Re: Lester Bangs - "How Long Will We Care?" August 1977

Sun Dec 12, 2010 4:29 am

KingOfTheJungle wrote:Nik Cohn also wrote one of my favorite pieces on Elvis, about his Nassau 75 show.

http://observer.guardian.co.uk/omm/story/0,,1994457,00.html


Thanks for the link 'KING' - that really is a lovely piece, again generally flattering but very honest & pointing out the negatives too but The greatness of the man shines through, That Nassau show really was a great latter gig & i can only imagine what it must have been like to witness that rare & moving solo rendition off 'youll never walk alone'
- like the writer, its not a song i like by anyone else (same with DannyBoy) but that version pours out of his heart
what a great show to witness!

Re: Lester Bangs - "How Long Will We Care?" August 1977

Sun Dec 12, 2010 4:31 am

Thanks Doc! I think he went a a little too far in his criticism like not caring or almost happy Elvis died and feeling pity for the fans or words to that effect. BUT, he called it as he saw it in a cold and raw fashion.

Re: Lester Bangs - "How Long Will We Care?" August 1977

Sun Dec 12, 2010 4:49 am

Good Time Charlie wrote:
Frankie Teardrop wrote:
Good Time Charlie wrote:When somebody starts remarking that Elvis was fat when he saw him in 1971 it is clear he's talking rubbish.

As for the rest of it, It didn't strike any sort of resonance with me. He doesn't even come close to writing the greatest Presley obituary.



Not only do I think it is the greatest piece on Presley, it is one of my favourite pieces of writing, full stop.


That's a shame.


Man, be quiet. Seriously.

Re: Lester Bangs - "How Long Will We Care?" August 1977

Sun Dec 12, 2010 5:03 am

thanks doc,

we're 6.000 miles from each other, and maybe 30 ys apart, but it's nice to know there is someone out there;

Re: Lester Bangs - "How Long Will We Care?" August 1977

Sun Dec 12, 2010 5:29 am

Thanks Doc, nice piece though the `fat' in '71 reference does jar a bit, although Lester wasn't the only writer to lump white suit and fat together.

Re: Lester Bangs - "How Long Will We Care?" August 1977

Sun Dec 12, 2010 5:36 am

Frankie Teardrop wrote:Not only do I think it is the greatest piece on Presley, it is one of my favourite pieces of writing, full stop.


Z0S0 wrote:It is an interesting piece and certainly very very good ...


Juan Luis wrote:Thanks Doc! I think he went a a little too far in his criticism like not caring or almost happy Elvis died and feeling pity for the fans or words to that effect. BUT, he called it as he saw it in a cold and raw fashion.


kris wrote:thanks doc,

we're 6.000 miles from each other, and maybe 30 ys apart, but it's nice to know there is someone out there;

Right back at you!

Thanks, guys, for taking time to read and enjoy the piece. Bangs was one of a kind.

And his prediction of how we'd roll on after August 16, 1977, as Bruce Springsteen notes on another recent FECC topic, is spot-on.

Re: Lester Bangs - "How Long Will We Care?" August 1977

Sun Dec 12, 2010 6:12 am

drjohncarpenter wrote:Originally published as “How Long Will We Care?” -- below is perhaps the single greatest Presley obituary. Written by Lester Bangs for the Village Voice in August 1977, it's not available on the internet.

At least, not until now.

I have highlighted the final paragraph, it is so eloquent.


Image



Thank you for putting this up, I heard or read something last night about Springsteen referring to this obit. You saved me from a lot of search time looking for old magazines.

You are so right this piece is indeed Eloquent!

Re: Lester Bangs - "How Long Will We Care?" August 1977

Sun Dec 12, 2010 6:32 am

I enjoyed reading this, albeit some parts are hard to take. Even though the author is harsh at times, his respect and admiration overtake the harshness in the end. And this was 1977, I think Elvis was misunderstood and mis- read by many at that time, even those who admired him. More so than now anyway.

I have a book called The Complete Elvis that came out in the early 80's, it seems to me this piece, or something else by the writer may be in it...... anyone know the book I'm talking about?

