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He’s Got An Eight-Track Mind

Record store owner and music producer Bucks Burnett has finally realized his long-held dream of finding a permanent home for America’s one and only Eight-Track Museum. This cleverly curated tribute to the portable-yet-bulky musical format (rendered obsolete in the 1970’s by that upstart cassette tape!) opened on Christmas Day in the Deep Ellum arts district of Dallas, Texas (at 2630 East Commerce Street). In the past, the collection was temporarily installed in a number of other locations, including an art gallery and a former lingerie factory. Regular hours begin this month (W, Su 2-6 pm) and admission of $10 gains entrance to the 700-square-foot exhibition space.

8-track tapesThe eight-track was invented by William Lear (who also came up with the Lear Jet) and was in mass production from 1965-1988. Some owners of the technological marvel may recall youthful car trips with their trusty 8-track players, inserting boxy cartridges impossible to rewind or fast-forward — and which issued a loud, ill-timed mechanical thunk — sometimes in the middle of a song — with each advance to the next swath of stereo goodness. Ah, eight-track!

Since then the cartridges have been frequently found piled up in the corners of dusty thrift shops, although an eight-track enthusiasts community has been in continuous existence throughout the years. Now the form is on an upswing; not only is Burnett opening his museum but he’s also starting up an eight-track only label called Cloud 8 to release music in the format, including an upcoming limited edition Tom Tom Club “Genius of Love” remix collection.

At the museum, about 1,000 cartridges are on display, culled from Burnett’s personal collection of 3,000 plus. He’s been collecting since 1988, although these days he prefers to listen to music at home on CD! The opening exhibit is “Conceived in Cars: Birth of the Eight Track 1965.” The displays include a Yoko Ono eight-track conceptually perched atop a white ladder and an over-sized mock-up of the infamously unpleasant Lou Reed release “Metal Machine Music.” There are also eight-track players of all shapes and sizes including a period car stereo store display.

Bucks Burnett has experience reviving interest in other out-of-fashion pop phenomena; he ran the Mr. Ed Fan Club for a decade and managed uke troubadour Tiny Tim in the twilight of his career (well past his “Tip Toe Through the Tulips” heyday).

But now Burnett devotes his time to his pet project: providing a physical center for fans of a much maligned music delivery system. As the poster on the wall reads “Format War is Over! If You Want It!” In these polarizing days of unrelenting bickering overload, we can’t agree more.

[Post by Anne D. Bernstein]

Sections: Attraction News 1 Comment »

Eight Track Museum

Deep Ellum Community Arts Building, just west of downtown.
Sept. 2015: Reported closed.

One Response to “He’s Got An Eight-Track Mind”

  1. John Says:
    March 19th, 2011 at 7:54 am

    I’m curious. I “came of age” in the mid-60s in suburban Detroit, having my first car in 1965. An auto-paraphernalia store (for lack of a better term) in the area sold in-car 45rpm players, which I immediately bought of course. They played the a regular 45rpm record upside-down to reduce bumping, etc. Not much good while driving (they still skipped a lot), but great while hanging out at the drive-in.

    Not long afterwards (early ’66) that same store (“Mickey Shorr’s”) came out with what was called a four-track tape player. (Mine was a big hit during Spring Break at Ft. Lauderdale that year, no one else had one and very few kids there even knew they’d existed.) The cartridges were similar to the later eight-tracks. Slightly smaller, a rubber-drive wheel in the player controlled by an activation lever. The cartridge went in a sort of tray on top and you had to physically switch up and down between the two sides of the tape (half an album on each side).

    It was another year or more before I ever saw what became the more common eight-track (with self-switching to the other half of the tape) and a drive that started automatically when the cartridge was inserted.

    Back then I was always “up” on the latest-and-greatest in music, especially in-car music. It says here Bill Lear had eight-tracks in production in 1965, and another article I read said Ford even offered it as an option in 1966.

    I really find this hard to believe (unless the earlier four-track type was included as a more primitive form of the eight-track). Also, I have a hard time imagining Ford offering it in 1966 and think the article might have meant another later date.

    So I’m just curious if anyone else has some more accurate information about any of this. More from actual personal knowledge, as misinformation seems to often be repeated from one site to another on the internet. Thanks.

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