Birdland With Lester Bangs

See, it's true what they say - music reviewers make great albums! HINT HINT THINITN T HINNTTTT

* Birdland With Lester Bangs - Mickey Leigh 1986. *
Rating = 10

Lester Bangs was one of the very first "rock critics," and generally considered to be the most "GONZO" (guy on the Muppets) of all of them. He was in love with the very idea of rock and roll, and tended to drone on and on and on about how it made him FEEL, as well as making up stories, baiting musicians who had disappointed him (most notably, Lou Reed) and trying in every way to *BE* rock and roll, as opposed to dissecting it and making it as lifeless as a shitty old book or some shit (see Greil Marcus). As a result, he died in the early `80s of a drug overdose.

The only reason I'm familiar with the guy at all is that about five years ago, my pal Christian Smith (not a Christian, but definitely a Smith in all ways, especially Johnny Marr) bought his book Psychotic Reactions And Carburetor Dung for me, with the accusation that I kinda reminded him of this guy. I read the book and disagreed, of course (just because I put stupid jokes in my reviews doesn't mean my writing style is at all similar to the guy's - it's NOT!!!), but in some ways, I must admit I felt a kinship to the guy, aside from the mustache. In fact, in many ways, I like to consider myself the "Lester Bangs" of rock criticism.


On April Fool's Day (June 23rd), 1979, Lester Bangs entered Electric Lady Studios with JOEY RAMONE'S EXTREMELY TALENTED BROTHER MICKEY LEIGH (see STOP and THE RATTLERS, though not yet because I haven't reviewed them yet) and two other musicians to record this extremely short album called Birdland With Lester Bangs. Though it wouldn't be the only album Lester would record in his short life (the other was called Jook Savages On The Brazos), it would be the only one that I've ever heard, so here's my review:

What a really good album this is!!!! I love the work of Mr. Mickey Leigh - the guy knows fast rock and roll every bit as well as his brother did, and on at least three occasions now has provided us with oodles of killer uptempo chord sequences that you just want to hear over and over and over again and over again and over. And he doesn't look as weird as his brother did either. As for Lester, look - his voice wasn't bad at all! He stays on key (or near it) throughout every track even if he does occasionally SOUND as much like Rob Reiner's All In The Family character as he looks. His voice is "untrained," but could certainly pass for a lower-registered member of the Tom Verlaine/Richard Hell school of marble-mouthed verbalization (It's a private school. That's why you've never heard of it. You're poor and can't afford to socialize with the private school kids. At least not until you're old enough and can delivery groceries to them for a living.)

That was my "social critique" for the day. Thanks, George Carlin, for the inspiration! And thank YOU, Dennis Miller, for the inspiration! And hey, Bill Maher - thanks for the sharp political commentary that has so inspired me all these years! And hey - keep on being a hypocrite!

That was my second "social critique" for the day. No WAIT! It's after midnight!!!! Not only am I gonna shake my tambourine, but it's a BRAND NEW DAY (Sting rules, especially his late-period stuff)! With BRAND NEW SOCIAL COMMENTARY!!! Try this one on for size: "The Who is still touring? More like `Who's In the BAND Anymore, If You Ask Me!!!!"

This album features nine songs, nearly all of which roll on a really clean guitar sound and awesome uptempo chord thrashin' - more like `60s garage rock than `70s punk nihilism, and as exciting and catchy as anything by anybody ever anywhere at all almost. Their cover of "I Fought The Law" is about eighty billion times more wonderful than the cover/parodies by the Clash and Dead Kennedys (though obviously not as soaring and heavenly as the Bobby Fuller Four cover - I've never heard the absolute original so I can't comment on that: it wasn't by Bobby Fuller though!) and their originals are in the same vein. Simple uptempo chord-sequence blasting, sounding more like The Esquires or The Choir than The Ramones - wonderfully catchy and made for YOU! There are a few slower songs, but they're slower on purpose (they're intended as "ballads" or whatnot). It's really quite amazing that they recorded and mixed this thing in one day - it sounds so much better than most albums do, in both production and content. Sure, it probably breaks no new ground, but in their chosen genre (garage punk updated for speed freaks?), these guys could have been Kings. Unfortunately, they didn't get along at all so Mickey threw Lester out on his fat drunken drugged-up poopflaps. But with a drummer named Matty Quick - they couldn't loose!

Yes, the extra "o" was on purpose - what do you think I am, some kinda ORIENTAL???? (see bin/ ate=20020701 - if it's not posted anymore, try to imagine how neat a story it might have been. Stick some naked women in there and stuff).

Lyrically, "I'm In Love With My Walls," "Accidents Of God" and "There's A Man In There" (about Lester's father perishing in a house fire, though he didn't realize it when he wrote it) are all of-the-moment, wild and free yet literary and smart just like Lester's music writing. So that's good too. Again, it's supershort so don't pay through the nose for it, but if you see it in a used bin for $8 or so, I just can't imagine you not liking it, if you're into the joy of uptempo `60s garage rock at all. It's the BEST!

JAMES Best, that is! He played Roscoe P. "John" Coltrane on The Dukes Of Hazzard! Remember his hilarious dog "Flash" who walked really slow???? And that kickass album he did for God, A Love Supreme???? Well, a lot of people don't know this (but then a lot of people have AIDS too), but James Best loves to challenge youngsters to online video game contests on his web site! I don't know the url, but just type "James Best" into your little Yahoo search spacey thing and Mr. - WOW!

Stay away from his wife though - she is one major-league raving bitch. (Take it from ME - I heard a third-person account once!)

Reader Comments
Hi Mark,

Your comment that you consider yourself the "Lester Bangs" of rock criticism has simply got to be one of the funniest things I've ever read, anywhere, anytime.

God bless you.



P.S.: Even if you are a wanker, you're STILL a lot less of one than Bangs was. And he was sometimes funny, and I'm sure I'm a bigger wanker than all of you combined. But I like that you'll at least TRY to listen to Tori Amos, while still loving all the punk stuff you love--although, if you're going to review women songwriters whoe play the piano while they sing, FOR CHRIST'S SAKE REVIEW LAURA NYRO GODDAMMIT!

She invented Tori Fucking Amos, you know?

Where's Steely Dan, too, you useless prick?

Seriously, you're friggin' hilarious. Don't die like Bangs did. You're more talented and WAY more humble, which is really all that counts in a rock critic.

Add your thoughts?

Buy it HERE! Buy it NOW! Buy it LATER! Buy some Now & Laters.

Back to The Future Part IV: Marty Goes Back In Time And Strangles Biff Parkinson