Bangs, Lester [Conway ]
- Jayson Greene
(b Escondido, CA, Dec 13, 1948; d New York, NY, April 30, 1982). American rock critic. Bangs’s parents were devout Jehovah’s Witnesses; he was raised mostly by his mother after his father died in a house fire in 1955. Bangs began writing freelance reviews for Rolling Stone magazine in 1969, and would go on to write for Creem, The Village Voice, Penthouse, Playboy, New Musical Express, and many others. He wrote a 1980 book on the new-wave act Blondie and co-authored, with Paul Nelson, a biography of Rod Stewart, but the published works for which he is best known remain the two posthumous anthologies of his rock criticism: Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung (New York, 1987), edited by Greil Marcus; and Mainlines, Blood Feasts, and Bad Taste (New York, 2003), edited by John Morthland.
Bangs was inspired by the drug-fueled stream- of-consciousness style of Beat poets like William S. Burroughs and the confrontational, subjective New Journalism of Hunter S. Thompson and Tom Wolfe. Alongside John Mendelssohn, Nick Tosches, and Richard Meltzer, Bangs was grouped into the subset of early rock critics dubbed “the Noise Boys,” whose wild, digressive, slang-filled style contrasted with the more sober, academic approach of Greil Marcus and Robert Christgau. Bangs was an advocate of what would come to be called “punk rock,” celebrating its return to the raw, amateur spirit that defined the earliest rock ’n’ roll. He wrote critical pieces on many of the scene’s seminal acts, including The Ramones, Iggy and the Stooges, and the Velvet Underground. “I finally realized that grossness was the truest criterion for rock ’n’ roll, the cruder the clang and grind the more fun and longer listened-to the album would be,” Bangs wrote, and his prose aspired towards the same energy. Bangs died from respiratory and pulmonary complications related to the ingestion of Darvon....