Did you know today is National Eight-Track Tape Day?
It doesn’t get nearly the social media attention it deserves, especially when it competes with National Pet Day. But, you could say this plastic covered, music technology means a lot to me.
Before I was a mall rat with my ’80s big hair and off-the-shoulder, neon tops, I was a flea market chick. The Berlin Farmers Market in South Jersey was my hangout on Saturdays and Sundays. For a good part of my childhood, I’d accompany my dad on weekend trips to the flea market which was complete with colorful characters and lots of “collectibles.”
When I was there, I learned to keep an eye on the merchandise, talk to customers and make change as I helped my dad with his record business. Known as “Bob the Record Man,” he carried pretty much every rock album produced in the ‘60s, ‘70’s, and ‘80s genre, plus ’45s for the random jukebox owner that stopped by. It was an impressive collection and my dad was incredibly knowledgeable about his inventory, even though he never listened to it on the radio and preferred Oldies ’98 and‘50’s rock and roll music.
He also sold eight-track tapes which came in everything from the Beach Boys to the Bee Gees. If you are too young to remember albums, you certainly won’t know what these things are but just know that they came before the modern age of cassettes, CDs, the iPod shuffle and on-line streaming. Eight track tapes were cumbersome, but revolutionary at the time. After all, you couldn’t plug in your turntable and take it with on a 6 hour car ride to Boston or Williamsburg while listening to your favorite bands (I’m just saying…). So, the eight-track was the way to go.
To keep me busy and out of trouble, I had a few important jobs at my dad’s outdoor record stand and most of them were related to the eight-tracks. I alphabetized them. I applied the price stickers. I re-alphabetized them after a customer carelessly took them out and then replaced them anywhere they could fit in the box. And most importantly, when someone wanted to purchase them, I was at the ready to test them out in my dad’s tan Malibu station wagon. This was my favorite part of the job. At the age of 7, I was so excited to climb behind the steering wheel and turn the car key towards the windshield and then insert the tape in the proper way so it would play. I was careful not to jam it into the player which could cause the outer plastic casing to crack and certainly affect a $5 sale.
When the crowds faded, Dad & I would sit on the car bumper with the trunk door wide open to provide shade on hot sunny days. We played the Beatles eight track tape almost every weekend and ate funnel cake while talking about random things. A nice treat for a hard day’s work.
And now, whenever I hear Baby You Can Drive My Car, I’m immediately taken back to those days at the flea market—even if I’m listening to the song on the XM radio Beatles Channel.
Happy National Eight-Track Tape Day!