So of course I always thought Talking Heads were about the individual human units (ha!—and fuck you, Fripp) response to cybernation, depersonalization, the effect of corporate consciousness on individual identity, all those great contemporary questions nobody can seem to come up with any real or workable answers for. Richard Hell was about the same thing on a darker, more hermetically selfenclosed/obsessed/possessed level, in fact the Ramones, Clash, just about all these New Wave bands that really count seem to be trying to deal with these questions which is why no matter what happens to it commercially New Wave for me will always be a lot more crucial than the R’n’R bands explosion of the Sixties, when it was all too easy to croon how there’s somethin’ happenin’ in here and what it is ain’t exactly clear. The point is, now we’re all “in here,” and apart from each other, and how are we gonna get out?
– Lester Bangs, unedited review of Talking Heads’s Fear of Music (3,000 or so words, nary a sneeze about “music” per se, and it’s a remarkable piece of writing).
3 thoughts on ““Fear of Everything””
Generally, it feels like a riposte to punk fundamentalists who dismissed the Heads as “whiney yuppies.” And there are gleaming fragments aplenty, sure. But, mostly, I’m awed by the thought of editors, X-gau or whoever, working with material this unwieldy, messy, strewn with asides.
I didn’t get the riposte vibe, but I wasn’t reading it with that particular context front of mind — you’re probably right. And for sure it would be an unfun experience trying to whittle something like this down to usable length and coherence. But though I often prefer to read the polished final edit myself, I enjoy the sparks-flying-everywhere brilliance (and bullshit) on display here, and I’m glad this is out there (it’s a rare “director’s cut” type of writing I’m grateful to have stumbled across). It’s like an extended poem about the disintegration of everything — conspiratorial in parts, even — and in fragments it is devastating (and fairly McLuhanesque, who, btw, is namedropped, though half-mockingly): “a planet gone solipsistic”; “history has no need to know any of you faded away”; “nothing is your friend”; “money gets more worthless by the second”; “a second Dark Ages seems to loom over us.” Wild stuff. The ending feels a bit tacked on, like he was exhausted and needed to find a way out, but after this — who could blame him?
This piece appears to reflect Lester’s late-’70s obsession with Margaret Drabble’s novel “The Ice Age”, which has a lot of focus on the increasing depersonalization of modern society. And while “a planet gone solipsistic” echoes McLuhan, it also expresses another particular obsession of Lester’s post-Creem intellectual life, his recurrent fear that his writing would come to convey too much solipsism, though I generally found it less solipsistic than many other rockwriters’ stuff, including my own. Lester always thought big.