It's probably naughty to post this up here but I thought (hope) Charlie won't mind and Lester (bless him) is long gone and I'm sure he wouldn't have minded anyway....
If it's a problem then take it down.
Dear Charlie... Love, Lester
Lester Bangs, Excerpts from letters to Charlie Gillett, 1971
187 South Woodward Avenue, Suite 203
Birmingham, Michigan 48011
Iâ€™m sorry it took me so long to write back to you, but things have just been kind of hectic around here and all the other even more deranged places Iâ€™ve hung out this summer. Your letter and reviews arrived not long before I left Detroit in June and went back to California on personal matters (a girl). I originally intended to come back to Michigan on August first, after briefly checking out Los Angeles and San Francisco. Well, I spent 2 weeks in Frisco, went home to collect my unemployment check, then headed to L.A., where I got into an automobile accident in a car Iâ€™d borrowed from Michael Ochs of Columbia Records, whoâ€™d borrowed it from somebody elseâ€™s secretary â€“ $789 damage. So I went home to begin scraping the money together, only to find that my notice to report for my draft physical had arrived. So that was another $300 for a good lawyer whom I believe along with my doctor has managed to save my neck from 3 or 4 wasted years in Uncle Samâ€™s service. They obviously donâ€™t need a "cough syrup addict with chronic bronchitis," haw haw...
I hope youâ€™re not pissed off, because Iâ€™d be proud to have some of your stuff in the magazine. And Iâ€™d be especially interested in any reviews you might want to do of current music. By the way, I found a Smiley Lewis album which I believe is the one you reviewed, I Hear You Knockinâ€™ on Imperial, for 88Â¢ yesterday in the tiny one-rack bargain bin of a drab and out of the way Detroit department store. Last night I was listening to it and wrote the first paragraph of the first entry of what I hope will be a regular column in CREEM, and which Iâ€™m gonna call either "Joy Bangs" or "Sturm und Bangs" unless something even more corny comes to mind. I thought you might be interested in it, so here it is:
"Shecky Greene is not Smiley Lewis, but the latter sings â€˜Blue Mondayâ€™: "Gotta work, live like a slave all day", and I thought from Fats Dominoâ€™s version it was "Gotta work, planned to sleep all day" ever since 1960. Then were near [sic] as I could figger Fats was sayinâ€™ "Got my morninâ€™/And my hardon" (I know that never woulda been played enough on the radio to sell a million copies, but thatâ€™s how I always heard it nevertheless). Smiley articulates clearer and euphemises the sexual fantasy in a way, maybe not: "Got my money/And my honey!" Decidedly not, since anybody can wake up wishing, but horny and honey is distinctly different stories.
"And in the next line the diff between the 2 rends comes down even concreter: on Fatsâ€™ weekend he declared reprieve from the graphic workaday epiphany of the rest of the song: "And Iâ€™m out on the sands to play." But Smiley seemingly knows how far beyond the mill his yowl has carted him, and inadvertently slapshakes the hands of the MC5 in jive Elysium: "And Iâ€™m out on the stands to play!" He says it twice, you canâ€™t miss it. And every one of us is, too, even if we never learned the mostest firstest C Chord. Jump, chump!"
More anon. The point of the whole thing is gonna be that nobody should ever print the lyrics on the albums because itâ€™s more fun and more revelatory to interpret â€™em yerself and the best people, the ones you always wish they would put the lyrics on, like Dylan and the Stones, never do and why, well exactly, because they know that. Like even after I heard Chuck Berryâ€™s version I was still sure that Mick was saying in "Carol", "Little cutie get yer hat, you can bang me, maâ€™am," and even if he wasnâ€™t thatâ€™s how I hear it and sing it whilst tooling along the freeways in borrowed cars...
Let me know if thereâ€™s any American albums you need. I have some rather rare things, like Richie Valens live at Pacoma Junior High School, that Iâ€™d be willing to trade for certain rather obscure British albums Iâ€™ve wanted for some time. One is an album by a group called the Downliners Sect that I borrowed once from a girl that was president of the Stones fan club local chapter in the town where I grew up. The first song on it was Charlie & Inez Foxxâ€™s "Hurt By Love" and it also featured things like "Cops and Robbers" by Bo Diddley and "Tiger in Your Tank". Had a white cover...
