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Encyclopedia > Lester Bangs
Lester Bangs during an interview
Lester Bangs during an interview

Leslie Conway Bangs (December 14, 1948April 30, 1982) was an American music journalist, author and musician. Most famous for his work at Rolling Stone and Creem, Bangs was and still is regarded as an extremely influential voice in rock criticism. Image File history File links LesterBangs. ... Image File history File links LesterBangs. ... December 14 is the 348th day of the year (349th in leap years) in the Gregorian Calendar. ... 1948 (MCMXLVIII) was a leap year starting on Thursday (the link is to a full 1948 calendar). ... April 30 is the 120th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (121st in leap years), with 245 days remaining. ... 1982 (MCMLXXXII) was a common year starting on Friday of the Gregorian calendar. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... Rolling Stone is an American magazine devoted to music, politics and popular culture. ... CREEM, Americas Only Rock n Roll Magazine, was a monthly rock n roll publication started in 1969 by Barry Kramer and founding editor Tony Reay. ...



Bangs was born in Escondido, California. His mother was a devout Jehovah's Witness; his father died when Bangs was young. In 1969, Bangs began writing freelance after reading an ad in Rolling Stone soliciting readers' reviews. His first piece was a negative review of the MC5 album Kick Out The Jams, which was sent to Rolling Stone with a note detailing that should the magazine decide not to publish the review then they would have to contact Lester and tell him why. Instead, they published it. He later worked for Creem, The Village Voice, Penthouse, Playboy, New Musical Express and many others. Escondido is a city located in northern San Diego County, California just north of San Diego, California, USA. The name means hidden in Spanish-- it occupies a shallow valley ringed by hills. ... A freelancer or freelance worker is a self-employed person working in a profession or trade in which full-time employment is also common. ... This article is about the music magazine. ... MC5 wearing White Panther Party buttons. ... CREEM, Americas Only Rock n Roll Magazine, was a monthly rock n roll publication started in 1969 by Barry Kramer and founding editor Tony Reay. ... The Village Voice is a weekly newspaper in New York City featuring investigative articles, analysis of current affairs and culture, arts reviews and events listings for New York City. ... Jesse Capelli on Penthouse magazine cover Penthouse is a mens magazine founded by Bob Guccione, combining urban lifestyle articles and soft-core pornographic pictorials, that eventually, in the 1990s evolved into hard-core. ... Playboy is an American adult entertainment magazine, founded in 1953 by Hugh Hefner and his associates, which has grown into Playboy Enterprises, Inc. ... The New Musical Express (better known as the NME) is a weekly magazine about popular music published in the UK. It is unlike many other popular music magazines due to its intended focus on guitar-based music and indie rock bands, instead of mainstream pop acts. ...

Bangs claimed his influences were not so much predecessors in journalism as they were beat authors, in particular William S. Burroughs. His ranting style, similar to Hunter S. Thompson's gonzo journalism, and his tendency to insult and confront his interviewees earned him distinction; it also got him fired from Rolling Stone by Jann Wenner in 1973 for being "disrespectful to musicians." Bangs loved Lou Reed, producing several essays which depicted hilarious interviews with Reed. Journalism is a discipline of collecting, analyzing, verifying, and presenting news regarding current events, trends, issues and people. ... The term Beat Generation refers primarily to a group of American writers of the 1950s. ... William Seward Burroughs II (pronounced ) (February 5, 1914 – August 2, 1997) was an American novelist, essayist, social critic, painter and spoken word performer. ... Hunter Stockton Thompson (July 18, 1937 – February 20, 2005) was an American journalist and author. ... Gonzo journalism is a style of journalistic reporting. ... Rolling Stone is an American magazine devoted to music, politics and popular culture. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... Lewis Allen Lou Reed (born March 2, 1942 in Brooklyn, New York) is an American rock singer-songwriter and guitarist. ...


Bangs died in New York, overdosing (through drug interaction) after treating a cold with Darvon and Valium. He was listening to The Human League's album, Dare. Nickname: Big Apple Location in the state of New York Coordinates: Country United States State New York Boroughs Bronx (The Bronx) New York (Manhattan) Queens (Queens) Kings (Brooklyn) Richmond (Staten Island) Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R) Area    - City 1,214. ... Oral medication A medication is a licenced drug taken to cure or reduce symptoms of an illness or medical condition. ... Acute viral nasopharyngitis, often known as the common cold, is a mild viral infectious disease of the upper respiratory system (nose and throat). ... Dextropropoxyphene is an analgesic in the opioid category. ... Diazepam (IPA: ), marketed under brand names Valium, Stesolid, Seduxen, Bosaurin and Apozepam)[1] is a drug which is a benzodiazepine derivative. ... The Human League are an English synthpop band formed in 1977, who, after several changes in line up, achieved great popularity in the 1980s and a limited comeback in the mid-1990s. ... 33â…“ LP vinyl record for The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour album from the 1960s. ... Dare! was the third album released by The Human League, and the first to feature singers Susan Ann Sulley and Joanne Catheral. ...

