Posts Tagged ‘Motorhead’

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The Amphetamine Logic of Lester Bangs (Colossal Detour Edition)

February 1, 2011

Lester Bangs, suffering a rare moment of clarity.

Now, I realize that this piece I’m about to share with you is old. 30+ years old, in fact. But I figure if I just came across it recently, many of you haven’t read it either.

Not only that but I’m actually encouraging you to head elsewhere and read someone else’s writing. Lester Bangs to be specific. It’s a great piece detailing  a completely different angle on Lou Reed’s unlistenable “masterpiece,” 1975’s Metal Machine Music.

Plenty of theories have been offered to explain Reed’s decision to offer up a double-album(!) of brutal white noise and head-splitting feedback. Most of these revolve around Reed’s antagonistic relationship with his label (also Reed’s “default” mode with most of the world’s population). Many view MMM as some sort of “Fuck you” to his label, either out of contractual obligation or Reed just aggressively resting on his laurels.

Lou Reed stands proudly in front of his masterpiece in what is undoubtedly an airbrushed-in stock photo.

Lester Bangs looks at this completely differently, using for guidance, of all things, Reed’s own liner notes. His theory is that Reed made this as a love letter to the speed freak crowd with the atonal corrosiveness acting as a reasonable facsimile of being completely wired.

In his excellent liner notes, Lou asserts that he and the other speedfreaks did not start World Wars I, II, “or the Bay of Pigs, for that matter.” And he’s right. If everybody took amphetamines, all the time, everybody would understand each other. Either that or never listen or bother with the other son of a bitch, because they’d all be too busy spending three days drawing psychedelic lines around a piece of steno paper until it’s totally black, writing eighty-page letters about meaningless occurrences to their mothers, or creating MMM.

Bangs ties this in with his own life, going into gratuitous detail and generally making a very entertaining mess of the whole thing.

Love is silt. Anybody who has ever taken Quaaludes and wound up loving the rest of the human race so much they ended up in bed with a human turnip knows that.

Now, I’m not here to worship at the altar of Lester Bangs (mainly because there’s always a line at the altar, filled with skinny-jeaned journo students armed with composition pads or whatever the hell it is kids use these days, iPads probably, and ironic shirts busily penning pieces about Vampire Weekend, mainly bits of character assassination detailing Ezra Koenig’s combination of well-heeled mannerisms and boy-next-door looks, which when set in front of a bunch of stolen African influences that still have Paul Simon’s name written in felt tip on the waistband, prove to be altogether Too Much and must be deconstructed until nothing stands out but his predilection for carelessly worn Oxford button-ups and $500 deck shoes which tends to cast a pall of uneasy juxtaposition over the whole fucking mess, especially, ESPECIALLY because he wears this Kennedy-offspring ensemble out LIVE.

Yes, this look screams "Rock Star," but more as a frightened warning than a self-evident statement.

Unfortunately, any direct attack on Koenig is deflected by his subdued intelligence, which presents itself not so much as a strand of $20 words but rather the nagging feeling that he could mentally eviscerate you without flexing a brain cell, which all would be annoying/disconcerting if he didn’t just seem so gracious in person, always checking on whether the recorder is picking up everything ok or shooting you some unreleased demos on a USB drive shaped like an emperor penguin. And now, NOW goddammit, he’s completely undone your hatred, which, to be fair, was entirely preconceived based on his upper-class looks and media omnipresence, which really isn’t his fault at all if we’re honest and slightly drunk.

So now you’ve got a distended piece with no clear focus and a deadline and an editor looking for something crippling and you’re wondering whether it might be possible to pull a McInerney, jettison half the narrative and switch the whole fucking thing into second-person about seven paragraphs in, thereby adding the reader as an accomplice and soulmate in co-damnation, a comrade-in-arms who will truly empathize with your angsty (and that’s really what it is, isn’t it) distaste for this over-exposed band and be fully complicit in your shift to grudging respect for VW (’cause you’re now on nickname terms with the band), riding literary shotgun as even the grudging itself is shed like last year’s virginity by the end of the piece.

But it’s Bangs’ willingness to dive headfirst into the cesspool with his subjects that makes him so visceral, which no one is really doing these days because not only have the mags themselves gone clean as their numbers have dwindled but, with rare exceptions, rock stars are no longer living like rock stars but are instead writing op-eds for the New York Times and appearing on Sesame Street.

