Lester Bangs - Classic or Carburetor Dung?

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I can see that, though as someone else just said, I think the writing itself was really terrific in that one. Maybe the conclusions were banal, but I think the ways he got to them were perceptive.

Matos W.K., Wednesday, 18 April 2007 00:28 (7 years ago) Permalink

I dunno, I like the openended soulsearching of "the white noise supremacists." and the honesty. he doesn't just walk around pointing fingers, he pulls his own bigoted skeletons out of the closet for examination, too.

look, the guy wrote "of pop and pies and fun" at the age of 21. that alone blows my mind.

Edward III, Wednesday, 18 April 2007 02:33 (7 years ago) Permalink

21!

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Part 2

Edward III, Wednesday, 18 April 2007 02:36 (7 years ago) Permalink

I hate myself. Same damn thing last year, this year, on and on till I’m an old fart if I live that long. Shit. Think I’ll rape my wank-fantasy cunt dog-style tonight.

Classic.

ian, Wednesday, 18 April 2007 02:40 (7 years ago) Permalink

I find his style unbearable.

Hurting 2, Wednesday, 18 April 2007 02:41 (7 years ago) Permalink

The whole affected talky thing - it's like reading Thomas Friedman

Hurting 2, Wednesday, 18 April 2007 02:53 (7 years ago) Permalink

you read a message board all day and complain of "the whole affected talky thing"?? mindboggling.

ian, Wednesday, 18 April 2007 02:54 (7 years ago) Permalink

Yeah, zing, I know. But it works fine for a message board, and not as well for essays.

Hurting 2, Wednesday, 18 April 2007 03:28 (7 years ago) Permalink

motherfucker didn't have no message board, you schmuck.

chaki, Wednesday, 18 April 2007 09:25 (7 years ago) Permalink

ian and myonga OTM -- reading bangs reviews of lou reed's TRANSFORMER and RAW POWER by teh stooges in stereo review when I was 15 turned me on to THE PATH and I'll always revere him for that. when carburetor dung was published in the mid 80s I was working at r0llin $toned where I combed the archives and read everything lester wrote for the rag (no wonder I got fired)anyway I was shocked because contrary to the conventional wisdom bangs wrote some of his best stuff there, breathtaking essays like "the carpenters and the creeps" and a stinging indictment of the counterculture in the wake of janis/jimi's deaths along w/runofthemill LP reviews that would just OPEN UP into streams of postbeatnick sartori and wizdom at the drop of a roachclip.

anyway I think his best work remains unanthologized. greil marcus didn't do lester any favors by printing the failed fiction, breakdown-period rants and lonely-guy musings in the second half of that book, put it that way. and I've always thought that anti-racism article was the precise moment when les "jumped the shark" turning into another self-righteous/hypocrite baby-boomer lecturing the young folks.

the second lb anthology was a huge disappointment, which I don't blame on editor john morthland (who's an lowkey genius writer/critic himself)but on the transitory nature of journalism , y'know how it's tied to the time it was written in. so reading about wet willie makes more sense in 1974 than it does now DUH. still the shocking thing about this book is how dated it feels. take the stuff on miles davis' electric funk -- arguably the most prescient influential and rich music of the 70s and gotdamn if lester didn't get it either he just blabs on and on speculating about miles' emotional state or whatever. bummer.

bottom line: I'm forever in his debt but I think lester bangs' memory/legend has been held up for so long that he's become a negative or even destructive influence, like w/pauline kael in film criticism his ghostly & intimidating presence hovers over the next generation of writers effectively scaring them off of finding their own voices and forging a fresh approach. at the end of the day thurston moore was right you've got to KILL YR IDOLS and find out the new goal.

m coleman, Wednesday, 18 April 2007 10:35 (7 years ago) Permalink

bangs on sabbath. so damn perceptive to peg them as moralists.

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I've always thought that anti-racism article was the precise moment when les "jumped the shark" turning into another self-righteous/hypocrite baby-boomer lecturing the young folks.

but that's part of the history isn't it? laughner dies, bangs rejects r. hell's "never grow up" philosophy. it's not like he stumbled blindly into obsolescence, he was making some decisions about the kind of person he wanted to be. he recognized he wasn't gonna stay 21 forever and struggled with it and wrote about it, directly, openly. and I'd rather get lectured by bangs, who was decent enough to be forthcoming about his own foibles, then just about any other rock crit. (btw you're 100% otm about everything else)

it would be great to see the complete works of bangs published.

