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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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"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 Bangs...it reads like rock and roll."
"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."
"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."
From the Inside Flap
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 critic
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Raised by a mother who was a Jehovah's Witness (which Bangs did not embrace) he grew up worshiping the Beats, most notably of course, Kerouac, who later heavily influenced his manic writing sytle. Bangs' passion for music began as a love for jazz which later morphed into rock and roll. He answered an ad posted in Rolling Stone and submitted numerous album reviews. Bangs only wrote for them a short time before accepting an offer to write for Creem Magazine, which necessitated a move to Michigan where Creem was headquartered. Bangs was the magazine's leading critic and would eventually become a contributing editor there. It was also at Creem where he would become a legend.
DeRogatis wisely takes the reader on a brief discourse on the rise of rock journalism and the growth of rock criticism and it's spreading influence under Bangs and his contemporaries like Greil Marcus, Robert Christgau and Dave Marsh. This is invaluable as we get an understanding and context of the world Bangs would hold sway.
The Creem years would see Bangs' writing style flourish. Never impressed by the celebrity status of rock musicians, he despised pomposity and spoke to them in tones of irreverence and sometimes, outright sarcasm. His prose was overrun with mayhem, as if Punk Rock was put into prose form. His confrontations with his idol Lou Reed were the stuff of legend. DeRogatis covers this period masterfully. Bangs' articles ran from the hilarious to the touching, but it was album reviews that saw him at his peak. He could artfully rip an album to shreds or become as obsessive as any hormonally driven male teen when he liked something.
One of Bangs' strengths as a critic was that he may have disliked a certain album as first (such as the Stones' masterpiece, Exile on Main Street), but he was known every now and then to reverse his opinion and be honest enough to let his readers to know why.
DeRogatis chronicles the highs and lows of Bangs' life and work. His prodigious writing, his copious drug and alcohol intake. His failed love life, his love/hate relationships with acts he liked or hated (such as the aforementioned Lou Reed). He also documents Bangs championing (and eventual alienation from) the rising Punk Rock movement before it even had a name.
It should be kept in mind that Bangs wasn't right on every review and that some of his opinions have failed to hold up over the time since his death. His spurious views on Led Zeppelin (as well as those of his contemporaries on the band) were off the mark. Not to mention his support of other acts at the expense of ignoring others could be interpreted as thrusting his own tastes on his audience. Bangs could be petty and he nursed grudges far beyond what was necessary. Still, no one wrote better or infused their writing with rock's raucous spirit than when Bangs was at his best.
DeRogatis, music critic for the Chicago Sun-Times met Bangs only once, two weeks before his premature death, is fair towards him and can be seen as a touch on the worshipful side. Still, he fairly points out Bangs' strengths and glaring weaknesses (though admittedly, he goes on more of the strengths). "Let It Blurt" is as good a biography of Rock's late great, and still reigning prince of critics as we're likely to get.