You scrawl quicky in your margin something about “how fucking something [check thesaurus for word other than “cool” or “tight”] would it be to tour with Lemmy” because love him or hate him, you weren’t going to ignore him or stay anywhere near sober for however long he let you (you!) ride shotgun on his tour of sold-out dives and half-filled civic centers. “Shit yes should go fucking do that.” Wait. Another quick note: “Wiki Lemmy. If still alive, contact management. Forward VampWkend piece for ref.”)

… but he did write some amazing stuff and left a slime-like trail in his wake, most likely due to personal hygiene issues. But hey, that’s rock and f’in roll for you. Those who can’t, write. (And help themselves to leftover drugs and groupies. Or did. Those days are probably behind us now, much to the eternal dismay of the second-person journo above.)

Go and check it out. Let me know what you think. (Especially you, O/O.)

-CLT

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Fancy Plans Guide to Rock and Roll

September 19, 2009

Rivers Cuomo finally trims the band down to just the "important" members.

Rivers Cuomo finally trims the band down to just the "important" members.

[With Volume 10 of the Fancy Plans Guide to Rock and Roll headed your way early next week, I thought it might be fun and self-satisfying to re-up the original. It was never intended to be a series, but people started making requests and, oddly enough, I actually started fulfilling them. I’m still way behind on the requests, but as Abe Vigoda is fond of saying, “I ain’t dead yet.” Enjoy. (Originally published on May 13th, 2009.)]

Here at Fancy Plans… we are often asked the question, “What is rock?” We reply, “Well, what are you listening to now?” The answer comes back, “It sounds like rock.” And our answer comes back, “It sounds like suck!”

Secure in our superiority, we retire to the bar, down several shots, head home alone and cry ourselves to sleep. Usually to Sigur Ros or some other depressing Nordic band. Unless we feel like murdering our friends and burning down a church. Then it’s Dimmu Borgir.

But enough about us. It’s time for some Rock and Roll 101. Remember, we do take requests. Just put them in the comment box.

Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch
Fronted by an underwear ad, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch succeeded in putting the “fun” back in “funky.” Tragically, they completely failed to put the “funk” back in “funky,” creating a sound that can only be described as “funy,” a made-up word that means nothing but sums up the group perfectly. Marky Mark went on to be a successful actor dues to his enormous prosthetic penis.

New Kids on the Block
Much like other “new” bands (Riders of the Purple Sage, Christy Minstrels, Order), there’s nothing remotely new about these kids. They’re still the same old kids who’ve annoyed you ever since they were old enough to leave their yards.

Remember, a few Christmases ago, when they showed up on your doorstep, bursting with four-part harmonies and well-rehearsed choreography? And you said, “Would you youngsters like some hot cocoa?” and while they were nodding enthusiastically, you hurled the cocoa into their freshly scrubbed faces? Ho ho ho!

Well, if you do remember would you care to indicate that by marking an “x” in this box and signing the bottom of this statement?

The Alan Parsons Project
Supplies:
– 16 Popsicle Sticks
– 4 Pipe Cleaners
– Intergalactic Spaceship (ask your parents for permission)
– Dry Macaroni Noodles
– Magic Markers
– Psychedelics (ask your older brother)

The Strokes
Grandpa’s favorite band, or at least he thinks so now, when he isn’t catching strange scents or ordering “strangers” like you out of his house. He used to tell you war stories but all he does now is argue with the television, occasionally stopping to yell, “Listen to me, you motherfucking beanpole. I don’t know who you are or where you got that haircut, but get the fuck out of my house! Your skinny tie reeks of purple.”

Awwww. Don't you just want to eat him up?

Awwww. Don't you just want to eat him up?

Eminem
As popular as his namesake and twice as sweet. Cute-as-a-button blonde candy coating with a dark chocolate core of blustering misogyny. Melts in your mouth, not your hands, ladies.

Pet Shop Boys
PETA’s least favorite band. Chock full of glittery synths, intelligent lyrics and a wardrobe to die for. If the Boys ever covered Venus in Furs covered in fur, several hundred angry protesters would show up and try to reconcile their hatred of furs with their respect for gay celebs and little red ribbons. Heads would explode.

Or perhaps, PETA will again take the low road and pimp out some objects (excuse me, models) to stand around nakedly protesting, thus ensuring press coverage both legitimate (AP) and bastardized (hello, Internet!). Possibly NSFW.