Another thing I have â€“ two more, in fact, and laugh if you will, are extra copies of the 96 Tears album by Question Mark & the Mysterians and the Psychotic Reaction album by Count Five. My copy of Carburetor Dung by the latter is the only one left in the Western Hemisphere. The others were all bought up by Clive Davis in the interests of suppressing the group and melted down along with the Count Five albums on Columbia after the CIA overreacted somewhat to the lyrics of one Count Five song entitled "Free All Political Prisoners! Sieze the Time! Keep the Faith! Sock it to â€™em! Shut the Motherfucker Down! Then Burn It Up! Then Give the Ashes to the Indians! All Power to the People! Right On! All Power to Woodstock Nation! And Watch for Falling Rocks!!" â€“ you know, that one. Well, the CIA got so het up over the firebrand-subversive nature of the ditty that they rang up poor beleagured old Clive and informed him that unless this entire trend of Quisling-Rock was not quashed posthaste that in six months heâ€™d be putting ads in Rolling Stone that said: "The Man Can Bust Our Music." The only way to get copies of those albums now is to join the army and go to Vietnam, because there are still some Japanese pressings available in Bargain Bins throughout Southeast Asia (Taiwan is a good place to start hunting.) And the ironic part is that in trying to root out internal subversion at home, the CIA only succeeded in inadvertently escalating it Over There, because all Our Boys naturally wanta get their hands on a rockâ€™nâ€™roll collectorâ€™s item ESPECIALLY if itâ€™s also proven itself material interesting enough to get banned back in the USA, so theyâ€™re all buying copies on leave and sitting around in their hootches or hutches or whatever they call them wickiups they live in and getting good and pissed off at the Mother Country! It beats Hanoi Hannah, let me tell you! In fact, one reason so many of the GI Joes are getting turned on to the disc is that Hanoi Hannah plays the shit out of all the Count Five albums, since theyâ€™re such perfect fodder for Communist propaganda. Unfortunately, when the boys get on the planes to come home, their treasured Count 5 albums are confiscated along with all the grass and skag and opium, so youâ€™re still not gonna be able to hear one short of trucking halfway around the world, although I have heard, and I tell you this is strictest confidence, that copies can be obtained by writing the right kind of letter to Foreign Languages Publishing House, Pyongyang, Korea. And really, considering the time of year, I canâ€™t think of a better Christmas gift than copies of Psychotic Reaction, Carburetor Dung, Cartesian Jetstream and The Democratic Peopleâ€™s Republic of Korea is the Banner of Freedom and Independence For Our People and the Powerful Weapon of Building Socialism and Communism by Kim Il Sung.
P.S. How about trading subscriptions, CREEM for CREAM? And did the guys that put that mag together have heard (uh, duhh, grammuh...) of Creem when they named it? I first saw it when Kim Fowley came up to me in the Whisky a Go Go and threw one at me. Good, literate sheet.
P.O. Box 202,
...Things are going pretty much as usual around here. Living in the country gives you a chance to get a lot of work done, but there really isnâ€™t much variety in your day-to-day experience. In fact, Iâ€™m beginning to lose all sense of time, and probably would if I didnâ€™t watch soap operas on TV every weekday. Went to see Edgar Winter last nite â€“ heâ€™s got a new band sans horns and sans [Rick] Derringer. Theyâ€™re okay, they still do "Tobacco Road" which just about put me to sleep, and they did have the good sense to do a new version of Gary U.S. Bondsâ€™ "New Orleans". I donâ€™t really much care for live rockâ€™nâ€™roll these days â€“ itâ€™s just sweat and claustrophobia as far as Iâ€™m concerned. Maybe if I still smoked dope or took reds I could get off on it, but even drunk it ainâ€™t much fun. Like I went to see T. Rex and thought they were totally boring and unlistenable â€“ oatmeal music. Although I did see the Kinks in a great, delightful performance at Carnegie Hall. For all his ultimately boring quasi-nihilism, Ray Davies is still my hero. I met him after the show and told him so and he said, "You sound like you come from Nashville." Nope, just my folks are crackers, but I guess roots will come out. Though that ainâ€™t the reason I listen to Black Oak Arkansas all the time now. Most of my friends think Iâ€™m crazy, but I think theyâ€™re the new Count Five. "Weâ€™re having an earthquake/On our water beds!" Great stuff. Jerry Wexler called us up one day ranting and raving about Jon Carrollâ€™s review of the Atlantic reissues in CREEM, where [Jon] said that LaVerne [sic] Baker wasnâ€™t as good as Grace Slick â€“ now you and I both know thatâ€™s bullshit, but I still think Jonâ€™s right to say that if he feels that way. I mean, thereâ€™s entirely too much reverence for our rockâ€™nâ€™roll heritage if you ask me, thatâ€™s why you get these fucking jerkoffs recording all the old songs and in between the choruses they yell things like "Smiley Lewis!" and "Scotty Moore!" â€“ but anyway Wexler freaked out and said "All you people ever print in CREEM is stuff about Iggy licking his contusions. We at Atlantic donâ€™t support that kind of music." And Dave [Marsh] said, "What about Black Oak Arkansas?" and Wexler said: "Thatâ€™s different, thatâ€™s country roots."