"I have no nostalgia for the format or anything," Brown says, emphatically. "And it's not about novelty for me, either. I do it for the sound quality. It's the way music sounds best. First of all, you're forced to listen to the entire performance. [There's no fast-forward or rewind, just random shuffling about the tracks.] But, beyond that, it's about the actual technology at play. CDs and mp3s are digital renderings of performances. I believe that the energy the band puts out in a recording can be best found on an eight-track tape. It's an actual, physical echo of their performance."

A recent transplant from Little Rock, Brown himself is a musician who performs around the region under the moniker of Browningham, which might explain his stance on the authenticity of the format's sound—he's not just another listener. And he really is doing his part to push the format: On February 5, at Fort Worth venue The Grotto, his company, which he's run since 2006, celebrated its first local eight-track release, a tape from area outfit Secret Ghost Champion. Unlike Burnett's Cloud 8 label, which uses KTS Productions to produce its tapes, Brown manufactures all his releases on his own, in his home.

He's quite committed to it, too. In the coming months, he'll be releasing more tapes—from acts such as the Me-Thinks and area favorite RTB2—all of which will feature unique recordings that Brown himself will handle, and which won't be able to be found on any other format. Interestingly, Brown says, selling these bands on the appeal of eight-track releases isn't much of a concern. Younger people aren't opposed to eight-tracks, he says. They just don't know—and are too young to remember—why the long-forgotten eight-track format can still be a successful one. His job, as he sees it, is to explain it to them.

On Monday, February 14, Bucks Burnett will open the world's first eight-track museum. And yes, he knows how weird of an idea that is.
Allison V. Smith
On Monday, February 14, Bucks Burnett will open the world's first eight-track museum. And yes, he knows how weird of an idea that is.
Eight-tracks started falling out of favor with the major labels in 1982 and were last mass-produced in 1988.
But Burnett and a handful of other locals are hoping to reignite interest in the dead format.
Allison V. Smith
Eight-tracks started falling out of favor with the major labels in 1982 and were last mass-produced in 1988. But Burnett and a handful of other locals are hoping to reignite interest in the dead format.

"It's a technology thing," he says. "And an educational thing."

He wants the world to see eight-tracks the way he does. And his stance is admirable, though a little bizarre. After all, even if he is able to convince artists to join him on his mission, how will their music be heard? It's not like eight-track players—or, at least, ones of the quality that Brown wants his tapes played upon—are easily found these days.

Not surprisingly, Brown has a plan on that front, too.

"I would love to manufacture an eight-track player," he says. "Can't you envision it? A new player that you can buy at Walmart, that comes with a bundle of 20 classic rock tapes? It would be cheap, too."

Hey, if someone's going to do that, it might as well be him. And it might as well happen here.

"I have not found anywhere else in the whole world doing as much for eight-tracks right now as is happening in the metroplex," Brown says. "Just by dumb luck or whatever, it's all happening here."

Perhaps it's just a matter of Dallas-Fort Worth being ahead of the curve. Nostalgia, after all, is big these days. And eight-tracks are as nostalgia-inducing as it gets.

"Eight-tracks are one of those things that just carry such powerful associations," says Robert Thompson, the founding director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University. "If you're of a certain age, you had to get one of those players in your car—and right away. It's kind of locked in amber, the idea of eight-tracks. As soon as you hear someone say 'eight-track,' it immediately brings you back. A lot of nostalgia doesn't."

But, Thompson argues, eight-track preservation should be about more than nostalgia-mongering.

"Listen: Some of this stuff does matter," he says. "I find it highly disturbing how formats are being allowed to disappear the way they are."

Burnett may jokingly refer to himself as a "formatician," but Thompson sees it as no laughing matter. "Format archaeology," as he calls it, is something not to be taken lightly. Given the hold that eight-tracks once held over the market, he too argues staunchly for the format's importance. They're an entity that people need to remember.

"Especially if you're the Library of Congress," Thompson adds.

And yet, that's not quite what the Library of Congress thinks.

"There are preferred formats for copyright, which is largely how we determine our collection," says Bryan Cornell, a reference librarian at the Library of Congress. "And we always prefer LPs over eight-tracks."

According to Cornell, the Library of Congress has roughly 500,000 vinyl records in its collection and "some 5,000 eight-tracks or so, and maybe significantly less." He laughs a little when asked why the collection isn't any larger.