Thanks for posting this, it's really excellent stuff.

Re: Lester Bangs - "How Long Will We Care?" August 1977

Sun Dec 12, 2010 7:35 am

Memphis wrote:
drjohncarpenter wrote:Originally published as “How Long Will We Care?” -- below is perhaps the single greatest Presley obituary. Written by Lester Bangs for the Village Voice in August 1977, it's not available on the internet.

At least, not until now.

I have highlighted the final paragraph, it is so eloquent.


Image



Thank you for putting this up, I heard or read something last night about Springsteen referring to this obit. You saved me from a lot of search time looking for old magazines.

You are so right this piece is indeed Eloquent!

Thanks!!!


Lover Doll wrote:I enjoyed reading this, albeit some parts are hard to take. Even though the author is harsh at times, his respect and admiration overtake the harshness in the end. And this was 1977, I think Elvis was misunderstood and mis- read by many at that time, even those who admired him. More so than now anyway.

I have a book called The Complete Elvis that came out in the early 80s, it seems to me this piece, or something else by the writer may be in it...... anyone know the book I'm talking about?

Thanks for posting this, it's really excellent stuff.

Thank you!!

The Complete Elvis came out in 1982 and did contain an original contribution by Lester Bangs called "Graceland Uber Alles." It closed out the first half of the book.

Editor Martin Torgoff described it as "original fiction ... from the perfervid brain of Lester Bangs, an imaginary encounter in a hotel room between Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan(!)."

Good memory!

Re: Lester Bangs - "How Long Will We Care?" August 1977

Sun Dec 12, 2010 9:59 am

Another great reply! This forum is on a roll. Thanks!!

Re: Lester Bangs - "How Long Will We Care?" August 1977

Sun Dec 12, 2010 11:45 am

drjohncarpenter wrote:Another great reply! This forum is on a roll. Thanks!!


Keep it going fellas, the Doc can feel it! I'll just soak up all this knowlege and great opinions, if you don't mind! ::rocks

Re: Lester Bangs - "How Long Will We Care?" August 1977

Sun Dec 12, 2010 4:21 pm

Great stuff as always Doc! It's nice to read people who look at Elvis from a different angle! Add them all together and they still leave Elvis standing firm!

Re: Lester Bangs - "How Long Will We Care?" August 1977

Mon Dec 13, 2010 1:13 am

Joe Car wrote:Keep it going fellas, the Doc can feel it! I'll just soak up all this knowledge and great opinions, if you don't mind! ::rocks


bajo wrote:Great stuff as always Doc! It's nice to read people who look at Elvis from a different angle! Add them all together and they still leave Elvis standing firm!


Thanks, gentlemen!

It's a fact that Elvis inspired some of the finest-ever writing on rock 'n' roll, America and popular culture.

Re: Lester Bangs - "How Long Will We Care?" August 1977

Mon Dec 13, 2010 2:30 am

Thank you Doc for posting this. A thoughtful, insightful article. It was so good, I read it twice 8)

Re: Lester Bangs - "How Long Will We Care?" August 1977

Mon Dec 13, 2010 3:38 am

Well,,,I hate to put up a speed bump on this "rollin' forum topic", but I think Mr. Bangs is a complete moron!
Don't get me wrong, a great writer, but just doesn't "get it" when it came to Elvis' ENTIRE CAREER!

It's quite comedic about the title of the article because We Still Care 33 Years Later! I don't think he would've called that back then.
If there's one feeling I get reading this, it's of RESENTMENT. This dude really felt "wronged" by Elvis in the '70's. Perhaps therapy would've helped?? Who knows & I don't really care.

When are people gonna learn that Elvis, especially in the '70's, was about so much more than music. Anyone, and there's tons of them, who "got it" would gladly say so.
They just don't understand the total package.

Looking only at Elvis' musical or artistic contributions is like looking at & studying 1 side of an octagon!
And to do it comparing him to anyone else on the same level is just absurd!
There's Elvis, then there's everyone else. It's just that simple, that's what certain people have to get over & that's why WE STILL CARE.