Punk rock

Lester Bangs is often credited with inventing the term "punk" in reference to music: Punk rock is an anti-establishment music movement beginning around 1976 (although precursors can be found several years earlier), exemplified and popularised by The Ramones, the Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Damned. ...

  • "Never mind that they came on like a bunch of sixteen-year-old punks on a meth power trip...." ("The MC5: Kick Out The Jams", 1970)
  • "... then punk bands started cropping up who were writing their own songs but taking the Yardbirds' sound and reducing it to this kind of goony fuzztone clatter". ("Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung", 1971)

MC5 wearing White Panther Party buttons. ... Kick Out the Jams was the first album by Detroit protopunkers MC5, released in 1969. ...


  • Bangs is mentioned in the 1988 R.E.M. hit "It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)".
  • Bangs is mentioned again in the Dillinger Four song "Our Science Is Tight".
  • Bangs is also mentioned in the 1981 Ramones track "It's Not My Place (In the 9 to 5 World)" from the album Pleasant Dreams.
  • Science fiction author Bruce Sterling's story Dori Bangs (published in Asimov's Science Fiction, 1989) was inspired by Bangs (along with the underground comic book artist Dori Seda). Sterling speculates on what Bangs might have done had he lived longer.
  • Bangs is depicted by Philip Seymour Hoffman in Cameron Crowe's semi-autobiographical film Almost Famous (2000), in which a budding music journalist idolizes him. Bangs acts as a guide and a critic of what Rock and Roll has become by the time of the film.
  • The Buzzcocks's song Lester Sands (Buzzcocks turn it up) is actually referring to him, dismissing Bangs' criticism as a "drop in the ocean".
  • Baltimore punks, The Slumlords, recorded a track entitled "Lester Bangs" on their 2006 CD entitled "On The Stremph". Lyricist Jeff Perlin sings "Lester Bangs be glad you're dead, cause all this sh*t we're being fed..." in a song that focuses on today's phony, convoluted music industry.
  • Notorious for applying the term "white nigger" (which originated in Norman Mailer's 1957 essay "The White Negro") as a euphemism for a punk, or more specifically a white social miscreant with questionable or objectionable outward idiosyncrasies, and radical beliefs deemed unacceptable by the status quo. (Conversely, the term now has a different connotation, as "white nigger" or wigger is used to describe a white individual infatuated with the hip-hop lifestyle). He often referred to himself as the "last of the white niggers," and a famous photograph of Bangs shows him wearing a t-shirt bearing this title. [1]

His work has also become extremely popular in the wake of his death, which has led to the publication of anthologies of his writing. It has been suggested that Hornets Attack Victor Mature be merged into this article or section. ... Its the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine) is a song by the rock band R.E.M., found on their 1987 album Document and the 1988 compilation Eponymous. ... Dillinger Four is an influential American punk band based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. ... The Ramones were an American band considered to be the first punk rock group. ... Pleasant Dreams is the sixth album by the Ramones. ... Science fiction is a form of speculative fiction principally dealing with the impact of imagined science and technology, or both, upon society and persons as individuals. ... Bruce Sterling at the Ars Electronica Festival Michael Bruce Sterling (born April 14, 1954) is an American science fiction author, best known for his novels and his seminal work on the Mirrorshades anthology, which defined the cyberpunk genre. ... Cover for an issue of Asimovs Science Fiction. ... Dori Seda (1951–February 25, 1988) was an artist best known for her underground comic book work of the 1980s. ... Philip Seymour Hoffman (born July 23, 1967) is an Academy Award-winning, BAFTA-winning, Genie Award-nominated American actor. ... Cameron Crowe Cameron Bruce Crowe (born July 13, 1957) is an American writer and film director. ... Cover of An autobiography, from the Greek auton, self, bios, life and graphein, write, is a biography written by the subject or composed conjointly with a collaborative writer (styled as told to or with). The term dates from the late eighteenth century, but the form is much older. ... Almost Famous is also the name of an album by R&B singer Lumidee. ... This article does not cite its references or sources. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... Wigger is a jargon birthed in American culture that is defined as a white person who emulates phrases, mannerisms, and fashions stereotypically associated with urban Blacks; especially in relation to Hip hop lifestyle. ... Wigger is a slang term for a white person who emulates phrases, mannerisms, and fashions commonly and stereotypically associated with black people or hip hop cultures. ... Hip hop music, also referred to as rap or rap music, is a style of popular music which came into existence in the United States during the mid-1970s, and became a large part of modern pop culture during the 1980s. ...


