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February 29, 1988 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 1988-02-29

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Lii --.. .. "

+e Michigan Daily

Monday, February 29, 1988

Page 8





Fy Jennifer Kohn
; c
a As Theatre Editor at the Daily
I' re become a victimized observer.
Xi It is almost impossible for me to
fi1k to people without being aware
of facets of their performances or
cdticisms of their scripts. This
spring break was no exception. I
ttivelled in a car through towns I'd
ever seen before and met people I'll
never see again. Even as I met them
'attained a walk-on role in the webs
of their lives. None of these
incidental, arbitrary encounters will
ejer be performed again, but as they
stand they are comparable to travel-
4ng medieval road-shows.
I'll consider the production "My
Ride Through Canada." (It served as
a landbridge between Ann Arbor and
Ithaca, New York). I attended the
performance with one friend. The

privacy of the car allowed us to con-
stantly review the performance, the
circumstances of Canadian country-
side surrounding us. We began the
20-hour show at 2 a.m. the Sunday
night spring break began. There was
a four day intermission, (the bulk of
our break,) and a second ten hour act.
We paid our admission at the
Windsor border, but the action didn't
begin for around an hour. In that
hour we were enveloped by the
scenery. The plot was lead by the
constant stream of road markers: 3's
topped with crowns (we did not be-
lieve there is actually any Canadian
royalty). The first cop we saw was
parked in front of a Seven Eleven-
at risk of incurring a ticket for my
average 87 m.p.h., I said to my
companion, "Let's go in and say hi,
so he doesn't stop us later." We en-
tered while he was talking to two
store workers who were betting

whether we worked at a nearby fac-
tory. They laughed at our heading for
New York, and let us use their re-
A few hours later we ran out of
gas. First we almost ran out of gas
at 5 a.m. in a town called Aylmer. I
entered an all-night donut shop, and
again I was center stage. Puzzled on-
lookers discussed the predicament of
our gaslessness and directed us to the
Police station, adjacent to the Ken-
tucky Fried Chicken (Kentucky gets
more respect in Canada than in the
States). The Police Station was
closed. An older man with four teeth
and a padlock on his car offered us
the gas from his chainsaw and a dis-
cussion about local weather condi-
Then we really ran out of gas. It
was 6 a.m. and we were in front of a

donut shop in Delhi. A fat cop and a
woman named Jo smoked each
other's cigarettes and laughed at us.
They told us about the town and
themselves. It was a pretty quiet
town, they said, except at tobacco
harvest. I said, "at least they harvest
only tobacco." The cop didn't get it,
but continued to warn us against si-
phoning gasoline. After a hour, not
wasted, but certainly slow on action,
we had the tank filled by a man and
his dogs. It seemed likely that he
opened the filling station early, in an
effort to escape his wife for the
company of those dogs.
The point is, for an average of 20
minutes each, we were the center of
these peoples lives and they were the
center of ours. Essentially no im-
pressions were made, all the way
around; we were really spectacles to
these observers and they definitely


were to us. But, even as each indi-
vidual encounter or scene ended, it
was as if it could have occurred no
other way. Had anything happened
differently, the overall impression
the production left on us would have
The ride home was less eventful
because we ran out of gas while still
in New York State. The high point
of the second act was a 20 minute
respite at a Kentucky Fried
Chicken. We stopped in Aylmer for
old time's sake. The store was over-
run with teenagers, who in true the-
atrical tradition ignored the audience,
us, completely. The intrigue of the
scene involved their friends who
were in the parking lot behind the
store, probably stealing chicken and
spitting in our "thrifty meals."
The final border cross back to the

U.S. was itself a climax and s-
nouement. The total of 20 hours jp
this car, through this country, leftus
confused but sated. In moments of
wisdom, I can see beyond this the-
atrical perspective. I had the brief
opportunity to meet people and re-
ally listen to what they had to say,
when I wasn't trying to hold on to
my identity. (It was only the nightl
slept in the car behind a bowling al-
ley that I really felt confused wie
and detached from myself.) The fgt
is, the game of being an objectiv,
observer, or audience as the case may
be, is an overimposition of powg;
the people I met were not there f4r
my benefit, but to live their olyp
lives. As my father said when,
passed my driving test, and the tesp
didn't care about my success, "Why
should he care, you're nothing to



