Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Lester Bangs, the singer

Playing right now: Lester Bangs & the Delinquents - Jook Savages on the Brazos

Yes, Lester Bangs was one of the most original voices is music journalism. Many have aped him, but few get to the heart of what made Mr. Bangs unique -- his love for music.

But how did he stand as a performer?

Well, he wasn't Wild Man Fischer, but he wasn't Lou Reed either. The songs on Jook Savages (which came out in 1981) are better than the performances, I think. The one playing right now, "Day of the Dead" is one I've always wanted to cover. Musically, this might be his "Roadrunner," because it has the same chugging perfect-4th interval. ("Legless Bird" kind of sounds like "Run Run Run"; "I Just Want to Be a Movie Star" has a little Neil Young.)

But while the members of the Delinquents all play the music correctly -- i.e. they hit the notes and make the changes all at the same time -- it doesn't always seem like they're playing together. They kind of sound like the late Columbus band Great Plains, only not as tight. "I'm In Love With My Walls" is built around sort of a conga-line beat which the group seems to try to emphasize, which is a bad idea. "Grandma's House" is a cover, possibly by Ronnie Hawkins. Hard to tell if Lester's trying to mock the song or do a sincere delivery on it.

But I'm never going to sell this album. I have a soft spot for it. Maybe it's because I write about music and play it too. Of course I played it before I wrote about it, so maybe this doesn't count.

Nevertheless, it has the charm of most albums on ESP, the indie label that brought us Albert Ayler, the Fugs, Pearls Before Swine and Patty Waters. Wonder what Lester would think of that comparison.

Great song title: Life is Not Worth Living (But Suicide's a Waste of Time).


At a lackluster yard sale a couple weeks ago, I managed to score 7 albums for a buck. One was a budget line album that looks like it's all Louis Prima and is called Italian Favorites. Turns out Louis on one side and some cat named Phil Brito on the other. "The Tops Collectors Series," the cover brags. What - the company that makes baseball cards decided to branch out into cheapo reissues.

Anyhow, it was worth the 17 cents (or whatever 7/$1 breaks into) for the first couple songs. My fave is "Please No Squeeze Da Banana," the song the fruit vendor (probably an Italian) sings to the cop who filches his produce everyday (obviously an Irish cop; we micks are mooches). He also does "Josephine, Please No Lean on the Bell," which isn't as good as Jerry Colonna's version (I have it on 78), but it's still good. So is "Bacciagaloop Makes Love on the Stoop," which is about the umpteenth song that makes reference to some kind of pasta.

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