"Birdland broke up in April 1979. Tensions had been building ever since the band hired a manager, Rick Schneider, a low-level record-company executive who packaged music for films. He prodded the musicians to try to convince Lester to become a behind-the-scenes figure like Brian Wilson, who wrote the songs but did not perform with the Beach Boys. Schneider thought they needed a more professional singer. 'It's more important to reach Middle America than the underground rock scene,' he told New York Rocker." [Let It Blurt, Jim DeRogatis, p 185.]
So I'm readin' that and I'm thinking, here's another one I knew nothing about, another everyday friend I was on a Debbie-Harry-Parallel-Lines thing with and I knew really nothing about him; and he was the bass player in the Fab Swills, too, though I will admit he dropped out of the Swills about the time of Birdland and a guy named Mike Woods took his place and I give Mike's real name because he wasn't a true Swill; he had no vices; he was a cool guy and a hell of a jazz bassist but he wasn't a Swill, though I remember he played some fantastic licks one night we played somewhere back in that sometime ago--and he had a wife who was a singer and I went and heard her sing and she was a gospel-type belter who could have had a Sarah Vaughan voice but she didn't but I dug her and she.,..well anyway...but in that one paragraph up above from DeRogatis's Lester Bangs's biographically hopefully correct life there is more there than I ever knew about Rick Schneider. For instance, I thought that was kind of' a low-blow to call old Rick "a low-level record-company executive"--and if Rick was an record-company executive it was his record company. Rick was a pretty good recording engineer, he's engineered several of my friends's albums--Greg Alper's Fat Doggy album for instance; Mark Holen's first Zambomba, and the album that had Bern Nix and Little Richie Rich on it--and I was there sitting behind Rick at the board in that recording studio in the West 20s those several nights--and I did know he worked with a group putting a Broadway show together, I know that because I was up in his apartment one time with Jesus Christ and Rick made us sit attentively and listen as he played a reel-to-reel tape of almost this entire Broadway show; he was writing it and producing it with this group of Broadway wannabes he hung around with in his "other" life. I and Jesus put his Broadway effort down; we mocked Broadway songwriters all the time, considered them limp-wristed in terms of writing progressive American music since we considered Broadway simply an American version of the British Music Hall scene--Vaudeville was Brit, too--and that's why there are so many Brits working on Broadway writing songs, producing plays, or bringing plays from Britain and staging them here--but then there I go off on my anti-Brit rant--and I rant too much therefore I'm not credible according to my greatest critic, a woman I've known and who's taken me for granted and held a spell over me for many wolfbane moons under which I have both howled with pleasure and growled with anger over this woman--and she says I rant too much; I try to talk politics with her and it's impossible; I'm lost in politics, I'm antiauthoritarian, though I'm also Timothy Leary, too, like tunin' in, turnin' on, and droppin' out, livin' in the NOW--and I like living in the n0w and in the now, too, even with writing, and remember I try to write following my Aunt Gertrude Stein's rules for writing in the continuous present tense--the continual present--which leads to intense writing--ferocious writing, words working up into full-blown personal allegory; Lester had it; he wrote like that; he sung like that; he wanted a band that played like that--open-ended--the lyric being difficult in the sense you had to know the performer in his performance state, what he was trying to express in his band-leader, lead-singer roles--the bitterness--not like the bitterness in Dorothy Parker's poetry, if you know what I mean, no, Lester's bitterness was like bitter-sweet, like Aretha Franklin's great song, that was Lester's bitterness, his craziness, the spewing forth of his full-moon-based imagination, putting into words and ideas all the combo things that had sizzled well-done over his creative coals in the barbecue pit of his brain, musical, lyrical, poetic, savage-reasoning, all went into Lester's needs. He needed Birdland for a whole other reason than Rick Schneider needed Birdland. Lester was Birdland to Lester; Matty, Mitch, and David were nobodies to Lester; that was a part of his rock legend, a true rocker can simply just start playing a guitar or a harmonica and writing songs and singin' 'em the way he had decided his type of rock music should be sung and played, not necessarily professionally! Professionalism meant commercialism to Lester; same as it did to Rick Schneider. I was thinking, "Come on, Rick, 'Middle America,' 'a more professional singer,' Rick, you silly ass." Lester couldn't take a backseat role in that band; Lester hadn't come to exert his energy in making Matty, Mitch, and David stars like the Beach Boys--and now that I think about it, Rick must have been the inventor of the Rattlers, what Birdland became after Lester, the Rattlers's first recording being a 45 rpm record with a Side A tune called "On the Beach"--wow, and I never thought of that as being Rick's idea of a Beach Boys-type rock band. He must have heard the Pacific calling him or something--he ended up in Hawaii, but that's for the epilog and not now. [A copy of the Rattlers's 45 rpm recently sold on eBay for over $20. And you can find many copies of the Lester Bangs and Birdland CD put out by Mitch Leigh a couple'a years ago on eBay selling for around ten bucks, plus S/H.]
