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The Midnight Special was more than routines from what turned out to be
the best comics of the 20th Century..but a gateway into the pop/rock
and R&B of the music of that time. The tours, the
musicians/groups/bands/singers - somewhat live and to me as a
child..one of the most exciting things I stayed up for.
The Midnight Special was pop culture of that time and I must say what did the Midnight Special in - the onset of MTV and the weening of the MTV generation.
This was it. The place to have seen all of the pop culture icons and the musicians/groups/singers/bands, etc. of the time. Late night, very much fun for me - as I was a big consumer and fan - and having something to talk about in elementary school that next week.
I loved Wolfman Jack - for at that time "Happy Days" and the film "American Graffiti" were in -- and as a child I felt just like George Lucas as he was placing the songs in "America Graffiti" - the Midnight Special is my generations "American Graffiti".
And then there was Ms. Helen Reddy as a host - also popular for her time and the women's movement and she had a lot of women in music to spotlight during her time. these were exciting times for music and comedians.
The Midnight Special is what the "Beyonce's" and the "Jessica Simposons" and the "Britney Spears" et al. cookie cutter marketing machines should study -- and study wisely. None of them can light a match to ANY of the performances here for many were performances and not just marketing and corporate money making tools.
This is NOT to put down any of the aforementioned entertainers -- but with shows such as the Midnight Special, you come to understand the difference between "entertainers" and "performers" with out the fast cuts, tricky camera work, editing and $1,000,000 worth of "bling-bling" marketing props to cover up many of these folks who really can't hold a tune. (If you can tear yourself away from the film and really...listen...)
Don't get me wrong - there were the pyrotechnics for some, screens for others and oh, those outfits for many bands as you go through the years!...But way before the "greed is good" mentality took over music, film, comedians, et al.
20th Century Pop Culture at its best. At least that is from the memory of this child who watched. I hope they do begin to DVD several of these shows, they are gems...and history.
It's not really fair just reviewing the Andy Kaufman episode just because it's the only one ever released on video. The show was much more than an Andy Kaufman episode. It showcased the best that the music world had to offer in the 1970s and it's archives house some of the best performances of all time. It's really a shame that the owner, Paul Brownstein, does nothing with the tapes but just sell "clips" to corporations that sell disco albums on TV at hundreds of bucks a clip. Too bad the real fans won't ever be able to see the show again like it was presented. The same thing has happened to Don Kirshner's Rock Concert. It's only offered as "clips". I'm glad I have my own library of original tapings of the shows to watch over and over.
With the recent retirement of Casey Kasem from his countdown shows, I've been listening to reruns of his '70s radio shows which has led me to watch many live performances of many of the Top 40 hits during that time as performed on "The Midnight Special" which has clips all over YouTube. Of the many acts I saw there that I loved: The Four Tops-"Ain't No Woman Like the One I Got", Minnie Riperton-"Loving You", Wild Cherry-"Play That Funky Music", Dolly Parton-"I Will Always Love You", Todd Rundgren-"Hello, It's Me" (Dig those eyebrows he wears there!), Golden Earrings-"Radar Love", Jim Croce-"Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown" (R.I.P), America-"Sister Golden Hair", Christopher Cross-"Sailing", Dave Mason-"We Just Disagree", Badfinger-"No Matter What", and Olivia Newton-John-"Magic" (I actually saw this performance when she hosted the show in 1980 and, boy, did I truly discover puberty at age 12 watching that!). Like I said, those were mainly live performances though I suspect that of Newton-John's and another of ABBA's "Dancing Queen" were actually lip-synced since their performances sounded exactly like the recordings. No matter since all the ones I cited were great and brought back such memories of listening to AM radio as a kid and enjoying just about everything that came out then. So on that note, I thank YouTube for providing such a site where I can relive the '70s once more!
In September 1973 I had just returned from two years in Indonesia as a missionary for the LDS Church. The first week end I was back in the US I went out to a movie, and when I came home I flipped on the TV. It was the Midnight Special, a program that had started in my absence. I was familiar with the host Wolfman Jack from his days on radio station XERB. Not so with the first act of the evening. Out comes David Bowie, whom I had never seen, and while attired in a dress he started singing the song with the lyrics "something tells me she the devil's daughter". All the while he started shedding the dress. After two years of an intense "non-worldly" existence as a missionary, it was startling. "My, things must have changed in my absence!"
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I really looked forward to Fridays after Johnny Carson to watch The Midnight Special.There were always great music & comedy acts.The first three years were the best.There was a different host every week,with great music,comedy,& no boring chit chat.Then Burt Sugarman pulled a big boner by bringing in a permanent host,(I liked the idea of rotating hosts).Of all the people he could have gotten,it had to be one of the most obnoxious,least talented of the era,Helen Reddy.That was it for me.I rarely watched anymore after that.I could not stand that droning nasal "singing" of hers,or her far left political leanings.Evidently there were others who felt the same,Reddy was dropped after about a year,but the show never seemed as good or was as popular as before,it went off after two more seasons.
The only episode I've seen of this is the Andy Kaufman episode which aired
January 23, 1981, and which is out on DVD (Sony Music). This review thus
reflects that episode and not the series as a whole.
There are two aspects to this special: a stage show with the usual Andy Kaufman antics (including the use of Tony Clifton) and behind the scenes material.
It's hard to know how seriously to take the behind the scenes material, as Kaufman is pretty poker-faced when he's playing a prank, and as it refers to Kaufman's wrestling career which (in terms of his feud with Jerry Lawyer) has been confirmed to be an elaborate hoax. Of course that makes the material more edgy because you don't know to what extent you're getting into the mind of one of the most fascinating entertainers ever and to what extent he's pulling your leg.
The stage material is pretty typical for Kaufman, which still means it's a lot of fun and offbeat.
The episode is a worthwhile addition to the collection of any fan of the performer.
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