Lester Bangs: “A Hero Is A Goddam Stupid Thing To Have…” by Helen Bach

Written by | January 17, 2010 17:37 pm | No Comments


Did you ever listen to the “End of the World as We Know It”

that the REM song with the fun fast lyrics;
“The other night I tripped a nice continental drift divide.
Mount St. Edelite.Leonard Bernstein. Leonid Breshnev, Lenny Bruce and
Lester Bangs.
Birthday party, cheesecake, jelly bean, boom”

Ever see the 2000 movie Almost Famous?
In that film a 15 year old rock journalist want to be falls under the tutelege of
Lester Bangs
The Ramones in ‘Not My Place in the 9 to 5 World”
give him a shout out:
“Hangin’ out with Lester Bangs you all and
Phil Spector really has it all Uncle Floyd
shows on the T.V. Jack Nicholson, Clint Eastwood, 10cc”
Who the Hell is he? Why are so many cool people referencing him?
I didn’t even mention the Buzzcocks references but they got um too!
Well its been touched on here before but I’m gonna give you the Hel spin on it.
First off…..he was one bad ass looking 70s dude.
OK now the important stuff
Lester Bangs (hell even his freaking name is cool!!)
Apparently he was pretty outspoken. Having been fired from Rolling Stone for negative reviews of bands such as Canned Heat and MC5 (omfg YES!) This guy seems to have been the most arrogant self righteous outta site man ever. Demanding that mags that didn’t print his reviews send him the reasons WHY along with the rejection. Nice!
Legend has it he would start of interviews with the most insulting questions he could come up with. Those in the industry considered him (and I quote) ‘disrespectful to musicians’.
Quoting Bangs:
“Because it seemed to me that the whole thing of interviewing as far as rock stars and that was just such a suck-up. It was groveling obeisance to people who weren’t that special, really. It’s just a guy, just another person, so what?”
This, of course, led to Bangs acquiring the rep of the man (along with his then employer CREEM magazine) who brought us punk rock. The irreverent judgemental F-U attitude I adore so very much. Thanks for that by the way. Its also claimed (urban legend? not sure) the phrase “Heavy Metal” was first used in CREEM .. again by Bangs (insert Todd Lebowitz ”woot” here)
Amazingly covered all of our forefathers, Lou Reed, David Bowie, you name it.. hell even Motorhead.
I wish I could have been actively around in those days. How freakin bad ass was bad ass in a world before bad ass was the norm?
How many enemies were there? How many worshippers?
I attribute my latest fave quote to Bangs
“A hero is a goddamn stupid thing to have in the first place and a general block to anything you might wanta accomplish on your own.”
Why the hell am I seeing that for the first time at 43 when I should have been living that since 13?! And trust me when I say with less vulgar wording I will be using that as a parenting quote.
We kinda went mad and tried to become a musician for awhile, some of us should really just write about it rather than do it. So Ill let that aspect pass.
Sadly Lester passed away in 1982. I wonder if I ever was in the same smarmy club with him? Not even realizing I was in his presence. As part of the NY scene ‘in the day’ its possible I suppose. Id like to think that, yeah, I was.
OK OK so maybe he wasn’t Mr Congeniality. Maybe he bruised some egos stepped on some toes. But know what? He was unique in the time of cookie cutters Cool as ice and a giant fucking jerk.
But he did his job. He did it well. He did it his way. How can we dismiss that?

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