Beatles Four Tracks: The Forgotten Format

The four track (4tk) cartridge is an unfamiliar item to most music listeners today. It was invented at about the same time as the eight track, but for some reason never attained the popular appeal that the eight track did. A four track cartridge might be mistaken for an eight track, the most visible difference between the two being a hole in the cartridge approximately 3/4 inches in diameter. Four tracks manufactured for Capitol before 1969 also feature transparent front shells, making them readily distinguishable from eight tracks for those who know that four tracks existed.

For several years, cartridge players were made that were "four/eight compatible." Finding such a player today is a rarity. I know of no company that has manufactured four track players in the last fifteen years. This is unfortunate, since the four track was an interesting format.
Four tracks play at 3 3/4 inches per second, as do eight tracks. However, being in stereo, they only have two programs. This provided an advantage over the eight track of seldom having a song split between two programs. As every 8 track buyer knows, this was a major annoyance with the eight track. Four tracks seldom had this problem.

Capitol Records may not have picked up on four tracks until the same time when they began to manufacture eight tracks: mid-late 1965. If earlier ones do exist, they are indistinguishable from those made in 1966-1967. Capitol never made its own four tracks. Until late-1969, they licensed out to Muntz Stereo-Pak in Van Nuys, California. On these four tracks, the statement "not affiliated with Muntz T.V." appears. Then in mid-'69, Capitol contracted with Ampex Tapes to manufacture both its reel tapes and its four tracks. Tapes made by Ampex have tan colored shells. Four tracks and reel tapes seem to have perished at the same time (for Capitol), although it seems that the reels lasted longer. Beatles related (Ampex) four tracks do not seem to have been manufactured after 1970. Since the last known Beatles related reel tape was issued in 1971, it may have been that there were some four tracks also issued that year.

What follows is a listing of all known Beatles and solo 4 tracks:

A Hard Day's Night United Artists UA4T-4013
(1964?1966?) Manufactured by International Tape
Cartridge Co. White shelled cartridge.
Meet the Beatles Capitol 4CL-2047
Second Album Capitol 4CL-2080
Something New Capitol 4CL-2108
Beatles '65 Capitol 4CL-2228
Early Beatles Capitol 4CL-2309
Beatles VI Capitol 4CL-2358
Help! Capitol 4CL-2386
Rubber Soul Capitol 4CL-2442
Yesterday and Today Capitol 4CL-2553
Revolver Capitol 4CL-2576
All of the above Capitol four tracks feature clear front shells.
At about the time of Sgt. Pepper, some tapes can be found with
pink, green, or brown colored (transparent) front shells.

Family Way Soundtrack (P) London LFX 17136
white shell. Manufactured by Ampex. Cartridge made by Telepro.
Sgt. Pepper's LHCB Capitol 4CL-2653
Magical Mystery Tour Capitol 4CL-2835
All of the Capitol 4 tracks are found with the Capitol "dome logo",
which was in use until 1969. Some of them have also been found
with Capitol's round logo. These are not listed by Perry Cox as
having higher value, but they are certainly more difficult to find.
It appears that Capitol continued to issue its "old" 4tks through
1970 and that Ampex only made "new" ones.
Two Virgins Apple/Tetragrammaton TNX-45001
with outer title box. White shell.
Two Virgins Apple Tetragrammaton GRT 473-5001
with outer title box. White shell.
made by General Recorded Tape, Inc.
The Beatles Apple 4CW-101
album available on two tapes.
Yellow Submarine Apple 4CL-153

The following tapes were all made by Ampex unless indicated.
Therefore, they all have tan shells and an outer title box (with a
large Apple), unless indicated.
The Beatles Apple M4 101/M4 2101
tan shells, 1969.
Abbey Road Apple X 4383
does not list "Her Majesty".
Live Peace In Toronto (J) Apple 4CL-3362
Live Peace In Toronto (J) Apple X 43362
Hey Jude Apple X 4385
Let It Be Apple X 434001
A Hard Day's Night United Artists U-6006
black shell or white shell. No outer box.
McCartney (P) Apple X 43363
Sentimental Journey (R) Apple X 43365
Beaucoups of Blues (R) ?
All Things Must Pass (G) ?
Plastic Ono Band (J) Apple X 43372

The four track passed on in favor of the eight track, which in turn was to die in favor of the cassette. Most Beatles four tracks go for $25-$30 in their appropriate packaging. The ones having two cartridges usually fetch $40.
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1 comment:

rap said...

I had a 4-track of the Second Album. The looked quite similar to 8-racks, btw,