UNSPOOLED: An Adventure in 8-Tracks by Tim Durling (2022)
Every collector is different. We cannot be painted with a single brush. I, for example, collect music formats that I have the equipment to play. I don’t own any reel-to-reel and only a couple 8-track tapes for that reason. Tim Durling on the other hand doesn’t care. He loves 8-tracks even though he has no way to play them, nor does he really have any interest in getting into the players. Restoration of the players and tapes themselves is a expensive hobby that many do enjoy, but Tim is all about the collecting.
A single Journey tape sitting in a desk drawer was the modest beginning, years before Tim really dove into it. His passion for collecting the bands he loves is at the heart of Unspooled, Tim’s first book and a great resource for 8-track tapes. If the praise that Martin Popoff throws down in the forward isn’t enough to convince you, then I give up!
Unspooled is a visual feast. Every page pops with vivid print, and many are loaded with photos of tapes that you never knew existed on 8-track. Tim was fascinated early on to learn that record clubs such as Columbia House sold 8-track tapes through the mail, long after they were available in stores. These “RCO” tapes can be very difficult, but rewarding to find, especially when you have a love affair with collecting. See for yourself, how pretty the 8-tracks look when photographed next to their cassette, CD and LP counterparts. How many albums do you own in four formats?
Tim includes lists of known RCO tapes from 1981 to 1988. Wait…1988? Yes, somebody in 1988 was still ordering 8-track tapes from record clubs! Astounding. And Tim’s got the proof. He also has pictures from his childhood (sweet GI Joe’s, dude!) and of obscure tech like the infamous 8-track to cassette car adapter. Chapters are named after related songs, but there are plenty of surprises along the way. I’ve never seen a Bruce Springsteen box set on 8-track before.
Interviews and stories from friends and experts help colour in the picture a bit. Information you wouldn’t just find yourself. For example, what is a “coffee can tape”? 8-tracks were notorious for unspooling and being difficult to fix. Often customers would carry the mass of unspooled tape in a coffee can to be repaired. And here’s something else I didn’t know, but should have expected. Counterfeit tapes are a problem now in the collector’s market. Some of these tapes go for serious coin today. Stuff that you used to find at a garage sale for 10 cents, or worse, in the garbage. Contributions comes from characters such as Marco D’Auria the Contrarian, Ryan Murphy from RushFans, and yours truly, LeBrain.
Yes, that means I am biased, but I don’t think my review would be any different otherwise. Take Martin Popoff’s word for it. Limited copies of Unspooled are still available. Contact Tim’s Vinyl Confessions to order yours.