"But Keith [Keith Richards], Keith was obviously one of those people ... who look the absolute best of their entire lives when they're clearly on the verge of death. It seemed to lend him a whole new profundity and eloquence, even though he was barely playing at all! ... He looked like everything dark and tragic that the Stones trip had ever threatened: soul flattened, skin sallow, bone scraped, and behind the reflector-shaded eyes the suggestion of a diseased intelligence too cancerous even to spit imprecations anymore. Fucked up. It was beautiful."
Lester Bangs. Lester Bangs. And before that afternoon in the Ear Inn in the Fall of 1978 when I was introduced to Lester by Lester himself, "Lester Bangs," with his big fat paw slung out to offer me a floppy, fishlike handshake, which I didn't take and replied to his "Lester Bangs" "I do, too," and it pissed the bastard off--Fuck him, I had not ever heard of Lester Bangs except maybe in passing conversation and if it was this Lester Bangs I didn't know, dig, and I had never read anything by Lester Bangs though I had picked up a copy of Creem off Mike Roddy's livingroom coffee table and had fast-spun through it reading at it here and there but not remembering reading any Lester Bangs in it; and I had years before been in Detroit, Michigan, and yes I had also been in L.A. and I had been through El Cajon on my first trip to Tijuana I'm sure though I'm not so sure of that in my recollection, but I was in Tijuana and we did circle north to miss San Diego proper and we did probably go through El Cajon. But Lester and I were on parallel lines in that historical sense though of course at different points on the timeline until we tried to come together that afternoon in the Ear Inn--and then one day recently I found this book on eBay after while at the computer I had just out of the blow-out blue remembered Lester Bangs and then in a kind'a jokey way I put his name in the eBay search engine--I mean Lester came to me like a vision--during an hallucination of course, though I've never been high off Romilar cough syrup, Lester's drug of choice, one of the many drugs Lester imbibed that the Manhattan coroner said the stuff in Romilar that gets you high was one of the primary causes of his sudden death one evening after a day of self-promotion, a day of doing face-to-face combat in record company offices and rock magazine offices and publishing company offices; trying to sell his wares, becoming, then being, and then going past and deeper than flat broke, womanless, being evicted from his apartment--back rent due...SHIT! I knew that line, too, dammit, and I remembered Lester Bangs then clearly and then there was this book on eBay, Let It Blurt, by a punky-looking toeheaded author named Jim DeRogatis, from Jersey City Jersey, too, though he made his claim to fame in Chicago as the "pop music critic" (what an easy job, as Lester would say, just write every day, "All pop music stinks, sucks, promises raptures and give us nothing but childish sweet and sour nothings"--what an easy job) on the Chicago Sun-Times--so I bought the book and a week later got it in the mail and damn I read the damn thing during one fetid sweating August evening while being unable to sleep on sweat-wet and soiled and grimy (like Charles Bukowski talks about in his poem "The Bird") stinky sheets, and god, Jim old boy, you did a damn great job of writin' about that Bangs boy from El Cajon, LaLa Land, whose mother was a numbskull Jehovah's Witness and whose father was a roustabout Texan, born just north of Dallas, and by the age of 17 had become a common criminal and by the time he was 19 going-on 20 he was sent off to serve his first stretch down in Huntsville Prison by Sheriff Leslie, for whom Conway Leslie Banks had been partially named. He'd been accused of stealing a neighbor's tools and when he went to the guy and confronted the guy and then swore to the guy he was innocent the guy said, "the fuck you are, you common criminal" which pissed Conway off to the point he picked up a wooden bucket sitting handily nearby and proceeded to whack the Holy Hell out of the accusing neighbor. This assault is what got young Conway Bangs arrested and then sent before Judge Charles (dig this) "Chuck" Berry who sentenced him to 5 years for assault with intent to kill in the neighbor-bucket-whacking incident and then tacked on another 5 years for Conway's 1 pending burglary count left over from when he was 17-- Judge Chuck Berry gave young Conway a decade of life down in Huntsville, that great Texas community of well-cared-for and jolly-happy prisoners down in Huntsville, Texas--which, as I said before, most people couldn't tell you if Huntsville had a high school but they damn sure know it has the Texas State Penitentiary.
