Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Lester Bangs Lives Again!

Lester's Intro to His and Paul Nelson's Rod Stewart
"I have always believed that rock 'n' roll comes down to myth. There are no 'facts.' When Rolling Stone avers it's printing 'All the News That Fits,' it's not talking about news, it's talking about hype. Which is what the rock press comes down to.

"Rod Stewart knows this; that's why all his early bios/profiles are hopelessly confusing--like Dylan and so many others, he deliberately filled them with contradictory fabrications, because he knew that rock 'n' roll is about reinventing yourself, and succeeded brilliantly.

"Take this book in that spirit. Some of it is 'true'--exhaustively researched, and most of those sections involving quotes from previously published materials, especially attributed ones, may be regarded as the 'truth.' I made up the rest, with the exception of the first chapter, which is a genuine account about two friends, and the 'Jewish Mothers' dialog between Paul and myself, and Paul's record critique sections.

"So believe what you choose to; ultimately, it makes no difference. Rod will continue to sell records no matter what happens here. The purpose of this book is not to sell records: it is to entertain--and never the twain shall meet. And to play with the myth of Rod Stewart, as built up over all these years.

"Enjoy. I did.
"Lester Bangs

"June 28, 1981."
[Preface to Rod Stewart, Lester Bangs & Paul Nelson, Delilah Books, 1981.]

And From the Epilogue to Rod Stewart
"To be ENGLISH is TO BE CONSCIOUS of TWO THINGS: (1) YOU USED TO RULE THE world, and (2) All your current rock 'n' roll bands stink, but the liberal or Left-leaning fan is obliged to like them even though they all sound either like old tarpaulins being dropped in a well while a sickly whelp mewls piteously; or they sound like seven college students hoping for at least a C+ even though they are dashing off a project entitled 'Twitch of the Miscreant' in between beer busts.

"I ask you, is this any way to conduct a social system, much less a rock 'n' roll scene?

"The reason you will probably find yourself strongarmed into sitting through whole LP sides of these ghastly sonics, equivalent to the air in Greyhound bus stations, is that all of these 'bands' are politically correct. None of them are Nazis. Many, in fact, have read the first three chapters of Capital. Influenced by a certain sentence therein which they misinterpreted due to convoluted mental workings which accompany amphetamine-assisted 3 A.M. cramming for finals, they have seen it as their duty to do away with Imperialism. The 'dialectical materialistic' lyrics on their albums are rendered intentionally indecipherable because, owing to the nature of the music itself, they feel it only behooving to mix it in such a way that the whole thing sounds suffused by a blanket of exceedingly heavy smog."
[From Epilogue "Rod vs. the Punks: A Duel to the Death; Or, Before You, My Dear Gaston," Rod Stewart, page 158.]

I just simply love the way this guy thinks and writes--all of that great writing about so dull a rich human as Rod Stewart, whose still bopping around seeding ladies around the world and fathering a host of little bastards several of which are now grown and have maybe lived longer than Lester Bangs--he died only 10 months or so after writing this book. Beautiful crazy thinking; beautiful self-expressionistic writing; mouthings made literature.

Mouthings made literature.

Ez Sez
I got this book, Shih-ching, by Ezra Pound in the mail today. It's Ez's taking the Odes as sung by Confucius and making them poetry. Achilles Fang, the late Harvard Chinese expert, wrote the intro to this book. In it he writes, "As the translator of the Classic Anthology Pound now emerges as a Confucian poet. ... In this translation Pound, the Confucian, 'the old hand as stylist still holding its cunning,' is intent on fusing words and music. For this purpose the choice of the ballad meter is a happy one, as it not only makes the translation readable but accurately brings out the original rhythm of the Odes. For the Odes are essentially ballads; they were all sung, and some of them were probably dance-songs as well." [Introduction to Shih-ching, Ezra Pound, Harvard University Press, 3rd printing, 1976. Introduction written by Achilles Fang.]

I knew Ez was a musician--yes, he was, a composer I should say, though I used to have a recording made by two California musicians of some of Ezra's music, and on one take Ez is playing the bass drum, but I didn't know Confucius was a musician--he carried a lute with him everywhere he went and loved singing the Odes wherever he went. [Like Ginsberg playing the harmonium and singing his Blake poems! Ginsberg who idolized Ez and went to visit him while the U.S. Army (our protectors) had him jailed in Saint Elizabeth's Nuthouse down in the District of Corruption.]

Reading a little more of Fang's intro and I see some fascinating study developing--Fang writes, "The Odes are said to give expression to chy. But the statement shy yen chy is essentially an etymological definition; the ideogram shy (Odes) is composed of yen (speech, to speak, to express) and chy (feeling, aim, wish, will). Even so, Chinese poetics has been dominated by this definition since the second century B.C., just as European poetics used to be dominated by the Aristotelian terms mimesis and katharsis. For the word shy soon came to mean, by extension, poetry par excellence." [Introduction, p xv.]

Neat stuff--speech vs. song. Rod Stewart vs. the Punkers.

From the Odes, Book I, Chou and the South, here's poem VIII:

Pluck, pluck, pluck, the thick plantain;
pluck, pick, pluck, then pluck again.

Oh pick, pluck the thick plantain,
Here be seeds for sturdy men.

Pluck the leaf and fill the flap,
Skirts were made to hide the lap.

Sounds like ole Ez to me. Reminds me of Winter is icummen in...that last verse: "Goddamm, Goddamm, tis why I am Goddamm, So 'gainst this winter's balm, Sing goddamm, sing goddamm, Sing goddamm, sing goddamm, DAMM."

Ah Ez--maker of masterpieces and Hilda Doolittle--I think Ez took her virginity, by damm.

for The Daily Growler

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