Tuesday, October 23, 2007

One Spring Morning Off Spring Street #28

"'So you think I've got an evil mind/Well I'll tell you honey/I don't know why!/So you think my singing's out of time/Well it makes me money/And I don't know why!/So c'mon feel the noize/Go grab 'em boys!/We get wild, wild, wild...!*' [from a tune in Slade's album Sladest] Got it? Dumped chunk-rumple into big stompingly anthemic hard rockin trojan horses from the most classic bins of rock armory. It kinda leads nowhere but into more closed-system hysteria, and it's more than a little manufactured mania, but it hits fine and true. It'll gallop you headfirst into sweet-kooze and sproing you outa yer jadofado wheelchair like a lucky stiff reprieved at last from endless iceman cometh miasmas." [from Lester's review of Slade's Sladest (Reprise) that came out in 1973 in the December 1973 issue of CREEM--Lester attended the record company album party.]

I mean say you were an editor and you were handed the above rough draft to ready it for publication. What would you do? Where would you start? If I said to just hand it in as is would you want to CREEM my ass with a blistering put down of "meaningless" automatic writing? Or would you call me and ask me was I happy using the word "anthemic" And when I used this version of "outa" did I really mean "out'a" or maybe I meant "out of"?

Holy shit! And I worked many moon as a editor and I'm reading a very harsh criticism of Lester Bangs form of rock criticism on the Internet by a guy who agrees with Robert Christgau (and Christgau said it to Lester) that writers are unintelligent until their work has been edited--now, of course, if Christgau et al meant cutting here and there to make the word count work in the column spaces I might could concede--though I think the writer should do the cutting on advice from the editor--but what Christgau et al mean is, Lester's writings aren't journalistically correct! That's what they mean. Here's a guy who says rock mag writers who think Lester Bangs was a great rock critic and writer and try and plagiarize (Lester said plagiarism was quite acceptable in rock criticism; he said a lot of rock critics aren't original writers but they are splendid plagiarists) him are going down a dead-end path to rock-criticism-writing obscurity.

"I mean look, face it, both reader and writer know that almost all of what's gonna pass from the latter to the former is justa buncha jizjaz anyway, so why not just give up the ghost of pretense to form and subject and just make these rags ramble fit to the trolley you prob'ly read 'em on…you may say that I take liberties, and you are right, but I will have done my good deed for the day if I can make you see that the whole point is YOU SHOULD BE TAKING LIBERTIES TOO."
— Lester Bangs, "The Clash".

What the quotation above has to do with the Clash still eludes me, but one thing that I know for certain is that Lester Bangs has most definitely convinced an ever-growing swarm of writers they should be taking the same type of liberties he took in his brief life....

...anyone who has spent time nosing through crude 'zines and music web sites should have little trouble spotting the incriminating fingerprints. The recent publication of a second posthumous collection of his work, Mainlines, Blood Feasts, and Bad Taste: A Lester Bangs Reader, suggests his popularity and influence remain undimmed some two decades after his death.

To this, I can only shrug my shoulders and cry for mercy. As one of the unfortunate few with a vested interest in the state of underground music press, Bangs's enduring influence strikes me as a cancer, one that needs swift uprooting if its current purveyors ever expect to become a worthy alternative to the detested corporate rock mags. While mainstream publications have long since descended into celebrity journalism whose passing mentions of music are limited to simplistic fawning, most of the options presented by the indie press are little improvement. Frequently taking Bangs as a role model, they fill countless pages, virtual and otherwise, with self-righteous, narcissistic logorrhea, the implicit assumptions being that true genius needs no editing, you can never be too nasty, and the focus rightfully belongs on the critic instead of the nominal subject of the piece.

Here's the link to this article if you'd care to pursue it: http://www.popmatters.com/music/features/031105-lesterbangs.shtml

Lester would have loved "narcissistic logorrhea"-- and, hey, dude, what's wrong with narcissistic logorrhea? You're writing it; I'm writing it; Lester wrote it; Dave Marsh wrote it; you make fun of Nick Tosches, but he wrote it; Christgau, too; he developed his own little schticky way of writing his lists and shit.

I've tried to say I understand why academically trained critics or writers or whatever just don't like persons who seem to come out of NOWHERE rather than Harvard or Columbia U School of Writing, or MIT, or Northwestern University, or Johns Hopkins...oh sure; these birds have been taught things by the rules.

"You Came Along From Out of Nowhere"
Our other coast commenter in a comment on yesterday's post said that Matty Quick, for instance, was well-rounded and thoroughly knowledgeable of all kinds of music and that he listened to all the recorded versions of Stravinsky's Le sacre du printemps before he performed it with a symphony ork and preferred Stravinsky's own conducting of this miraculous piece of music saying he thought the composer should be the best interpreter of his own music. Maybe in these crowds we hung with guys like Matty Quick (and myself and Jesus Christ and Chris Stein and Debbie Harry (she hated people knowing she'd been in a folk group before Blondie)) had rather remain coming from out of NOWHERE than to trot out his academic credentials to prove himself in the "accepted" world of music. None of these dudes knew I had a Masters of Arts in Sociological Theory and had studied archaeology at the University of New Mexico and had tried to get a PhD at the University of Texas in American Studies--blah, bland, blind--I finally dropped out of academia when I audited a poetry class at U of NM under the auspices of Robert Creeley. As a result, I read one of Creeley's books. The next time in class I raised my hand during his talking of he and Philip Whelan doing something naked in some poetical paradise, like some lost redwood forest somewhere lost maybe high on Yak milk high up on Jack Kerouac's Mount Hozomeen in the Dharma Bums and asked, "Prof, can poetry really be just NOTHING, just nothing at all? Like Aram Saroyan believes, a blank page can be a poem?" His eyes lit up. "Hmmmmmm," he said, raking the coals in his brain to fire them up to mountainous proportions, "Isn't everything just a whole lot of nothing made into something?" "And, also, Prof, once things have been written, even poems, they become nothing, from nothing to nothing, a sort of transcendence of the actual into nothing...as in 'nothing but dreams' or 'nothing dreams of nothing.'" "Hmmmmmmm." I never went back to that class again. None of my friends at the Ear Inn knew that I had audited a Robert Creeley course at U of NM or dug on a dig down in Belen, New Mexico, with pre-Columbian expert Dr. Frank Hibbert, in the heat, but with chicks wearing bikinis--I always loved archaeology chicks--my brother went on a dig in Israel and he told me all about the young student chicks in their bikinis digging for Judean artifacts on the Sea of Galilee and that seemed to be more important to him than what they discovered on the dig.
Robert Creeley when I audited his class at the University of New Mexico.

