Thinking the Unthinkable About John Lennon - Lester Bangs

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I understand that you misunderstood my post. Try harder before you fly off the handle. Dipshit.

*Jazz Douchebag* Berman (Hurting), Friday, 9 December 2005 08:47 (8 years ago) Permalink

lester's original thing reads charmingly dated like mailer on JFK or something equally anachronistic. "lived on the existential edge"

yesterday on WNYC a news report about the lennon anniversary said that "dozens" of tribute-payers had gathered in central park. sorta sad in a way but fitting too. time passes despite our best efforts.

m coleman (lovebug starski), Friday, 9 December 2005 11:10 (8 years ago) Permalink

This appeared accompanied by a Lowry illustration after the ‘Twist And Shout’ EP cover. Balloon above a leaping George Harrison’s head: “Have you heard all that hippy bullshit about rock being the method of communication with the masses of young people who revolutionary consciousness is going to change the world? It’s a load of bollocks.” Balloon above a jumping Lennon’s head: “No, but whistle the tune and I’ll see if I can remember it!”

New Musical Express, 5 December, 1981

So how do you commemorate the anniversary of Lennon’s death?

TWIST! AND SHOUT!

John Lennon anniversary tribute: Dig out your yellowing copies of the Liverpool Echo, Tuesday December 9, 1980 (JOHN LENNON SHOT DEAD), Manchester Evening News (BEATLE LENNON SHOT DEAD) or local evening paper of your choice, Daily Mirror dated December 10 (DEATH OF A HERO), your souvenir commemorative tie, badge, bust and ashtray, your copies of ‘Double Fantasy’, ‘Imagine’, ‘Plastic Ono Band’, etc.; even your John Lennon, the Life and Death of a Legend and John Lennon, the Life and Legend, Sunday Times special tribute, and situate all these in appropriately reverential position around your room. Place copy of ‘Beatles for Sale’, on turntable, turn volume control to the highest level you can get away with and lower stylus onto track four, side one: ‘Rock And Roll Music’. Forget that “rock” is “dead”. Listen.

Der-dang-a-dang!

“JUST LET ME HEAR SOME OF THAT ROCK AND ROLL MUSIC,
ANY OLD WAY YOU CHOOSE IT,
IT’S GOT A BACK BEAT YOU CAN’T BLUES IT
ANY OLD TIME YOU USE IT,
GOTTA BE ROCK AND ROLL MUSIC
IF YOU WANNA DANCE WITH ME!
IF YOU WANNA DANCE WITH ME!”

If you are not totally convinced, this far into the track, that this is the most exciting, the greatest recorded performance you have ever heard in your life, then I would venture to suggest that your aesthetic criteria are sadly in need of a good kick in the ass. Of course, there are plenty other Greatest Recorded Performances, but we’re considering John Lennon here tonight, y’hear?

Play the track again. If you’re not feeling good by now, go and see a doctor. Play it one more time. If you’re not grinning stupidly by now and walking into walls, it’s too late for the doctor to help you; go and see an undertaker. Wash your hands and face while considering the following:

“I GOT NO KICK AGAINST MODERN JAZZ,
UNLESS THEY TRY TO PLAY IT TOO DARN FAST,
AND LOST THE BEAUTY OF THE MELODY,
UNTIL IT SOUNDS JUST LIKE A SYMPHONY,
THAT’S WHY I GO FOR THAT ROCK AND ROLL MUSIC!”

Comb your hair, or spray with tangerine-flake and oven cleaner or fix with Araldite and fuse wire should you desire – whenever you do to make yourself (un)presentable to the outside world. Get inside of the nearest public house stocking bottled Carlsberg beverages. Drink a lot of these in rapid succession until you start listing floorwards. Rush home before oblivion intrudes. Fumble ‘Beatles for Sale’, track four, side one, back onto turntable and play continuously until the neighbours cut up rough, the fire brigade calls, or sleep descends – having trashed all newspapers, tributes, souvenir tie, badges, ashtrays, pipes and slippers immediately on your return home. Notice that a great distance away, someone is singing:

“I TOOK MY LOVED ONE OVER CROSS THE TRACKS,
SO SHE COULD HEAR MY MAN A WAILING SAX,
I MUST ADMIT THEY HAD A ROCKIN’ BAND,
MAN, THEY WERE BLOWIN’ LIKE A HURRICANE!”

In this enormous, young voice that sounds like it knows everything it will ever need to know. Exuberantly and enthusiastically throw ‘Double Fantasy’, ‘Imagine’, small items of furniture and animal life around the room. Kick in television screen. Fall catatonic to the floor.

