minutes segments meant that the track order of vinyl recordings was not respected (a huge problem for albums without breaks between tracks like Dark Side of the Moon or clear narratives like Tommy). The most egregious offense was the sometimes-unavoidable splitting of longer songs between two tracks, which entailed a fade-out mid-song, a long silence followed by the tape head (loudly) shifting to the next track and then a fade-in to the rest of the song. Serious audiophiles and fans stuck with vinyl.
Inferior in sound quality but capable of rewinding and allowing for a kind of random access, cassette tapes replaced 8-tracks in the early 1980s. While the tapes are now emblems of the past-ness of the 1970s, the 8-track inaugurated the era of portability, multi-platform capability, and, most importantly, personal choice in music–the basic functionalities we expect all devices to provide. Modern consciousness radically differs from that of even 50 years ago because we now have life-long, always available, highly-personalized soundtracks running constantly and shaping our days. We may have different equipment but we still inhabit the 8-track conceptual framework.
Although the CD was a well established format by `92, Philips decided to go it alone on a new recordable digital medium. Enter the Digital Compact Cassette. It played pre-recorded music recorded digitally onto tape and also allowed users to record through either digital (SPDIF) or analog inputs. There was also a data carrier track that allowed track info to scroll. The compression was, apparently, about as good sounding as the ATRAC compression used by the competing Minidisc format.
The digital frontier had all sorts of strange beasts fighting for market dominance. DAT tape never made it as a home format, but it was widely adopted in studios, and the Minidisc sold quite well in Japan (although it didn’t make much of a market splash here in North America). DCC was dead only four years after its launch.
I do admit, the tapes themselves look pretty neat and the unit was backwards compatible with regular audio tape.
My favourite quote from the ad copy (circa 1992, from Spin magazine):
“Just look at the cassette and you can see the future in it.”
We’re today very excited to finally be able to announce that you can now pre-order the Life Is Strange soundtrack… on compact cassette!
We have always felt that the licensed soundtrack of Life Is Strange is a key part of the game and the amount of accolades and awards the soundtrack won underlined just that. On top of this, the fan-interest in the limited run of vinyls’ we pressed for the release of the Limited Edition clearly demonstrated an interest in alternative media formats.
Armed with this knowledge, we returned to the drawing board… the result of our efforts is a product that is both a throwback to the old days and part of one of the fastest resurging areas of the music industry - mixtapes.
To celebrate this momentous occasion we will also be including a bonus track - Hawt Dawg Man’s Theme - on the first batch of mixtapes we produce. As this iconic character’s theme will ONLY be available on the mixtape, it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever be able to hear an illegally ripped version of it on YouTube, so do pre-order the mixtape here before it sells out to avoid disappointment!
We hope you’ll have as much fun listening to the mixtape as we did creating it!
A collection of songs that would have been given to my significant other on a 1970s compact cassette tape if: a) it were the 1970s or b) I had a significant other.
1. First Love - The Maccabees 2. West Coast - Coconut Records 3. I Belong In Your Arms - Chairlift 4. Do I Wanna Know? - Arctic Monkeys 5. Interlude (That's Love) - Chance the Rapper 6. Melrose - Childish Gambino 7. Latch (Acoustic) - Sam Smith 8. Not Enough - Carousel 9. I Would Die 4 V - CHVRCHES 10. For Emma - Bon Iver 11. Romanticise - Chela 12. Riptide - Vance Joy 13. Constant Conversations - Passion Pit 14. Love, Love, Love - As Tall As Lions 15. Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It - Stars 16. Eyes - Rogue Wave
Esma Redžepova, who represented FYR Macedonia together with Vlatko Lozanoski at 2013 Eurovision Song Contest in Malmö, has sadly died today at the age of 73. It happens after she last week was hospitalized in her hometown Skopje because of the breathing problems.
This year Redžepova could celebrate 60-years anniversary of her singing career. Many people consider her to be the most important ambassador of Macedonian music and culture. In 2007 Redžepova was granted a diplomatic passport. Redžepova became especially famous as one of the biggest interpreters of Romani music. At the first music festival of Romani music, which was held in India in 1976, she was officially crowned as the “Queen of World Romani music”.
In her career Redžepova recorded about 1,000 songs, and she released more than 500 compact discs, music cassettes and records for domestic and also foreign record labels. She also played more than 12,000 concerts and appeared in a bunch of movies and documentaries, which mainly were produced in the former Yugoslavia. Her best known single, ČajeŠukarije, is the feature song on the 2006 Borat movie soundtrack. She claims the song was used without her permission.
Redžepova was also highly respected because of her humanitarian work. She never had children of her own, however fostered 47 abandoned or deprived children during the 1970’s and 1980’s. Together with her husband and manager Stevo Teodosievski, who died in 1997, Redžepova raised 5 of them under her roof. She ensured a home and education for the others. She was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize twice.
