I was listening to the radio Thursday when the host teased an upcoming segment on the recently deceased Chuck Barris and I thought “No, you idiot, that was Chuck Berry who just died.” But alas, it turns out that both the Gong Show host/self-proclaimed CIA hitman and the co-inventor of rock’n’roll/ladies restroom video enthusiast departed the Earth this week, within three days of each other.
Both of these men led long and complicated lives full of triumphs and setbacks and a certain amount of just plain weirdness. I wrote about Chuck Berry on the Beatles blog today, but I did not have occasion to mention my very favorite Berry song, “Come On.” Just listen to the way he says “I wish somebody’d come along and run into it and wreck it”:
As for Chuck Barris, I recommend a spin through his Wikipedia page, where you’ll learn that in addition to being a television impresario, author, and “assassin” (the CIA denies it, but then they would), Barris was a musician and songwriter whose credits include Freddy Cannon’s #3 hit “Palisades Park.” Not exactly a lightweight.
Recently I’ve been working on digitizing the aging cassette tapes of my old KZSC Santa Cruz radio shows, circa 1986–7, and it’s gotten me thinking it’s time to revive the old tradition of naming a song of the week. To honor the tradition I’m going to start with a classic from that era.
I first came to know Ashwin Batish when I started going to his shop, Batish Recording Enterprises, to buy blank cassettes. As my cassette needs were considerable in those days, I was a frequent customer, but to my regret I did not get to know him well and it took me a long time to learn what an interesting cat he was. And by the time I did learn my time in Santa Cruz was just about up.
It turned out, though, that Ashwin was not just the guy who sold me tapes by the case; he was a master sitarist from a long line of master sitarists. During my time at KZSC he released an album called Sitar Power where he laid classical Indian melodies over drum machines and electric guitars to create what might be called raga’n’roll. (He himself never called it that, though he did love to give his songs goofy pun names.)
My favorite song from it was one called “New Dehli Vice” on which Ashwin’s fleet fingers fly over the frets, shooting out bursts of cascading notes like sparks from a roaring fire. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve played air sitar to this song over the years; I was doing it again just now.
I find myself reflexively referring to Ashwin in the past tense because my memories of him are from long ago, but I just looked him up the web and he appears to be doing well. He’s on Facebook and Twitter (@sitarpower, naturally) has a website at ashwinbatish.com. He even has a new song called “Sitary Sitary Night.” It’s good to know some things haven’t changed.
Listening to a cassette tape of one of my old radio shows, circa 1987, I ran across this grimly humorous recording of William S. Burroughs from the Giorno Poetry Systems album Better an Old Demon than a New God. It seems chillingly relevant in today’s climate; see if you don’t agree…
I haven’t written much about the Warriors this season because it has been, and continues to be, my officially stated position that the games that matter are those that will be played in April, May, and June. But given the way things have been going lately, it may be time to say a few words.
Until about two weeks ago the Dubs were sailing along, looking set to wrap up the #1 seed in the Western Conference without much effort. New acquisition Kevin Durant was having a remarkably productive and efficient season, and the biggest complaint I was hearing from W’s fans was that it was kind of boring how badly they were beating everybody.
Then, in a road game against Washington, Wizards center Marcin Gortat knocked over Warriors center Zaza Pachulia, who rolled onto Durant’s knee. After holding our breath for 12 hours or so, we learned that Durant had a bruised tibia and was projected to be out for four weeks. This was not so bad; the worry immediately after the injury had been that he might be done for the year.
In the meantime, the Dubs lost that game against Washington, then the next one against Chicago — the first time they’d lost back-to-back games in two years. After bouncing back to beat the Knicks and Hawks, this week they again lost back-to-back games to Boston and, last night, Minnesota. Tonight, they play the San Antonio Spurs in a matchup many of us had circled as one to look forward to. But coach Steve Kerr says he’s going to rest Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala; and with the Spurs missing Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge, this one had gone from marquee matchup to battle of the benches.
When the smoke clears, the Warriors may have lost three games in a row and five of their last seven, and be clinging to a tenuous half-game lead over the Spurs in the standings. This is no time to panic, though. I mean, if you wanted to, you could, but I don’t think it would be a good idea. Every season has its ups and downs; last year the W’s put off the downs until they got to the playoffs, which didn’t end up working out so well.
In fact I think that this is a good time to affirm that, to coin a phrase, We Believe Again. (Welcome home, Matt Barnes.) Steph and Klay will shake off their shooting slump, Draymond and Andre will get this stretch of peculiar behavior out of their systems, KD’s knee will heal up, and all will be well with the world. And when it does I’ll be there to say, politely and with a smile, “I told you so.”