Backyard Rocker

Losang Gyatso


So I’m putzing around in the backyard with my second coffee of the morning, going through some chores in my mind that I decide to put off for another day when the phone starts ringing. As I reach into my pocket for the phone, I feel a sense of the ridiculous at the thought that I’m being contacted in Virginia… like Captain Kirk on another planet on his Communicator. I press, ‘Accept’ and listen, hoping that it’s not another Tibetan who says, “Who’s this,” even though he’s the one calling me.

A raspy voice comes on and says, “Hey Gyatso, it’s Mick….with the Stones.” Oh great…this is new…either it’s a crank call, or a sales pitch for some vinyl collector’s edition of Stones albums or some such scam. So I say, “Thanks for the call Mick but there’s no Gyatso here. This is the captain of the Enterprise, over and out!” I wait to hear a response, either from a confused crank caller, or to see how fast the sales caller is on his feet. But all I hear is, “Come on man, this really is Mick, I need a favor. Kutchi kutchi.” What the fuck, it is Mick, he’d once asked me for the Tibetan word for, ‘please’, because he wanted to sing the line, ‘Please baby please’ in Tibetan for some reason I can’t remember now. He finally gave up because, ‘Kutchi’ had two syllables and I couldn’t think of a suitable equivalent for, ‘baby.’ So I say, “Mick, what happened to your voice, you sound like shit.” “I know I know man, and that’s why I need your help, can you help us out?” he says, sounding more and more like himself the more he talked. I said that I’m happy to help, if I can that is, and asked him what he wanted. “Great, great”, he goes, and continues, “we’re up in Pittsburgh at the moment…can you get up here by any chance….like this afternoon?”

WTF as they say! “Mick, that’s a five-hour drive from where I am. There are Tibetans in Switzerland who’ve never driven three hours in their lives because they think they’ll fall off the edge of the world!” Mick starts cracking up and I hear him repeating my comment, and then some guys laughing in the background. And then he gets all serious and says, “Look Gyatso, my voice is really fucked up and there’s no way I can do tonight’s show…it would mean a lot to me and the lads if you could fill in for me, can you do that man.” I look around my backyard for cameras, thinking that I’m being punked with some sort of candid camera bullshit. Seeing nothing, and with no one leaping out of the bushes, I say, “That’s a good one Mick, very funny, you can stop doing that raspy thing with your voice now before you really do fuck up your voice. If you’re really in Pittsburgh, drive south five hours after the show for some momos and drinks.”

Next thing I know, I’m listening to someone taking a deep drag of something and then saying, “Hey Gyatso, it’s ‘Keif,’ don’t worry about a thing, we’ll play so fucking loud, people won’t hear you fucking up the songs, it’ll be a laugh.” Sensing that they were actually serious, I blurt out, “why not cancel the show?” Mick gets back on and says, “Thought of that, mate, we offered to refund the tickets, but our manager tells the concert people to text every ticket buyer the question; A, I want a refund if Mick’s not on stage. B, I’ve been in lockdown long enough, I want to come party even if Tom Jones fills in for Mick. And guess what, every single one of them chose B. So you’ll be doing the fans a favor if you see what I mean. So come on up, do the show, and Bob’s your uncle.”

And so there I am, at the end of a medley of Stones songs, singing, ‘Phayul Ki Tsa Ngonpo Ngonpo’, a Tibetan cover of ‘The green green grass of home.’



Losang Gyatso was born in Lhasa but has lived in the UK and the US since 1963. He started making art in the early 1990s while working as an advertising art director in New York City. Initially a process of reconciling his own identity and aesthetics, his work evolved over time from explorations of Tibetan petroglyphs, mythology, and Buddhist ideas, toward a more universal, abstract, and playful way of seeing the world that is perhaps both sensual and spiritual. His current project titled, Happiness, is a series of paintings that look at the ideas of change and interconnectedness and can be followed on Instagram Gyatso is the author of the Immolation of Sister Choetso and Restoring Hope for the Future of Tibet.