The Everyday Miracle of Youtube

I will never forget the child-like jubilation my father expressed upon bringing home a fantastical new wonder contraption called a video cassette recorder sometime in the early 1980s. Why wouldn’t he be overjoyed? This incredible machine made it possible to see just about any movie (or so it seemed at the time, I had no idea how little of our film history we hold onto and how much is lost forever somewhere in the recesses of time) at home! If I wanted to see E.T, boom! I just had to go to the video store and rent it. Then I could see it at home. There were even incredible videocassettes made exclusively for the home market, like the “Weird Al” Yankovic video collection/mockumentary The Compleat Al. 

Decades later my dad, who, to be fair, is fairly prone to child-like exuberance, which is one of his more endearing qualities, was similarly excited to the point of joy when I showed him how Youtube worked, and how all he had to do was punch in a few words and he could instantly watch everything from a Rolling Stones TV appearance in 1971 to a Gathering of the Juggalos infomercial (something that would undoubtedly confuse my father, and he's read my books) to a dusty old clip of his son on television. 

Why wouldn’t he be overjoyed this time as well? I am plugged into my iPod, iPhone and laptop to the point where they’re almost part of my body. If I could, I might get them implanted, Videodrome-style. And I am not so jaded that I didn’t similarly gawk in awe at what an incredible repository of pretty much everything Youtube remains. 

I’m writing this because I just taped a Star Trek podcast that is “dropping” today, as the young people say, and to prepare for it, I listened to all five of Leonard Nimoy’s albums, and William Shatner’s The Transformed Man, as well as tracks from lesser-known later works, like the late-period single “Pondering the Mystery”, which is like a spoken-word version of Insane Clown Posse’s “Miracles” but without the innocent, child-like charm. 

To be fair, I’m not sure all of Nimoy’s fifth album made it to Youtube, but all I had to do was type a few words, and boom! Leonard Nimoy is alive again and singing the infamous, inane, infamously inane Lord Of the Rings themed ditto “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins.”

I type in some more words and now Leonard Nimoy is once again reborn, this time in the form of Spock and he is observing some of our more puzzling idiosyncrasies on the novelty ditty, “Highly Illogical.”  

Nimoy’s output is fascinating in its pretension, in its dorkiness, in the way it clumsily but earnestly expresses Nimoy’s philosophical beliefs and personality yet Nimoy’s music career is overshadowed by that of William Shatner. It was on Youtube two nights ago that I first experienced Shatner’s 1968 concept album The Transformed Man for the first time, and, I can say without exaggeration, my mind was blown. It really is less a conventional album than a psychedelic mind-fuck that alternates between Shatner reciting classical verse and “performing” pop songs, most notably “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, which is the sonic equivalent of those scenes in stoner comedies where a square accidentally takes a drug and is instantly transformed into a wild-eyed maniac. But don’t take my word for it. Check it out on Youtube! 

Nearly as legendary is Shatner’s “performance” of “Rocket Man” in 1978. Thanks to the miracle of Youtube, you can totally watch “Rocket Man” lyricist Bernie Taupin introduce Shatner before Shatner does to Taupin’s words what people (and by “people” I mean President Trump) generally pay German or Russian prostitutes an enormous amount of money to do them.

Youtube took the guesswork out of everything. Over the course of a few hours, I went from knowing little about the weird world of Star Trek novelty albums to knowing an awful lot, and it was all due to the enduring miracle of Youtube. 

I suppose this is all an elaborate, wordy way of saying look for the episode of the Phil Donahue show where Peter Criss angrily confronts the homeless man who had been impersonating him for Rando! because why the hell not, but also because this essential piece of pop ephemeral is, of course, available on Youtube, like seemingly everything else in the known universe.

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