So lookee here, here's some more parallel lines in mine and Lester Bangs's histories--his father was born on August 25th, mine on August 24th; his father was born in the Dallas area; my father was born in the Dallas area. Big deal, you say, so the hell what? Hey, I'm superstitious as a musician and writer and I believe in coincidences and I believe in a lot of "just so happened" things, you know, like the devices they use to make teevee crime shows work within an hour's framework--you know how just when these supercops are all puzzled about how something happened, blah, blah, blah, and just then the phone rings and it just happens to be new evidence--just the evidence they need--dig it? Or they put a partial fingerprint into the Internet cop-exchange fingerprint file matcher and sure'nuff, they get a matching print just in the nick of time--I mean it's a bloody miracle--and none of us really believe in miracles--except nutjobs--see--as a writer I can just suddenly have a match--or suddenly have a parallel view or some parallel history--so his dad was born on the 25th of August and my old man was born on the 24th of August--and they are related by being born in the dead of summer in that area around Dallas where it can be 80 degrees on Christmas Day--and they were both the same kind of men, except my dad was never sent to prison--though maybe he just never got caught--I know my dad had a temper like Conway Bangs--and I've seen my dad take a butcher knife (my dad's weapon of convenience and choice--hey, me too, I have several butcher knives posted around my apartment in case of whatever) to an insurance hustler he had to run out of his place of business one time and I mean the old man was pissed and threatening, "I'll slice you up into more slices than a Christmas ham," and that could have gotten my dad in a lot of trouble but it didn't; and I saw my dad almost cold-cock one of his best friends one time when he insulted my mom--"You bastard," dad said and grabbed this guy by the shirt collar, "I should rub your F-ing nose in some of my wife's fresh shit; that's how much better than you she is." The guy started cryin' and my dad and he later hugged and made up. What was funny? I thought the guy was right about my mother and I'm sure my dad would have agreed with him, too, were it just the two of us out talking--especially down on Elm Creek on "the creek bank," my dad's favorite place to go and philosophize and tell his, my mother said "tall," tales--tales of life and how he'd always wanted to be a hobo when he grew up but how the ravaging dogs of the Great Depression had stalled him out and grounded him for life trying to make a living off NADA.
Lester Bangs refused to talk to me on that first afternoon I met him--or really didn't meet him--he kept his back turned on me. Matty told me about Lester's Romilar habit, plus he had been taking everything else in the Quick One's large medicine cabinet and smoking all the handrolls (the mezzrolls) Quick had laid out for guests--we all always had ready rolls ready and waiting on tables and coffee tables and side tables and dinner tables and copper kettle drum tables; like I had a ceramic cigarette holder that I kept my guest rolls in; plus, Matty said, he had gotten a hold of some Seconal tabs and Lester had gobbled them down and that's why Lester looked so wide awake--"Whoaaaa, Seconals wake him up?" "That's what we like about Lester." "And he's in your band?" "He is the band, we've named ourselves, Birdland, Lester Bangs and Birdland." "Whoaaaa, Mateo, 'Birdland,' 'Birdland,' wha' the shit?" And Lester Bangs turned around and said, "Yeah, jerk, Birdland as in Charlie Parker, you birdbathbrain." "Birdbathbrain! I love'ya, Lester, you're a wordsmith after me own heart." "The heart's an organ but it don't rock like no Farfisa."
And for one brief moment, Lester Bangs and my parallel lines met, we met on Charlie Parker, and hell yeah I knew who Charles Parker, Jr., was and hell ya I could scat you most of his tunes, "Hey, Bangs, can you scat to all of Bird's tunes? Let's try 'Billie's Bounce,' no that's an easy one, let's do 'Bloomdido,' naw, again that's too easy, how 'bout 'Marmaduke,' 'Steeplechase,' or 'Segment' or 'Cardboard' or 'Anthropology,' everybody knows that, so come on Bangs, scat some Bird with me, you bastard." And then our parallel lines popped back to Euclidian normalcy and Lester left and lumbered out to go with the boyz to the Pink Teacup for an afternoon breakfast. Lester hulked out of the Ear Inn without a hey-nonny-nonny at me. "Lester digs you, Wolfie," Matty said to me as he flew out of the joint like speed-high lightnin'.
The quotes I've been opening these episodes with, there are now 24 of them and dammit I'm gonna try and rope in this out-of-control piece of glob writing and hogtie it down with #25--I not tired of writing on it--it's a fascinating subject that I could probably write 25 more episodes on, but time is the eater of all things lovely and I didn't say that like none of those 24 quotes were from my writings but were all the words both written and spoken by Lester Bangs, taken from the following sources:
Of course, a lot of these quotes are Lester's words as written down by Jim DeRogatis in his punky great book, Let It Blurt, published by Broadway Books (a division of now German-owned Random House (doesn't that sound subversive?)) in New York City, in 2000. Good, well-written book.
