Tag Archives: Almost Famous

Music Journalism A-Z – Lester Bangs

Music journalist Lester Bangs forged a lasting impression on my music psyche.

Lester Bangs

Lester Bangs was widely considered to be the most influential critic of rock and roll. He wrote for CREEM, the Village Voice, and Rolling Stone. He lived fast and died young like the rock and roll he wrote so passionately about. I believe his formula of self-destructive genius was why he commanded such a command of the subject.

I got the chance to meet Lester Bangs in 1978. I was walking through the Rock and Roll Memorabilia Expo at the Hotel McAlpine in New York City. I literally stumbled upon Lester Bangs. I did not recognize him at all, but then I didn’t know what he looked like. I just knew him from his byline in Rolling Stone and CREEM. He was sitting at a card table selling his collection of Rolling Stone magazines. As I poured over his pile of Rolling Stone issues I saw the mailing label with his name Lester Bangs typed on it. I don’t recall his physical street address but I think he resided in the East Village section of New York City.

I remember that he was witty and sarcastic as hell. This matched the writing persona I had come to relish from Lester Bangs. We discussed music and bands. He was very articulate. He was also very direct. “Hey kid”, he said to me, “Are you going to buy some of my magazines or not?” I had every intention of purchasing his back issues as they were rare and from him. He had no love lost for Rolling Stone or Jann Wenner let me tell you.

I forgot about that past interaction until I saw the movie, Almost Famous in 2000. The memory of my 15 minutes with Lester Bangs surged within me as I watched Phillip Seymour Hoffman portray Lester Bangs in the film. Having met Lester Bangs I can attest to Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s ability to capture and represent Lester’s dynamic/caustic personality.

I love what Lester Bangs tells young Cameron Crowe about becoming a rock journalist, “You have to make your reputation being honest and unmerciful.”

Its difficult for me to pinpoint my favorite Lester Bangs music article. Thankfully several music journalists have captured his work for us to savor today.

Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung: The Work of a Legendary Critic: Rock ‘n’ Roll as Literature and Literature as Rock ‘n’ Roll a collection of essays written by Lester Bangs.  It was edited by Greil Marcus and released in 1987.

Let it Blurt: The Life and Times of Lester Bangs, America’s Greatest Rock Critic by Jim Derogatis is a definitive biography of Lester Bangs’s wild enigma.


What Pearl Jam and Cameron Crowe Taught Me

Image via Wikipedia

I watched the Pearl Jam Twenty rockumentary film last night. My goal was to absorb as much as I could about the evolution of Pearl Jam. The film exceeded my expectations as I experienced a total immersion with Pearl Jam.

I have a long time respect for Cameron Crowe as a rock music journalist, film director, producer, and screenwriter. I have relished his unique music journalism ever since I first encountered his articles in Rolling Stone Magazine in 1973. His passion for the culture of music is infectious as it is enlightening. My favorite music film of his is the semi-autobiographical movie,  Almost Famous

Cameron Crowe has put his best foot forward with Pearl Jam Twenty. His role as a long time fan and advocate presents a polished dimension one rarely witnesses in a rockumentary. His insight into the artistry of Pearl Jam takes the viewer far and wide in its global view of Pearl Jam live. He also zooms in on the details of each band member so we learn about the sum of the parts known as Pearl Jam.

I must also give credit to the members of Pearl Jam and their team who pieced together lots of personal film and memorabilia to underscore the strength of a twenty year partnership.

I am impressed with the magnetism Pearl Jam exudes. Most notably this is represented in the identity of Eddie Vedder. We learn of his beginnings as a surfer in Southern California who soon mounts the waves of grunge rock success in Seattle. I had no idea Eddie Vedder was such a risk taker launching himself way above  the stage into the waiting audience to catch and break his fall below. We see what heights and depths Pearl Jam assumed in their first 10 years of the 20 year journey.

I gained a strong appreciation for Pearl Jam’s commitment to their fans by taking on the Ticketmaster monopoly. I love their activism and dedication to their beliefs in the integrity of music and their fans.

Pearl Jam Twenty increases my need to see them live some day soon, hopefully when they announce their 2012 North America tour plans. The film elevates their live performances in correlation to my want to witness their incredible energy and sound.