Wake at 4am to harsh electric light and the muffled sound of your stylus thudding monotonously into the spinout groove of ‘Beatles for Sale’. Crawl upstairs to bed with nauseous headache. Wake again, much later the following afternoon, feeling hideous. Take ‘Beatles for Sale’ out of sleeve once again and drop stylus onto track four, side one:

“JUST LET ME HEAR SOME OF THAT ROCK AND ROLL MUSIC!”

John Lennon lives.

-- ‘MAD’ RAY LOWRY


Rickey Wright (Rrrickey), Friday, 9 December 2005 11:35 (8 years ago) Permalink

As banal as stars doing peace n' politics is to us, the reason it resonates more coming from Lennon than eg, Casey Kasem, is that his art actually helped ordinary people figure shit out. And he (could) (occasionally) put politics into words more stylishly than Chomsky, Derrida etc. A working-class hero is something to be.

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Friday, 9 December 2005 14:53 (8 years ago) Permalink

"ram" may be the worst album even remotely related to any beatle i have ever heard.

Haven't heard most of George Harrison's work, have you?

Alfred Soto (Alfred Soto), Friday, 9 December 2005 14:55 (8 years ago) Permalink

"Ram" certainly isn't the "worst album even remotely related to any beatle". It's better than most of McCartney's other albums for a start.

We Buy a Hammer For Dadaismus (Dada), Friday, 9 December 2005 14:58 (8 years ago) Permalink

Lennon wasn't just a cynic. He was also something of an idealist. Bangs wrote that piece because Lennon the cynic meant more to him than Lennon the idealist. But for most of the folks outside the Dakota that night, it was Lennon the idealist that mattered. Both Bangs and that crowd are tuning in completely different aspects of Lennon's personality, and both only know a part of the story. Who can claim to know who the "real" Lennon was and how he would have responded to a vigil?

When I was in college, a few friends and I cynically sneered at all the kids mourning Cobain's death during candlelight vigils. I thought they were deluded sheep. I look back, and realize we were a bunch of fucking assholes saying some pretty hurtful things. We were/are sheep, too. Sure mass media allows people to think they "know" people they never met, but at the same time, that bond is "real". The tears are "real". The pain is "real". Those sad faces are "real". No?

If those folks particpating in that vigil are really mourning themselves then those sneering at those folks are really just sneering at their own insensitivty and inability to participate and to feel loss. Sorry to sound goofy and overly dramatic, but I feel torn because I don't think I could ever stand among a bunch of strangers and mourn anything, but sometimes I really want to. I shun crowds and mass demonstrations but that doesn't mean these things are cheap and invalid. Maybe, I'm the one who is invalid? Maybe, Bangs is the one who is invalid? Maybe we have defects that we cover up by sneering at those who are capable of participating?

I was 5 in '80. I was headed into the family basement, into the laundry room, and all I could hear was my mom crying, crying, and crying. There was a little red radio on the dryer, and the DJ was broadcasting the news of Lennon's death.

I think it's ironic that Bangs said he couldn't mourn Lennon because he didn't know the guy, but he felt perfectly comfortable telling his readers that he knew what all those folks were really mourning for even thought he didn't know them, either. All he did was sit on his couch, watch television, and judge a bunch of strangers.

Okay, everyone roast me...

QuantumNoise (Justin Farrar), Friday, 9 December 2005 17:52 (8 years ago) Permalink

A cynic is just a disappointed idealist

We Buy a Hammer For Dadaismus (Dada), Friday, 9 December 2005 18:16 (8 years ago) Permalink

really mourning themselves

I am he as you are he as you are me...

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Friday, 9 December 2005 18:36 (8 years ago) Permalink

I can't mourn John Lennon. I didn't know the guy. But I do know that when all is said and done, that's all he was--a guy.

This is one of the most profound sentences in rock critic history. It's something I've always tried to keep in mind on those occasions I dabble in the form.

mike a, Friday, 9 December 2005 18:36 (8 years ago) Permalink

It's always a little shocking to remember again how only 20 to 25 years after rock n' roll was "invented" some people were already prepared to move on and into the future. And it's always a little depressing to realize 25 years after that how little we actually have in so many ways.

Naive Teen Idol (Naive Teen Idol), Friday, 9 December 2005 21:54 (8 years ago) Permalink

Haven't heard most of George Harrison's work, have you?

i've heard a lot of it. most of it is bad but innocuous. i think what bugs me so much about "ram" is the fact that mccartney feels the need to keep throwing in these random little "do-do-do-do-do-dos" on every fucking song! horrible.

