Monday, November 16, 2009

What I love about YouTube

I like YouTube because it has fun videos on it. I enjoy "Charlie the Unicorn bit my finger" or whatever as much as the next person. But that's not why I love YouTube.

I love it because you can read a book that describes a life-changing moment -- watching Patti Smith play "Land" and, especially, cover Hendrix's "Hey Joe" on The Old Grey Whistle Test, a performance that

was brilliant. It was soul stirring, it was magical, it was everything that you ever hoped you'd witness, every time you paid your money and went to see another new group. Chills down the spine, goose pimples on the arm, tears in your eyes. Fuck whatever was on the show tonight, fuck whatever local nonsense the music papers were hyping this week, and fuck the modern literary world's aversion to hyperbolic cliche. Because this was it. This was the future.

You can read that, and then you can find that performance and watch it. You can read something like this:

There had to be some kind of alternative to living in the same run-down housing as your parents grew up in, to working the same dismal job as your grandfather worked, and to eating the same flavorless food every dull, featureless day. But when you turned on the radio, what did you get? The same music you'd been hearing every day for years without end....

Then you heard Patti Smith and you knew there was some alternative, there was some relief. Listening to her was like watching palaces fall and old documents burn, cities collapsing in great clouds of rubble, and an entire way of life being put to the sword. But it was not murder, it was a mercy killing, and, once the dust had settled, they would be rebuilt and replaced, by something new, by something that we created, the youth of the day, the kids on the street.... "Hey Joe" was the demolition crew. We were the builders who would move in once it was finished.

And then you can watch it:

Until YouTube, until 2005, just four years ago, that was impossible. You'd read the book and you'd think, "I wonder what it was like?" and that would be the end of it. But no more. Thanks to YouTube. That's what I love about it.

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