A Small Tribute on February 17

“Нет тех, кто не стоит любви.” – Александр Башлачёв

Alexander BashlachevHe is twenty years older than I. So I should really call him nothing other than Alexander Nikolaevich. And yet he is already younger than I. Which is the way he will stay forever. So he cannot be anything other than Sasha, San’ka, and sometimes – SashBash. Because there is familiarity in death that extends beyond any familiarity most of us will achieve in life. It’s not unlike the closeness of hikers who meet on a mountain trail – one heading up, another heading down. Joined by a rising peak, synchronized in step and purpose, they would not even think of using a patronymic. They share a road. We share a flight.

And I don’t mean the flight down those eight floors on February 17, 1988. That’s something no one will ever share with him, no matter how much those who remember continue to mourn it. I mean the flight upwards. It’s the effect his songs have had on me for years; I don’t foresee it changing anytime soon.

When I decided to give Alexander Bashlachev a sizeable role in my Master’s thesis on rock music in the USSR, I was half-expecting my supervisor, Prof. Andrei Zorin, to object. He didn’t. (His innate respect for the student is just one of the many reasons why working with him at Oxford was such a treat.)

And so I listed SashBash where he belongs – among the greatest rock-bards of the Soviet Union. A genuine Homo Cantans.

He used a rare, twelve-string guitar technique. And he allowed nothing but his bare fingers to strike the metal strings. So he quickly became known for covering his guitar in blood during concerts. It started with a few wayward drops flying from the strings. As the songs continued, the drops multiplied and formed streams that began to roll down his guitar — while he entered a state which left him unaware of it all — such are the descriptions we have from contemporaries.

Тесто, though not his best-known song by any means, contains one of the few Answers I’ve been able to find so far, even though I’m still formulating the question. And, in a childish way, I wish he could know that. But perhaps he wouldn’t be all too pleased about it. After all, he sang of hoping to see the time when his songs are no longer needed:



… which won’t be anytime soon.

Спи спокойно, поэт.



Recorded 1.5 years before February 1988.
Квартирник у БГ: “От Винта”



February 17, 2013:

It’s time of the handbells again (время колокольчиков). Those who know and love Bashlachev are remembering twenty five years without him.

… In this piece of a longer documentary about the best Russian rock group active today, the legendary DDT and its leader Shevchuk (called the Russian Bruce Springsteen by the The New York Times), some rare footage of Bashlachev can be seen, including his funeral. Don’t be surprised to spot Tsoi in the black-and-white insert around 3:15, together with Afrika, the star of “Assa”.

A story about his impact on a fellow young rock musician, Yanka Dyagileva – here.



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