J.D. (Justyn Dillingham), Saturday, 10 December 2005 01:04 (8 years ago) Permalink

3 months pass...
They sang 'Hey Jude'? Why? Paul wrote that for John's son Julian after he abandoned him to go live with Yoko.

Laurie, Tuesday, 4 April 2006 15:43 (8 years ago) Permalink

Wow, great thread, I'm glad it came up.

"It is for that moment--not for John Lennon the man---that you are mourning, if you are mourning. Ultimately you are mourning for yourself."

My problem comes in that I don't think any of this is special about Lennon's case. Whenever you mourn ANYONE, you mourn the passing of someone who affected you personally and profoundly, that's how you're going to mourn them. Mourning is a selfish process; it's the way we heal with wounds. So, yes, of course you're going to be mourning for yourself. I don't think that there was a difference between the people mourning Lennon and the people that mourn the deaths of friends and loved ones every day. In each case, you're mourning the passing of another human being that made you feel happy, optimistic, perhaps loved. And in each case, it's utterly selfish and all about the hole missing in your life that the other person used to fill. And that's perfectly fine.

I agree with Tim Ellison on his points. People needed to mourn Lennon. Bangs was just living up his persona of Bangs. But I think that, down somewhere inside of him, he was just as sad as anyone around him was. Maybe that was his way of dealing with it.

Harrison Barr (Petar), Tuesday, 4 April 2006 18:01 (8 years ago) Permalink

Compare/contrast with Lester's 1976 remember-how-good-it-felt-to-be-alive essay on the British Invasion, in the first Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll.

Rickey Wright (Rrrickey), Tuesday, 4 April 2006 18:04 (8 years ago) Permalink

is that in one of the books?

Real Goths Don't Wear Black (Enrique), Wednesday, 5 April 2006 07:35 (8 years ago) Permalink

It's in the old, oversized Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock. Good shit. It basically made me buy a Zombies album when I was 15.

Rickey Wright (Rrrickey), Wednesday, 5 April 2006 07:37 (8 years ago) Permalink

probably not in my college library...

Real Goths Don't Wear Black (Enrique), Wednesday, 5 April 2006 07:39 (8 years ago) Permalink

it's great tho! it has nik cohn's phil spector essay, one of the very best pieces ever written about pop (and about 186,000 times better than that tom wolfe piece which only gets remembered because he came up with "first tycoon of teen" - and spector was like 24! dork!), plus greil marcus' original punk essay (which got expanded into the first part of lipstick traces) and peter guralnick's original take on elvis, which is a far cry from that of his books - "his biggest talent turned out to be for making money."

also a hilariously smug dave marsh piece on neil young which sadly got kicked out of the most recent edition.

J.D. (Justyn Dillingham), Wednesday, 5 April 2006 09:00 (8 years ago) Permalink

i have forwarded your post to the librarian.

Real Goths Don't Wear Black (Enrique), Wednesday, 5 April 2006 09:06 (8 years ago) Permalink

i wish you'd told me you were gonna do that, i would've used the shift key

J.D. (Justyn Dillingham), Wednesday, 5 April 2006 09:14 (8 years ago) Permalink

Here's the unthinkable: can we let both these fuckers rest in peace?

m coleman (lovebug starski), Wednesday, 5 April 2006 09:24 (8 years ago) Permalink

nah it's ok, the britzor library will have it, i'll summon it up there.

need a library of ROCK here in london we really do.

Real Goths Don't Wear Black (Enrique), Wednesday, 5 April 2006 09:31 (8 years ago) Permalink

"Compare/contrast with Lester's 1976 remember-how-good-it-felt-to-be-alive essay on the British Invasion, in the first Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll."

That piece actually made it into later editions (maybe because it's referenced in Marcus' terrific Beatles essay.)

J.D. OTM about the old Stone book. I also dig the Marcus "Rock Film" essay and Janet Maslin's piece on Dylan (both of which got dropped from later editions).

Chairman Doinel (Charles McCain), Wednesday, 5 April 2006 15:38 (8 years ago) Permalink

Here's the unthinkable: can we let both these fuckers rest in peace?

NOOOOOOOOOOOO we must live in an endless 1975.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Wednesday, 5 April 2006 15:44 (8 years ago) Permalink

about 186,000 times better than that tom wolfe piece which only gets remembered because he came up with "first tycoon of teen" - and spector was like 24! dork!

agreed the RS piece is better but the "teen" of the title isn't about Spector's age, it's about his constituency

Matos-Webster Dictionary (M Matos), Wednesday, 5 April 2006 16:28 (8 years ago) Permalink


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