In 1975, when I was nine years old, I discovered Lou Reed from reading about him in CREEM magazine. It was probably the very first rock magazine that I ever bought. The article, titled "Let Us Now Praise Famous Death Dwarves"really captured my young attention. It was the coolest thing I'd ever read. The author, Lester Bangs, conjured up a spectacularly ghoulish portrait of a totally disheveled, wasted and just plain old mean Lou Reed even as he hurled drunken druggy insults right back at him throughout the entire interview. The writing was sublime. I'm not saying I realized this when I was nine, btw, but even that young, I knew I was reading the unfiltered thoughts and opinions of someone who seemed to know about, and feel passionately about, a heck of a lot of really cool things. In his writing on rock and roll, he could really convey strong emotions. Bangs didn't hesitate to let you know where he stood on groups like Yes and Emerson Lake and Palmer (that would be two thumbs down) but when he loved a record or a group, his rhapsodic gonzo prose was worthy of being compared to Jack Kerouac, Tom Wolfe or Hunter S Thompson. Sometimes his writing was even better when he hated a group!
When each new issue of CREEM would come out, I'd go straight for the Lester Bangs articles and record reviews and I'd obsess on owning the albums he liked. This was back in the days (ahem) when you couldn't find anything like an Iggy Pop or Velvet Underground album outside of a specialist shop in a big city or through mail order, but the writing of Lester Bangs inspired you to want to have the same experience he had listening to groups like PiL, The Clash, The New York Dolls and The Stooges. He never, ever steered me in the wrong direction and not only do I see that my own passion for deviant culture comes from a crucial young connection to the mind of Lester Bangs, but also that he's one of the stylistic voices I've most emulated in my own writing.
So what an incredible thrill it was to come across a 90-minute interview with Lester Bangs himself on a Bit Torrent tracker recently. To finally, at long last hear the speaking voice of one of my literary heroes --it was like having a mental orgasm. Pure joy! Bangs and the interviewer cover a lot of ground in the two part interview including the state of the music industry at the time, whether or not the Rolling Stones ought to retire (in 1980!), John Lydon's PiL and what music Lester was listening to himself. It's a wonderful, articulate and thoughtful interview with a great writer whose speaking voice we rarely hear.
Someone at at website called The Interview Archive has posted the interview online. It's absolutely worth listening to, a rare treat.
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