Re: Lester Bangs - "How Long Will We Care?" August 1977

Mon Dec 13, 2010 5:04 am

Phoenix78 wrote:Well,,,I hate to put up a speed bump on this "rollin' forum topic", .


Ya didn't. We rolled right over ya. Yes. Elvis was about so much more than music in the 70's. There are also his incredible contributions to the world of karate, not to mention the worlds of badge and gun collecting!

Re: Lester Bangs - "How Long Will We Care?" August 1977

Mon Dec 13, 2010 6:23 am

..."Almost Famous" is one of my favorite movies! :D ...which features a character loosely based on Lester Bangs.

JEFF d
EP fan

Re: Lester Bangs - "How Long Will We Care?" August 1977

Mon Dec 13, 2010 9:00 am

JEFF d wrote:..."Almost Famous" is one of my favorite movies! :D ...which features a character loosely based on Lester Bangs.

JEFF d
EP fan


Phillip Seymour Hoffman actually played Lester Bangs in that film.

Re: Lester Bangs - "How Long Will We Care?" August 1977

Mon Dec 13, 2010 9:36 am

Frankie Teardrop wrote:
Phoenix78 wrote:Well,,,I hate to put up a speed bump on this "rollin' forum topic", .


Ya didn't. We rolled right over ya. Yes. Elvis was about so much more than music in the 70's. There are also his incredible contributions to the world of karate, not to mention the worlds of badge and gun collecting!


That is a bit of a cheap shot. Elvis did a lot of charity besides that. Officially and personally.And you forgot to mention the undercoverposition one of his bandmembers had for quite some stints:)

Re: Lester Bangs - "How Long Will We Care?" August 1977

Mon Dec 13, 2010 9:37 am

To answer the main question: a very long time.

Re: Lester Bangs - "How Long Will We Care?" August 1977

Mon Dec 13, 2010 1:15 pm

paulsweeney wrote:Thank you Doc for posting this. A thoughtful, insightful article. It was so good, I read it twice 8)

Me too! So glad you enjoyed reading it again, and again.



epf wrote:To answer the main question: a very long time.

Actually, Lester Bangs may not have composed the title of his obituary, the Village Voice editors might have had that role, but regardless, the query was rhetorical in nature.

Re: Lester Bangs - "How Long Will We Care?" August 1977

Mon Dec 13, 2010 2:32 pm

drjohncarpenter wrote:
paulsweeney wrote:Thank you Doc for posting this. A thoughtful, insightful article. It was so good, I read it twice 8)

Me too! So glad you enjoyed reading it again, and again.



epf wrote:To answer the main question: a very long time.

Actually, Lester Bangs may not have composed the title of his obituary, the Village Voice editors might have had that role, but regardless, the query was rhetorical in nature.


One can never be too sure on this MB! :) But thanks once again Doc!

Re: Lester Bangs - "How Long Will We Care?" August 1977

Mon Dec 13, 2010 2:50 pm

drjohncarpenter wrote:Originally published as “How Long Will We Care?” -- below is perhaps the single greatest Presley obituary. Written by Lester Bangs for the Village Voice in August 1977, it's not available on the internet.

It's been here for the last five years.

http://josephwaldman.livejournal.com/43782.html

Re: Lester Bangs - "How Long Will We Care?" August 1977

Mon Dec 13, 2010 3:30 pm

drjohncarpenter wrote:Originally published as “How Long Will We Care?” -- below is perhaps the single greatest Presley obituary. Written by Lester Bangs for the Village Voice in August 1977, it's not available on the internet.

At least, not until now.

I have highlighted the final paragraph, it is so eloquent.


Image

Rock critic Lester Bangs, New York, circa 1982


"How Long Will We Care?"
By Lester Bangs
Village Voice, August 29, 1977


Where were you when Elvis died? What were you doing and what did it give you an excuse to do with the rest of your day? That's what we'll be talking about in the future when we remember this grand occasion. Like Pearl Harbor or JFK's assassination, it boiled down to individual reminiscences, which is perhaps as it should be, because in spite of his greatness, etc., etc., Elvis had left us each alone as he was; I mean, he wasn't exactly a Man of the People anymore, if you get my drift. If you don't I will drift even further, away from Elvis into contemplation of why all our public heroes seem to reinforce our own solitude.