"...I’m really schizophrenic about that, because on the one hand I would say, yes there is, there’s something inherently, even violent about it, it’s wild and raw and all this. On the other hand, the fact is that ‘Sugar Sugar’ is great Rock 'n' Roll, and there’s nothing rebellious about that at all. I mean that’s right from the belly and heart of capitalism..." (Lester Bangs in 1980 on the rebellious nature of rock’n’roll. Taken from a 1980 interview)

"What this book demands from a reader is a willingness to accept that the best writer in America could write almost nothing but record reviews." (Greil Marcus, editor of the first Bangs anthology Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung, on the second anthology, Mainlines, Blood Feats and Bad Taste. Taken from the cover of the paperback original.)

"Look at it this way: there are many here among us for whom the life force is best represented by the livid twitching of one tortured nerve, or even a full-scale anxiety attack. I do not subscribe to this point of view 100%, but I understand it, have lived it. Thus the shriek, the caterwaul, the chainsaw gnarlgnashing, the yowl and the whizz that decapitates may be reheard by the adventurous or emotionally damaged as mellifluous bursts of unarguable affirmation." (Lester Bangs, "A Reasonable Guide to Horrible Noise", 1980)

Selected works

By Lester Bangs

  • Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung: The Work of a Legendary Critic, collected writings, Greil Marcus, ed. Anchor Press, 1988. (ISBN 0-679-72045-6)
  • Main Lines, Blood Feasts, and Bad Taste: A Lester Bangs Reader, collected writings, John Morthland, ed. Anchor Press, 2003. (ISBN 0-375-71367-0)
  • The first piece for Rolling Stone [2]

Greil Marcus is an American author, music journalist and cultural critic. ...

About Lester Bangs

  • Let it Blurt: The Life and Times of Lester Bangs, America's Greatest Rock Critic, biography, Jim Derogatis. Broadway Books, 2000. (ISBN 0-7679-0509-1).

Popular Works Citing Lester Bangs

  • Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk, biography, Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain. Penguin Books, 1997. (ISBN 0140266909).

External links

  • French Audiobook (mp3) : "Iggy Pop, Blowtorch in Bondage" translated in French
  • MENTOR. EDITOR. LESTER: A Personal Appreciation by Jeffrey Morgan of Creem.
  • A Bangs tribute at Perfect Sound Forever.
  • Bangs' own section at rockcritics.com.
  • Bangs reviews one of his two favorite albums of the 1960s, Van Morrison's Astral Weeks.
  • 13th of May 1980 Interview with Lester Bangs & MP3 extract of interview
  • Richard Hell remembers Lester Bangs in the Village Voice, August 7, 2003

  Results from FactBites:
Guardian Unlimited | Archive Search (2486 words)
Bangs, if he were he still alive, would certainly have had reservations about being depicted in a film where the spirit of 1970s rock'n'roll is evoked through a scene in which a fictional rock band bond on their tour bus by singing along to an Elton John track.
Bangs hoped that New York would provide him with the inspiration to write the literary masterpiece his admirers were all waiting to read, but by the late 1970s his drinking and drug abuse were destroying too many brain cells.
Bangs and Kerouac were genuine soul-brothers from different eras - both damaged by suffocating mothers, both obsessed with music and literature as twin avenues for spiritual transcendence, both chronic alcoholics and hopeless romantics incapable of sustaining a healthy love affair.
PopMatters Music Feature | Burying Lester Bangs (2087 words)
Frequently taking Bangs as a role model, they fill countless pages, virtual and otherwise, with self-righteous, narcissistic logorrhea, the implicit assumptions being that true genius needs no editing, you can never be too nasty, and the focus rightfully belongs on the critic instead of the nominal subject of the piece.
Lester Bangs was unquestionably a gifted writer, one who displayed his talent at a tender age, but like many precocious children, he continued his attempts to impress with exhibitionist flash far past the point good taste would recommend.
Bangs did so as a young man idolizing Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, then became an idol to his readers, then was terrified by what happened to his friend Peter Laughner, and finally died in an unsuccessful attempt to clean himself up.
  More results at FactBites »



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