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Lester Bangs quotes Showing 1-30 of 42

“The first mistake of art is to assume that it's serious.”
Lester Bangs
“The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you're uncool.”
Lester Bangs
“Rock 'n' roll is an attitude, it's not a musical form of a strict sort. It's a way of doing things, of approaching things. Writing can be rock 'n' roll, or a movie can be rock 'n' roll. It's a way of living your life.”
Lester Bangs
“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 sentience is all we’ve got and, simplistic as it may seem, it’s a person’s duty to the potentials of his own soul to make the best of it. We’re all stuck on this often miserable earth where life is essentially tragic, but there are glints of beauty and bedrock joy that come shining through from time to precious time to remind anybody who cares to see that there is something higher and larger than ourselves. And I am not talking about your putrefying gods, I am talking about a sense of wonder about life itself and the feeling that there is some redemptive factor you must at least search for until you drop dead of natural causes.”
Lester Bangs, Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung
“Don’t ask me why I obsessively look to rock ’n’ roll bands for some kind of model for a better society. I guess it’s just that I glimpsed something beautiful in a flashbulb moment once, and perhaps mistaking it for prophecy have been seeking its fulfillment ever since.”
Lester Bangs
“The real question is what to live for. And I can't answer it. Except another one of your records. And another chance for me to write. Art for art's sake, corny as that sounds.”
Lester Bangs, Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung
“Sometimes I think nothing is simple but the feeling of pain.”
Lester Bangs, Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung
“A hero is a goddam stupid thing to have in the first place and a general block to anything you might wanta accomplish on your own.”
Lester Bangs
“I'll probably never produce a masterpiece, but so what? I feel I have a Sound aborning, which is my own, and that Sound if erratic is still my greatest pride, because I would rather write like a dancer shaking my ass to boogaloo inside my head, and perhaps reach only readers who like to use books to shake their asses, than to be or write for the man cloistered in a closet somewhere reading Aeschylus while this stupefying world careens crazily past his waxy windows toward its last raving sooty feedback pirouette. ”
Lester Bangs, Main Lines, Blood Feasts, and Bad Taste: A Lester Bangs Reader
“The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else while you're uncool.”
Lester Bangs
“It's not enough just to do those things anymore; what you must do instead if you want success on any large scale is either figure out a way of getting yourself associated in the audience's mind with their pieties and their sense of 'community,' i.e. ram it home that you're one of THEM; or, alternately, deck and bake yourself into an image configuration so blatant or outrageous that you become a culture myth.”
Lester Bangs
“if the main reason we listen to music in the first place is to hear passion expressed- as i've believed all my life-then what good is this music going to prove to be? what does that say about us? what are we confirming in ourselves by doting on art that is emotionally neutral? and, simultaneously, what in ourselves might we be destroying or at least keeping down?”
Lester Bangs, Main Lines, Blood Feasts, and Bad Taste: A Lester Bangs Reader
tags: music
“... the twin concepts of nihilism and the antihero have had it. What began with The Wild One and James "nobody understands me" Dean, ran with increasing vehement negativism up through the Stones and Velvets and Iggy ... [I]t may be time, in spite of all indications to the contrary from the exterior society, to begin thinking in terms of heroes again, of love instead of hate, of energy instead of violence, of strength instead of cruelty, of action instead of reaction.”
Lester Bangs, Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung
“But since death is inevitable we don’t have to deal with it (it’ll deal with us when it decides to). What we do have to deal with is the psychic, physical, and fusion diseases wrought during our so-called lives as byproducts of the elemental clash. In other words we’re all terminally psychotic and no doctor, hospital, pill, needle, book or guru holds the cure. Because the disease is called life and there is no cure for that but death and death’s just part of the set-up designed to keep you terrified and thus in bondage from the cradle to the crypt so ha ha the joke’s on you except there’s no punchline and the comedian forgot you ever existed as even a comma.”
Lester Bangs
“All humans are the same sex, except albinos.”
Lester Bangs, Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung
“Irving Berlin said, "Popular music is popular because a lot of people like it." That doesn't mean it's good or bad—that's the equivalent of arguing the merits of hotdogs versus hamburgers. What the hell difference does it make?”
Lester Bangs, Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung
“They're events you remember all your life, like your first real orgasm. And the whole purpose of the absurd, mechanically persistent involvement with recorded music is the pursuit of that priceless moment. So it's not exactly that records might unhinge the mind, but rather that if anything is going to drive you up the wall it might as well be a record.”
Lester Bangs, Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung
“Personally I feel that real rock 'n' roll may be on the way out, just like adolescence as a relatively innocent transitional period is on the way out. What we have instead is a small island of new free music surrounded by some good reworkings of past idioms and a vast sargasso sea of absolute garbage.”
Lester Bangs, Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung
“Astral Weeks,” insofar as it can be pinned down, is a record about people stunned by life, completely overwhelmed, stalled in their skins, their ages and selves, paralyzed by the enormity of what in one moment of vision they can comprehend. It is a precious and terrible gift, born of a terrible truth, because what they see is both infinitely beautiful and terminally horrifying: the unlimited human ability to create or destroy, according to whim. It’s no Eastern mystic or psychedelic vision of the emerald beyond, nor is it some Baudelairean perception of the beauty of sleaze and grotesquerie. Maybe what it boils down to is one moment’s knowledge of the miracle of life, with its inevitable concomitant, a vertiginous glimpse of the capacity to be hurt, and the capacity to inflict that hurt.”
