Buck's Burnett's Namedropper: How I Broke the 8-Track Market

Bucks Burnett isn't a journalist. He's a namedropper. He may not have met every one of his music idols, but he's met 90 percent of them. And he's here to tell you all about it, however he sees fit, in his monthly music column, Namedropper.

Never mind the bargain bins of my past, let's get to the sex scandals. This particular sex scandal involved me and a certain Dallas lady, Tami Thomsen.

This it's not going where you think it's going. This is a Sex scandal.
Our scandal revolves around a Sex Pistols 8-track and a joke that went too far, singlehandedly ruining the once-bucolic industry of 8-track collecting. But hey, I got $100 out of the deal.

The time was 1992, and I was the owner of Fourteen Records, a record store on Greenville Avenue next to the Blue Goose. One summer afternoon, Tami — a woman who, for all the famous people I've met, always left me in awe to the point of shyness — walked in, handed my employee a $100 bill, and shifted life as we know it. Life for music collectors, anyway.

A quick little tsunami waved out through the music world; a Sex Pistols 8-track had sold for $100. That's $100 in 25 years ago money, baby. And now we live in that universe. Billboard magazine wrote about it, as did Buddy, the Dallas Observer and The Dallas Morning News. And Goldmine magazine, the decades-long bible of record collectors. The Associated Press sent it out as a wire story.

Most importantly, it was a big story in a legendary zine for 8-track collectors, 8 Track Mind, published by Russ Forester out of Detroit in the '90s. Russ was always an objective editor and reporter. The story instantly gave me a "Wanted: Dead or Alive" stature in the 8-track community I’ve yet to live down.

I can hear you asking, "What’s so scandalous about that?" The fact that many of us don’t find that shocking now proves my point. Tami and I babied a bit of collecting history into the world, and we weren’t even dating. I get all the credit for this little stunt, but I prefer to say we not me, because this magic act took two to tango, about a mile north of where Tango used to be on Lowest Greenville.

My press release on this transaction (the world’s first wire story about a record store purchase, according to me) included her name, but all the stories were about me, me, me. She never got her due. She made it happen by a slim trick of timing, buying something from my store that wasn’t even for sale.

I was out of town that weekend, and my trusty store manager, Marc Gilpin, was jumping up and down like a puppy when I walked into the store on Monday. “You’re not gonna believe what we sold! Dude, it worked! We sold the Sex Pistols 8-track for $100!”

“You what?” I said, stopped cold in my tracks.

You see, that 8-track hadn't been for sale. Yes, it was hung on the wall with a sign next to it that read, "$100.00." But it was a joke. (My sense of humor is twisted, believe me.) It was a joke because nobody would pay $100 for an 8-track, especially not the Sex Pistols. Punk rockers hated 8-tracks. I didn't want to sell it. The joke had gone too far.

“The Beatles will never reunite. We are stuck in these mortal bodies. And my Pistols track is gone,” I lamented, slumping down in the Volkswagen bus seat that sat in my store. "I never thought anybody would pay $100 for an 8-track, so I put it up on the wall as performance art, for world peace like Yoko.”

“Like an art installation?” Marc asked.

“Yeah. Like the punk rock satire of a bad piece of art.”

“Wow. I blew it. It’s gone,” he said. But I told him not worry; I hadn't made clear to him that it wasn't for sale, and now someone had called my bluff.

A few days later, having found out who had bought it, I called Tami. At the time, she owned her own record store in Deep Ellum, Last Beat. I decided to follow Bob Geldof’s example and make Live Aid out of life. I asked for a few statements about why she bought it, and made light of the fact it wasn’t meant to actually sell. She’s so nice she might’ve sold it back to me had I asked. But a gentleman doesn’t ask a lady for his 8-track back.

We laughed over the phone together two weeks later when I told her a Billboard reporter had interviewed me about the Pistols track. Twenty-four years later, I interviewed her again for this story. I asked her to tell me again just what the hell she was thinking. Like seriously, what rhymes with duck, lady luck? I still didn’t know some of the details. I wanted answers.

“When I first walked into Fourteen Records and saw it on display, my first thought was, ‘I have to have it,'" said Tami, who today is the self-described "Alchemist and Cat Herder" at Dallas-based Kirtland Records. "Back then, before technology took over, the hunt was part of the thrill. Looking and looking, not knowing when you would ever find it. And then you found it.”

But a hundred dollars? Really?

“I had never seen it on 8-track before. It was so un-punk that I loved it,” she said.

I knew exactly what she meant. I had searched five years, desperately, for the Pistols on 8. Finally it popped up one day in a box of ten cent 8-tracks at a Denton flea market. I nearly stroked out. There it was, before my eyes. I stopped looking and just bought the whole damn box. My life was complete. I "Mission Accomplished" before Bush, Jr.

You really did have to drive for miles and scour for tracks at every possible yard sale, flea market and thrift store back then, to find any cool 8-tracks. And at the dawn of the '90s, the children of the track began to search, to the corners of the Earth, for every possible cool title we could collect or preserve. We were scoring badass tracks by the thousands for 10 cents to a dollar. You were taken seriously as a collector when you finally paid $5 for your elusive sealed quad Lou Reed Metal Machine Music track. That’s when you finally wore the jacket (I’ve got 10 copies, just saying).

Tami and I ruined all that, forever, for everyone. I got all the press for it and overnight became Satan to the underground trackers, denounced in zines for making 8-tracks collectible. One guy wrote, “Goodbye to 10-cent 8-tracks at Goodwill.” I knew he was right. I killed an era. There were rampant free-to-dirt-cheap tracks of greatness, lying on colorful hillsides, like a Julie Andrews movie, and I ruined it, with a Dallas fancy lady. Guilty as charged.

Tami and I were like Bonnie and Clyde. With our wanton disregard to everything dignified about life as it once was, we committed a trick of the light misstep that started the now insane world of 8-track collecting. A few go for thousands now. An Eight Track Museum came and went, perhaps in Dallas, perhaps owned by yours truly.

I just lost out on a holy grail item on Ebay last week, but only by $5, when the last 8-track ever issued in 1988, Fleetwood Mac Greatest Hits, sold for $504.99. I ask you: Which is more ridiculous, or most logical? 500 big ones for Fleetwood Mac, or Price Guns At Dawn?

But Tami has the last word, as well she should after years of not getting her due. “Worth it? Every penny and then some. In the 2000s, we’re still laking about it, so yes, that was a hundred bucks well spent."
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Bucks Burnett