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It’s National 8-Track Day! Eight facts for your favorite obsolete music technology

I never owned an 8-Track tape, but I remember clearly listening to them — a fact that sets me squarely in the midst of Generation X.

Dad’s truck had an 8-Track player, and when it wasn’t jammed all to hell (his words), we were jamming to Crystal Gayle and Waylon Jennings. I recall clearly, hearing the Oak Ridge Boys sing “Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight” and asking the old man if the highway did go on forever.

(Robert Earl Keen would clear that up for me a decade-and-a-half later.)

We’re looking back, because today is National Eight Track Tape Day and my particular mid-life crisis is 1970s nostalgia.

Let’s celebrate this holiday with 8 facts about 8-Tracks …

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1. The 8-Track was invented by William Powell Lear, the man behind the Lear Jet — although it was really a refinement of the 4-Track tape, which had existed since 1956 and was itself refined by Earl “Madman” Muntz in the early 1960s. The 8-Track got its first big break when Ford Motors offered 8-Track players in its 1966 models.

2. The format started to decline in the early 1980s, but 8-Track tapes were still available from major labels and through record clubs well toward the end of the decade. Fleetwood Mac’s Nov. 1988 “Greatest Hits” album is said to be the last major-label releases on 8-Track.

3. About a dozen years ago, I went into Ginny’s Little Longhorn to buy a T-shirt as a gift one afternoon before work and they had an 8-Track player cranking out Willie and Waylon songs. It took everything I had not to call in sick to work right there from the bar. I don’t know if the 8-Tracks or the player are still there — I’ve had a mess of kids since then — but it’s worth checking out.

4. There was once an Eight Track Museum in Dallas, but — appropriately, I guess — it has closed down. No love for an old icon.

5. Did I say no love? It turns out, the 8-Track is a highly collectible item. Sure, your dad’s shoebox of well-used 8-Track tapes aren’t gonna make you rich, but if you have a mint copy of, say, Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Texas Flood,” that’s a winner.

6. A few eBay highlights: This Genesis Trespass tape is not $9,000. It’s on sale for only $7,200. This Madonna “Like A Virgin” tape is yours now for $499. Or for $795, you can get a nice David Bowie “The Man Who Sold the World.” On the other hand, you can get this Bee Gees “Spirits Have Flown” tape for less than $3. Or best offer. I bet you $2 will get it. 

7. Among the many fascinating 8-Track enthusiast sites on the web is 8-Track Heaven. They have taught me a lot in the last 24 hours, including this link: What’s the story on 8-Track porn? In case you’re at work, I clicked through (it was just business) and, well, the Internet is not in any danger.

8. Among the treasures I saw at Warrenton last weekend was this 8-Track.

This 8-Track tape was for sale in Warrenton last weekend. (Dave Thomas)

Now I wish I had bought it. 

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