"It's fair to say that we actively try not to get eight-tracks," he says.

And yet, despite this position, the Library of Congress' collection is vastly more significant than the collections boasted in other national museums. Representatives for the National Archives say that there are no eight-tracks in their museum's collection. The Smithsonian Institution, meanwhile, boasts "a couple dozen, maybe," according to Hal Wallace, curator for the Institution's electricity collection.

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17 comments
jesusissavior.chris
jesusissavior.chris

Please bring back 8 track decks, players, and recorders back into the production line again.  Also please bring back quality cassette decks back into prouction line again  I would like to see  8 track and cassette decks brand new in stores in my hometown.  Also, bring back the cassette boombox.

Joshua
Joshua

Well, I can play them all in my 1975 cadillac eldorado convertible that was MADE for top down, nite time cruisin with the volume up to compete with the wind noise...and smokin those ole cigars. yeeeeehhhhh (kinda like ole Howard Dean's campaign swan song washout..)

JoseF
JoseF

Hated them , it wpould stop in the middle of a song to switch to the next track, terrible.Cassettes were/are better.

Cdkase07
Cdkase07

"Go Bucks Burnett" I am glad you are bringing more attention to this exciting format.I have several players and loads of tapes.I taught myself to repair them a few yers ago(a must if you want to play them).A lot has been said about the disadvantages of them but I have to say..being an audiophile with high end vintage equipment such as Marantz,Pioneer,etc..I love the sound of 8 tracks..I have a pioneer hr-100 tape deck (a beast) and the sound when playing a good tape (new splice and pads are a must) is superb..I mean shockingly good..I understand peoples frustration as there are a lot of varibles which must be met(proper tape speed,good pads,etc) but when all the stars are "aligned" (the tape head too !) the sound in my opion is even better than the flat, compressed,sound of digital.Sure digital is great for instant track access but for the remainder of us who do not have A D D and enjoy listening to an entire recording it is quite an experience ! KEEP ON TRACKIN'Chris Kase

nathan brown
nathan brown

yes!! chris, so glad to hear that you've met the right combination that unlocks the excellent sound quality 8 tracks can poses. this is the exact situation i'm trying to promote through my 8 track label/production company - the dead media. please feel free to contact me through my website - deadmediatapes.com - as i'd like to discuss a couple of related items with you.

Snail22858
Snail22858

i have lots of 8-tracks if u but them u may contact me at snail22858@yahoo.com also on facebook

Dplanedplane
Dplanedplane

"More Than 20 Years After Their Death?" It's closer to 30, but I digress. 8-track tapes, at the time, were a welcome format due to their portability. Home, car, boat, etc., one could finally take music virtually anywhere. Quite a novelty at the time.

Yes, there were problems with the format as the tape casings themselves were usually glued together, being but one. And, yes, the playback head did move up/down the tape itself to the desired track which caused not only wear on the tape, but alignment problems of the head, as well. Old-timers may remember 'cross-talk' on 8-track tapes. Tape speed was 3.75 ips which was standard on most reel-to-reel decks. The demise of this format came about mainly to a lack of quality or high-end equipment, the slip-shod glued casings, and transfer capability - recording to an existing blank 8-track tape, among others.

When good sounding, financially viable cassette recorders/playback machines became available in the late 60's, I like many, switched to this format because the tape shells were reliable, they had multiple heads which alleviated alignment issues, and even though the tape speed was half that of 8-tracks, they were superior in sound, much smaller, and one could record up to 120 minutes on a single cassette. Then Nakamichi introduced the Tri-Tracer in '74, and the hand writing was on the wall.

