Lester Bangs vs. Bryan Ferry (YouTube)

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Footage taken from a seventies British documentary called All You Need is Love.


4 thoughts on “Lester Bangs vs. Bryan Ferry (YouTube)

  1. Lester sure lost that argument, but also his terms of the argument were all wrong (“artifice” vs. “commitment”). I thought my own critique was more penetrating: “Bowie and Ferry are to style as Simon & Garfunkel were to poetry,” which is to say that they were doing a stereotype of “style” and were lying to themselves that their “detachment” gave them an edge. But if one of your main themes is alienation (as it was for Bowie) then shifting your surface is an obvious strategy. (You and I have had this discussion before.)

  2. Yeah, I gotta say, though I found this clip amusing and fascinating as a kid, it’s not the side of Bangs I cherish so much anymore. His dismissal seems kind of smug, to be honest. (Nor is he helped by the fact that the footage of Roxy doing “Editions of You” is so thrilling.)

  3. Ferry 1, Bangs 0

    He’s right about Ferry’s utter blandness if not non-existence as a person and Ferry’s indifference to rock music recorded after, oh, 1970; but we should point out that Bangs accepted his ambivalence towards Ferry as the decade ended. There’s a dead-on passage in that last published miscellany in which he compares Debbie Harry’s approach vs Ferry’s — Ferry’s manipulation of surfaces still produced extremely moving music, according to Bangs. That he’s dead-wrong about Debbie is a subject for another time.

  4. Alfred Soto’s right on target with his mention of Lester’s response to Debbie Harry. His critique of Bryan Ferry in the video is essentially the same thing he said about Blondie in his book on them: this is attractive music, but it doesn’t mean much of anything. I was kind of surprised by that take when the Blondie book first came out, as I’d thought all along that that’s what Blondie were about, an attractive surface (“artifice”?) as an end in itself. I certainly preferred listening to them to Fleetwood Mac, whether their songs “meant” anything deep or not.

    I have a feeling that the interview with Lester was edited just to get that tidy soundbite about Ferry — not that Lester didn’t mean it, but that it had been only part of a much more complex response to Ferry’s music. Yet his expression of disappointment with Ferry is classically Bangsian, too — he went through this same thing with his favorites like Lou Reed, the Stones, Van Morrison, etc., in which he built up tremendous belief in the artists, which they then couldn’t possibly sustain over every album release. I think in a way Lester was acting out this expectations-vs.-reality drama as a proxy for his own writing, for his frustration that he kept doing rock criticism over and over when he seemed to contain multitudes of novels. Maybe.

    For what it’s worth, when I first met Lester in the summer of 1974, he played Roxy Music’s *Stranded* album for me, and commented repeatedly how “rich” the music was.

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