Lester Bangs - the first rock blogger


I know I’m beating a dead horse when I say the majority of rock reviewers focus more on witty one liners and brow beating acts that achieve any commercial success than really writing a review of substance. There is a fine line between criticizing an artist and blatantly attacking them, as much as there is a fine line between being fan boy because a band talked to you or sent you an email, and actually talking about how an album changed your life.

Probably the first and most cited rock n’ roll reviewer is the amazing Lester Bangs. While it seems trite to mention, Lester Bangs formed the path for bloggers everywhere. He wrote more on opinion, glorified adequate bands he loved, and attacked mainstream success stories with a harsh tone and rapier wit. Sound familiar?

I started reading the collection of articles - Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung – and realized how fantastic his writing style is. He wrote in a beat style prose that meandered all over logical thought, more than likely a result of the drugs he so often references. He goes on metaphorical tangents that, while not really relevant, are extremely entertaining. Does it matter if he is right or wrong? Not really. I believe the passion he writes with is the only thing that matters.

This book is a must read for any rock reviewer. It isn’t a cut and paste analysis of a record, track by track. Bangs lives and dies by his thoughts, and is happy to exist that way. He writes about music, knowing that his love for artists will constantly lead him to disappointment and that is the best part about it. His piece on Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks makes me want to run to my shelf and listen to the record (which I did). It made me want to remember why I love the album.

The music he loved seems to be well in line with the precursors of the music bloggers love to love today. He couldn’t stand the Beatles (who I love), the Stones (who I do not), James Taylor or oh so many others popular artists of his day, but showered the Stooges, the Velvet Underground and so many not even one-hit wonders with love.

It may not seem strange for someone to openly admit to idolizing Lou Reed. Lots of people do, but when Bangs wrote this, no one did. In classic Bangs form, after admitting he idolizes Reed, he more or less attacks him for the duration of the piece. It’s rock n’ roll genius.

He was one of the first to write about bands he cared about, as opposed to what the public cared about. Why is this important? Probably because he made a career about writing his opinion, whether it was valid or not, and about the bands he loved. He helped form a new generation of rock writers (i.e., Chuck Klosterman) that can write jibber-jabber for two pages after simply referencing an album title.

Bloggers write about bands that play for 10 people; bands that don’t even have a record and can only offer some shitty quality 4-track songs that shows immense potential. I like to think that caring about music is why bloggers update sites with a shitty recording ripped off of a myspace site. I like to think that finding music that changes the way you think or feel is why bloggers stay up till the wee hours of the night listening to a band or trying to forge a writing style that fits. I like to think that people aren’t in it for the free CDs and tickets. I like to think Lester Bangs made it possible for this style of reviewing to be considered the norm.

I guess we will have to see.

Daily Links::
Thom Yorke goes pseudo solo
MP3:: Beat Radio - Treetops
MP3:: Silversun Pickups - Melatonin


@ 4:36 PM, brian kicked the following game:

hey. thanks for posting treetops. and thanks for writing about lester bangs. his piece on astral weeks also really effected me, it kind of crystallized my obsession with the record. best, brian

also, we just put some new songs at our myspace page. hope you like them:
www.myspace.com/beatradio

 

@ 10:10 PM, gay rape kicked the following game:

We are wellocme to it's configuration.

 

@ 12:01 AM, forced sex kicked the following game:

Wellcome to the real world.

 

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