Hell no. My friends didn't even know I published two books on old now-gone Pope John the Two, the one the Bulgarians were always trying to kill. They didn't even know that I got cleared by the CIA and got permission to join the Pope's press corps when the Old Polish Papa came to this country and I travelled with the old phony out to Des Moines, Iowa, where he gave a pompous broken-English speech at the Living Farm out there. They presented my Polish book on him to him went he got off the Pope airliner in Boston, on the tarmac there, and a Cardinal from the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, of Tex-Mex descent, handed him my book to get it blessed and Vatican approved, but the Pope rejected it; it wasn't on his blessed book list--shit, his Vaticanologists said it was too lenient on the Polish Communist government and their oppression of the Catholic Church in Poland, where their Mother Mary is Black--yep, they call her The Black Madonna. My Ear Inn acquaintances didn't know that about me. Neither did they know Aleck "Rice" Miller, Sonny Boy Williamson Number Two, had taught me how to play the harmonica in a frat house bathroom in Denton, Texas, back around 19 and sixty when I was but a lad lookin' to get on that Lone Highway that all musicians had to get on to get to where they wanted to go, up that stairway to multiboogie stardom. In fact, Jesus Christ didn't even realize I could play the harmonica until one night in the eighties I pulled one out of my hip pocket while we were doing B.B.'s "Rock Me, Baby" and blew the fucking roof off the joint--naw, nobody had ever heard me play the harmonica before. Neither did any of these downtown BLOHO folks know I had published 22 poems in various "little" journals around the USA by the time they knew me. What we don't know about each other.

I was married to a woman for 10 years and one day I came home and she'd painted our bedroom blue and even put down a huge blue rug on the floor and the linens on the bed were all blue. "Whaaaat the hell, baby, you know I hate blue." Ahaaaaa. It hit me like a stone being hurled from a bystander yelling "Heretic!" at me...I didn't have a clue as to the likes and dislikes of this woman to whom I'd been married for ten long years. She had typed out all my early writings, seven novels in all, my poetry, but not my Pope books; we were divorced by then. We got divorced and she put me in my first bachelor apartment, a tiny dipsticky dump, a sheetrock and aluminum stud-constructed hovel on East 57th in a building whose upper floors housed a whorehouse full of beautiful Argentinian girls--oh how they could do the tango of love! Then I moved upstate to Freehold, New York, just north of East Durham, New York, and then I suffered to horrible pits of being a nobody in a nowhere place--even though Richie Havens lived up above me on the ridge road and Todd Rungren was always there. That's where the new woman in my life lured me and then flew the coop on me and went back to her husband after...oh shit, another episodal adventure in my life of flying through it to get to it--like Larry Graham said in one of the greatest rock-r 'n' b-jazz-blues-moderne albums of all time, Release Yourself, "You've got to go through it to get to it"--even if you were born with a silver spoon...as Larry continues on with his philosophy. Larry Graham and Graham Central Station--and Prince tried to bring Larry back but, no, by then he was old and has-beeny-looking though still whappin' the hell out of the twangin', bangin', snappin', bendin' strings bass he was the master of.
One of the great recordings of all time.

As an editor, I could have never edited one of Lester's reviews or articles without first sittin' down with Lester--it's like William Faulkner said about his writing that it was uneditable--this after a woman editor went through Faulkner's Sanctuary, Bill's potboiler, with a fine-toothed-editing comb and literally cleaned up everything including the sordid message of the book with its fabulous corn crib scene--what old Popeye did to poor little Temple Drake--yep, he loved his corn cobs.
Little Bill Faulkner showing you why we natural-born writers want to be writers--Bill symbolizes the good life to us, though Bill's probably sloshed on bourbon as he sits there posing as a famous author.

for The Daily Growler

1 comment:

Marybeth said...

You're misquotin' me there, luv. Reread my comment. It was "L'Histoire du Soldat" , "The Soldier's Tale", of Stravinsk, not "Le Sacre du Printemps" that Matty performed AND he was puzzled by Stravinsky's reading of it and commented that the composer ISN'T always the best interpreter of his own work. Matty didn't like Stravinsky's version as much as some other versions, which is an interesting perception. But these details don't matter so much, I guess. The main point, which you got, was that Matty wasn't just some dumbass punk who banged the drums wildly. He really was a beautifully trained classical musician who had full command of his metier. And he didn't spring fully formed from the head of Zeus, or come out of nowhere, regardless of what he did or didn't want to reveal in that realm.