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Let It Blurt: The Life and Times of Lester Bangs, America's Greatest Rock Critic
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Let It Blurt: The Life and Times of Lester Bangs, America's Greatest Rock Critic

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  2,026 Ratings  ·  75 Reviews
Let It Blurt is the raucous and righteous biography of Lester Bangs (1949-82)--the gonzo journalist, gutter poet, and romantic visionary of rock criticism. No writer on rock 'n' roll ever lived harder or wrote better--more passionately, more compellingly, more penetratingly. He lived the rock 'n' roll lifestyle, guzzling booze and Romilar like water, matching its energy in ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published April 18th 2000 by Broadway Books (first published April 2000)
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Aug 27, 2011 Erik rated it liked it
I am not a fan of Jim Derogatis at all. He's that typical music writer that I despise, a sideline observer who prides himself on how harshly he can pan musicians whose talent and artistic integrity exists on a level that he will never achieve. Still, as much as I can't stand old Jim, I must give him credit for his well-written and well-researched book that takes you into the life of the greatest music writer of the twentieth century. Lester Bangs was the H.L. Mencken of rock and roll, a true bel ...more
Jul 27, 2011 Librariasaurus rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I bought this after I saw the movie Almost Famous for the first time. I was fascinated by the Philip Seymour Hoffman character of Lester Bangs. I wanted to know more about him and discovered this book by Jim DeRogatis.
The book is simple reading, and can be finished in a couple of days, I seem to absorb more of this book every time I read it, new details about the monolith of rock criticism that is Lester Bangs emerge. From his birth and early family life, to his drug addictions, sexual experienc
Mar 20, 2009 Matt rated it liked it
Worth reading automatically because it's about Lester but Derogatis really doesn't write all that well. The writing is ok as far as it goes but the man knew him and interviewed him and I really wanted something of the Bangs touch. The research is there, it's just not quite the fitting tribute to a guy for whom rock criticsm and aesthetic comprehension was a form of art and legitimate literature in its own respect.

The stories are good and the insight is suitable but I was all in all dissapointed
Anna Bond
Dec 05, 2008 Anna Bond rated it it was ok
I am a huge Lester Bangs fan, but not so much a Jim Derogatis fan. The narrative here doesn't really work, and the interviews Derogatis chooses seem overly critical of Bangs. It gave me this weird feeling that while Derogatis is trying to pass this off as an homage, he's really trying to prove that Bangs wasn't so great.
Mark Desrosiers
Aug 14, 2007 Mark Desrosiers rated it liked it
Shelves: music
I was mostly surprised that Lester became such a wuss in matters of love.
David Glenn Dixon
Washington City Paper
Arts & Entertainment : Book Review

Mo'Lester Blues
By Glenn Dixon • May 26, 2000

Ever notice how greatness isn't so much veryverygoodness as a mark of precisely how much and how the great one matters to whoever's handing out the laurels, goodness be damned, or at least darned? When Chicago Sun-Timer Jim De gets all superlative on the dead ass of Lester (ne Leslie) Bangs (ne Bangs), upgrading the LEGENDARY anointment that got rubbed into his Atlas-aching (but still dead) bac
Aug 07, 2009 Ben rated it really liked it
If there were a gonzo holy trinity, I'd vote for HST, Henry Miller and this guy. He's the best. He lived hard. He burned to live. He was a total nutcase. He had horrible hygiene and plenty of women fell for him anyway. Perhaps they felt sorry for him as much as anything. Though he could be a helluva fun guy. (He also happens to be where David Foster Wallace got the phrase "erection of the heart" -- s'thing I just learned in David Lipsky's interview/book from DFW.) He grew up Jehovah's Witness, w ...more
Jul 24, 2009 Chris rated it really liked it
In a way this is better than the collection of Lester's writings that I read earlier. Jim is such a "fan" I guess of Lester that he eschewed the crap that existed in that collection such as the writings from the "grave". He shows Lester warts and all and Lester had plenty of them, but you respected him and rarely felt sorry for him which would be any easy trap to fall into. Lester was an interesting and sad man. Jim really got to the joy of him as well. After this you feel like you "get" Lester. ...more
Nov 26, 2007 Ellen rated it really liked it
It's been years since I read this book my freshman year of college after being introduced to Lester Bangs by Almost Famous. Jim Derogotis' book got me really interested in bands from the seventies and in listening to rock music critically and in a social context. Appropriately subtitled "The Life and Times of Lester Bangs," the book also captures and era and lifestyle. "Let it Blurt" is as much about music as it is about sex, drugs, relationships, and culture.
Mar 20, 2008 Johnny rated it liked it
Having had my appetite whetted by "Almost Famous,' I sought this biography of Bangs. Unfortunately, the author who chose to capture the life and times of our most famous rock critic is nothing more than a fanboy amateur who somehow manages Bangs's life come across as boring, insipid and self-indulgent. Maybe that's the truth, but I much prefer Philip Seymour Hoffman's version--at least he was lovable.
Jan 22, 2008 Todd rated it liked it
Recommends it for: rockers
Not a whole lot of people from my generation even know who Lester Bangs here's your chance. If you like rock and roll from the 60's and 70's, maybe you'll like this book. If you felt a kinship to "Almost Famous", you'll probably like this book.
Antonio Depietro
May 04, 2017 Antonio Depietro rated it really liked it
He was more than a rock critic. He was an artist and a visionary- he invented the punk aesthetic and dies listening to Human League.
He was the greatest!
Nov 22, 2007 Lindsey rated it liked it
Seeing as that Taylor Rushing hailed this biography of a rock critic as one of the best books on this planet, and it takes place during the 60's, I was really expecting a better story.