Edward III, Wednesday, 18 April 2007 14:28 (7 years ago) Permalink

i dont get the complaints about his influence on writers. i'd like to see some examples cited. at least people were biting someone whose style is readable.

m coleman OTM as usual though i've never read any super old rolling stones. i didn't read him until i was 18, HOLY SHIT did i think he was awesome and an equal of Hunter S. Thompson who i had read when i was 15.

artdamages, Wednesday, 18 April 2007 14:33 (7 years ago) Permalink

i dunno, i kind of liked that Lester completely missed the boat on Miles' electric stuff (xpost) -- shows just how way the fuck ahead of its time it was -- not even Lester "I Love Metal Machine Music" Bangs could see it for what it was. He really struggles with it and you can see that he's just on the verge of accepting and loving it (wouldn't be surprised if this happened later on, but he just didn't write about it).

yeah, a complete works would be cool (i'd buy it!) -- I guess I figured that the best stuff was in the two anthologies...but i guess not? What are some of the good unanthologized pieces?

tylerw, Wednesday, 18 April 2007 22:48 (7 years ago) Permalink

He really struggles with it and you can see that he's just on the verge of accepting and loving it (wouldn't be surprised if this happened later on, but he just didn't write about it).

I'm inclined to agree with this. That series of befuddled essays turned me on to electric Miles in the first place ("wtf are these crazy records that are getting to Lester so much?"), and I'd say that if you can get past his value judgements of the fusion stuff, his ideas about the albums still hold up. Miles imagining a less-human future, etc, that shit comes off as kinda prescient to me.

BIG HOOS aka the steendriver, Wednesday, 18 April 2007 23:59 (7 years ago) Permalink

Yeah, I'll also back MC on the Miles stuff; there's some good reading in the Morthland anthology, but those pieces really disappointed me. I do like the long reggae excursion in which he decides Marley is a hippie and prefers Lee Perry because he's a fellow boozehound.

If Timi Yuro would be still alive, most other singers could shut up, Thursday, 19 April 2007 00:01 (7 years ago) Permalink

HOOS, that stuff about a less-human future is one of LB's major tropes; I definitely see what he's getting at, but as someone living in that future with plenty of truly human friends, I think he leans a little too hard on it. I wonder sometimes how much clinical depression figures into that stuff.

If Timi Yuro would be still alive, most other singers could shut up, Thursday, 19 April 2007 00:03 (7 years ago) Permalink

I do wish Lester had lived to write about Flipper. They were working his side of the street in more ways than one.

If Timi Yuro would be still alive, most other singers could shut up, Thursday, 19 April 2007 00:05 (7 years ago) Permalink

Also, good non-anthologized pieces include "Free Jazz Punk Rock" from a 1980 Musician, and a long interview with Brian Eno in the same magazine.

If Timi Yuro would be still alive, most other singers could shut up, Thursday, 19 April 2007 00:06 (7 years ago) Permalink

Cranky manfulness = authentic

Hurting 2, Thursday, 19 April 2007 00:11 (7 years ago) Permalink

?

Tim Ellison, Thursday, 19 April 2007 00:19 (7 years ago) Permalink

Also, good non-anthologized pieces include "Free Jazz Punk Rock" from a 1980 Musician, and a long interview with Brian Eno in the same magazine.

Supposedly he was planning on writing something along the lines of A.B. Spellman's Four Lives In The Bebop Business, with Eno as one of the...um...four lives.

Sara Sara Sara, Thursday, 19 April 2007 02:08 (7 years ago) Permalink

Yeah I would've loved that, I think.

BIG HOOS aka the steendriver, Thursday, 19 April 2007 02:59 (7 years ago) Permalink

yeah those Musicianpieces were great. the classic "stone" stuff by Lester Bangs that I can excavate from the canyons of my mind:

"The Carpenters And The Creeps" (1971) a live review of the Carps that incorporates autobiography and actual music criticism, becoming a tour-de-force summary of then-current pop scene. Tightly written, too.

review of some Jack Kerouac paperback reissues around the time of his death, a hommage to beat at the height of hippiedom (1969)

the Janis/Jimi riff (late 1970) I think may have occurred during a piece abt something else, but it was definitely the only moment in the history of the publication where the virutes/values of the counterculture were questioned.

and his record reviews 1969-71 were the main event, not only for the writing but musical insight, at the point Lester was like his disciple Xhuxk Eddy in this respect: he listened to everything w/fresh ears including a lot of stuff that other critics didn't take seriously.

that's another reason post-1976 Lester bums me out, he's so jaded.