Redžepova used to describe herself as a cosmopolitan person who is brought to this planet to do humanitarian work.
[The] volatility within N.W.A. [between its black nationalist, party rap, and gangsta rap elements] resolved itself as swiftly and schematically as
it arose. The party rap faded of its own accord, as residual styles do. The
dominant, however, could not be excised so easily. In late 1989, Ice Cube
left the group over royalty disputes; this departure was just the same a historical necessity, a scission that had to happen so that gangsta could become
itself. Cube declared his allegiances plainly enough: his 1990 solo album
AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, produced in New York by the Bomb Squad,
cited Do the Right Thing; the track “Once Upon a Time in the Projects”
seemed a verdict about the period’s hemorrhaging of social reality into the
gangster’s fairytale. Shortly thereafter he would become a Muslim, ambivalently involved with the Nation of Islam. The surviving N.W.A. and its
largely L.A.-based co-conspirators were thus left to engineer the gangsta emergence toward its realized form.
Yet there is another way to narrate the purification of gangsta than by
structural subtraction; it is in this process that we can see the real effects
of the culture war. Some of the best-known episodes would wait for the
mid-nineties: the Reverend Calvin Butts endeavoring to steamroll a pile
of compact discs and cassettes in Harlem in 1993, and C. Delores Tucker’s
decency crusade with the National Political Congress of Black Women in
the same year (shortly to join forces with former Secretary of Education
William Bennett). Notable about these encounters is that they repeat the
logic of black-on-black conflict, culturally internal but presented for broad
consumption—which perhaps explains their popularity in cultural memory.
They themselves are gangsta.
Far more determining are the clashes clustering around the actual period
of emergence. In 1989, the FBI advised N.W.A.’s label regarding the song
“Fuck tha Police”; the Fraternal Order of Police voted a boycott of the group
(and of others advocating assaults on officers) and broke up a Detroit concert
where they tried to perform the song. As gangsta moved from emergent to
dominant style, larger social tensions were amplified first by the videotaped police beating of Rodney King on March 3, 1991, and then by the riots and
conflagrations following the officers’ acquittal at the end of April 1992. As
urban theorist Mike Davis emphasizes, the events shouldn’t be simplified:
“L.A. was a hybrid social revolt with three major dimensions. It was a revolutionary democratic protest characteristic of African-American history when
demands for equal rights have been thwarted by the major institutions. It
was also a major postmodern bread riot… . Thirdly, it was an interethnic
conflict—particularly the systematic destroying and uprooting of Korean
stores in the Black community.”
Jeff Chang argues that, for the purposes of media representations, it was a
race riot “with Blacks centrally cast as Blacks and Korean-Americans in the
role of the long-gone whites.” That the African-American community was geographically constrained from confrontation with whites is evident and
suggestive. Against that containment, the riots’ overflowing the boundaries
of black-on-black violence was exactly the source of their intolerability. In the
arena of hip-hop, this specific shadow-conflict had already come up for discipline at the end of 1991. In an unheard-of event, Billboard editor Timothy
White called for a store boycott of Ice Cube’s Death Wish, an album thick
with misogyny and racialized violence, much of it directed toward fictive
In the same year, Ice-T (Tracey Marrow, “inventor of the crime rhyme”) started the hardcore band Body Count, whose eponymous debut included
the song “Cop Killer” (which took up the repeated chant “Fuck the police”
and ended “cop killer—but tonight we get even!”). Before being dropped
from their record label, the band suffered a series of threats and censures,
and eventually solicited the epic theater of Charlton Heston reading the
lyrics of their song “KKK Bitch” in a Time Warner shareholder’s meeting.
The coherence of these disciplinary actions is as evident as it is unremarked. In the case of each song and album, the intolerable transgression is
inevitably an episode of interracial violence. If one accepts the tactical equivocation of whites and Korean-Americans within conservative and reactionary
discourse, the dynamic is even plainer: black-on-white violence is what must
be punished. Images of equivalent violence within the Black community
drew little commentary and no equivalent outrage.
Of course, the songs in question inevitably proposed this violence as retribution for a violence that historically ran the other direction. This can only
have exacerbated the cultural reaction and punishment. Within the crucible
of the moment, one can see this punitive reaction both as an expression of
outrage and as a systematic effort to shape gangsta’s emergence within this
moment of malleability.
History, one might say, is the history of making politics turn away. We can
see the culture war working not to stop gangsta, but to contain it—literally.
Hemmed in on all sides but one, gangsta was in effect disciplined to turn its
antisociality along the course of least resistance: to comply with and celebrate
an account of Black urban culture which served the ideological ends of that
culture’s conservative critics, without being able to confront those very same
antagonists. Black-on-black violence, the internalization of conflict, was not
the only impulse present within gangsta’s emergence, but the only one that
would be given free reign.
Joshua Clover, “The Bourgeois and the Boulevard,” 1989: Bob Dylan Didn’t Have This to Sing About,” pg.44-6