Chris Butler, original gangsta
Weekly Reader / For pop culture junkies, nothing moves the spirit like a good list. It doesn’t matter what the list is about–the top 10 television shows featuring talking cars, animals and/or home appliances, the 25 most god-awful made-for-TV-movies staring former Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place alums, the 666 worst songs ever written in which the songwriter compares the cramp he gets in his hand signing autographs to the pain felt by Jesus Christ when he was hung on the cross (I’m talking to you Scott Stapp)–as long as it provides readers with something trivial to argue about. If voices are raised, glasses are broken and punches are thrown, so be it. After all, what’s a good discussion about a completely meaningless list without a bloody nose or two?
Which brings us to Honolulu magazine’s 50 greatest Hawai’i songs. It’s a fun read for all kama’aina and an informative source of info for the Island newbie. The list features pretty much all of the big songs one expects–‘Aloha ‘Oe,’ ‘Honolulu City Lights,’ ‘Blue Hawai’i,’ ‘Tiny Bubbles.’
However, one song was noticeably absent. And in the humble opinion of this scribe–or as MidWeek columnist Bob Jones says, ‘an alleged journalist on the fringe’–the tune is a real gem. The song in question? ‘Dear Fanatic, Take It Easy.’ The singer? Chris Bulter, a.k.a. Jagad Guru Siddhaswarupananda Paramahamsa, the founder of the Hawai’i-based Hare Krishna offshoot Science of Identity Foundation.
Yes, you may know Butler better as the oft-rumored guru of former state Sen. Rick Reed and current state Sen. Mike Gabbard. You may have also heard whispers that Jagad Guru is somehow affiliated with Down to Earth Natural Foods and Lifestyle and a host of other companies. Who cares? What matters is his music.
With his Dylan-by-way-of-Arlo Guthrie inspired ‘Dear Fanatic, Take It Easy,’ Butler more than proves himself to be capable songwriter. Now whether or not ‘Dear Fanatic’ appeals to you will depend largely on your own particular taste for songs describing senseless beatings and untimely deaths.
In this twisted tale, Butler gives a kung-fu ass-kicking to a toad-like preacher man with a ‘Colgate toothpaste smile,’ and he shows a callous disregard for a fellow holy man who apparently snaps his neck on the roof of a bus. Further adding to the violent lyrical imagery is a chorus, which repeatedly refers to knives, guns and throat throttling. There’s even a one-time mention of brain eating. ‘Dear Fanatic’ deserves a parental advisory sticker for sure, but dammit if it isn’t catchy.
Now what makes this lost classic allegedly recorded by the guru in the mid-’70s, different from more contemporary classics like N.W.A.’s ‘Boyz-N-The Hood’ or Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg’s ‘Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang, is its whole AM radio, mellow-gold vibe, owed in part to the song’s loosey-goosey, wavy-gravy good-times-at-the-love-in groove and Butler’s own Kermit the Frog-like, ‘It’s Not Easy Being Green’ vocal delivery. If you like songs sung by cute little critters with a hand up their backsides, you’ll love this.
Now, compared to other cult, pardon me, religious leaders moonlighting as musicians, Butler can go head to head with the best. Bulter’s ‘Dear Fanatic’ would wipe the floor with Charles Manson’s Donovan-esqe ditty ‘Look at Your Game Girl’ any day of the week. And most folks would rather hear Jagad Guru’s charming foot-stomper than anything L. Ron Hubbard put out; dabbling in nearly all genres, Hubbard never discovered a signature sound.
Sadly we’ll never know how Bulter’s work compares to whatever classics might have been written by David Koresh, Waco’s own guitar-slinging guru. A hardcore old school metalhead, the Branch Davidians frontman may have had the finger-tapping chops to best Yngwie Malmsteen or Steve Vai, but tragically his recording studio was burnt to the ground before he released any tracks.
Fortunately for us, Butler’s legacy is still around. And you can hear it for yourself at [www.cultofbutler.com], YouTube or any number of sites.
Bow before the master or risk getting a kung-fu kick to the shins.