Also, I've copied passages from Lester's fanzine book Blondie, published through the auspices of Lester's pals at Delilah Communications and published and distributed as a Simon & Shuster Fireside Book in 1980. (Simon & Shuster later was sucked up into the Carmazin/Redstone Paramount conglomerate--the getting into bed together of Infinity Radio (Mel Carmazin) and Paramount Corp. (Sumner Redstone) and then making it a threesome when they took over CBS television and radio and the coming on-board of Les Moonves and the eventual leaving CBS of Howard Stern, the shock jock, the man who made Mel Carmazin and Infinity Radio world-powerful and then left CBS so fast to go to Sirius radio in a 500 million dollar deal it left CBS spinning in the middle of a highway like a tossed out empty beer can.
And also, I must give credit to a couple of mag articles by Lester from which I copped some great words, 1) the December 1973 issue of Creem, from an article by Lester called "1973 Nervous Breakdown," Lester's feelings about the Rolling Stones after he'd seen them at Altamont. Also in this issue of Creem, Lester reviews a new Lou Reed effort (he and Lou Reed had a continuous fight going--Lester said he hated and loved Lou Reed at the same time, which made it hard for him to judge Lou, but judge him he did, and bitterly mean sometimes, too; Lester believed Lou Reed was the magnifico behind New Wave rock but he couldn't live up to such a magnificent title--Lou Reed claimed, what the fuck, he didn't want to be the magnifico of New Wave rock--Fuck New Wave rock, Lou said, and Fuck You, too, Lester Bangs; yet they almost saw each other all the time at parties, at CBGB's, when Lester toured with the Clash in England; also in this issue of Creem, Lester reviews the Rolling Stones album, Goathead Soup, and a Uriah Heep album, and an album by Slade. Great Bangs of Bangs writing--Lester bangin' out those words like a fucking machinegun high on Romilar. 2) From a February 1979 New Wave Rock, "part III" of Lester's book-intended The Roots of Punk, the book Lester couldn't sell to every publisher he and his pals tried and which may have come out posthumously as Psychotic Reaction and Carburetor Dung, a compilation of Lester's writings put together by his sometime friend and most times enemy Greil Marcus and published by Knopf in 1987 (Knopf, too, now owned by the same German publishing oligarchy that owns Random House)(most major American publishing companies are owned by foreign companies now--and I even include in that foreigner Rupert Murdoch's owning Harper & Row (former home of Judith Regan Books--yes, the Rupert Murdoch gift to celebrity editor Judith to get her away from Simon & Shuster after she scored big and gained big fame from producing and then getting published Howard Stern the shock jock's first book, Private Parts, which was the biggest selling book of all time at that time and rocketed old Judy sky-high into publishing stardom and eventually a chance to let Bernard Keric bang the hell out of her in his private digs in a Battery Park apartment, paid for by the City of New York, then under the rulership of Rudi "Mussolini" Guiliani, Stud-man Bernie's ace goombah suckbuddy, overlooking Ground Zero, and that's where he would bang ole Judy on the floor, on the central air jutout, on the livingroom window sill of the window that overlooked Ground Zero, leaving her butt prints and p-juices in the filthy 9/11 dirt on that window sill, and leaving her sweaty naked body covered in 9/11 remains to the point she resembled one of those mudmen of Africa, all after a bout of dirty fornicatin' with old Bernie in that contaminated apartment--Bernie was the best dick she'd ever had--that's what Judy admitted in an interview, folks, so you gotta give ole Bernie his studly dues. What a man!
for The Daily Growler
Here's the book:
A great read for women and children or nostalgic punkers and noise rockers--there's Lester hiking down the middle of Sixth Avenue (the elitists want to call it the Avenue of the Americas, but real New Yorkers never call it that) near his apartment--that's 14th St. behind him there.
And here's the author, Jim DeRogatis--how can you not like this dude with that face? (Plus the son of a bitch looks just like theryefarmerfromqueens, a The Daily Growler embedded character. They gotta be on parallel lines!) Jim's a fine writer, too, I might humbly add. Was Lester a better writer--hell yeah, and I think Jim would agree with me on that--nobody could write like Lester--EXCEPT...you figure it out.