domingo, 27 de octubre de 2013

Let Us Now Praise Famous Death Dwarves

In Memoriam
Lewis Allan "Lou" Reed (March 2, 1942 – October 27, 2013)
 and Leslie Conway "Lester" Bangs (December 13, 1948 – April 30, 1982)


Lou started off with a backhanded compliment that turned into a kudoferous insult midway. "You know that I basically like you in spite of myself. Common sense leads me to believe that you´re an idiot, but somehow the epistemological things that you come out with sometimes betray the fact that you´re kind of onomatopoetic in a subterranean reptilian way"
"Goddam, Lou", I enthused, "You sound like Allen Ginsberg!"
"You sound like his father. You should do like Peter Orlovsky and go have shock. You don´t know any more than when you started. You just kind of chase your tail".
Damm, beat me to the first good left hook. "That´s what I was gonna say to you! Do you ever feel like a self-parody?"
"No. If I listened to you assholes I would. You´re comic strips".
"That´s okay". I hoohawed, losing ground steadily, "I don´t mind being a comic strip. Transformer was a comic strip that transcended itself".
He told me to shut up, and we sat there and stared at each other like two old geezers at the spittoon.
"Okay, I summoned my bluster, "now let´s decide whether we´re gonna talk about me or yyou.
"You"
"All right, you start".
"Okay.. umm... who´s gonna win the pennant?"
I don´t know shit about sports. "I saw Bowie the other night", I said.
"Lucky you. I think it’s very sad.
"He ripped off all your riffs, obviously" (...)
"Everybody steals riffs. You steal yours. David wrote some really great songs.
"Aw, c’mon" I shouted at the top of my longs, "anybody can write great songs! Sam the Sham wrote great songs! Did David ever write anything better than “Wooly Bully”?
"You ever listen to the Bewlay Brothers, shithead?
"Yeah, fucker, I listened to those fuckin’ lyrics, motherfucker!
"Name one lyric from that song.
"I didn’t listen–I’ve heard it…but what I and millions of fans all over wanna know about Bowie is: first you, then Jagger, then Iggy. What in the hell’s he got?
"Jagger and Iggy?
"Yeah, you know he fucks everybody in the rock and roll circuit. He’s a bigger groupie than Jann Wenner!
Dead pan. "He’s the one who’s getting fucked.
"Didja fuck ‘im?" All bravado. But like bullfighting on a handball court.
"He’s fucking himself. He doesn’t know it, though". Even. Level. Vibrating soundless hum.
(...) "Tatht Bowie ripped off all his shit that´s decent from you, you and Iggy!
"What does Iggy have to do with it?
"You were the originals!
"THe original what?
I went on about Iggy and bowie, and he surprised me with a totally unexpected blast at the Pop. "David tried to help the cat. David´s brilliant and Iggy is... stupid. Very sweet but very stupid (...)
I decided that I´d had enough of this horseshit, so I bulldozed on: "Did you shoot speed tonight before you went on?"
He acted genuinely surprised. "Did I shoot speed? No I didn´t. Speed kills. I´m not a speedfreak". This started out as essentially the same rap Lou gave me one time when I went to see the Velvets at the Whisky in 1969, as he sat there in a dressing room drinking honey from a jar and talking a mile a minute, about all the "energy in the strets of New York", and lecturing me about the evils of drugs. All speedfreaks are liars; anybody that keeps their mouth open that much can´t tell the truth all the time or theýd run out of things to say. But no he got downright clinical. "You better define your terms. What kind of speed do you do -hydrochloride meth, hydrochloride amphetamine, how many milligrams...?"
The pharmacological lecture was in full swing, and all I could do was giggle derisively. "I used to shoot Obetrols, shit, man!"
"Bullshit you used to shoot Obetrols". Lou was warming to his subject now, revving up. Closing in for the kill. Show you up, punk. "You´d be dead, you´d kill yourself. You were probably stupid and didn´t even put´em through cotton. you could have gotten gangrene that way..."
Then he´s pressing me again, playing dirty: "What´s an Obetrol"
I got mad again. "It´s in the neighborhood of Desoxyn. You know what an Obetrol is, you lyin´sack of shit! This is the fourth time I´ve interviewed you and you lied every time! The first time-
"What´s Desoxyn?" He had just said this, in the same dead monotone, for the fifteenth time. Interrupting me every second word in the tirade above, coldly insistent, sure of himself, all the clammy finality of a technician who knows every inch of his lab with both eyes put out.
But I was cool. "It´s a Methedrine derivative.
The kill: IT´s fifteen miligrams of pure methamphetamine hydrochloride with some cake paste to keep it together". Like an old green iron file slamming shut. "If you do take speed" he continued "you´re a good example of why speeedd freaks have bad names. (...) You make it make it goo f for the rest of us by taking the crap off the market. Plus you´re poor (I told you he´d stop at nothing. It´s this kind of thing that may well be Lou Reed´s last tenuous hold on herodom. And I don´t mean heroism) And even if you weren´t poor you wouldn´t know what you were buying anyway. You wouldn´t know how to weigh it, you don´t know your metabolism, you don´t know your sleeping quotient, you dont´know when to eat and not to eat, you don´t about electricity...
