​ Take it Easy on the 8 Track

Glenn Frey passed away yesterday.  It feels like the regularity with which people from my younger days are leaving this earth is accelerating.  I suppose I am at that station in life.  Of course I did not know Glenn Frey, but indirectly he was a steady companion to me during my high school and college years.

The music of my high school years was a discord of many styles, some leaving and some arriving. In the beginning,  The Doors, Bread, Three Dog Night, Carole King,and James Taylor were constants on the radio.  In the end, The Bee Gees were surrendering to Earth Wind, and Fire and Kool and the Gang.  In the middle it was the original and classic sounds of Elton John, Aerosmith, and the Doobie Brothers.  It was Led Zeppelin with Stairway to Heaven.  It was Kiss with rock and Roll All Night.  It was Boston with More Than a Feeling.  It was Lynyrd Skynyrd with Free Bird.  AND it was The Eagles with Take it Easy, Desperado, Lyin’ Eyes, and of course Hotel California.

I bought my first stereo system when I was a freshman in high school.  It was a pretty sweet system with a Pioneer amplifier and separate tuner.  It also included a Technics turntable and eventually a Sony cassette deck.  That stereo system accomplished a couple of things:  1st of all it nearly drove my Dad completely crazy due to the sonic sunami pulsating from my bedroom which was on the far side of the house.  Not far enough apparently...  I just barely salvaged his sanity by buying a pair of headphones.  No question it was in the nick of time as the Kiss Alive album had just entered my rotation.  The 2nd thing it accomplished was to permanently imprint the soundtrack of my high school years onto my consciousness.

When I started high school, the 8-Track tape player was the mobile audio technology of the day.  It was really the only way to play a music album in a car.  Then… along came the audio cassette recorder.  There were some really awesome features with regard to cassette tapes:  They were much smaller than 8-track tapes so portability and storage were both greatly enhanced.  But the absolute killer feature for me was that HIFI cassette machines allowed for recording a tape straight from an audio source such as a vinyl record.  This was the real birth of the "Mix Tape", which was the 70's version of an iTunes playlist. I made mix tap after mix tape.  However, the one album that I recorded straight off the vinyl with no changes or omissions was The Eagles Greatest Hits.  Album perfection...

The Eagles Greatest Hits record compiled favorites from the 1st four Eagles albums and was released in February of my sophomore year. From Take it Easy to The Best of my Love, it was ten songs that represented the best of the southern California sound of the early 70's.  Ten months later I was a junior and Hotel California was released. It was official:  The Eagles were the backdrop to the years that I learned to drive a car, made the varsity football team, went to the prom, and ultimately graduated from high school.  Many other things as well, but those should and will remain on this side of the keyboard...

For reasons unknown and certainly not predicted, my Dad decided that I should have a car of my own the summer after I graduated from high school.  The word must have been leaked to my sister and brother in law who lived in Kentucky.  Without warning, it was announced that we should drive to Kentucky on one early-summer Saturday morning.  During the trip down I discovered that my bother in law was convinced he had struck gold with a car find.  What we found on the other end of that long drive was a 1973 Pontiac LeMans.  The one I stared at in the small used car lot was silver with bucket seats and a console shifter.  The console had fake wood grain trim and a cool hidden compartment.  In the dash was a stereo radio, and to my whimsy an 8-track player.  Inside the tape player was "The Eagles Greatest Hits".  SOLD...  $1500 (paid by Dad) later I was runnin' down the road, tryin' to loosen my load in the Grey Ghost which was to be my partner in crime for the duration of my college years.  I always had the right music on board thanks to the only 8-track cartridge I ever owned.

Five years later I was a college graduate with an engineering degree. (That's right, I did mean five. I have always been more of an endurance athlete opposed to a sprinter.)  Anyway, in 1983 I found myself with a new job and a new apartment.  I promptly moved my Pioneer stereo system into the apartment but needed a television.  My Dad had given me the pink slip on the Grey Ghost as a graduation present, but I now had enough cash flow to buy a new car.  So I negotiated a deal on a new red Camaro Z28, and put "the ghost" up for sale so that I could buy a TV.  My good buddy Curtis bought "the ghost' from me for $400.  Televisions were expensive in those days but $400 was enough to buy a 19 inch floor display Philips model.  That TV worked great until I gave it away in 2006.  I am betting that it still works great today.  I paid Curtis a visit shortly after he purchased "the ghost".  He and his Dad Frank were busy catching up on the all of the delinquent maintenance that I had overlooked with the end of college serving as a serious distraction to those kinds of investments.  In short order they had it back in good form, complete with The Eagles Greatest Hits still in the 8-track player.

Two years later I had switched jobs and was living in Champaign, Illinois.  Curtis was well into his college degree at Indiana State, living in Terre Haute, Indiana.  We would occasionally plan weekend trips to either destination.  On one such trip I traveled to Terre Haute and went to a party at Curt's fraternity house.  The timing had turned out to be oracular as Curtis had put 'the ghost' up for sale and a prospective buyer was coming over the morning after the party.  I hung around and stood in the parking lot as a young teenager and his dad purchased the Lemans for $150.  The deal included the tape that was still in the 8-track player:  The Eagles Greatest Hits.

As I watched the Grey Ghost pull away and out of sight, many thoughts came to me.  First I thought to myself with a half-smile, "boy if that car could talk".  Then I thought about life and somehow I knew things were on a new periphery.  Two years later I would be married and have a mortgage and shortly after that, kids and so on...  Life has turned out unbelievably good and adventurous.  For that, I am grateful.  But thanks to Glenn Frey and The Eagles, if I ever want to be immediately transported back in time all I have to do is slip in my 8-track...  I mean select The Eagles Greatest Hits on my iPhone.

RIP Glenn Frey.  Take it Easy.

Martin /Pick Light Painting by Steve Leath