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Main Lines, Blood Feasts, and Bad Taste: A Lester Bangs Reader

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  1,972 Ratings  ·  74 Reviews
Before his untimely death in 1982, Lester Bangs was inarguably the most influential critic of rock and roll. Writing in hyper-intelligent Benzedrine prose that calls to mind Jack Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson, he eschewed all conventional thinking as he discussed everything from Black Sabbath being the first truly Catholic band to Anne Murray’s smoldering sexuality. In Ma ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published August 12th 2003 by Anchor
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East Bay J
Feb 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: about-music
Psychotic Reactions & Carburetor Dung made me high. I read that book and got high on Bangs’ writing. I admit it. High as a kite. Hooooooooo boy.

Having read Mainlines… (blah, blah, blah, etc.), I’m left feeling like that effect was somewhat in the editing (and just maybe where my little head was at at the time). And the editing in this one is like getting a bag of weak weed with your last fifty dollars. Or forty for you non-Cali residents. Then mixing it with the dregs of that bag o' killer
Alessandra Souza
Feb 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Lester Bangs não é, vejam só, o Philip Seymour Hoffman de bigode dando conselhos sentimentais para um adolescente precoce, tal qual um Yoda para todos os fãs de rock que não comem ninguém. O que mais chama a atenção ao ler qualquer coisa de LB é como ele era completamente incapaz de se distanciar do tópico sobre o qual ele estava escrevendo, um pouquinho que fosse. Todo e qualquer álbum e música que passavam por ele se tornavam algo estritamente PESSOAL, e eram tratados de acordo, distância crít ...more
May 21, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Golden Gods, Fever Dogs and other members of Stillwater
i think this is the lesser of the two lester bangs anthologies. i really only remember that he hated an album by Canned Heat. no one was upset by this. not even members of canned heat.
Mark Desrosiers
Aug 14, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: music
A more sober, less gonzo collection.
Sep 16, 2017 rated it it was ok
I mostly don't like Lester Bangs. But there are also a few things about him that I do like. The essays about culture in this book ranged from really offensive to kind of interesting. And in the ones about music, I'm thinking now that I generally enjoy it when he's writing about something he likes & is excited about, because he has a way of transmitting that excitement, and explaining it. But I pretty much dislike his rants about things he hates. It just gets too snarky and cruel. I don't kno ...more
Dec 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
A voice that defied the mainstream AND the underground, Lester Bangs was and still is in my opinion the most enjoyable rock critic the world has ever seen. Even though he was dead by 1982 at the age of 33, the area he covered was massive. This compilation (an accompaniment to Greil Marcus' anthology of Bangs' works which I have not yet read) covers Bangs' writings from around age 16 until the end. It does not merely focus on his rock writings either. The first few chapters (or articles) focus on ...more
May 11, 2010 rated it liked it
Once at an allergist appointment to treat my asthma I had to use a nebulizer, a machine to help my medication get deep into my lungs. There were two end results: I started breathing better and was high on oxygen and I got more medication into me than normal and got high on that. Basically, I was high as a kite for an hour or two and then it wore off. But for that brief period of time, I was happy and did everything at warp speed and was lovin' life.
Lester Bangs, for those of you not familiar wit
Jun 07, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I've read this three times now (previously, once within a couple months of its publication, and again about three years ago), and while I still think it's inferior to Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung, I'm probably more inclined to recommend this one to the timid or curious reader.

Here's why: Although PRaCD includes the landmark early pieces on the Stooges' Fun House and the Troggs, as well as the essay on the Clash, some of that stuff can be a chore if you aren't ready for it. (Other earl
May 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: music, 2013

That mantra is what Lester Bangs uses throughout his writing, constantly testing music against his own needs, fears, loves, and obsessions, and the product is the best writing about rock n' roll yet produced. Two essays are my favorites: his review of Fear of Music, which detailed and described emotions for the Talking Heads that I h
Jul 07, 2010 rated it did not like it
I am officially declaring myself through with Main Lines, Blood Feasts, and Bad Taste. My tolerance for drug-induced, stream of conscious writing is slim, and 400+ pages of such is just too much. So, at a bit past the halfway mark, I'm calling it quits.