Led Zeppelin
Early pioneer of the heavy metal spirit, Led Zeppelin is perhaps best known for their song We Fucked a Groupie with a Shark. Amongst their other achievements: exposing youngsters to Satanism, Whitesnake, and founding member Peter Jackson’s movie career, which finally allowed the band’s Tolkien love to blossom fully.

the Sex Pistols
Formed by Malcolm McLaren as yet another London sex shop, the Sex Pistols inadvertently became a band. They were briefly popular and reached their pinnacle when they serenaded Queen Elizabeth on her 103rd birthday. Frank Sinatra nodded his approval.

Tragedy would befall the band as bassist Sid Vicious fell in with the wrong crowd and began murdering his girlfriends. Fortunately, his lack of personal hygiene and crippling heroin addiction stopped him at one, a Miss Chloe Webb. Malcolm McLaren went back to running both sex shops and his mouth, pausing briefly to photograph naked 15-year olds.

Carter, the Unstoppable Sex Machine
Current favorites in the mostly British arch-off, along with Certified Balsa artist Fatima Mansions and undeniably popular Blur. As Blur has dropped their class warfare angle to concentrate on world music, animated side projects and screwing Justine Frischmann, this leaves Carter USM (Shopper’s Paradise, Sealed with a Glasgow Kiss) in a neck-and-neck race with underdog Fatima Mansions (Only Losers Take the Bus, Blues for Ceausescu).

A dark horse candidate has appeared out of the US, though. It’s Negativland and their piss-take of U2’s I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. And here come the lawyers! Stay tuned!

(Or not, with the exception of Blur, none of these bands are still producing music.)

Lemmy, under the influence of nearly goddamned everything, is suddenly entrance by his "massive" hands.

Lemmy, under the influence of nearly goddamned everything, is suddenly entranced by his "massive" hands.

Motorhead
Fronted by Quentin “Lemmy” Kilmister, former contributor to space rock pioneers, Hawkwind. Lemmy (Quentin to his mum) wished to head towards a more straightforward metal sound while founding member, Jethro Tull, was more than happy to prance around playing his flute.

Lemmy fought long and hard for his release from the label, finally forcing their hand with his refusal to comply with their sideburn policy.

KISS
The founding members of KISS met at a Kabuki class at an upstate New York Montessori school. They soon took their love of rock and roll and stage makeup to the next level, forming KISS in 1972. The original lineup included Gene Simmons (born Chaim Witz), Ace Frehley (Alfred Carlson Entemann), Peter Criss (Christopher Peter Rasmussenjinsenn) and Vinnie Vincent (Vincent Vincent, III Esq.)

Fortune and fame came quickly. Gene Simmon’s tongue and little black book became the stuff of legends (apparently, he is quite the master storyteller and writes down his dreams for later interpretation). In 1996, Gene Simmons was given an honorary doctorate from the University of Chicago, thus temporarily making him “Dr. Love,” until his title was bestowed on Dr. Drew.

Alice Cooper
During his formative years as a member of the high school tennis team, Alice Cooper (born Vincent Damon Furnier) suffered a debilitating case of tennis-lesbianism. While recuperating (or should I say, “recooperating”), Vincent took a long trip to Sweden and returned as Alice Cooper, rock star. (I guess I won’t say that. It’s ridiculous.)

Much like your former uncle, Aunt Patricia, whose house you never get to visit anymore. Which is too bad because s/he was giving you free tennis lessons. Oh, well. We all wish her the best as she continues to climb the levelled playing field.

Cynthia Plastercaster
Not specifically a rock star, although she does know a great many of them and could probably pick them out of a crowded, darkened, half-dressed room. Ironically, Cynthia’s start can be explained by a malaprop caused by a gardening accident suffered at an early age.

The story is that Cynthia approached Jimi Hendrix backstage and asked to be “a fanclub of his member.” Jimi was delighted by this play on words and gave her some suggestions as to what she could do with Jimi’s jimmy.

Another anecdote adds to her considerable legend. Apparently, a young George Lucas received a backstage pass to a New Christy Minstrels show. While touring behind the scenes, George happened across Cynthia, working from her normal plaster-castering position. As a 31-year old virgin, Lucas was confused and thought that this was her actual height. This image, combined with her eccentric speech patterns, stuck with Lucas and was the inspiration for the character Yoda.

Please stay tuned for future installments as events warrant.

-CLT