The ultimate sin of any performer is contempt for the audience. Those who indulge in it will ultimately reap the scorn of those they've dumped on, whether they live forever like Andy Paleface Warhol or die fashionably early like Lenny Bruce, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday. The two things that distinguish those deaths from Elvis's (he and they having drug habits vaguely in common) were that all of them died on the outside looking in and none of them took their audience for granted. Which is why it's just a little bit harder for me to see Elvis as a tragic figure; I see him as being more like the Pentagon, a giant armored institution nobody knows anything about except that its power is legendary.

Obviously we all liked Elvis better than the Pentagon, but look at what a paltry statement that is. In the end, Elvis's scorn for his fans as manifested in "new" albums full of previously released material and one new song to make sure all us suckers would buy it was mirrored in the scorn we all secretly or not so secretly felt for a man who came closer to godhood than Carlos Castaneda until military conscription tamed and revealed him for the dumb lackey he always was in the first place. And ever since, for almost two decades now, we've been waiting for him to get wild again, fools that we are, and he probably knew better than any of us in his heart of hearts that it was never gonna happen again, his heart of hearts so obviously not being our collective heart of hearts, he being so obviously just some poor dumb Southern boy with a Big Daddy manager to screen the world for him and filter out anything which might erode his status as big strapping baby bringing home the bucks, and finally being sort of perversely celebrated at least by rock critics for his utter contempt for whoever cared about him.

And Elvis was perverse; only a true pervert could put out something like "Having Fun with Elvis On Stage", that album released three or so years back which consisted entirely of between-song onstage patter so redundant it would make both Willy Burroughs and Gert Stein blush. Elvis was into marketing boredom when Andy Warhol was still doing shoe ads, but Elvis's sin was his failure to realize that his fans were not perverse - they loved him without qualification, no matter what he dumped on them they loyally lapped it up, and that's why I feel a hell of a lot sorrier for all those poor jerks than for Elvis himself. I mean, who's left they can stand all night in the rain for? Nobody, and the true tragedy is the tragedy of an entire generation which refuses to give up its adolescence even as it feels its menopausal paunch begin to blossom and its hair recede over the horizon - along with Elvis and everything else they once thought they believed in. Will they care in five years what he's been doing for the last twenty?

Sure, Elvis's death is a relatively minor ironic variant on the future-shock mazurka, and perhaps the most significant thing about Elvis's exit is that the entire history of the seventies has been retreads and brutal demystification; three of Elvis's ex-bodyguards recently got together with this hacker from the New York Post and whipped up a book which dosed us with all the dirt we'd yearned for for so long. Elvis was the last of our sacred cows to be publicly mutilated; everybody knows Keith Richard likes his junk, but when Elvis went onstage in a stupor nobody breathed a hint of "Quaalude...." In a way, this was both good and bad, good because Elvis wasn't encouraging other people to think it was cool to be a walking Physicians' Desk Reference, bad because Elvis stood for that Nixonian Secrecy-as-Virtue which was passed off as the essence of Americanism for a few years there. In a sense he could be seen not only as a phenomenon that exploded in the fifties to help shape the psychic jailbreak of the sixties but ultimately as a perfect cultural expression of what the Nixon years were all about. Not that he prospered more then, but that his passion for the privacy of potentates allowed him to get away with almost literal murder, certainly with the symbolic rape of his fans, meaning that we might all do better to think about waving good-bye with one upraised finger.

