“Sometimes I think nothing is simple but the feeling of pain.”
“Every great work of art has two faces, one toward its own time and one toward the future, toward eternity.”
I feel a little sleazy. Dirty, even, as I read this biography on legendary rock critic Lester Bangs. I mean, let’s be honest here, the guy was a total douche bag. A Romilar cough syrup swiggin’, confrontational, sexist, racist, smelly, slovenly son of a bitch. He was also a genius. To wit:
“Art”, “Bop” and “rock and roll” and whatever is all just a joke and a mistake, just a hunka foolishness so stop treating it with any seriousness or respect at all and just recognize the fact that it’s nothing but a wham-o toy to bash around as you please in the nursery, it’s nothing but a goddam Bonusburger so just gobble the stupid thing and burp and go for the next one tomorrow; and don’t worry about the fact that it’s a joke and a mistake and a bunch of foolishness as if that’s gonna cause people to disregard it and do it in or let it dry up and die, because it is the strogest, most virulent, most invincible Superjoke in history, nothing could ever destroy it ever, and the reason for that is precisely that it is a joke, a mistake, foolishness. The first mistake of art is to assume that it’s serious.”
“I’ll probably never produce a masterpiece, but so what? I feel I have a Sound aborning, which is my own, and that Sound if erratic is still my greatest pride, because I would rather write like a dancer shaking my ass to boogaloo inside my head, and perhaps reach only readers who like to use books to shake their asses, than to be or write for the man cloistered in a closet somewhere reading Aeschylus while this stupefying world careens crazily past his waxy windows toward its last raving sooty feedback pirouette. ”
“The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else while you’re uncool.”
Let It Blurt, the biography I recently read, outlines a disturbed guy who’s father burned to death, whose mother was a devout Jehovah’s Witness, who grew up in the sleepy San Diego suburb of El Cajon (translation: “The Box”) idolizing the beat poets of the 50’s, who was a petty thief. His love of beat literature/poetry eventually led him to Jazz, and eventually the Beatles and Stones. He spent some time writing for Rolling Stone in the late ‘60’s (his first review panned the MC5 album ‘Kick Out The Jams’, a stance he eventually reversed touting that album as one of the finest ever made!), but became disenfranchised with the whole corporate attitude of Jann Wenner, who ended up banning Lester from the magazine for life. He found a home at Creem magazine, an edgier version of Rolling Stone, which afforded him the freedom to write whatever the hell he wanted to write, and this is where and when he really discovered his own style of writing, rather than aping his beat brethren.
So Rolling Stone had Hunter Thompson and Creem had Lester. Both were cut from the same self-destructive Gonzo mold and both could write the shit out of anything they wanted. But where Thompson veered towards the political side of things Bangs was all about the music and its culture. He was an obsessive, but above all he was a fan. He championed the harder edge stuff of the time, like the Stooges and Black Sabbath, in addition to the Garage bands of the mid ‘60’s, eventually finding vindication in the punk explosion of CBGB’s in New York. He eventually moved there and eventually died there, at age 33. The last record he was listening to as he died was the Human League’s DARE album, which was still playing when his body was found. It’s a sad story full of little details that will hold your interest for hundreds of pages at a time. Well worth the investment.
“They’re (albums) events you remember all your life, like your first real orgasm. And the whole purpose of the absurd, mechanically persistent involvement with recorded music is the pursuit of that priceless moment. So it’s not exactly that records might unhinge the mind, but rather that if anything is going to drive you up the wall it might as well be a record.”
Also, if you can find it, buy Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung, a compilation of some of Lester’s ‘Greatest Hits’.