Blast to the Past with "The Midnight Special" on DVD

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For those of us old enough to remember, there was a time when there were no music videos and there was no MTV (not that MTV plays any videos anymore) and the only way you go to see your favorite performers were to see them in concert.

Ten in 1973 it all changed…on August 19th 1972 the pilot for Midnight Special aired and it was so good!

Finally we got a chance each week to see the hottest musicians perform one or more of their hit songs live…that’s live as in not pre taped and not lip synced.

It meant staying up late to be able to see it considering I was only 12 when the show first started, but because I was very familiar with the music and musicians of those days thanks to my 8 years senior older brother’s extensive record collection I begged and pleaded to stay up each week (until I was old enough to stay up without having to ask for permission) each week to see the performers whose music I was listening to every day.

Jumping ahead many years (okay decades) and those songs and performers have all taken their place in music history and the songs they sung are all staples on classic music radio stations of every genre everywhere.

When the opportunity presented itself to review this 6 disc complication I couldn’t wait to relive my youth…to put the faces to the musician of the songs that to this day I still listen to and hear them not only played but performed…to hear those subtle differences between the record version and live music.

What also made Midnight Special so cool because while it kept up with the times it still featured musicians from every style of popular music for Rock, folk, disco (ugh), R&B to Pop and Heavy Metal.

Often times within the same show, so if you may not have cared for a particular song or style you undoubtedly would find one you did like. Looking back now, there are performers shown here, that I actually enjoyed watching them perform on the DVD that I know I would never have given the time of time way back when…how times have changed and the mighty fallen.

What is also interesting but also pretty scary is the number of performers that are included in just this compilation that are no longer with us…from the performers on the pilot alone included here John Denver (who hosted and performed) Cass Elliot, and Harry Chapin are gone and Linda Ronstadt is suffering from Parkinson’s… to those of later years such as Bon Scott, and Jim Croce…it paints a bleak picture of time that has past and the pitfalls of stardom for some.

Then there are the bonus features and while some of the bonus’ are just extra songs (I don’t get how you can call more songs in a set that is all about songs a bonus but hey whatever) others are interviews today with some of the performers back then…to the likes of Peter Frampton, Alice Cooper, Helen Reddy, Todd Rudgren, Neil Sedaka and that guy from KC and the Sunshine band (shudder)…to say some have not aged gracefully is an understatement…but then again when I think about how old these performers are now, they’re senior citizens! They’re nanas’ and gampas’ for crying out loud!...how can this be?! So many were my music idols…I haven’t aged how could they?...oh wait, I’m an old fart too now…never mind.

Still the interviews are very insightful and while they are chock full of stories about performing on the show the one thing I got from all the interviews was just how special it was for these performers to be on this show!...I mean we are talking 33 to 41 years ago some of these people performed on the show and they still remember vividly the details surrounding the nights they performed on it.

When you stop to consider not only the years that have passed but the thousands of shows in countless countries and cities they have performed and they remember being on the Midnight Special!...how awesome is that!?

The set does not go chronologically in order but skips about years and that okay each episode starts with the opening title so you know what date the performances are from. While this is nice it gets very redundant after 3 or 4 songs to have to sit through the opening and closing credits each time…it is very tedious especially after 6 discs but not enough to ruin the watching of the performances but really unnecessary in my opinion.

From the first song on the first DVD it was pure magic to see these performances…while some were a little grainy and the camera angles not so fluid for the most part the pictures and sound are very good.

You can’t put a price tag on the history of the performances in this set…I would dare say it is archival in nature, for where are you going to see such a varied array of performances by the founding fathers and mothers of so many genres of music. They are all here and too numerous to name in this short space without leaving some out and that would be insulting to their legacy…Just think who would you think would be in this set performing a particular song from that time and it’s a good bet they are here…you won’t be disappointed.

Music wouldn’t be music today if it weren’t for the performers you’ll see and hear in this set…all the more important because so many of them are gone now…How sad it is that there are adults out there today that have never heard Wolfman Jack’s (the beloved emcee for many years of the show)gravelly voice! Well they can finally see and hear the legend that is the man “Aooooooooowww”

If you pinned me down and tickled me silly to tell you which of all of these performance I would say was my favorite…I would have to say (and it would be a close race between so many) AC/DC with Bon Scott…Still my favorite frontman for the band and also Just because I’m an old head-banger from way back.

This is a set to show your children…perhaps even your grandchildren…I guarantee they’ve heard some of the songs before either in your house, on your radio, in a store, in an elevator, even in a commercial and now they can see the people that wrote and sang them and that it isn’t music that comes in a can or a “file”…Groovy!

Grade: 
5.0 / 5.0