Which isn't to say that there isn't some interesting pieces in here — Kind of Grim, his article on Miles Davis, for instance, is excellent as is his Patti Smith piece, even if I don't entirely agree with his comments on the latter. If there had be
Eric Komosa
May 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
From an essay on Nico's album:

"I don't know if I would classify it as oppressive or depressing, but I do know that 'The Marble Index' scares the shit out of me. But what scares me even more is what people seem to want instead. Every time I see some kid with concentration-camp-cropped hair maybe tinted green with maybe a garbage bag over his or her genuinely pathetic belittle frame, I want to puke and maybe even cry a little at the same time. Because so much of this punk rubbish is based on the s
May 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who's ever heard of Lester Bangs.
The whole time I was reading Main Lines, Blood Feasts, and Bad Taste, all I could think was, "And he OD'd on cough syrup!"

Not having read the first collection of his reviews (Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung), and having heard of Lester Bangs from time to time but never having read anything of his, I was pretty much blown away by his prescience and wit. Although I must admit, the quality of these reviews varies—and with some more than others, you could clearly tell he was writing under th
Nikolas Kalar
As with a lot of essay collections from authors that I'm unfamiliar with (in this case, Lester Bangs) about topics that I'm fairly familiar with (music, more specifically, mostly the New York punk scene) I do what I think a lot of people do, and hop around, read the essays with titles or subject matter that appeals to me. That was certainly the case here, with writings about musicians as varied as Lou Reed, Stevie Nicks, Nico, Brian Eno, Mott the Hoople, Captain Beefheart, and the MC5. That said ...more
Mar 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Mainlines, Blood Feasts and Bad Taste
A Lester Bangs Reader edited by John Morthland
(Anchor Books)

This book is the real deal for any lovers of the
sort of music that I'm into. It is also a hell of
a lot more readable than Psychotic Reactions and
carburetor dung the previous Lester Bangs reader
edited by Greil Marcus. Thankfully it seems that
Greil chose all the most over verbose and drug
addled articles first time round which left John
Morthland with the more focussed and informative
pieces ins
Tim Niland
Nov 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Lester Bangs was a prominent American music critic during the mid 1970's and early 1980's, writing for the likes of Creem, Rolling Stone and other magazines. Bangs' caustic, in your face style was reminiscent of Hunter Thompson, with a vocabulary and drive to match. This collection showcases some of his best writing on subjects as diverse as The Rolling Stones, Miles Davis and Brian Eno. In a series of articles, he takes The Rolling Stones to task for being washed up and going through the motion ...more
M. Milner
Nov 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Another collection of Lester Bang' writings, Main Lines, Blood Feasts and Bad Taste offers a more even look at Bangs career than the other collection out there, even if it does have a few duds.

By and large, Bangs is remembered as a music critic who was sometimes harsh when reviewing records. And maybe if you've read his other collection, you know he was really into Lou Reed and The Clash, too. This shows how wide-ranging his writing was, though. It opens with excerpts from a novel he wrote as a
Dec 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Adam by: Mark
Shelves: art-and-music
Along with Hunter S. Thompson, Bangs has given me some insight into the 70's post-counterculture sense of failure, doom, and depression. Also like Thompson, he is able to inject incredible wit, intelligence, and subversion. By studying their heroes (Thompson's Jimmy Carter; Bangs' 60s garage bands), they even offer some hope for new politics and creativity.