I admit, I enjoyed reading about little Lester Bang's flannel shirt filled childhood (the pictures are darling), and his folk music loving era when he wrote for Rolling Stone and Creem. He had a huge passion for music and writing, and despite the lack of fortune accompanied with his reviews, he still loved what he
Feb 07, 2012 D rated it really liked it
There is a lot of things that go on with Bangs. There is a battle to claim the dead man as a slain prophet, or the innocent who took the lifestyle to the ultimate conclusion, passing into a coma with the Human League's 'Dare' LP lying on the turntable of his NY apartment. But for all those battles around his legacy, all that he left us with is two collections [Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung, & Mainlines, Blood Feasts and Bad Taste] which contains pages of electric prose, albeit most ...more
Dec 20, 2013 Charissalee rated it liked it
Oh brother. I accidentally requested this from InterLibrary Loan, thinking it was a work of Mr. Bangs, not his life story. Is there anything less fucking interesting than reading the biography of a rock music critic? To be sure, if there were a bio which could break the dull mold, it would be Lester's. But this book doesn't break anything. The back story on Bangs's upbringing is not nearly as interesting as the author thinks (Jehovah's witness, shme-movah shitness, I say) and the truth is that I ...more
Sheila Moore
May 16, 2016 Sheila Moore rated it liked it
Per any biography of any punk musician or anyone who was immersed in the punk scene in the 70s there are lots of people/musicians/groupies/writers involved and interrelated - numerous people mentioned and who seem important (and probably were at the time) but difficult to keep track of in the boarder story. The author does a pretty good job of introducing and then re-introducing the people that were the main players in Lester Bangs's life but at times it made the story stall or added unnecessary ...more
Gordy Seppanen
Sep 11, 2016 Gordy Seppanen rated it really liked it
A fascinating tale of one of the greatest music critics ever to get his reviews printed on paper. He came from a fractured childhood and had a difficult time maintaining relationships. He's legendary for his ability to consume alcohol and other intoxicants. He's been immortalized in the film Almost Famous as the guiding mentor to the writer in the movie. That was one tale from Lester's real life. His life goes through a number of crazy events. Time spent in Detroit, New York and Austin, Texas. H ...more
Lee Battersby
Mar 19, 2015 Lee Battersby rated it it was ok
Maybe Lester Bangs was more than a sad, bumbling, drunk with one trick that a combination of lack of editorial control, the 60s counter-culture, and the proliferation of the underground press allowed to flourish for a short period, but if he was, this book doesn't manage to portray it, and Derogatis captures nothing of the spirit that it might convey.

Dull, plodding, and journalistic to the point of blandness, the over-riding impression is of a subject who found his only talent was for shouting a
William Murray
Aug 14, 2012 William Murray rated it it was ok
Just like the rating, it was OK. I came away knowing a bit about Bangs' past and how he developed his style, but never got to see it. De Rogatis talks about it a lot, as do his interview subjects, but we are left to take it from them. Without seeing his writing, there is no way to come to your own conclusion.

