Street musicians

These guys were a scrappy bunch, they barely made the playoffs as the 8-seed in the eastern conference, and they went on to the finals in the only such occurrence for the league to-date.

The ’98-’99 season started four months late, in February ’99, and was shortened – 50 games out of the usual 82 – with several back-to-back-to-backs on the schedule just to fit those 50 into the allotted time. The labor dispute that led to the delay, a player lockout in which our city’s franchise player was the union head, kept said Big Fella busy and distracted in what would have been pre-season. He – already past his prime, running on fumes, and hurting everywhere – was joined that season by his polar opposite, a quick improvisational firecracker coming off a season-long suspension (don’t ask), which made that year’s team an experimental hodgepodge of chemistry and style. What a season.

The new arrival played the same position as the incumbent smooth-as-silk sharpshooter, and was thus relegated to the bench for quite a while. The other notable big name, one Grandmama, played with a sore back and had lost his signature explosiveness for years. The two point guards were maybe one good role player if combined. The tall athletic up-and-coming forward bounced around and swatted balls like flies around the court, and sometimes even scored. There was a slow and grinding starting unit and a fast uptempo second; it was such a mess.

The coach who kept it all together had sort of made his mark the year before, latching on to the opponent center’s ankle and the hardwood floor in what was at the time the traditional annual skirmish with the conference rival.

So anyway, this was the freakish team that barely made the playoffs in that freakish season, coming off a winning final stretch in which somehow there came to be chemistry, like a miracle, and the 8-seed beat the 1 and 4 and 2, in that order, to get to the championship round.

By that point though, the Big Fella was out for the count, Grandmama could barely walk, and the rest of them could only do so much against what was the start of a major franchise on its long historic run, only recently ended.

No matter. The moment was an inspiration for all involved.

[Play this with the volume on.]

After the game the crowd spilled out into the New York City streets, chanting and energized, glorious, inspired, the grown-ups and the kids, everybody and in all directions from the Garden. Because these guys who we all saw coming together in those few months of concentrated action, were more than entertainers, more than athletes, as a whole. These guys really meant it.

It was a nice gift in our isolation for the MSG Network to rerun these highlights yesterday.

Here’s to the street musicians, everywhere.

Before and after the hiatus

In October 1974 the dance band played a series of shows at the legendary Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, where some four years later it would also play the show to mark the venue’s closing. The 1974 performances, captured in footage that would become an eventual documentary release directed by the lead musician, were a final chapter for the band before its long hiatus. The 5-show run also coincided with the end of the Wall of Sound, the weight and complexity of which after six months of touring may have contributed to everybody’s need to call a pause.

In short, the noted Winterland performances marked the ends of eras and beginnings of transitions. The dance band returned a couple of years later, with the second drummer back and new songs that would later stand among its classics. Although the pure sound quality of the wall couldn’t be matched, the 1977 shows are considered by many to be the very peak, the band at its tightest and most polished.

“Winterland was eventually razed in 1985 and replaced by apartments.”

Wall of Sound

One of the nicest aspects of this short-lived period is the opening song, the instruments mixed in layer by layer until the sound is just exactly perfect, as a whole, and listeners by then are trained to hear all of the components individually.


It took a lot of work to set things up before the show and take down after, so the idea didn’t make it past year-end and the band’s subsequent long break.

In its full, the Wall of Sound debuted 46 years ago tomorrow, and this is the opening song.

It’s best to hear it with headphones if available, and relatively loud. Out of respect.

Last specimens

The author László Krasznahorkai wrote a story called “The Last Wolf” in one continuous sentence.

The story is about the extinction of last specimens – but like all good stories, this one is about many things…

… and the effect of a linear narrative containing dialogue and digressions and returns to the main thread and character and nuance and emotion and much more…

… all in the course of a run-on sentence that goes on for 70 pages…

… is, among other things, musical.

NY Times interview with the legend

In the timbers of Fennario the wolves are running round…

Time value

For the pleasurable reading of Buffett’s annual letter, always a pleasure to begin with, if you’re into that sort of thing…

… with its regular reminders of the very basics and the lasting fundamentals, even as new lyrics are occasionally added in recognition of the never-ending flow.

You can borrow from the devil, babe, you can borrow from a friend…