I got the news of Elvis's death while drinking beer with a friend and fellow music journalist on his fire escape on 21st Street in Chelsea. Chelsea is a good neighborhood; in spite of the fact that the insane woman who lives upstairs keeps him awake all night every night with her rants at no one, my friend stays there because he likes the sense of community within diversity in that neighborhood: old-time card-carrying Communists live in his building alongside people of every persuasion popularly lumped as "ethnic." When we heard about Elvis we knew a wake was in order, so I went out to the deli for a case of beer. As I left the building I passed some Latin guys hanging out by the front door. "Heard the news? Elvis is dead!" I told them. They looked at me with contemptuous indifference. So What. Maybe if I had told them Donna Summer was dead I might have gotten a reaction; I do recall walking in this neighborhood wearing a T-shirt that said "Disco Sucks" with a vast unamused muttering in my wake, which only goes to show that not for everyone was Elvis the still-reigning King of Rock 'n' Roll, in fact not for everyone is rock 'n' roll the still-reigning music. By now, each citizen has found his own little obsessive corner to blast his brain in: as the sixties were supremely narcissistic, solipsism's what the seventies have been about, and nowhere is this better demonstrated than in the world of "pop" music. And Elvis may have been the greatest solipsist of all.

I asked for two six-packs at the deli and told the guy behind the counter the news. He looked fifty years old, greying, big belly, life still in his eyes, and he said: "Sh.it, that's too bad. I guess our only hope now is if the Beatles get back together."

Fifty years old.

I told him I thought that would be the biggest anticlimax in history and that the best thing the Stones could do now would be to break up and spare us all further embarrassments.

He laughed, and gave me directions to a meat market down the street. There I asked the counterman the same question I had been asking everyone. He was in his fifties too, and he said, "You know what? I don't care that bastard's dead. I took my wife to see him in Vegas in '73, we paid fourteen dollars a ticket, and he came out and sang for twenty minutes. Then he fell down. Then he stood up and sang a couple more songs, then he fell down again. Finally he said, 'well, sh.it, I might as well sing sitting as standing.' So he squatted on the stage and asked the band what song they wanted to do next, but before they could answer he was complaining about the lights. 'They're too bright,' he says. 'They hurt my eyes. Put 'em out or I don't sing a note.' So they do. So me and my wife are sitting in total blackness listening to this guy sing songs we knew and loved, and I ain't just talking about his old goddam songs, but he totally butchered all of 'em. Fu.ck him. I'm not saying I'm glad he's dead, but I know one thing: I got taken when I went to see Elvis Presley."

I got taken too the one time I saw Elvis, but in a totally different way. It was the autumn of 1971, and two tickets to an Elvis show turned up at the offices of Creem magazine, where I was then employed. It was decided that those staff members who had never had the privilege of witnessing Elvis should get the tickets, which was how me and art director Charlie Auringer ended up in nearly the front row of the biggest arena in Detroit. Earlier Charlie had said, "Do you realize how much we could get if we sold these fu.cking things?" I didn't, but how precious they were became totally clear the instant Elvis sauntered onto the stage. He was the only male performer I have ever seen to whom I responded sexually; it wasn't real arousal, rather an erection of the heart, when I looked at him I went mad with desire and envy and worship and self-projection. I mean, Mick Jagger, whom I saw as far back as 1964 and twice in '65, never even came close.

There was Elvis, dressed up in this ridiculous white suit which looked like some studded Arthurian castle, and he was too fat, and the buckle on his belt was as big as your head except that your head is not made of solid gold, and any lesser man would have been the spittin' image of a Neil Diamond damfool in such a getup, but on Elvis it fit. What didn't? No matter how lousy his records ever got, no matter how intently he pursued mediocrity, there was still some hint, some flash left over from the days when...well, I wasn't there, so I won't presume to comment. But I will say this: Elvis Presley was the man who brought overt blatant vulgar sexual frenzy to the popular arts in America (and thereby to the nation itself, since putting "popular arts" and "America" in the same sentence seems almost redundant). It has been said that he was the first white to sing like a black person, which is untrue in terms of hard facts but totally true in terms of cultural impact. But what's more crucial is that when Elvis started wiggling his hips and Ed Sullivan refused to show it, the entire country went into a paroxysm of sexual frustration leading to abiding discontent which culminated in the explosion of psychedelic-militant folklore which was the sixties.

