All posts by Jake Brown

Lester Bangs on Zawinul

And here is one more review by Lester Bangs. This one is a double review of a couple jazz albums. It originally appeared in the August 5, 1971 issue of Rolling $tone, and hasn’t been published since…

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Lester Bangs on Chuck Berry

Here is the latest installment in the series of reviews by Lester Bangs that have remained unpublished since their original magazine appearance. This one is also from the August 9, 1969 issue of Rolling Stone. This time it’s a Chuck Berry review.

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Lester Bangs’ Cat Mother

As I mentioned yesterday, here is the first in a series of otherwise unpublished reviews by Lester Bangs. This one is from the August 9, 1969 issue of Rolling Stone, the one with Brian Jones (who just died) on the cover. The band is Cat Mother and the All Night Newsboys (who?), and Bangs gives them a positive review.

My favorite part is this paragraph:

“Can You Dance To It?” affirms once again, atop a great chugging funk beat, the perennial Rock and Roll tradition: “If you feel alright/ You know you’re gonna dance, dance, dance all night!” Right! Some of those zombies seen slumping around at rock concerts trying to maintain their cynical, bored cool should be forced to listen to this song again and again until they get the message, the original and essential message of our music, which is: “Shake yo’ asses, people!”

It took me a while to scan this, fix the scanning mistakes, and minimally html-ify it, so while there are more to come, it might take some time. So enjoy!

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Coming soon: Lester Bangs

My man Jeff recently entrusted me with a stack of old Rolling Stone magazines from 1969 to 1977. Most of these contain otherwise unpublished reviews by the likes of Lester Bangs, Greil Marcus, Richard Meltzer, and Peter Guralnick. FYI, none of the stuff Lester Bangs wrote for Rolling Stone appears in his book of collected works, Psychotic Reactions & Carburetor Dung, or anywhere else for that matter. So I think I’m going to scan some of those reviews and put them up here somewhere on the site. I’ll be doing this without license or permission, so if you run into Jann Weiner, keep your mouth shut, ha ha. Coming soon…

There used to be a wonder in your eyes

There used to be a wonder in your eyes
You used to laugh a hundred times a night
So long since you really seemed alive
We miss you
We mean it
—”Harvesting”

The Sinatras have been legends of the Kalamazoo music scene for a dozen years or more. They are all grown ups now, and they don’t play out that much, so getting to see them live is a rare treat. It also tends to be a hit-or-miss affair, since they apparently don’t get together very often to rehearse between shows.

The previous time I saw them, which was about a year ago, was a real disappointment. The Atomic Numbers opened up for them and totally rocked out with their unlikely mix of the Stooges and Badfinger. The Sinatras were impressed and kept egging them on to do encores. By the time the Sinatras finally took the stage, they played like they didn’t really give a fuck. It was a bummer.

But a couple weeks ago I got a chance to see them again, and this time they didn’t let me down. Not at all. In fact, they blew me away harder than any band I’ve seen a hundred times should be able to do.

There was a moment during an instrumental freak out at the end of their cover of “She Said, She Said” when I felt like I was in the presence of God, the very definition of my concept of “glorious noise.” It amazes me that three guys can make this much sound.

A lot of it comes down to Scott Stevens’ drumming. Watching him play is as close as any of us will ever come to seeing Keith Moon in his hey day. They set a cinder block in front of the bass drum so he doesn’t beat himself off the stage. And even with the heavy chunk of cement, by the end of their set he had inched his kit forward about a foot.

Ron Casebeer and Karl Knack both write great songs, and they must have a couple hundred of them in their repetoire, so it’s crazy how bad we all want them to play “The Kids Are Alright.” There’s just something about watching them do this song that transcends the typical bar band covering a popular song — something magic about the sped up tempo or the slight vocal changes, I don’t know. You can’t put your finger on it, and I probably shouldn’t try.

