As an (occasional) late-night TV viewer, nothing annoys me more than when the cable channel I’m watching abandons its regular programming for some god-awful infomercial. You know what I mean if you’ve ever stayed up way past midnight—there are all these 30-minute commercials that attempt (somewhat feebly) to disguise themselves as real TV shows, except all they do is pitch some useless product.

Because of the sheer annoyance factor, I have never ever purchased anything from a late-night infomercial… until very recently. I got sucked into actually watching one of these 30-minute pitches a couple of weeks ago, and by the end of the program, there I was, obedient little sheep, dialing the 1-800 number with my pertinent credit card information. I couldn’t help it. They knew I’d be watching, and then they hit me with the offer I couldn’t refuse.

I am now the proud owner of a 9-disc DVD library of the best performances from the legendary 1970s late night concert program, The Midnight Special. After watching the first DVD, “Million Sellers,” I have absolutely no regrets.

As a young aspiring musician (and late night TV watcher) back in the ‘70s, I was an avid viewer of The Midnight Special.. If you were anybody relatively famous, you played the Special. (Not that there were many other choices for music programming on TV.) And like the good FM radio stations that used to exist back then, there were no stylistic boundaries. Any show could feature performers as diverse as David Bowie, John Denver, Aretha Franklin, and Fleetwood Mac.

Coincidentally, each of those performers can be found on the “Million Sellers” DVD. Roy Orbison kicks things off with a rockin’ “Oh, Pretty Woman,” dressed in a powder blue leisure suit that appeared to be made from inch-thick material. This is another guilty pleasure of having these DVDs—from the audience shots to the performers on stage, seeing again how people dressed in the 1970s. Wow.

There’s Peter Frampton, with all that hair, during the Frampton Comes Alive period, playing “Baby I Love Your Way,” one I especially identified with back then. You see, my first guitar was an inexpensive Epiphone acoustic that played and sounded pretty good. Then, all of a sudden, I see Frampton on The Midnight Special.with… an Epiphone acoustic guitar a lot like mine (except for the fact that his was the more expensive Texan model that Paul McCartney also played). It didn’t matter. Knowing that I played the same guitar as Peter Frampton was a real ego boost for a young musician.

There are quite a few other stellar performances on this first DVD, including a 1972 John Denver and Cass Elliot duet on “Leaving On A Jet Plane,” David Bowie in full Ziggy mode leading us through “Space Oddity,” and LaBelle’s incendiary rendition of “Lady Marmalade” (you’ve got to see the costumes they’re wearing in this one).

Another benefit is that they restored and remastered the old audio and video tracks. Not that there was anything wrong with listening to music programs on a 3” TV speaker (!), but the show never sounded better than it does now.

So, for just a few of my hard-earned dollars, I can go back and relive the days of my musical youth. A small tradeoff, to be sure. Maybe I was wrong about these infomercials after all. If I could just find a knife that could cut through an aluminum beer can and then still slice tomatoes perfectly…

Shameless Self Promotion…
The new John Bartus & Storm Watch CD will be released this coming Friday (June 26) at Dockside Lounge in Marathon, and Saturday, June 27, at Hog Heaven in Islamorada. We’re going to have those two CD release parties, complete with the band, live music, prizes and giveaways—and a whole lot of fun! The CD is called Live at the 2009 Marathon Seafood Festival, and it shows off the talents of this great band—Glenn Faast, Marc Davis, Christian Davis—with whom I am privileged to perform. I hope to see you at one (or both!) of the events!


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