Something Good #22: Some of My Favourite YouTube Comments
[Note: The playlist below was designed to be listened to while you read this one. No big deal if not though.]
Some of you may know that from 2012-2015 I ran a blog called Sad YouTube, in which I collected, in my own words, “moments of melancholy, sadness and saudade from the lives of strangers, gleaned from the unfairly maligned ocean of YouTube comments.”
This was an intense and emotional project that often kept me up late into the night, scrolling through ever-deepening comment sections on uploads of old songs, the sounds of which seemed to evoke vivid memories in the random YouTube-browsing masses.
What started as a curious distraction turned into something like an obsession, as I discovered more and more fascinating, heartbreaking stories hidden in the YouTube comment section, which was then, quaintly, the most-derided area of the internet.
They had a strange power over me, as if reading them allowed me to briefly slip back in time and re-live a moment in the life of someone I would never meet. There are images and and stories captured in some of those comments that will always stay with me. Like this, on an old Manhattans song:
I also had the chance to write an article for BuzzFeed where I elucidated some of my theories about YouTube comments, music and memory, and actually managed to track down some of the commenters whose stories had haunted me so much. One, a guy named Mike Mennen, was walking down the street in the early 1960s when he saw a car accident involving a couple of drag racers. As one of the drivers, fatally injured, sat there dying in his car, the otherworldly sounds of The Tornadoes’ “Telstar” up into the summer night.
Mike told me the rest of the story—you can go read it in the BuzzFeed piece I just linked—and using details he gave me, I was able to find out that the bar outside which the cars crashed still existed and could be found on Google Street View, some 70 years later.
Looking back now at the archive of comments I discovered in that relatively short period, I thought it was time to let them a few of them out in the world again, lest they moulder away unloved on Tumblr (a site I halfway expect to close down without notice at any point). Many of the original videos they were posted on have since been taken down, along with, of course, all of their comments.
Here are just a few of my favourite YouTube comments collected between 2012-2015. I’m sure there have been countless more of worth added in the last six years, hidden away in plain sight. These represent a small fraction of what I found, itself an infinitesimally tiny portion of the Library of Babel that is the YouTube comment section.
Many implied deep tragedies and complex, untold stories. On Paul Mauriat’s “Love is Blue:”
Or on the Archies’ “Sugar Sugar:”
Some of them read like little poems. On Patti Page’s “Tennessee Waltz:”
Or, on The Manhattans’ “Gonna Miss You:”
This, posted on Exile’s “Kiss You All Over,” is oceanic in its heartbreak and emotional complexity.
“Time seems to change things…”
Somehow I managed to stumble across an unsolved murder in the comments to Bobby Goldsboro’s “Honey:”
I heard part of this song last week…& I keep thinking about my sister Mae, she was murdered 7 years ago. They still have not made an arrest in her case….but she really liked this song when we were younger… :(
(I tracked down the author of this comment for the CBC radio story I mentioned above, and we played her words to Bobby Goldsboro himself.)
But: it wasn’t all tragedy and loss. Some were crystallized moments of pure joy, trapped forever in the amber of the comment section. I want to leave you with a one that I’ve always think best represented the spirit of what I was trying to do with Sad YouTube, left on Voyage’s disco classic “Souvenir:”
This week’s #nojacketsrequired comes courtesy Peter Miller, and is a nice throwback to issue #12. Keep those unjacketed submissions coming, folks! You can send them to me directly at email@example.com.
Thank you again Rachael Pleet for blessing us with another illustration, which, though inspired by last week’s “The Secret History of Syncretic Software,” is, if anything, even more appropriate for this week.
Sad YouTube may be on indefinite hiatus, but you can always go through the archives at the original site. And hey, if you come across any interesting comments in your travels, please do send them my way. Maybe I’ll feature them in the ‘zletter.
I’m also going to be trying something new here. Need a recommendation—a book, a song, a movie, a meal? Or hey, want some life advice? Write me here (just reply to this email) and I’ll try and sort you out in a future issue. Jokey submissions will be duly acknowledged with a tight grin, but probably not featured.
Every week I’ll send you Something Good. Like it? Tell a friend. That’s all I ask. (Besides the three things I just asked for above.)