April 30, 2012 by A.C. Rhodes
what would you ask or have to say to Lester Bangs? What advice would you want? What artists or bands would you like to tell, or warn, him about?
Category: Lester, Question of the Week
Hey, man, I silently observed the 30th anniversary of your death on Monday, and wondered then if anyone else had noted that only-yesterday passage. Thanks for doing so in this forum, A.C..
Well, Lester, you may or may not be impressed to know that your enshrined heroes Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, and Jagger and Richards are still with us, at least relatively speaking. Unfortunately, the whole front line of “the mighty Ramones” (as you once called them) is gone now. And you may not be surprised to know that all of the above (I believe) have allowed their music be used in r’n’r-unrelated commercials by this time.
But then, your boon El Cajon companion of the ’60s, Roger Anderson, probably could have predicted that. The bad news is that Roger has passed too, in 2003. The good news is that he finally got his own journalistic career in gear *after* you died, and eventually worked his way up to the Scripps-Howard News Service in D.C.. I was lucky to get to correspond with Roger for the last few years of his life, and we would talk about how you would want us to keep on writing in your absence.
Your early admirer Cameron Crowe vaulted from doing rockwriting to becoming an actual Hollywood director (I am not making this up), and in 2000 did a movie entitled “Almost Famous,” which included a “Lester Bangs” character, an eccentric-curmudgeon type who keeps telling the fellow representing the young Crowe NOT to get taken in by the glamour of rockstardom, which he then proceeds to do anyway, all the way to the bank. “Lester” was played by some guy named Philip Seymour Hoffman (don’t ask — for my money, he was shorter and less handsome than the real you), who had your verbal style and mannerisms captured pretty well, but who still strikes me as “the Disney version” of Lester Bangs. Even if it’s a necessary memorial of a sort.
Your pal and co-genius Richard Meltzer is still with us, thank Vishnu, and has a rockin’ new CD out, name of “Spielgusher,” a bluesy meditation on senior moments-to-moment. You’d like it, I think, sez your reporter & Meltz’s fellow Medicare recipient.
So, Lester, I’ll apologize again for owing you a letter at the time of your death (doubly ironic in that it was still fully legal to write hard-copy letters in ’82), but my debt to you for inspiring me to become a rockwriter, and then for your publication of some of my earliest efforts in CREEM, remains much more infinite than that. Thanks once more, Lester — best I can do now is just keep writing.
Yers, Richard R.
If I was gonna ask Lester a question, it would be “What did you think of Bruce Sterling’s short fantasy story about you? DORI BANGS? In which you don’t die young, but actually wind up marrying an underground cartoonist named Dori Seda?”
For those of you who haven’t read it, there’s a link here
to a pdf of the story.
I think it’s poignant and brilliant on a number of levels, but I’d certainly love to know what Lester thinks.
Not a question for Bangs, but a link to one of the very few news items I was able to find through Google’s news archives regarding his death. It’s from Miami News, but it’s an AP story. You won’t learn anything, it’s merely interesting (I guess) that it exists.
I’d be interested to know what Bangs would have said about the current crop of youngsters doing Dock Boggs imitations, bluegrass extrapolations, and all the other various Americana moves you see everywhere. In other words, what happened to rock ‘n’ roll (no Black Keys references, please, everybody…)?
The Sterling story is not complimentary to Lester Bangs or what he believed in.
I’m really glad to say I knew Lester a bit when he moved to New York. We were simultaneously gigantic Dictators fans. I watched him get on the mic at a rehearsal (R. Crumb’s Helen Wheels pic taped to the mic stand), and I recall talking with him in a room full of books at a party – but I can’t remember in whose house it was. Lester was sweatier and more intense than the Phillip Seymour Hoffman portrayal. He was kind and not a snob in any way. He treated people – even a young girl like me, at the time- with respect and courtesy. In short, he was not an asshole. As a writer, he was hugely influential on me, both in terms of writing style and because he unashamedly, unflinchingly wrote the truth as he saw it. Thank you, Lester, for keeping me inspired lo these many years later.
Lester, your work on Jim Morrison remains among the very best. Would you still be so hard on the Lizard King today (and, yes, I know you loved him, too), if you could see the long-term damage wrought on the rock industry in the wake of MTV? Perhaps Jim just had the good sense to get out even earlier than you did? Amy
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