I’m sure I’ve read some of his pieces at some point in Rolling Stone… actually, I’m not sure. I have seen a lot of references to this book over the years, and how Bangs is considered the best Rock critic of all time. So, it took me almost 20 years to get around to it — but I’m going to assert it has aged well. At first I was a bit put off by his overly florid and bombastic (yet mellifluous) style, I think designed to either throw the reader off the scent or to challenge them to push through to the point (10,000 words about The Fugs?) but I found I was struggling through articles about artists I didn’t know, then suddenly paying rapt attention (10,000 words about Lou Reed or Iggy Pop, no problem) to the ones whose music I understood, and it all clicked.
Bangs loved music. And he loved the people who authentically created art, he loved getting deep inside those artist’s brains, spending an inordinate amount of time to develop an intimacy with his subject, and capturing every grain. Music moved him like nothing else, and he needed desperately to tell everyone how he felt about it. He dug deep and uncovered angles and truths that were deeper than just the songs. His essay on the Clash and the early London punk scene is the best I have ever read on the subject, and it hooked me.
Ultimately, His baroque embellishments of language are best understood as evidence of his passion. He loves his garage rock, hates him some over-produced radio pablum, had a thorough knowledge of the underground garage scene in the 60’s and 70’s, some amazing insights into Jazz, and I now have a to-be-listened-to list as long as my arm.
Cool factor 5 🕶 🕶 🕶 🕶 🕶