Saturday, June 6, 2009


It is now August, 2007, and I have just now gotten around to reading "Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung" by Lester Bangs. Years ago, I checked this book out of the public library and flipped through it long enough to know I wanted my own copy. I bought one in 1999 (the receipt is still stuck in the middle) and have just now read the darn thing. (At any given moment I own about twenty books I've bought but have not gotten around to reading. I am usually reading a couple of books. I'll get around to reading them all eventually and this is one that just didn't seem urgent.)

Boy, this Lester sure gets worked up over things. Time and again while reading this book the author reminded me of a dog furiously chasing after his own tail. I can sympathize with him, especially in his articles dated in the early 1970s. In these earliest essays, he suggests that all he really wants to do is just listen to some new, good, basic rock 'n' roll music. Well, in those days that was pretty hard to come by since we were deep in the heart of the prog rock era. It is obvious that he, like myself, found a lot to like in the 1960s but were not too happy with the 1970s. It almost seems that we took different directions at about that time. Whereas he took a path that led him to the likes of David Bowie, Kraftwork, and Richard Hell, I took the path to the dimly lit, unswept corners of record stores where they kept a few blues records. I was thoroughly happy learning the joys of blues by the likes of Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Big Walter Horton, and Hound Dog Taylor. Not long after I learned just how similar were the sounds of rockabillies like Gene Vincent and honky-tonkers like George Jones. At this point, I knew I had found my home, musically. I wonder if Lester Bangs would have shed his frustration and found a greater contentment if he had taken a similar direction musically? Might he have penned less anguished missives at an earlier age writing for Living Blues than Creem? Had he lived to the present day, would he have danced the night away at British rockabilly "weekenders" or festivals like the Ponderosa Stomp or Cavestomp? Dunno, maybe, hope so. Or would he be one those guys who must always find something to feel uncomfortable about?
Near the end of the period covered in this book, Lester seems to have identified some kind of inner contentment, if not able to completely embrace it then at least face toward it. If only he'd taken a few more steps in that direction before it was too late for him.
Indeed he made an impression.