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Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung (Serpent's Tail Classics) [Kindle Edition]

Lester Bangs , Greil Marcus
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Until his death aged thirty-three in 1982, Lester Bangs wrote wired, rock 'n' roll pieces on Iggy Pop, The Clash, John Lennon, Kraftwerk, Lou Reed. As a rock critic, he had an eagle-eye for distinguishing the pre-packaged imitation from the real thing; written in a conversational, wisecracking, erotically charged style, his hallucinatory hagiographies and excoriating take-downs reveal an iconoclast unafraid to tell it like it is. To his journalism he brought the talent of a great a renegade Beat poet, and his essays, reviews and scattered notes convey the electric thrill of a music junky indulging the habit of a lifetime. As Greil Marcus writes in his introduction, 'What this book demands from a reader is a willingness to accept that the best writer in America could write almost nothing but record reviews.'

Product Description


Bangs was one of the best writers ever to appear on newsprint... When he died, American culture lost one of its most astute, ornery, funniest and most soulful observers (New York Times)

A marvellous collection... It will unquestionably teach you more about rock music and the appreciation thereof than a two-year subscription to all of the current British rock papers and mags (Time Out)

A superb collection... Wild and funny and unpredictable. Lester Bangs was a great American writer who happened to write about rock'n'roll (Rolling Stone)

Book Description

The essential writings of the greatest music writer of the twentieth, or any, century, reissued as a Serpent's Tail Classic

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 756 KB
  • Print Length: 418 pages
  • Publisher: Serpent's Tail (24 Oct. 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #135,912 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rock'n'roll on every page 19 Jan. 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a compelling, though in places quite challenging, compilation of Bangs' articles for Creem magazine, The Village Voice and other publications throughout the 70s and early 80s. His style of writing was almost like the music he reviewed, at times in short and punchy riffs, in other articles going off on extemporised sequences where he expresses himself using incoherent hippy jive language straight from the streets. He confesses to writing one article for 12 straight hours and you can feel it in the language, like it was written on amphetamines so he could finish it to deadline. Although, like most rock journalists he was prone to hyperbole in his assessments of major artists and their records there is a lot of intelligent and astute observation about the rock business in this book. The chapters on his love hate relationship with, and searing criticism of, Lou Reed provide the most humorous sequences for me. For example, Bangs interviews Reed in his hotel room with a transexual and observes " was almost unmistakably a guy. Except that behind its see thru blouse, it seemed to have tits. Or something. It was beyond light and shade. It was grotesque. Not only grotesque, it was abject, like something that might have grovelingly scampered in when Lou opened the door to get the milk and papers in the morning". Bangs is also capable of endearingly irreverent wit, for example describing Barry White as "nineteen pounds of pure lumbering animal who makes Leslie West look like Steven Tyler". Indeed his article on Barry White's schmoozy stage show is so close to the bone its stone cold brilliant. Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars At last! The worst of Bangs all in one place! 26 Feb. 2014
By Patrick Neylan VINE VOICE
Lester Bangs might have been 'the greatest music journalist ever', but his rambling, gonzo style is still an acquired taste. There was a clue to his limitations in the opening piece in 'Main Lines, Blood Feasts, and Bad Taste': when he's not writing about music, Bangs is self-indulgently tedious. In short, there's a passion to his music writing that evaporates as soon as he strays into other areas, and this book does too much of that.

'Psychotic Reactions' contains plenty of his quirkily brilliant music journalism - hence the three stars - but it's weighed down by far too many rambling pieces with only the vaguest relevance to rock'n'roll. There's even a section entitled 'Unpublishable', and believe me that's an accurate description. One item details how he'd spent every New Year's Eve since 1967; then there's a book review followed by five pages of notes for the same review, which is an unutterably pointless waste of space.

Then there's a rambling, 12-page piece that I think is a movie review - though I had to check on the internet to be sure - which includes four pages of Bangs' own fantasy and a scene-by-scene synopsis of the film. It's tedious as hell.

'Main Lines, Blood Feasts, and Bad Taste' is a brilliant collection, so how can another collection by the same author fall so flat? Probably because the editors of Main Lines thought of Bangs as a music journalist, while this collection's editor, Greil Marcus, was a friend of Bangs and wanted to present "the story … of one man's attempt to confront his loathing of the world, his love for it, and to make sense of what he found in the world and within himself."

Marcus has taken a great writer and sought out his weakest and most dated writing - thankfully fleshed out with some of his good stuff - in an attempt to create a sort of posthumous autobiography. But Bangs was Marcus' friend, not mine, and I simply don't care.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All hail the king of rock journalism 6 Aug. 1999
By A Customer
If you like your rock journalists to be more out-there than the so-called stars that they write about, then read Lester Bangs. By turns abusive, reverent, irreverent, witty, humane and incisive, this man was the greatest rock hack of them all. This collection is a must-read, and the arrangement of the articles gives the reader the sense that Bangs was growing up, but was not losing the plot by any means. It's a sad loss that he is not still with us. Read this book, feel your enthusiasm for music be rekindled and then go and tell all your friends about it. Brilliant.
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5.0 out of 5 stars This is some of the best writing about music 8 Feb. 2010
This is some of the best writing about music, if not THE best, compiled in one essential volume. Bangs is funny, wise and incredibly perceptive about the music he loves. Even if you don't agree with him, his passion is infectious. The Lou Reed sections of this book are especially good, but the quality of writing throughout this anthology remains very, very high. There's a vital insight and something to make you laugh on every single page.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
After many nights of heated discussion about music and the place of critics, I was given this book to read. As was intended, this selection of Lester Bangs' writings, taken from both published and unpublished material, opened a new vista of Critique as Art for me.

Bangs' writing is straight from the stream-of-thought school of Beat. Although he specialises in tangentially searing past his original point of any piece, or indeed sometimes coming nowhere near it in the first place (to the degree that it takes a few pages to work out what he is actually reviewing), he does it in style with imagination and wit. Although I quite like the breathless un-punctuated page-long ranting-past-the-point sentences, on the infrequent occasion Bangs' writing does get too thought-disordered for me to stomach; and he himself displays some insight into this, in one of his comments that he was "trying to be Bukowski".

However in short, Lester Bangs is funny, and most of the time interesting.

Although some of Bangs' writing might open up new perspectives on previously dismissed music, a cautionary word is that one mustn't take his opinion as anything to base your selection of music on. This is entertainment and as someone once said, "the critics have their audience too".
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