Lester BangsView In iTunes
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Nearly everyone familiar with the work of the late, great Lester Bangs (his worn-out pulmonary and respiratory systems shut down in 1982 at age 33) knows him as a rock journalist for Creem, Rolling Stone, Village Voice, and countless other magazines. And while his critical acumen, perspicacity, and acerbic wit were his most important contributions to rock & roll, Bangs' brief musical career, which debuted with the release of the single "Let It Blurt" in 1979, is worth considering if only because he was a creditable songwriter, despite his significant shortcomings as a vocalist. As he was with his writing, Bangs the performer is intensely driven and emotionally direct, or as his longtime friend Greil Marcus aptly put it, Bangs's work amounted to "one man's attempt to confront his loathing of the world, his love for it, and to make sense of what he found in the world and within himself." I really don't know if Bangs took himself seriously as a musician (certainly not as seriously as he took his writing), but he was driven by a need to express himself, and why not through music? After all, he loved it (and loathed it) like nothing else he had ever known. Lester himself said, "music is about feeling, passion, love, anger, joy, fear, hope, lust, emotion delivered in its most powerful and direct in whatever form." All of that comes through in his recorded work, to a point. I don't think that Lester's music, some of which is very good, was able to replicate the same emotional intensity of his best written work. Perhaps that's the difference between being a member of a band and being a solo performer, but Lester Bangs the musician was not an embarrassment; even when his muse failed him, his gut feelings more than made up for it. Had be lived longer, there might have been more, and better, music, but his crowning work remains his Greil Marcus-edited posthumous anthology of writing, Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung.