Are there any music journalists in history that have inspired, offended and passed into mythology in the same way that Lester Bangs has? I doubt it. The man helped make music journalism a respected art form, and for that I am personally eternally grateful. To call him the Bukowski of his profession is simplifying things immensely, but there’s some truth in it also. Both men would stay up for nights on end, just writing for the sake of writing. Bangs is also incredibly quotable, on a par with Churchill and Oscar Wilde. Former Creem editor and fellow Metro Times writer Bill Holdship once told me that Bangs would tell him to stand up for what he loves, and not care what other people think. I hold that dear when professing my love for ‘80s hair metal.
According to the Philip Seymour Hoffman portrayal of Bangs in the movie Almost Famous, Bangs also said that a music journalist can’t make friends with the band. Another former Creem editor and current Detroit News music writer Susan Whitall told me that she’s not sure Lester actually did say that, but he probably said words to that effect. Either way, there’s some truth there. Musician friends of music writers have to be prepared for honesty. But anyway
Mainlines, Blood Feasts and Bad Taste is a compilation of some of Bangs’ finest and most inflammatory work from Creem, Rolling Stone and more. Is it all genius? Not at all. At times, the prose wanders off and you can practically sense Bangs at 4 a.m. drinking coffee (and perhaps other things) by the bucket load to keep the creative juices flowing. But it’s usually entertaining and always interesting.
As a history lesson into the thought process of one of music’s best ever journalists, if not the best, this book is a must.