Friday, February 27, 2015

Just Press Play: Celebrating 10 Years of YouTube with 10 Reasons I'm Glad It Exists

A couple weeks ago, on Valentine's Day in fact, I noticed a tidbit informing me that it was the 10th anniversary of YouTube.

The video-sharing website, which accounts for approx. 14% of all internet traffic--second only to Netflix, which hordes 35% of web usage--was publicly hatched on February 14, 2005.

Though I often find myself dubious about how it skirts copyright law, I can't deny that I am a frequent YouTube user.

Though I'm guessing that watching a video or two a day--almost always music-related, never cat videos or much else--hardly qualifies me as a frequent user compared to many.

Still, I'm glad YouTube exists, and feel that it has enhanced my life over the past decade by enabling me to see some rather unique and/or special performances.

So although I'm a couple weeks late of the actual 10th anniversary, I thought I'd celebrate by compiling 10 of my Favorite YouTube videos.

Though, because in reality my 10 favorites could really just be clips of Bruce Springsteen in concert, I've purposely tried to make this compilation a bit more varied, and reflective of what I like most about YouTube. 

The following 10 videos are in no particular order.

- Johnny Cash - "Hurt" - Perhaps the best music video ever made--directed by Mark Romanek--of one of the best cover versions ever. Created not long before Cash's death in September 2003, I'm glad it's something that I can always find, as with almost any other official music video I fondly remember or perhaps have never before seen.

- U2 - "North and South of the River" - A rather terrific U2 song that I don't believe has ever been officially released, and supposedly performed live just once, as captured in this clip. I like YouTube best for finding clips of songs I couldn't have found anywhere else.

- Midnight Oil - "Beds Are Burning" from 2009 - Australia's Midnight Oil was one of my favorite bands, long after their peak of popularity, and I saw them live 3 times in 2001-02. But they broke up after that, and I never knew they had reunited for some Australian shows in 2009 until I stumbled on some videos on YouTube.

- John Coltrane - "Giant Steps" Animated Sheet Music - I love the music of the late, legendary jazz saxophonist John Coltrane, but lack the ability to explain why it is considered so groundbreaking. Perhaps to someone knowledgeable in music theory, this video might help, but really I just think it's cool. 

- The Beatles - "Please Please Me" at first U.S. Concert - Washington, DC, Feb. 11, 1964. If you look hard enough, you can probably find the full concert, which wasn't that long.

- Gale Sayers Highlights - Being a Chicagoan in my mid-40s, I've had the pleasure of watching Michael Jordan and Walter Payton, among others, in their prime. But I've long been fascinated by Sayers, "The Kansas Comet," whose brilliant but all-too-brief Bears career was before my time. I similarly enjoy highlight videos of (non-Chicago) legends like basketball's "Pistol" Pete Maravich and soccer's aptly named George Best

- "I Shook Up the World" - Despite being able to find entire fights of his--or just the amazing 8th Round vs. George Foreman--I would say that this :27 clip is my favorite Muhammad Ali video on YouTube. Except that he was still Cassius Clay at the time.

- Luna plays "Voodoo Chile" on Gayageum - One of my favorite types of YouTube videos are those that showcase people playing great songs in unique ways. Here a young Asian woman plays my favorite Jimi Hendrix song on an instrument I didn't even know existed. Similar favorites include the Louisville Leopard Percussionists (a group of kids) playing Led Zeppelin songs, the ShowHawk Duo doing a super-cool take on Daft Punk's "Get Lucky," the 2Cellos rocking out on Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and a guy named Obadiah Parker performing a fine acoustic cover of Outkast's "Hey Ya."

- Pearl Jam - "Let My Love Open the Door" at Soldier Field, 1995 - I've been to over 600 concerts in my life, including 16 by Pearl Jam. But some of those that have stayed with me the longest are ones I didn't attend. Like when Pearl Jam played Soldier Field on the vastly-abbreviated 1995 tour (due to their battle with Ticketmaster). I opted to see them in Milwaukee instead, but am sorry I missed this cover of a Pete Townshend classic. And happy to have found it on YouTube. 

- Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band w/ Neil Young - "All Along the Watchtower" in St. Paul, 2004 - I easily could post another 50 concert clips that I think are pretty special, including a really masterful "Fake Plastic Trees" from Radiohead, a personal favorite called "Buck Rogers" from a band called Feeder, a clip of Pearl Jam and U2 playing together, full LiveAid sets from Queen and U2, rare live gems from Warren Zevon and The Smiths, a just stupendous nearly 14-minute take on "Low Spark of High Heeled Boys" by Traffic and, of course, dozens of other superlative clips by Bruce Springsteen, who I consider the best live act of all-time. (Heck, I can now find full concerts of many favorites on YouTube.)

But the video I picked to round out is pretty special on many levels. On 2004's multi-artist Vote for Change Tour--on which I saw Springsteen + R.E.M. in Detroit and Pearl Jam in Toledo, where Neil Young guested--Springsteen & the E Street Band were joined onstage in St. Paul by Young. The combination of Springsteen and Young doing a blistering version of a Bob Dylan song famously reinterpreted by Jimi Hendrix doesn't just make for my favorite YouTube video, but largely distills the meaning of my life down to a monumental 7-1/2 minutes.   

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