For me, the Sinatras bring me back to time when I believed I was going to be something that I don’t really believe in anymore. I don’t even really know what it was that I thought I wanted to become, but something happens when I’m standing in that crowd with my eyes closed, nodding my head to the cymbals, and listening to that band. It mellows my mind to the point where I feel peaceful and excited and nostalgic and optimistic all at once. And how often does that happen these days?

They apparently have an album’s worth of material already recorded and almost ready to go. I’ve been hearing that for a few years now, and I’m not very confident that I’ll ever hold it in my hands, but I’m really hoping everybody will get their shit together and do what it takes to get this thing out soon. The handful of singles and compilation appearances and live bootlegs just aren’t cutting it for me anymore. I need more. Give it up.

Napster R.I.P.

Napster is soon to be made irrelevant, forced to give up the things that made it great. Specifically, its price (free) and its user base (lots and lots). This makes me sad. Not for the usual reasons of being cheap and lazy. Although I do feel that the record companies owe me for my years of accumulating hundreds of CDs and hundreds, maybe thousands, of records. But because I probably will have a hard time finding the stuff I really used Napster for.

Scott Rosenberg, in Salon, makes an interesting point about the whole Napster fiasco that the major news outlets don’t seem to know about or care about:

Napster presently serves as an astonishingly rich swap meet for out-of-print music, live recordings and other obscurities that simply can’t be purchased. If the music industry succeeds in shutting down Napster, will it make any effort to provide alternative access to such material — for free or for payment? Or will it just continue, despite the advent of the Internet and digital copying, to act as if nothing has changed from the old disc-in-a-box distribution system, with its inherent limits on how much music could be kept “in print”?

This is the primary reason I use Napster — to download rare and out of print stuff such as Weezer b-sides and live Elliott Smith covers of Neil Young songs. The record companies are never going to give me that kind of service, especially not for free. So I’m going to have to seek out this stuff with tools such as audiogalaxy, gnutella, or any of the other file sharing services that are popping up all over the place.

I don’t have a problem using an ftp client, even on sites that enforce upload ratios, but I get angry at the fact that these others services aren’t simple enough to achieve the critical mass necessary for me to be able to find the obscure stuff I don’t already own on CD or vinyl. A lot of rock snobs are not as techie as I am, and my musical taste doesn’t follow the trends of most techies. For example, I’ve never given two shits for Portishead, Air, or any of the other crap that most computer geeks drool over.

Sure, it’s nice to be able to download popular songs I like but would be embarrassed to buy (see Britney Spears discussions). But the real reason Napster ruled was because it made it so I no longer had to spend twenty bucks on a rare single on ebay just for the otherwise unreleased b-side. Wilco’s split single with some other band on some little label contained demo recordings of “Someone Else’s Song” and the unreleased “Childlike and Evergreen.” I needed it. But now, you can find both of those tracks through Napster. Get them while you can.

Kiss touring without Peter Criss

So Kiss is touring without Peter Criss (update: new link), and the new drummer is going to be wearing the makeup and costume of “the Cat.” Why should I care? Why does this seem so blasphemous to me? Peter Criss has deteriorated into an awful drummer who can barely lift his sticks anymore. And as my wife said last night as I was ranting about the audacity of Gene and Paul allowing some imposter to pose as the Cat, “People should fucking retire before they get disgusting.” She was referring to the entire band in general, and her words made me stop and realize that maybe I shouldn’t get so worked up over Kiss. Why should I care? Why does this seem so blasphemous?

I’ll tell you why. Because Peter Criss was my favorite Kiss member back when I was seven in the glory days of the Kiss Army, and this whole reunion tour is all about recapturing those wild times when men wore clown makeup (scary clown makeup) and platform shoes. Without Peter Criss, it’s all just a sham — demon Gene swindling thirty-somethings out of their money. But then again, maybe they all should have retired long ago, because if you’ve seen any of them lately without the makeup, they’re pretty fucking disgusting.