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Searching for (Burt) Sugarman


The Digressions announcements, extra content and musings.

Searching for (Burt) Sugarman



I think it's fair to say that I was an odd child. I viewed everything through the lens of a film or stage production - still do, in fact. And I was kind of scared of being alone - even if people were in the next room - so I would carry on a continuous mental conversation with all the inanimate objects around me. And I had a thing for digging through the office supplies in my dad's old desk drawer. For fun. Just the thought of that kneaded eraser in a Walkers shortbread tin is making me antsy.

I also had this recurring childhood fantasy that one day there would be a little box invented where you could just say whatever you wanted to see and it would play for you on a little screen. Music videos, movies, home videos, whatever. I was just totally in love with the idea that you could capture anything in this world and then replay it infinitely. That probably has something to do with why I sat on a boombox and recorded my farts, only to play them back a million times while cackling with pride.

I was reflecting on that weird little daydream about the Enchanted Video Box the other day and realized that - HOLY CRAP - that thing was invented and it's called YouTube.

Since its inception, YouTube has literally become one of my best friends. Whenever I need a personal recharge I just type in the words "soul train" and my day is instantly 1000% better than it was 5 minutes ago.

Clicking this will be the best decision of your life.

But why is this? Why do I turn first to "The Tube" (that's what I call it - I'm trying to make this catch on, so join in kids!) for these little infusions of joy in my day? Why not read a book? Or watch a classic movie? Or study a new language? Or learn how to draw?

Well, first of all, those search terms would all pull great results on YouTube. And second of all, why would I read a book and have someone else string together tired ideas for me when I can curate my own perfect entertainment-a-thon from the world's largest collection-of-everything-that's-ever-existed?

Here's a great example of an instant YouTube pick-me-up. Take a look-see at REO Speedwagon's 1978 hit "Roll With the Changes". Go ahead. I'll wait.


Feeling good? I figured. Like you could hop on a 1971 Triumph Tiger 650 and leave your small town problems in the dust? Same.

Everything about this song and video is absolute perfection. The performance is taken from Burt Sugarman's long-running late night musical program called The Midnight Special. Take a long, hard look at Kevin Cronin's closeups. Some tv director knew what was up when he was calling the shots on this one. The intensity of those hazel lady-killers, the inexplicably beautiful pillow-wreath of curly brown hair perfectly framing his face, the way his thin lips are constantly kissing the mic like it's some sort of magical rock and roll ice cream cone he must gently sup upon to continue to emanate the musical genius pouring from his maw - it's all a flawless recipe for feelgoodism.

You know - it's the opposite feeling you get from listening to Mumford and Sons.

Not afraid to be self-referential.

And without The Tube where would I ever have seen this time capsule of a performance? How else could I have learned that my cultural tastes point to the fact that I was supposed to be born in 1957? In what other arena could I guiltily and inexplicably watch 30 straight minutes of live Bee Gees performances?

Like it or not, I don't think YouTube is going anywhere. And as our computers become more and more a part of our bodies - so will YouTube. Which actually makes me feel better about my co-dependency, oddly enough. So the next time you need a little kickstart to your day, pull up The Tube and type in a phrase - I suggest "Stevie Nicks", "Queen Live Aid", or "The Digressions" - and enjoy the comforting caress of an old friend who just so happens to know everyone and everything.