Bangs also practices the kind of journalism I love--insistently subjective. Not only are his digressions and tangents hilarious, but they als
Jan 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
In some ways, much broader in scope that the other Bangs collection "Psychotic reactions and Carburetor Dung". It contains Bangs' ruminations on Jazz, folk, and heavy metal, along with travel pieces on Austin, California, and Jamaica (the book is almost worth it for that article alone). But the real whirlpool here is the lengthy "Bye Bye Sidney", where Bangs begins with the Sid Vicious murder/suicide and uses it as a vehicle to take us through a powerful critique of media-culture, punk rock's da ...more
Feb 02, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: music, non-fiction
I finally read some Lester Bangs, after all this time reading stuff about how he's the best rock critic of all time blah blah. I feel very 50-50 about it. I appreciate that he seems to recognize the quality of many of the grossly underrated women making rock music back in the day in a fairly non-condescending way, but then there are articles describing a Hell's Angels gang rape and long sexual fantasy sequences that are really horrible. He has some good insights about the failures of punk and th ...more
Tyler Bias
Apr 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While I'm giving this three stars overall, there is definitely some five-star material in it. I noticed a lot had been previously unpublished, so maybe this wasn't the best choice of a first Lester Bangs book. Things began to feel repetitive as it went on. Still, a few essays, particularly the Miles Davis ones, the post-Beatles retrospective, and the Captain Beefheart profile, are among the best writings on music that I have ever encountered. I understand that Psychotic Reactions already collect ...more
Jun 11, 2013 rated it liked it
Occasionally brilliant, often unnecessarily dense, cryptic and convoluted. It's the kind of writing that today's music publications could use a lot more of, but 400 pages of it is a bit too much to uptake in a single dose. I would've loved reading a couple of Bang essays every other month when he was alive, but in this anthology, it becomes tedious after a while. I also realized I'm not that much into 70s music, give or take a few exceptions, so a lot of these pieces, however good, weren't conne ...more
Andrew Hull
Jun 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Lester Bangs had a unique style that was quite enjoyable sometimes (travelogue to Jamaica), introspective at other times (Sid Vicious post-mortem), and irritating at other times (I skipped over one or two because I was annoyed enough after a few paragraphs to skip ahead to the next). I'd recommend this book to a fan of music history. Worth it for the above mentioned items as well as the Black Sabbath piece.
Dec 11, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, music
Lester Bangs and I would not be friends in real life...he's basically a sexist, drug-addled creep, who talks shit about some of my favorite music from the late 70s/early 80s - but that's also kinda the point. These reviews and essays serve as interesting, snarky, cynical snapshots of America primarily in the 1970s - a time when everyone was getting disillusioned.
Mark Zadroga
Mar 03, 2011 rated it liked it
Not quite the collection that 'Psychotic Reactions' was, but it's still Bangs. Angry, passionate & irrationally in love with Rock & Roll. Lester's writing is like letters to a lover that constantly cheats on him, stands him up, leaves him waiting in the rain, never intending to show up. Brilliant and heart-breaking.
Jul 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Do the words of a music critic resonate 30 years later? Maybe a little? It's interesting to see somebody fret so over the decline of the Rolling Stones while we may take it for granted that they were once amazing and became less so over time. Aside from that lots of insight into the music world of the 60s-70s from the twisted brilliant mind of a man who was there (man).
Nov 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Even if these essays were not thoughtful, vicious, funny, joyfully written and representative of probably a solid 90% of the worthwhile thoughts ever had by any contributor to the vast, reeking landfill that is music journalism, I would have given it at least three stars just for turning me on to Charles Mingus.
Meh. I can see how Lester Bangs was a big deal back in the day. Too bad 100,000 music reviewers have coped his style, whether intentionally or unintentionally (I'm guilty of this too), that its hard to read this and not just lump it in with another snobby, overly self-righteous reviewer for

I get why he's important but is this really relevant anymore? I dunno.
Feb 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
More record reviews in here than in "Psychotic Reactions," but that's perfectly OK. The real gems are the longer pieces, though -- an Island Records junket to Jamaica to see Bob Marley, a rumination on the senseless life and death of Sid Vicious, and a tremendous piece on Black Sabbath. No one much writes like Lester, and it's a damn shame.
Aug 22, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Books of essays are tough to grade. There's some great stuff in here to be sure, mainly the piece on the passing of Sid Vicious and the exploitation of Jamaica's reggae music. Unfortunately there's too many crass, Ginsberg'esque rants about random artists that just didn't land for me. Plus, it seems he really hated Springsteen so no more that 2 stars for you!
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Leslie Conway Bangs was an American music journalist, author and musician. Most famous for his work at CREEM and Rolling Stone magazines, Bangs was and still is regarded as an extremely influential voice in rock criticism.
More about 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. ” 13 likes
“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?” 8 likes
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