Dallas, TX 75206
By City of Ate
By Robert Wilonsky
By Pete Freedman
By Richie Whitt
By City of Ate
By Patrick Michels
By Robert Wilonsky
By Dallas Observer Staff
"It's my job to remind people," he says. "Because it's my calling. Because I'm a formatician—and I just made that word up. "
His mission is simple.
"People need to stop throwing music away," he says, his normally calm demeanor suddenly replaced with visible disgust. "And don't apologize to me for throwing your music away, either. No. No. Fuck you."
"This isn't so much about eight-tracks," he continues. "This isn't so much about dead formats. This isn't even about all formats. It's, for me, about physical formats. Are we going to just throw away our history?"
Here's the thing about Bucks Burnett: At his core, he's a salesman—and a great one at that. Like every strong salesman, he's a good talker.
His favorite subject, it shouldn't surprise, is music—something on which he is qualified to speak. Aside from his extensive work in various record stores (he's worked in so many, he can't recall the number), Burnett has spent the past three-and-a-half decades as a flat-out music obsessive, writing songs, playing in bands, and speaking out about the Dallas music scene. He's a fascinating figure, one who can speak as intelligently about the past four decades in Dallas music history as just about anybody around. He's seen it all, he's quick to remind.
More than that, though, he wants to push the local scene's boundaries.
Last year, when his band Rachel Bazooka released its debut album, that alone wasn't enough. Burnett, who clearly enjoys terms like "first" and "only," made a point to release the disc as a double-album—the first double-album debut from any Dallas act and, far as he can tell, only the fourth double-album debut in history, behind releases from Frank Zappa, Chicago and George Harrison. And that's saying nothing of the fact that he further obscured the release, called Colorbl nd, by making sure there were no words or images on its packaging, just colors. Even more interestingly, he marketed Rachel Bazooka's debut by claiming that the band's music was the debut of "The Dallas Sound."
He has a point: Dallas has had some distinct movements that have shaped its past—the blues of Deep Ellum in the '20s, the country music of the '40s and '50s, the alternative rock 'n' roll movements of the '80s and '90s and, perhaps, the rise of the local hip-hop scene these days—but none of these have been massive enough to give the local music scene a singular identity to call its own.
Burnett is aware of this. And whether Rachel Bazooka's bluesy take on rock is indicative of the "Dallas sound," turns out, isn't all that important. What's important is that he tried to find that sound—and, when he couldn't, he decided to define it himself.
"If you can't be the best at something," he says with a smile, "be the first at something."
Coupled with his other efforts, ideas like this might qualify Burnett as Dallas music's greatest provocateur. Beyond his museum and his band, he also currently runs a micro record store housed in East Dallas thrift store Dolly Python—a record store, he's proud to report, that made a profit last year. And, along with the opening of the Eight-Track Museum, Burnett has launched a new eight-track-exclusive record label—one which will debut its first two releases at the museum's grand opening. Called Cloud 8, the label is no slouch: Burnett has signed two acts to the label, local folk favorite The O's and '80s Talking Heads offshoot the Tom Tom Club. To go with the more traditional CD and vinyl releases of their new efforts, which will be released through other entities, both acts will release limited runs of eight-track versions of their albums through Cloud 8—simple collectibles to some, but entities that will nonetheless function in a working eight-track player.
"I want credit for being the guy in Dallas who's trying to make the scene cooler," he says. "I've got a record store, a record label and a museum. What else do I need to do? I've lost too much money in show business to not get a trophy for it. This is all I care about. And I'm gonna stay in it to win it."
And with eight-tracks, obscure as they may be these days, Burnett thinks he may have finally found a winner in his constant search for the Dallas music scene identity. Sure, there's a certain amusing quality to it all, but Burnett, who was once profiled in a documentary on eight-track obsessives called So Wrong, They're Right, truly believes that eight-tracks could be the foothold on which Dallas music forms its next identity.
"It's at least five percent joke," he says of his support of the eight-track. "I'd hate for it to lose that quality. I can laugh with the people that laugh at me. I get all that. And it's justified. But there's a very serious side to it, too."
For Kathy and Dan Gibson, eight-tracks have provided them a means to a lifestyle. While raising their three daughters in Arlington, the couple was searching for a way to support their family and to give Kathy the chance to work as a stay-at-home mom.
I've still got an 8-track of Burl Ive's "Jimmy Crack Corn ... and I don't care". Wonder what it's worth?
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!!