“Sold about £480 of stuff at work and got £2 spiv for selling 8-track. Phoned up Lorna!”
The 8-track cartridge was a most peculiar music format. It launched in 1964 and was huge in the USA – mainly the result of the Ford Motor Company installing players in many of its vehicles during the mid-to-late 60’s – but stalled across most of Europe as many were dubious of its so-called advantages.
The cartridge itself was designed – by the Lear Jet corporation of all people – as an “easy-to-use” upgrade of the more popular and recognised reel-to-reel tape decks which had found favour with some audiophiles as a viable alternative to vinyl. The tape inside the cartridge was a continuous loop of ¼-inch oxide-coated plastic, with the songs split across all eight tracks of its surface. The end result however was often very poor sound quality and many album’s songs being split up as the player’s head changed tracks on the tape. Another quirk was that some albums had to have their track listing altered to accommodate the tape length or songs were cut short to fit. In some instances the shorter songs were repeated and/or had instrumental content recorded to make up the time.
Despite the quirks and appalling audio reproduction, USA music fans snapped up both home stereo and boombox models of the 8-track machines, hailing its portability as an advantage. The format took an even more bizarre turn when, in 1970, quadraphonic tapes and machines hit the market so that listeners could now hear poor quality sound from 4 speakers instead of two!
It did admittedly have some fans in Europe, but many more music fans – myself included – had migrated to the FAR simpler and FAR better quality compact cassette as their alternative to vinyl. Plus – a big advantage – you could record on a cassette, something which was impossible to achieve on 8-track cartridges (at least, as far as I know?!).
If I was a betting man, I would say that my “£2 spiv” (“spiv” being a slang term – long forgotten by me – for sales commission at Dixons) was given as a special bonus, the result of me persuading some poor sap to buy an 8-track player when it’s days were most certainly numbered in terms of popularity. I wonder if the buyer has ever forgiven me?
Anyway, emboldened by my increased income I evidently called Lorna to ask her out of a date.