"The main thing is money, power and ego" I said, quoting an old Ralph J. Gleason column for some reason. I was getting a little dazed.
"No, it has to do with electricity and the cell structure.
I decided to change my tack again. "Lou, we´re gonna have to do it straight. I´ll take off my sunglasses if you´ll take off yours": He did. I did. Focus in on shriveled body sprawled on the bed facing me with Thing behind him staring at beehives on the moon, Lou's sallow skin almost as whitish yellow as his hair, whole face and frame so transcendentally emaciated he had indeed become insectival. His eyes were rusty, two copper coins lying in desert sands under the sun all day with telephone wires humming overhead, but he looked straight at me. Maybe through me...
(...) "Do you ever resent people for the way that you have lived out what they might think of as the dark side of their lives for them, vicariously, in your music or your life?
He didn´t seem to have the slightest idea what I was talking about; shook his head.
"LIke", I pressed on, "I listen to your records shootin´mack, shootin´speed, commiting suicide-"
"That´s three percent out of a hundred songs
"Like with all this decadence and glitter shit -none of it would have happened if not for you, and yet I wonder if you-
"I didn´t have anything to do with it
"Bullshit, you started it, singing about smack, drag queens, etc
"What´s decadent about that?"
"Okay, let´s define decadence. You tell me what you think is decadence.
"You. Because you used to be able to write and now you´re just fulla shit. You don´t keep track of music, you´re not on top of what´s happening, you don´t know the players or who´s doin´what. It´s all jive, you´re getting very egocentric"
I let it pass. The true artist does not stoop to respond in kind to jibes from an old con. Besides, he was half right. But I simply could not believe that he could so blithely disclaim everything that he had disseminated, no, stood for and exploited, for so many years. It was like seeing a dinosaur retreating into an ice cave. He´d done the same thing before. Last interview he merely disclaimed association with the gay movement (...). "I dismissed decadence when I did "The Murder Mystery". Grand sweeping statements like this are the kind of bullshit to which this pop star is particularly prone. Like all the rest of them, I guess.
"Bullshit man, when you did Transformer you were playing to pseudo-decadence, to an audience that wanted to by a reprocessed form of decadence..."
We argued a bit about the autobiographic content of his songs, and Lou asserted, predictably, that his songs were not autobiographical but existed in a zone of their own, and moreover could only be truly understood by a certain distinct elite audience (...)I asked him if all his songs had elite meanings to please explain to me the secret meaning of Sally´s "Animal Language", otherwise known as the Bow Wow Song (dead dog meets cat, they try to fuck, fail, shoot up fat man´s sweat) (really a specimen of mind rot at its finest).
"Animal Language isn´t obvious. Who do you  think the animals are? You think it´s a dog and a cat? Who´s the dog, who´s the cat, who are the animals that are so fucked up they gotta shoot up somebody´s seat to get off?
I dunno, Lou, you tell me. There are eight million stories in the Naked City... "One thing I like about you" I interjected "is that you´re not afraid to lower yourself. For instance, New York Stars. I thought you were lowering yourself by splattering all these people like the Dolls and dumb little bands with your freelance spleen, but then I realized that you´ve been lowering yourself for years
HIs riposte: "You really are an asshole. You went past assholism into some kind urinary tract. The next time you come up with a phrase as good as "curtains laced with diamonds dear for you" instead of all this Dee-troit bullshit, let me know.
"Obviously"; i sadi" what you´re selling under your name now is pasteurized decadence. In the old days you were really a badass, Lou, but now it´s all pasteurized.
He told me that I was jaded. "You´ve made a career out of being a degenerate " "I said, "and I think you should fess up to that. You have not primarily distinguished yourself as a musician; although you have come up with some great riffs, and I don´t know why you keep trying to play me all this high-tech music crap, because basically you´re a lit.. In your worst moments you could be considered like a bad imitation of Tennesee Williams"
"That´s like saying in your worst moments you could be considered a bad imitation of you
"Don´t you ever feel like a victim of yourself?
"No.
(..)
I never met a hero I didn´t like. But then, I never met a hero. But then, maybe I wasn´t looking for one.

Lester Bangs,

Let Us Now Praise Famous Death Dwarves: Or How I Slugged it Out With Lou Reed and Stayed Awake
Creem, March 1975

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