Apropos of Nothing: YouTube Bites Back
An Editorial by Jamie Beckett
When I was a young man – and by young man I mean an adult, living on my own, making my own way in the world. When I was a young man I took a different path than most of my peers. While they studied at college, worked the late shift at fast-food restaurants, and sweated out the creation of their first resume – I was playing around. Literally.
Maybe it’s Ed Sullivan’s fault. Every Sunday night he would bring a new, popular band into my living room where I was blessed to watch and listen and envy the glamorous lifestyle of a successful musician. Tommy James and the Shondells, Sly and the Family Stone, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Lovin’ Spoonful, Stevie Wonder, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Band, the Jackson 5, and so many more representations of permanent joy and contentment streamed into my life via the local CBS affiliate.
It was heaven. It was mostly a myth, too.
Like so many other young boys, and by young boys I mean those of us who had not yet reached puberty, I picked up a guitar and proceeded to make my family miserable with the twanging, clanging, and off-key caterwauling coming from the room I shared with my older brother. The pain I inflicted was enough that I was eventually banished to my own bedroom. It wasn’t really a bedroom. It was the tool room at the back of the carport. Unheated as it was and isolated from the rest of the family, I suspect there was a hope that I would one day come to my senses and give up the six-stringed monster and move back indoors with civilized people. There are few who willingly live through a Connecticut winter without heat.
I was one of the few. Such is the life of a wannabe musician.
I mention all this because if you’re over a certain age, you knew someone just like me. Heck, you might even be one of my fellow outcasts. So many of us suffered from the same disease, yet so few made it to Ed Sullivan’s stage. I know I never did. But the dream persisted anyway.
Here’s where the whole trip down memory lane gets weird. There were no computers in my musical youth. Not because we were poor and couldn’t afford them. They just hadn’t become mainstream items you could go buy at the store. Because there were no computers, there was no Internet. And because there was no Internet, there was no YouTube. If we were playing a club and hit a sour note, it died at the back of the room and the beat went on, unharmed. When the singer forgot the words we might grumble or we might laugh, but the incident was a fleeting one. It was quickly forgotten.
Those were wonderful times. But times change. Uh-oh.
Computers have become ubiquitous in the office and in the home. The Internet got so big it’s even streaming to our phones. And YouTube has come along to spoil everything. No longer can old, bald men like me tell stories about the band we were in way-back-when. We can’t embellish the truth with tales of how good we were, how popular we became, or how many fans would flock to see us. YouTube has become the repository of all our worst nightmares. We who braved the stage long ago now find that clunker of a note did not die at the back of the room after all. It was captured on tape and now plays on demand on the Internet for anyone to see – worldwide. Our fondest memories have been rebutted by carefully recorded evidence that proves we were fallible, without full control of our fingertips or vocal chords. Worst of all, the sound of laughter that came from my parents and siblings has now been replaced by the chuckles and taunts of my children.
I wonder if Duke Burr, Carl Chambers, and their fellow 863 musical brethren have suffered this same fate.
Man, let me tell you. It can be tough to live a dream. Ed Sullivan didn’t prepare me for this.
In the 1980s Jamie Beckett wrote, played, sang, recorded, and toured with The Broken Hearts. Their album, “Want One?” is available through iTunes, which didn’t even exist back in the day. Who’d a thunk it?