On one level I suppose all of this is very funny, but if you look past the surface violence and simple abusiveness to the person at the center it's not funny at all. The reason it's not is the aforementioned ambivalence. Jungle war with bike gangs is one thing, but it gets a little more complicated when those of us who love being around that war (at least vicariously) have to stop to consider why and what we're loving. Because one of the things we're loving is self-hate, and another may well be a human being committing suicide. Here's a quote from a review of Iggy's new live show in the British rock weekly Sounds: "Iggy's a dancer and more, a hyper-active packet of muscle and sinew straight out of Michelangelo's wet dreams... who leaps and claws at air, audience and mike stand in an unsurpassable display that spells one thing—MEAT." Ignoring the florid prose, I'd like to ask the guy who wrote that how he would like to be thought of as a piece of meat, how he thinks the meat feels. Or if he thinks it feels at all. Yeah, Iggy's got a fantastic body; it's so fantastic he's crying in every nerve to explode out of it into some unimaginable freedom. It's as if someone writhing in torment has made that writing into a kind of poetry, and we watch in awe of such beautiful writhing, so impressed that we perhaps forget what inspired it in the first place.
--Lester Bangs, "Iggy Pop: Blowtorch In Bondage," Village Voice, 28 March 1977
I remember, not well, someone having written, probably in the early '70s, maybe a letter to the editor, maybe it was to Creem, and someone wrote maybe a brief reply to the letter, maybe unsigned, maybe it was Lester who wrote the reply. The writer was lamenting the absence of Buddy Holly. If Buddy had lived, he'd be doing great things, said the letter, said the writer. And the reply was No! If Buddy had lived he'd being playing Vegas just like any other oldie living off his past, his work no longer mattering except as a walking corpse of a reminder that it once had mattered.
So Lester. He never totally got his shit together, not just chemically but intellectually. But he didn't give up. If he asked a question, the question didn't disappear, didn't get a glib answer from him and then evaporate or hang around like a vague fart, a mist of buzzwords answered by another mist of buzzwords. The questions gnawed at him, repeated, didn't leave him alone.
If he'd lived, I think it would have made a difference. I don't know what his follow-through would have been — he could get lost in an enthusiasm of words and anguish — but I know there would have been one. Maybe it'd just end up as Lester's filibuster. But the questions would ride him, would at least fight to stay addressed. And this is where Lester is different from all my colleagues. I complain from time to time that rock critics, music critics, people in my rockwrite/musicwrite/wrong world, don't know how to sustain an intellectual conversation. My complaints don't help anybody, since whatever the message is in my own writing, the idea that there's a joy in discovery, in unearthing the unknown, that you interact with what's in front of you, with the everyday, and see a new world each time you look, each time you act, but only by thinking, testing, challenging, re-wording and re-phrasing — this message doesn't get across, doesn't get felt, I guess. There's a basic unshakable dysfunction and incompetence in my world, which amounts to dishonesty, a pretense of thought without actual thinking.
Don't know that Lester really knew how either, but given that the conversation, the questions, wouldn't leave him, I imagine he'd have given it a shot.
- Lester Plays Vegas (April 30)