Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Deno Diary: "Basketball Jones"

Am I crazy to think that Cheech and Chong's Basketball Jones is one of the great underrated songs of the late 20th century? I've got a jones for lines like "That basketball was like...a basketball to me." It's sung by Cheech's youthful alter ego, Tyrone Shoelaces, and is a spoof of the song Love Jones, by Brighter Side Of Darkness. My guess is more people know the satire than its inspiration. My favorite part? When it namechecks Chris Schenkel ("Bill Russell, sing along with us. Chick Hearn, sing along with us. Chris Schenkel...Don't say nothing!"). When was the last time you thought of broadcaster Chris Schenkel? Of course, it's got a groove that gets in your head and won't leave. Maybe that's because the opening guitar riff was played by none other than George Harrison. Other superstars recruited for the session included Carole King, Darlene Love, Billy Preston and Michelle Phillips. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times last year, it was dreamed up during a wild ride by Cheech and Chong to a Lakers game with Jack Nicholson at the wheel. Shades of Easy Rider, eh? The article says it's the highest-charting sports song in rock (No. 15 in 1973), other than surfing songs. It's gotta be that rollicking groove (courtesy of the original song), Cheech's false falsetto and those crazy turns of phrase: "I even put that basketball underneath my pillow. Maybe that's why I can't sleep at night." "I need someone to set a pick for me at the free throw line of life. Someone I can pass to. Someone to hit the open man on the give-and-go and not end up in the popcorn machine.” Basketball Jones: Demented genius. Listen again and you'll get a jones for it, too:


Dennis Cozzalio said...

Deno: I do love the "Basketball Jones." And I remember as a kid back in around 1974 or so seeing a short film using the Cheech and Chong track put to some animation-- it played as a short before Blazing Saddles or some such movie. Do you remember this?

Holy YouTube, here it is!

And I also love "Earache, My Eye"--My mama talk-a to me/Try to tell me how to live/But I don'tt listen to her/'Cause my head is like a sieve...

Deno Lao said...

Thanks, Dennis. You do know it's me, right, not Deno?