Thursday, May 09, 2002

Lester Bangs died 20 years ago. He was a rock critic guy. If you're like me (if you're like my age, or were at least in 1987) then maybe you heard of him for the first time at the end of side 2 (they had sides back then!) of REM's Document album, immediately preceded by "Lenny Bruce and...". Or if you were less obsessed with the mumbly boys from Athens than I (who still recall planning for the day in August, I think, when the new album would come out and buying it on cassette at Plan 9 Music, but I digress like a madman or a big dog), then you didn't hear of Mr Bangs 'til the video for "It's the End of the World as We Know It" came out. Or else you're older, were listening to Iggy, Lou Reed & the Velvets before Lester hisself was, you've gone through 4 iterations of love/hate for Bangs, you're tired of it, and you think I'm an idiot for not being hipper sooner, and you hate me. Or you're younger, you're only aware of Lester Bangs because he shows up in a recent film, and I think you're an idiot and I hate you.

Anyway, it was right about '87 that time that Psychotic Reactions and CarBuretor Dung was published collecting for the first time Lester's wild & wide writings from years writing for Rolling Stone, Creem & Village Voice. The book is startling, loud and contradictory as the letter fuck. It's full of drugs too, which is kinda how Lester died, besides having the flu. It was in 1992 that Bruce Sterling dis-interred Lester for a post-autopsal blind marriage by short fiction with San Francisco cartoonist Dori Seda who expired in a startlingly similar manner and likewise with plenty of potential in the bank.

A few years back Bangs' essay on Elvis' expiration was stapled into the front of a picturebook on the King's early years; Lester likens EP's latter-day rep to that of The Pentagon, "a giant armored institution nobody knows anything about except that its power is legendary", and then calls him the "perfect cultural expression" of the Nixon years, and thsu opines that "we might all do better to think about waving good-bye with one upraised finger". There really is no other voice like his. [pauper's hint: rip off amazon--yeh, that's right I even linked to 'em when I said it!--and read his entire intro on the sample pages they provide without buying the damn thing. Don't worry, there are legions buying it for the subject and not the author, very much in spite of LB in fact].

Here's a great restrospective article on Lester, which includes some curves I'd never heard before. Of course I haven't [yet] read the book on him. And wait, there's more...


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