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Let it Blurt: The Life and Times of Lester Bangs, America's Greatest Rock Critic Paperback – April 18, 2000

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Editorial Reviews


"Finally, the great American writer gets the book he deserves. Jim DeRogatis's Let It Blurt is a personal journey through the wit and the world and the ferocious spirit of Lester reads like rock and roll."
--Cameron Crowe

"Let It Blurt tells one of the essential rock and roll stories with great affection and panache. Lester Bangs--paradigm, mystery, great writer, tragicomic presence--has been given the biography he deserves...A splendid book."
--Jonathan Lethem, author of Motherless Brooklyn

"Lester Bangs lived fast, died young, and left a beautiful body of work. Jim DeRogatis, himself a gifted writer on rock and roll, knows both of Bangs's worlds--the music and the journalism--and has written an elegy for one of the few critics whose work is worth reading for itself, apart from its subjects."
--Roger Ebert

"To those who knew him, Lester Bangs was a force of nature, 'larger than life' and all such biz. For a mere book to capture the full sweep of his mind/body at speed and at rest may be too tall an order, but Let It Blurt is a welcome stab indeed at the whole Lester thing."
--Richard Meltzer

From the Inside Flap

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 prose that erupted from the pages of Rolling Stone, Creem, and The Village Voice. Bangs agitated in the seventies for sounds that were harsher, louder, more electric, and more alive, in the course of which he charted and defined the aesthetics of heavy metal and punk. He was treated as a peer by such brash visionaries as Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Richard Hell, Captain Beefheart, The Clash, Debbie Harry, and other luminaries.

Let It Blurt is a scrupulously researched account of Lester Bangs's fascinating (if often tawdry and unappetizing) life story, as well as a window on rock criticism and rock culture in their most turbulent and creative years. It includes a never-before-published piece by Bangs, the hilarious "How to Be a Rock Critic," in which he reveals the secrets of his dubious, freeloading trade.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (April 18, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767905091
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767905091
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #117,559 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 44 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
Lester Bangs had the energy for writing that Iggy Pop and Mick Jagger had for rock and roll, back when they cared; and Lester Bangs never stopped caring. His writings deserve their legendary status, and a great reason to buy this book is to read more of them, in excerpt. But the story of his life is even more fascinating and poignant than you might have expected. These things make Let It Blurt a must-read for anyone who's taken the trouble to check out readers' reviews of this fine biography. It suffers, like most books on rock, from a glibness of tone, and perhaps even from Jim DeRogatis's reverence for Bangs - but make no mistake, it's riveting. Also included: lyrics to a few of Bangs' own songs, including the eponymous "Let It Blurt." The book makes me miss Lester Bangs more than ever.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By buddyhead on July 6, 2001
Format: Paperback
"Let it Blurt" is an important history lesson in the rock journalism and criticism that many of us take for granted. I for one never gave any thought to its origins, and assumed music reviews have been around since the advent of magazines. Little did I know that it was championed by charismatic dreamers, frustrated musicians, and firebrands who saw the forum as a way through which to turn others on to the music they were so passionate about. In a lot of ways, the early critics for magazines like Rolling Stone and Creem were like "old school" athletes- folks who weren't paid much, and did it for the love of the game. Lester Bangs wrote in order exorcise his own feelings about music, while broadcast his feelings to a broader audience, whether they took the form of passionate endorsements, angry tirades, or merely exorcised demons.
One of the salient points made by DeRogatis is that when Bangs wrote reviews, he used the word "we", so as to implicate the reading audience, "addressing his readers as fellow appreciators instead of mere consumers." In other words, Bangs was writing for the audience instead of to it. He was a music fan first, and a writer second. Now, however, reviewers seem more out to pitch product, or at the very least, to avoid confrontation or- God forbid- being blacklisted from a band or record company's party and/or press release invitation list.
As a character study/biography independent of a rock criticism history, the story of Lester Bangs is captivating. His celebrity was certainly unconventional, and on the periphery of the oft-told stories of rock stars. He had the addictive personality, the creativity, and the personal demons of a rock star, but communicated through a different- though overlapping- medium.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Dave Miller on August 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
Like many martyrs, Lester Bangs did not die for his cause, he WAS his cause and he died. This book does his life justice, because it lets Lester's writing, actions and body odor tell the good and bad of his story. I didn't finish this book feeling Lester was a God. I finished it feeling like I'd met someone who reveled in his humanity to the point where everyone who knew him either loved or hated him for doing so. Never before have I been so inspired by a writer -- not from reading his work, appendix one is the first of his writings I've ever read in its entirety -- but from simply reading about how he lived his life. The freedom and zeal with which he so naturally lived and wrote was truly a gift to me though it may have been a curse for him.
Turning to the author, I think DeRogatis' strong point is definitely his exhaustive, perfectly detailed research. His prose -- nothing special beyond its dutiful journalistic clarity -- serves his years of investigation well. I guess when you're reading a book about a literary stylist like Lester, the biographer's writing style can pale in comparison to even the few short examples of Lester's writing included in the book. But perhaps that's just another instance of Lester's expansive personality overshadowing everything around him -- even the pages of his own biography.
This book tells the story of one of the greatest characters in rock and roll AND American culture. Lester belongs in the same league as Woody Guthrie, Jack Kerouac and Andy Kaufman (who, in certain pictures, I thought he eerily resembled) -- artists cursed with a singular voice who lived in a society that refused to let it blurt loud enough.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Stewart Wise on May 24, 2000
Format: Paperback
Jim DeRogatis interviewed me for this book about two years ago and I am delighted by the end result. Jim's account is accurate and compelling. Lester was a handful (he was a hellacious housemate), but he was also a funny, sweet and sensitive amazing writer and thinker. I loved him. I'm so glad that this book is out there finally. Lester was one of our most valuable American literary observers and Jim's book assures his well-deserved prominent place in the pantheon of great American writers. Living, working with and publishing Lester Bangs was, without a doubt, one of the highlights of my life.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jason P. Gubbels on August 12, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is a welcome, if rather brief and somewhat flimsy, addition to the woefully incomplete Lester Bangs canon, as of this date represented solely by Greil Marcus' anthology "Psychotic Reactions and Carb. Dung." Derogatis has interviewed plenty and done his research, and of all the young rock critics out there today, he's probably the one closest to emulating Lester's style and ideas, so credwise he's ok.
But while there are some interesting revelations about Lester's boyhood and events in his life, the book rarely does more than scratch the surface of Bangs' writing. Derogatis seems content to gather up numerous chunks of information and a few quotes from Lester, and decide that that alone should tell the story. And in one sense, I suppose it does, but can't help but feel that this book could use more depth. At times, Derogatis seems headed in that direction - periodically, he makes reference to some of Bangs' limitations, or acknowledges that Lester sometimes wasn't the greatest person in the world. I enjoy these tough looks at one of my literary idols - it makes his great pieces all the more impressive. But that's as far as the author will go, and the majority of the book is filled with the kind of pussy-footed trepidation that seperates intellectual criticism from the more suspect fan bio.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan, too, just like Derogatis. But given the opportunity to write about a man who was both talented and interesting, Derogatis only goes about halfway. There's still much to enjoy, and plenty of facts, anecdotes and gossip about the 70's rock scene to keep even the well-informed intrigued. Though disappointed, I still enjoyed it, and can only hope that it will help bring about a new and expanded anthology of Lester's work.
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