Thinking the Unthinkable About John Lennon - Lester Bangs

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Maybe it's just me, but I think we all ought to be a little bit sad when anyone is fucking gunned down in cold blood, Lennon or not. Say what you will about the man, but give those that feel something here the chance to remember, that's really all.

jim wentworth (wench), Friday, 9 December 2005 06:00 (twelve years ago) Permalink

say what you will...but paul and george wrote WAY better songs during the beatles and none of john's solo shit even touches "ram" or "all things must pass" or "walking on thin ice" for that matter...stay dead fucker

pauldaywillcome, Friday, 9 December 2005 07:31 (twelve years ago) Permalink

whoa, easy there hard charger.

Tracer Hand (tracerhand), Friday, 9 December 2005 07:37 (twelve years ago) Permalink

i was so bummed when i read this and realized it wasn't about lester bangs and john lennon "getting it on"

corey c (shock of daylight), Friday, 9 December 2005 07:49 (twelve years ago) Permalink

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

J.D. (Justyn Dillingham), Friday, 9 December 2005 08:25 (twelve years ago) Permalink

No, I wish I didn't even put that last part in, because it does bother me. It's part of a pervasive cheapening of political thought and oversimplification of political action - the same kind of magical thinking that convinces people that Rosa Parks started a revolution because her legs sho' were tired!
-- *Jazz Douchebag* Berman (Hurtingchie...), December 9th, 2005.

Okay first off, fuckface, should Rosa have stood up and taken a seat in the back to appease your idea of what political action is cuz you go to college with guys who have Bob Marley posters on their wall and it totally pisses you off that they think they know what "standing up for your rights" is all about but you're smarter than them because you read a Neitzche book once?

You don't really care about politics, you just care that other people say they do. Oh, and the last part you said was outright racist.

In conclusion, you make me tired.

Oh my ogd?, Friday, 9 December 2005 08:41 (twelve years ago) Permalink

Um, no.

Rosa Parks refused to sit at the back of the bus because she was part of a massive well organized civil rights campaign. Maybe you should read a book once.

*Jazz Douchebag* Berman (Hurting), Friday, 9 December 2005 08:44 (twelve years ago) Permalink

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 (twelve 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 (twelve 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?


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.



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:


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:


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:


John Lennon lives.


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

A cynic is just a disappointed idealist

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

three 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 (eleven 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 (eleven 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 (eleven years ago) Permalink

is that in one of the books?

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

probably not in my college library...

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

i have forwarded your post to the librarian.

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

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