His (self-destructive) path from California to NYC was well documented, as was his link to various scenes throughout - Detroit, the punk/post-punk scene in NYC and then to the Austin and ba
Jan 06, 2014 Andy rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-college
I actually skipped class and waited around outside Hawley-Cooke Booksellers at 8 o'clock in the morning to get my copy of this book on the day it was released. What a passionate youth I was.

I revisited it recently, and I suppose it holds up OK. DeRogatis isn't much of a prose stylist; the writing is mechanical and dull. But it would have been truly awful if the author had tried to imitate his hero and written it in the gonzo, Bangsian style. It's a enough decent introduction to an important cul
"Just for the record, I would like it known by anybody who cares that I don't think life is a perpetual dive. And even though it's genuinely frightening, I don't think...[...'s]...fascination with death is anything else but stupid. I suspect almost every day that I'm living for nothing. I get depressed and I feel self-destructive and a lot of the time I don't like myself. What's more, the proximity of other humans often fills me with overwhelming anxiety, but I also feel that this precarious sen ...more
David Fairbanks
Aug 16, 2015 David Fairbanks rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jim DeRogatis manages to balance out the Lester-ness of Lester Bangs with the normalcy of the real world to such a degree that he paints an accurate picture from outside the rock critic, one that has me diving into Lester's reviews with excitement. Upon reading more of Lester Bangs' critical work, I see just how much DeRogatis pared back to make this a readable and accessible catalog of the critic's tragically short life. By presenting the unflinching dislike or even hatred that some rock stars ...more
Elizabeth Bartucci
Mar 08, 2012 Elizabeth Bartucci rated it it was amazing
After listening to Lester Bangs talk about a broken heart, Cameron Crowe said it 'validated for him that it was cool to have a heart, even if your front was all aggression,' which I think is why every time I took out this book in public, strangers would coo and tell their story about their affection for Lester Bangs - they too understood that feeling. It's what rock and roll is probably about - all that toughness all those wailing guitars and pounding drums - at its core there is a longing, a ki ...more
Feb 28, 2007 Liz rated it really liked it
knowing random things regarding his life beforehand, this book was great at putting together the puzzle that was lester bangs. i'm not a quick reader, and this was by no means a quick read. excitement arose picturing the venues described and the musicians involved through the multitude of name dropping, which also lead to some of the drag time. So much was interviews that you had to concentrate on who each person was and the timeline. a must read for music fans. i also need to get back to nyc!
Ed Wagemann
Apr 02, 2012 Ed Wagemann rated it liked it
Why Everything You Think You Know About Punk Is Completely Wrong:

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Jaycruz Cruz
Aug 16, 2009 Jaycruz Cruz rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Music Fans
More than a bio, Lester Bangs story reads like the classic tragedy. Which is the sad cliche that "from great tragedy comes great art", but it's true. His writing made people see in music what others didn't see. He's credited with coining the term "heavy metal", and without him bands like The Stooges and The Velvet Underground would probably have been forgotten. It's a truly fascinating story excellently told by Derogatis.
Aug 22, 2014 Joe rated it it was ok
This was fine. Cool reading about Lester's career and a little bit more insight into his influence and importance in rock criticism. But overall there was an excessive admiration for him that was hard to get past to get to the real content. Good subject, but the book could have been a lot more interesting.
Sep 08, 2012 I rated it it was ok
Shelves: music
Competently researched procession through the surface facts of his life. How entertaining that is depends on how entertained one is by tales of debauched hijinks. Very little insight into his mind as a critic or why he pretty much uniquely stumbled upon championing a lot of what would become the alternative canon of rock music for indie scenes to come.
Aug 20, 2013 Jason rated it really liked it
I had very little experience with Lester Bangs' life and work prior to this book. I obviously knew of him, but it offers great insight into what he actually thought about rock n' roll's place in the world, his place within rock, and his place within his own life. It's a very well put together oral history.
May 22, 2009 Dylan rated it it was amazing
I found this a thoroughly informative and balanced overview of not just Bangs' life, but of the entire evolution of rock criticism. This era's critics collectively pursued - and arguably attained - some higher ideal of journalism that somehow managed to flourish for a number of years before booze and cynicism brought it down around the time Bangs' demise.
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James "Jim" DeRogatis (born 1964 in Jersey City, New Jersey) is an American music critic. DeRogatis has written articles for magazines such as Spin, Guitar World and Modern Drummer. He is also the Pop Music Critic for the Chicago Sun-Times. He often tries to separate himself from other music critics by promoting bands that have not yet become widely popular, but are close to doing so.

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