I've got xeroxes of this stuff but they're BURIED in storage bin :-(

but hey, I forgot that my all time favorite Bangs piece is included in Mainlines:"Bob Dylan's Dalliance With Mafia Chic."

m coleman, Thursday, 19 April 2007 10:57 (7 years ago) Permalink

ha ha, yeah the "Mafia Chic" story is amusing because Lester spent about 100 times longer thinking about "Joey" than Dylan did.

I think that the Eno piece is on Perfect Sound Forever...

Who were the other "lives" Bangs was planning on covering in his proposed "Four Lives" book. Quine, maybe?

tylerw, Thursday, 19 April 2007 14:25 (7 years ago) Permalink

I think Marianne Faithfull was one of them. There was a list in the foreword to PR&CD, which stated that three of the four lives were set and the fourth was up in the air.

C. Grisso/McCain, Thursday, 19 April 2007 14:27 (7 years ago) Permalink

3 years pass...

From "Lester Bangs - Last Interview" by a then-17-year old Jim DeRogatis:

Do you think there's a danger of rock 'n' roll becoming extinct?
Yeah, sure. Definitely.

What would there be to take its place?
Video games.

NYCNative, Tuesday, 8 March 2011 10:42 (3 years ago) Permalink

now if only JDR had taken this^ to heart...

gravity tractor VS asteroid B612 (m coleman), Tuesday, 8 March 2011 11:33 (3 years ago) Permalink

seriously,"video games = death of rock" was a popular music-biz meme ca.1982

gravity tractor VS asteroid B612 (m coleman), Tuesday, 8 March 2011 11:35 (3 years ago) Permalink

Now that the music-playing game genre has been declared dead, I wonder how many adherents moved on to actual guitar playing.

bendy, Tuesday, 8 March 2011 12:03 (3 years ago) Permalink

Have to say I never cared for either his writing style or, all too often, his musical tastes.

Lee626, Tuesday, 8 March 2011 12:22 (3 years ago) Permalink

1 year passes...

A couple of posts on Facebook alerted me to the fact that it's the 30th anniversary of his death. I'm guessing there are one or two older posters here who can say they met him. I interviewed Chuck and Marcus in '86; I'd like to think that if I'd started a little later or he'd lived a little longer, I would have tried to interview Bangs (and succeeded, I imagine--he seemed extremely accessible). I didn't start reading Creem till '80 or thereabouts, so I'd read very little by him before the first book came out--really only some Rolling Stone reviews in an early-'70s collection, and some RS reviews later in the decade, when Paul Nelson was publishing him regularly. I tried to write like him early on, and of course it was egregiously wrong. Blaming him for the misdeeds of people like me makes no sense.

clemenza, Monday, 30 April 2012 22:43 (2 years ago) Permalink

3 months pass...

Haven't read it yet, but a New Yorker contributor on Bangs's influence on her:

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2012/08/how-lester-bangs-taught-me-to-read.html

clemenza, Thursday, 23 August 2012 13:51 (2 years ago) Permalink

that is a really, really fantastic article. i don't think i've ever actually seen anyone else -- apart from marcus in his intro to the bangs collection -- actually pin down what i love(d) about bangs's writing so much (haven't read him in a while): even at his silliest, he was a genuinely thoughtful, reflective writer. likening him to DFW is really inspired: i don't know why i didn't think of that before.

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Saturday, 25 August 2012 05:08 (2 years ago) Permalink

1 year passes...

I didn't think this was great, but I am glad it got made:

Early on, I found the cutting of the interviews way too fast; I had doubts about the voice-over excerpts all the way through. (I don't know if it was just the way they were read, or whether it wasn't going to work regardless.) Bangs's friends back home are a very likeable group.

clemenza, Thursday, 26 December 2013 04:02 (11 months ago) Permalink

Thought young Lester looked like Jake Gyllenhaal.

clemenza, Thursday, 26 December 2013 05:51 (11 months ago) Permalink


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