Lester Bangs, Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung
“A fellow writer told me that Richard [Hell] once told her that the best thing about being a rock 'n roll star would be the option of constructing his environment so that he would never have to be around anyone he didn't want to know from, which not only sounds like building your own concentration camp but is just exactly what most of the declining rockstars of the Sixties have done to themselves.”
Lester Bangs, Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung
“The trend toward narcissistic flair has been responsible in large part for smiting rock with the superstar virus, which revolves around the substituting of attitudes and flamboyant trappings, into which the audience can project their fantasies, for the simple desire to make music, get loose, knock the folks out or get ‘em up dancin.’ It’s not enough just to do those things anymore; what you must do instead if you want success on any large scale is figure a way of getting yourself associated in the audience’s mind with their pieties and their sense of “community,” i.e., ram it home that you’re one of THEM; or, alternately, deck and bake yourself into an image configuration so blatant or outrageous that you become a culture myth.”
Lester Bangs, Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung
“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
“Art", "Bop" and "rock and roll" and whatever is all just a joke and a mistake, just a hunka foolishness so stop treating it with any seriousness or respect at all and just recognize the fact that it's nothing but a wham-o toy to bash around as you please in the nursery, it's nothing but a goddam Bonusburger so just gobble the stupid thing and burp and go for the next one tomorrow; and don't worry about the fact that it's a joke and a mistake and a bunch of foolishness as if that's gonna cause people to disregard it and do it in or let it dry up and die, because it is the strogest, most virulent, most invincible Superjoke in history, nothing could ever destroy it ever, and the reason for that is precisely that it is a joke, a mistake, foolishness. The first mistake of art is to assume that it's serious.”
Lester Bangs, Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung
“Like almost all of Beefheart's recorded work, it was not even "ahead" of its time in 1969. Then and now, it stands outside time, trends, fads, hypes, the rise and fall of whole genres eclectic as walking Christmas trees, constituting a genre unto itself: truly, a musical Monolith if ever there was one.”
Lester Bangs
“If there's nothing more poisonous than bigotry, there's nothing more pathetic than liberal guilt.”
Lester Bangs
“Like almost all of Beefheart's recorded work, [Trout Mask Replica] was not even "ahead" of its time in 1969. Then and now, it stands outside time, trends, fads, hypes, the rise and fall of whole genres eclectic as walking Christmas trees, constituting a genre unto itself: truly, a musical Monolith if ever there was one.”
Lester Bangs
“Jazz was way out front, clearing a path into a new era of truly free music, where the only limits were the musician’s own consciousness and imagination, a music that cut across all boundaries yet still made perfect sense and swung like no music had ever swung before.”
Lester Bangs, Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung: The Work of a Legendary Critic: Rock'N'Roll as Literature and Literature as Rock 'N'Roll
“If you feel yourself responding cynically when someone relates that 'Dylan's returned to protest songs' as if it's exciting news, it just may be that your instincts are in healthy working order.”
Lester Bangs, Main Lines, Blood Feasts, and Bad Taste: A Lester Bangs Reader
“But why, in 1975, should Dylan return to what, in such a year, passes for activism? Because he's having trouble coming up with meaningful subject matter closer to home, that's why: either that or whatever is going on in his personal life is so painful and fucked up he is afraid or unwilling to confront it in his art. And, again, one is not sure that one can honestly blame him. When Blood on the Tracks was released, I felt as ambivalent about it as it was about its subject matter, and I remained that way. After initially dismissing it on one hearing as a sprawling, absurdly pretentious mess whose key was the ridiculously spiteful 'Idiot Wind,' I found myself drawn back to it repeatedly by a current that I was not at all convinced was entirely wholesome; I would get drunk and throw it on, finding profound aphorisms alternating with oblique poetry, belching outbursts of muddled enthusiasm: 'Goddamn, he's still got it!' Then I would sober up and it would sound, once again, dull, overlong, energyless, the aphorisms trite and obvious, the poetry a garbled parody of the old Dylan.”
Lester Bangs, Main Lines, Blood Feasts, and Bad Taste: A Lester Bangs Reader
“One does wonder, however, what Gallo would have made of Dylan's tribute to him; and one receives a possible answer in [Donald] Goddard's book, where Gallo's ex-wife describes borrowing a hundred bucks from Joey's father to buy records so that the Prince of Brooklyn, always a fan of contemporary music, could catch up on what had been happening in soundsville during that decade he'd been away reading [Wilhelm] Reich in the slams: 'He got especially mad over a Byrds album called "Chestnut Mare" that I wanted him to hear. "Listen to the lyrics," I said. "They're so pretty, and so well done." "I don't want to hear any fags singing about any fucking horse," he says--and he's really venomous. "It's not about a fucking horse," I said. "If you'll listen, it's about life." But he doesn't want to hear about life either. . . . Next thing I know, he jumps out of the bathtub, snatches the record off the machine, stomps out in the hall stark-naked and pitches it down the incinerator.”
Lester Bangs, Main Lines, Blood Feasts, and Bad Taste: A Lester Bangs Reader

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