Lester Bangs: First Impressions
The prolific rock critic continues to attract interest as one of the best hidden gems of pop culture.
What does Lester Bangs mean to me? I’m not entirely sure that’s the right question to go about asking. It’s subjective as shit and personal to the core, the supposed biggest sins an essay can ever commit. Years of rigorous academic research have told us so, entire PhDs on the matter have been written. The experts agree, the very moment an “I” is introduced the conversation immediately shifts to invalidation. But lately it seems that I’ve grown tired of the objective charade. It’s cold, distant, and pretentious. It has no flavor or spice and is completely devoid of passion. That is no way to write an essay trying to explore the intrinsic significance of a man’s work. The best questions are personal, and they get to the crux of the matter better than any other form. To answer what something means to you implies a level of interest beyond normal implications. It is an affirmation that sticks, whether the answer be indifference, hatred, or love. In the case of Lester, there is nothing but love, awe, and deep admiration.
For those unenriched into the Bang mythos, Lester Bangs was a prominent rock and roll critic of the late 60s, 70s, and early 80s. He died in 1982, leaving behind a convoluted legacy nothing short of legendary. He wrote prolifically, far more than what’s expected out of a critic, but far less than an academic pamphlet on the dilutions of gravity at the center of space-time. Abrasive, vocal, and controversial would be the three best adjectives to describe his persona. But there is more, oh so much more, that meets the eyes. Bangs was also a poet, a true wordsmith from the likes we rarely see. I don’t think people fully appreciate how brilliant of a writer he was. Perhaps maybe because he was first and foremost a product of his times, one of those few rare souls that dwindle in public interest for the same reason we never hear of movies like Black Sunday or Soylent Green; they’re remnants of a bygone era, forever trapped in a prism, yet always with the hope of bursting through in one last ditch effort. This is where Bangs’ legacy is at the moment, and it’s frankly a little disheartening, because he truly is a once-in-a-generational force, a Pegasus to whatever Greek…