And after April 1979, I never saw Lester Bangs again that I know of. I did continue to know the old band who later became The Rattlers and I continued to live next to Matty and Rick and I continued to see David who moved into the neighborhood, and Mitch, and I continued to hang with Jesus Christ, my gang, the first Ear bartender (he got fired one night because after he closed down the Ear he busted out a bottle of Murphy's and we had a little party early into the morning, with some Bennington girls, getting them drunk, giddy, and vulnerable--and the Ear Inn mistress (we called her N___ the Nazi) was spying on us down the old Ear Inn fireplace chimney and she heard the first bartender say something about taking another bottle of Murphy's with us and going over to his loft and continuing to party. Next day he came to open the Ear and found N___ the Nazi waitin' at the door for him baring him entrance as a bartender though he and I were welcome to have a drink on her while she got his back pay together. "Why are you firing me, bitch?" "Because you didn't pay for 2 fifths of Murphy's you stole last night." The argument continued through the morning though by noon the ex-first bartender and failed leathercrafter accepted his fate and struggled off toward his home mumbling, "Well, hell, it's time to get the carving equipment out, go buy some leather, god-dammit, it's time to start dealing with the Village gays for my fucking income again, god-dammit," though he soon opened a leather shop on 7th Avenue right up from the Riviera and failed there, though splendidly--it was a cool shop) and I still hung with Bony Moroni the script-enhancer and the Hollywood billboard girl and a good-looking friend of hers I had the hots for because her claim to neighborhood fame was she'd given Steve Lawrence the old-time hotel club singer who worked with his hot wife Edie Gormet, who did have a hell of a voice and body, a blowjob, while his wife was in the next dressing room--I asked her on our first meeting, "Hey, question, was Steve Lawrence circumcised?"
The ex-first Ear Inn bartender had another lover after he got fired and before the Hollywood billboard girl moved in with him, a very fine looking young Jewish princess from Long'island, Great Neck, somewhere like that, and she was so fine looking, and one night I teased her heavy at a party in his loft and I hurt her feelings and she started targeting me for a come-back, like a slap in the face, a swift kick to my salty ass, so we were sitting in the Ear, a bunch of us, and she was sitting by me and I started hittin' on her heavy and she called me a very dirty name, like sayin' "I've never lowered myself to your type of animal behavior," and I retorted, "Oh, yeah," just like a mean little kid, "well I've never sucked the ex-first bartender at the Ear Inn's dick either" and I knew she had, too; he'd told me. Men talk and yeah I know, they exaggerate, but not in this case. Gettin' a blowjob in those days for a guy was easy--first date stuff, forget necking and kissing and preparation--like a porn film scenario, clothed, unclothed, and then the blowjob--the blowjob's always first, then the pussy eating, then...sorry, I'm stepping out of bounds, I know--fellatio and cunnilingus are the politically correct words to use, but they sound vulgar and foreign to me--and they are, aren't they?
And Lester left New York City and went to Austin and tried to put another band together down there, and then he did, Austin was thick into rock 'n' roll in those days and thick with respect for Lester, too, and his band experiences in Austin led to another album produced and paid for by his band's leader in Austin. And Lester literally disappeared out of my life after he left my friends in 1979. Literally; I'm serious. I never thought about him again until...well, you know how this episodic tale began--
And then one day in 1980, in April of that year, my landlord came to me and he said due to the changing nature of the area, he could now rent my loft for twice what I was paying and he either wanted me to pay my rent exactly on every first--something no renter in their right minds did in NYC in those days--I never paid my monthly rent on the first, never, always waiting till near the end of the month and then another first would go by--so the landlord said I had no choice either do it his way or he'd give me my fixture fee back and I was out in the street, which I literally (and here comes that word again) was for a couple of weeks, literally homeless, and I stayed that way until...1982...April of 1982.
for The Daily Growler