Lester Bangs


Lester Bangs  (December 14, 1948 – April 30, 1982) was an American music journalist, author, and musician.  Often cited during his lifetime as “America’s Greatest Rock Critic”, he wrote for Creem and Rolling Stone magazines and was known for his leading influence in rock music criticism.  (More from Wikipedia)
The author of the tongue-in-cheek liner notes on Pebbles, Volume 2 (LP) where I first encountered “I Must Run by Phil and the Frantics is listed as “A. Seltzer, and I think they are supposed to be satirically in the style of legendary rock critic Lester Bangs, though I am not positive of that.  (Philip Seymour Hoffman played Bangs in the 2000 film Almost Famous).  About this song, “Seltzer” writes:  “And if you just moved to Dacron from some dumb place like Phoenix, Arizona, take heart cuz they’ve included YOUR favorite band, Phil & the Frantics with their famed plagiarism of the Zombies I Must Run’.  I’ll bet they did when the real songwriters came after ’em for taking credit for this song!  Real sleaze, but a shoo-in for punk posterity.” 
(August 2012)
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Legendary rock critic Lester Bangs has written of this song:  “[Ritchie] Valens sang with an unassuming sincerity that made him more truly touching than any other artist from his era.  ‘Donna’ is one of the classic teen love ballads, one of the few which reaches through layers of maudlin sentiment to give you the true and unmistakable sensation of what it must have been like to be a teenager in that strange decade. . . .  The agonizing sense of frustration which is so crucial to adolescent life is never very far from his lyrics; and in his best songs, like Donna and ‘Come On, Let’s Go, it is right up front, just as it is in Eddie Cochran’s classic ‘Summertime Blues.” 

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Writing for the Rolling Stone Record GuideDavid McGee states:  “To get an idea of his indelible contribution to rock & roll, consider the critic Lester Bangs’ citation of [Ritchie] Valens as the prototypical punk guitarist whose signature ‘La Bamba’ riff links Valens to a hard-edged, no-frills style of rock & roll later advanced by the Kingsmenthe Kinksthe Stoogesand the Ramones.”  The thrilling Ramones call “Hey Ho, Let’s Go” – from the opening song “Blitzkrieg Bop” on their first album, Ramones – might have been lifted directly from Ritchie Valens’ “Come On, Let’s Go

(June 2013/1) 
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Even more than the delightful portrayal of a rock groupie by a young Kate Hudson (she won a Golden Globe), the best part of the 2000 film Almost Famous – about the early exploits of Cameron Crowe as a rock journalist for Rolling Stone magazine – is the gonzo performance of Philip Seymour Hoffman as legendary rockcrit Lester Bangsthe editor of Creem magazine.  As he and the Cameron Crowe stand-in William Miller (played by Patrick Fugit) are beginning to bond, Bangs starts raving during an interview with a hapless radio station DJ:  “What is this hippie station?!  Where’s Iggy Pop?  Don’t you have a copy of Raw Power?!”  He paws through some albums, calling out after awhile, “Found it!”, and then starts playing Search and Destroy as the DJ mumbles:  “Lester, isn’t it a little early for this?”
In his September 2000 appreciation for the Chicago Sun-Times of this film and the rest of the Cameron Crowe oeuvre – Fast Times at Ridgemont HighJerry Maguire, and Say Anything – Jim DeRogatis allows that his favorite “music-movie pairing” in Almost Famous is:  “Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lester Bangs doing the chicken dance to ‘Search and Destroy’ by the Stooges.”  While not taking away anything from the excellent music choices made during the film Almost Famous, the contrast could hardly be more stark between this thunderous song and the genteel sounds by the more popular 1970’s bands.  This was true not just in the film but in the time period when Raw Power was released in 1973.  Jim DeRogatis also wrote a biography in 2000 called Let it Blurt: The Life and Times of Lester Bangs, America’s Greatest Rock Critic.
(March 2017)
Last edited: April 7, 2021