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Site review: 8-Track-Shack

Site review: 8-Track-Shack

There’s nothing surprising about hearing a child of the 1980s waxing nostalgic about Back to the Future, Culture Club and the original Nintendo Entertainment System. Of course you have fond memories of those particular pop culture touchpoints – so does the entire graduating class of 1991. It’s something altogether different to harbor ‘80s nostalgia for, say, the time-capsule documentaries of director Jeff Krulik or the third-wave ska stylings of The Toasters.

It isn’t that more obscure nostalgia is qualitatively “better,” but it does seem to take more effort and inspire more passion. Take, for instance, 8-Track-Shack.com, a site devoted entirely to a musical format whose obituary was written long ago. Most modern music fans dismiss the 8-track era as a regrettable but necessary step in the evolution from reel-to-reel to cassette tapes. Even the hipster cache for 8-tracks is limited – sure, there’s one guy in every music geek crowd who loves ostentatiously popping a Steve Miller tape into his vintage Panasonic 8-track deck whenever he has people over, but everybody secretly finds that guy pretty annoying.

8-Track-Shack is the home of the true believers, a place where 8-track lovers can buy tapes and equipment, read reviews and industry news and otherwise immerse themselves in bygone technology (the site also deals in records, cassette tapes and some CDs). There are even tutorials for repairing tapes – an invaluable resource for collectors of a product in such finite supply.

If you’re looking for the usual thrift store dollar-bin bargains, this might not be the place for you. The emphasis here is on hard-to-find titles in excellent condition. Many of the 8-tracks are unopened, and most retail at around the same price as a new CD. The aforementioned Steve Miller Band’s Book of Dreams, for instance, will run you $12.99 ($17.99 factory sealed). Something a little more obscure – Hawkwind’s In Search of Space, say – will set you back $24.99, while a rarity like Kurtis Blow’s self-titled debut goes for $99.99.

The site also boasts an extensive selection of 8-track players and accessories, ranging from $150 for a basic in-dash tape deck for your car to $700 for an early portable player manufactured by Lear Jet. If you’re mystified by the idea of 8-tracks still commanding that kind of cash, you may find the 8-Track-Shack blog illuminating. It’s a well-written, infrequently updated catalog of curiosities and exciting finds from the 8-track world and the broader musical universe.

All of this stands as evidence that the 8-track isn’t quite as dead as conventional wisdom suggests. It survives on pure passion in a tiny little corner of the endlessly fractious fraternity of musicophilia. That may not seem like much, but it’s a heck of a comfort to music lovers who still believe the tangibles matter.

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