I mean, don't tell me about Lenny Bruce, man - Lenny Bruce said dirty words in public and obtained a kind of consensual martyrdom. Plus which Lenny Bruce was hip, too goddam hip if you ask me, which was his undoing, whereas Elvis was not hip at all, Elvis was a goddam truck driver who worshipped his mother and would never say sh.it or fu.ck around her, and Elvis alerted America to the fact that it had a groin with imperatives that had been stifled. Lenny Bruce demonstrated how far you could push a society as repressed as ours and how much you could get away with, but Elvis kicked "How Much Is That Doggie in the Window" out the window and replaced it with "Let's fu.ck." The rest of us are still reeling from the impact. Sexual chaos reigns currently, but out of chaos may flow true understanding and harmony, and either way Elvis almost singlehandedly opened the floodgates. That night in Detroit, a night I will never forget, he had but to ever so slightly move one shoulder muscle, not even a shrug, and the girls in the gallery hit by its ray screamed, fainted, howled in heat. Literally, every time this man moved any part of his body the slightest centimeter, tens or tens of thousands of people went berserk. Not Sinatra, not Jagger, not the Beatles, nobody you can come up with ever elicited such hysteria among so many. And this after a decade and a half of crappy records, of making a point of not trying.

If love truly is going out of fashion forever, which I do not believe, then along with our nurtured indifference to each other will be an even more contemptuous indifference to each others' objects of reverence. I thought it was Iggy Stooge, you thought it was Joni Mitchell or whoever else seemed to speak for your own private, entirely circumscribed situation's many pains and few ecstasies. We will continue to fragment in this manner, because solipsism holds all the cards at present; it is a king whose domain engulfs even Elvis's. But I can guarantee you one thing: we will never again agree on anything as we agreed on Elvis. So I won't bother saying good-bye to his corpse. I will say good-bye to you.

Also collected as "Where Were You When Elvis Died?" - Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung, edited by Greil Marcus and published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1987

Thanks John,just my kind of journalistic genius

Re: Lester Bangs - "How Long Will We Care?" August 1977

Mon Dec 13, 2010 3:53 pm

Frankie Teardrop wrote:
Good Time Charlie wrote:
Frankie Teardrop wrote:
Good Time Charlie wrote:When somebody starts remarking that Elvis was fat when he saw him in 1971 it is clear he's talking rubbish.

As for the rest of it, It didn't strike any sort of resonance with me. He doesn't even come close to writing the greatest Presley obituary.



Not only do I think it is the greatest piece on Presley, it is one of my favourite pieces of writing, full stop.


That's a shame.


Man, be quiet. Seriously.


I'm sorry but I'm not gonna be told to 'be quiet' by you for very little reason. I was saying it is a shame because it is such an overtly negative piece on Presley, that it is a shame you feel it is the greatest piece of writing about him.

You must have a very shallow view of what Elvis ever achieved post 1958 if this piece of writing is so great for you. He makes some valid, and eloquent points. In fact, in review of the piece for a second time, he does make the correct analysis in what he says - but the main problem is what he doesn't say. He doesn't place his assesment in any sort of context, his comments about Elvis perhaps being dumb and showing contempt for his fans are correct in a sense; but the whole tone of his argument is totally dismissive in his nature and to me is not 'fair' on Elvis. He doesn't explore the reasons why whatever happened happened - and lays the blame as if Elvis was knowlingly lethargic and un-creative. Elvis never cared for the business, political or economic side of his career - even in the 50's and this should be taken into account. This kind of obituary or review of Elvis should also include what made him so good in the first place, and when talking about the world waiting for Elvis to spark back into life over the past 20 years - well, I find such a comment ridiculous because how somebody can miss the mentioning the '68 Special and subsequent American Sound sessions is beyond me.

The overall picture he paints is a very negative and dim view of Presley as a man and artist. It certainly isn't a fair assesment. I'll stick to Guralnick myself; the only writer I've ever read that has been able to encapsulate the horrible naked truths about Elvis but also his very genius.
Last edited by Good Time Charlie on Mon Dec 13, 2010 5:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.