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The Freedom of Music Goes 8-Track

May 27th, 2012

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One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

“If you want,” I said to my son, “you can put some music of your music on for a while.”

He’s 14, quiet in the monosyllabic way unique to teenage boys and has a lovely smile. He flashed it now, half in a laugh.

“No.”

sidebar-3 We were renovating a bathroom/closet and the two of us were putting up the drywall. Born to Run was on, not something he would listen to voluntarily. He’s into rap and modern pop, meaning Beyonce, Usher &tc. Bruce Springsteen is not his thing. Yet he refused my simple request with almost a chuckle.

“Don’t have any rap 8-tracks?” I asked innocently, and his time he did laugh.

“No.”

I bought the 8-track player on eBay about a year ago, and now have a small collection of tapes, also mostly bought on eBay. It was a lark really, buying a piece of obsolete audio equipment that most people couldn’t get rid of fast enough back around 1980. But it was a lark that has come with it’s small pleasures. The fact that, as near as I can tell, a rap album has never been released on 8-track is one of those pleasures.

But there’s more. eBay is full of tapes at any given time and spending half-an-hour nosing through, bidding a dollar here, two there is a bit of fun. More fun is wandering through a used stuff store and stumbling on an otherwise unexpected cache of tapes. Truth is, until you have heard Boston’s first blasting though an 8-track player, as I have after stumbling across it at the Stratford Antique Mall, you just haven’t heard it in all it’s analogue glory.

Pulling out the 8-track and throwing on some classic rock is guaranteed to generate a conversation. Other people my age remember having 8-tracks, haven’t seen them in years, and end up reminiscing about everything from music they haven’t heard since 1978 to the way you had to use a matchbook to lift the tape and keep the audio lined up with the tracks.

A couple of years ago I predicted 8-tracks might make a comeback and while I hate to take credit, even when well deserved, and it hardly qualifies as a real comeback, a noticeable thing has happened. A year ago, one-dollar 8-tracks where common on eBay. Those same 8-tracks now cost $6-8. There’s been a defined spike in the price, which leads one to believe it’s not just me who has discovered 8-tracks.

The good life is in the small pleasures. Discovering a love for 8-tracks after all these years is one of the smallest.


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