Continued to play 8-tracks in my cars until 1980. They were a source of great enjoyment for myself and others for many years. The idea of the museum is a cool idea. I mean, why not? Take the kids (grand kids?) and tell 'em what old grand dad used to listen to. Of course, if you really want to freak 'em out, show them a 45 rpm!

tiedye
tiedye

As a veteran to the audio repair industry with 25 years of experience I have a real problem with 8 tracks. Some ideas are just bad. 8 track was one. 8 track's one advantage, being able to switch between 4 songs at the push of a button is exceeded by every format in digital. Keep in mind you didn't get to jump to the beginning of songs, you switched to a random place, usually in the middle.The list of disadvantages:The tape head has to move up and down. This makes alignment difficult and not very precise.The tape has to slide against itself. It requires lubrication which eventually fails and the tape self destroys. IT sis very bad in cold weather.The tape to head speed is relatively slow which means sonically the medium is inferior (Nathan Brown is either totally ignorant or he expects readers to be gullible. There were very few highend 8 track players ever built, none could stand up sonically to a good turntable and record. I have a good turntable and would bring it out for a head to head A/B comparison any day. (It would be a landslide)

After resisting the switch to Cassette tapes for years I finally threw my Akai 8 track recorder and about a hunerd tapes in the garbage bask in the 70s. I still have a hi-end turntable and about a hunerd albums. Many of them out perform the digital recordings of today. Super CDs come close. 8 tracks not so much. If you don't believe me ask ANY older audio repair technician what he thinks of 8 track.

nathan brown
nathan brown

yeah, i've run into plenty of you "vets". wish there were a way to invest money in your opinions. then i could put a wad of cash in your mouth to do repair work for me. if you did your research, you'd know that part of my interest in 8 tracks is reversing consumer laziness and utter convenience that has obviously swallowed you whole. a baby boomer you are, no doubt. in all fairness, i am ignorant....ask my wife.

Mike butts
Mike butts

Good to see it. Have about 200 myself. Also in 1967 had a 4 track player installed in my car with 2 speakers for 29.95$ .

Jada
Jada

I don t mind 8 tracks resurrection. I would love for cassettes to come back strong. C D's are terrible, scratches and they dont even last near as long as an 8 track or cassette tape. and bring back polaroid film too, no joke.

nathan brown
nathan brown

geez...i mean, i get why people have such a miserable view about 8 tracks. for one, making fun of them is built into pop culture (even if there is no prior experience), and we'd hate to disagree with the majority, right? also, most people's experience is hearing them through a mono speaker in a crappy portable player or in a car system from the 70s (most car manufacturers didn't start making stock systems/speakers actually sound good until the late 80s). i have no need for nostalgia or novelty. i'm a musician and most of my music has been recorded digitally from the mid 90s to the mid 2000s. then i discovered analog recording and 8 track listening. according to my ears, what i record onto my 8 track recorders is what i get out. that's what you want from any transfer. 8 tracks' bad rap is not because of the technology or tape itself, but rather due to lack of care in the manufacturing, materials, presentation, and consumer. i used to think records sounded great until i heard refurbished 8 tracks through a good deck and sound system. digital...it literally falls flat and i can't stand to listen to it anymore. then there's the issue of having patience while listening to 8 tracks as they move at their own pace without scanning or skipping around (though some decks offer "advanced" options). 200 years ago anyone of us would have been blown away to even hear live music. now we need every album in our pocket. a bunch of spoiled a-holes we are (myself partially included). i like subjecting myself to one of, if not, the closest format to hearing a band live on their time/terms - 8 track. listening to 8 track makes you a better listener.

K8Tracker
K8Tracker

Fun interview. Very nice (and long) article Pete! Thanks for taking the time to come out and talk with us. We've been able to do so many things because of these crazy 8-tracks. We've met some cool folks like Bucks and many others. Got VIP tickets to the taping of Wheel of Fortune and met Vanna and got our picture taken behind the wheel. Shipped 8-tracks all over the US and around the world. Recorded new 8-tracks in the 21st century. 8-tracks... who would have thunk it!

akquillabootay
akquillabootay

Anyone remeber quadrophonic 8's?Quadrophenia by the who?

yokel
yokel

Wow. Does he also have a collection of brick phones like the one made popular by Zach Morris on Saved By The Bell? While somewhat technologically significant, historically speaking, they are crap so why the fuss over an 8-track collection?

Hardly Coffin
Hardly Coffin

I've still got an 8-track of Burl Ive's "Jimmy Crack Corn ... and I don't care". Wonder what it's worth?

Dr. P
Dr. P

Everyone always waxes nostalgic over the 8 track tape. No one seems to remember the front runner to it, the 4 track tape. Was introduced a year or two sooner. Same technology but monaural. Both sucked. No way to search...listening to your favorite song meant listening to an entire track...and then, when you least needed it...the tape would start the dreaded squeaking, the harbinger of death!!

 
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