Psychotic Reactions
and Carburetor Dung
By Lester Bangs
Alfred A. Knopf
To even try to review, let alone
provide a fair overview, of the works
of rock music's most famous critic
and malcontent Lester Bangs is no
fair task for any person. It would
probably even risk defeating the
purpose of Bangs' writing. Without
Lester Bangs there wouldn't be
Chuck Eddy, Byron Coley... even
our own Mike Rubin.
But before I jump out and into
the stratosphere of my own self- in-
dulgent ramblings (also made tolera-
ble by the ground Bangs so brazenly
broke), let me just say that even as-
sembling a collection of Lester
Bangs' record reviews (which always



rollers tell their


u a
:s .
.. ,
... i

reviewed much more than anything
actually on the vinyl) must have
been as hopelessly difficult for
Bangs' longtime editor Griel Mar-
cus. Psychotic Reactions and
Carburetor Dung, a collection of his
works from Creem, The Village
Voice, and some unpublished pieces,
is an inside glimpse at the wheels
and cogs of Bangs' wild imagination
at work. It is a vivid, funny, and at
times even terrifying attempt to un-
derstand 20th century culture, and it
doesn't always have all that much to
do with music (although it also pro-
vides a terrific lesson in rock his-
Lester Bangs' downfall was that
he was so serious about not taking
rock music seriously that he unwill-
ingly lent a hand in killing the mu-
sic (while killing himself). In retro-
spect, there is a simple irony in this
thinking so hard about music when

The work of Lester Bangs, rock critic/cultural commentator, is chronicled in
the essay collection 'Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung'.

all that really mattered to him was
its feeling. When he died in 1982, it
was before the arrival of MTV or
Sigue Sigue Sputnik. And yet,
Bangs' essays aptly prophesized the
future of rock and roll. In the "heart
of (his) funky soul," Lester Bangs
knew that the '80s were inevitable;
for proof of his prophetic powers,
just look at the technical pop pro-
ductions of Mitch Easter, or the
complex and precise guitar lines of
today's heavy metal.
The reviews reprinted in Psy-
chotic Reactions desperately reach

back to Bangs' youth, vehemently
trying to recapture the heart and soul
of the music in everything he wrote
about while trying to come to an
understanding of it, too. He loved
the primal shriek of the Stooges and
the pure ecstasy of John Coltrane's
saxophone (which he, himself tried
to imitate in one hilarious escapades
reprinted in Reactions).
Bangs' witty analysis is at its
best in his "Kraftwerkfeature," which
originally ran in a 1975 issue of
Creem magazine. He explains: "The

Germans invented 'speed' for the
Americans (and the English - leave
us not forget Rick Wakeman and
Emerson,Lake & Palmer) to destroy
themselves with, thus leaving the
world of pop music open for ulti-
mate conquest."
Marcus has also given us a
whole section of articles detailing
conversations with Bangs' idol Lou
Reed that are scarier than aiything
Reed's ever put on vinyl. In charac-
teristic style Bangs unabashedly ad-
mits, "Lou Reed is my own hero
principally because he stands for all
the most fucked up things that I
could ever possibly conceive of.
Which probably only shows the
limits of my imagination." What
follows is a surrealistic battle be-
tween the two, written at the height
(depth?) of Reed's addictions, in
which Bangs and the guitarist have
some chilling arguments over Metal
Machine Music while dealing vi-
cious blows to one another's respec-
tive careers.
"There are many here among us
for whom the life force is best
represented by the livid twitching of
one tortured nerve, or even a full-
scale anxiety attack," Bangs wrote
later in his career. That nerve is still
alive and twitching throughout Psy-
chotic Reactions and Carburetor
Dung. If you can make your way
through it, I can't say you'll come
out a better person - but you'll
probably find yourself at least one
step closer to understanding the rea-
son that nerve is twitching.
-Beth Fertig
E Normandie
2 for 1 Sweetheart
(Good until 3/4/88)
L-. one. per m-n r pwc

I'm With The Band,"
(Confessions of a
By Pamela Miller Des Barrffl
Beech Tree Press
In her heyday as one of rock's
most famous groupies, Miss Pamela
(Miller Des Barres) knew almost ev-
eryone and did almost everythin4.
She lived in L.A., N.Y., and Lon-
don, and spent time with people as
diverse as Woody Allen and Charles
Manson's accomplice, Bobby Beaud-
soleil. The recent death of Des Bat-
res' father prompted her to compile
her memoirs, and with the help oif
old photographs and diary entrieg,
she has catalogued her modt
interesting adventures in a book
entitled I'm With the Ban$
(Confessions of a Groupie):
Suffice it to say, Des Barresjs
not shy about recounting her releaq
tionships. Her book describes tryst4
with Mick Jagger, Don Johnson:
Keith Moon, Jim Morrison ante
Jimmy Page - to cite just a few --K
in loving detail. The ins and outs oP
Des Barres' love life make for enters
taining reading material, and hey:
stories are enhanced by their ar-
rangement and presentation.
I'm With the Band combine
excerpts from Des Barres' teenage
diaries with supplementary in-retro-
spect insights. She begins chaptep"
one by describing her pre-pubescent
dismay at seeing tv footage of Elvis':'
army haircut. Later, as a teenage
Beatles fan, she lies awake at nighto
tormented by the thought of Pau f
dating "that creepy freckle-facet
bowwow, Jane Asher." Des Barren
presents herself as a typical young,
teen; she feels comfortable fantasizes
ing about distant rock stars but be4
comes a bit more hesitant whern'
confronted by a flesh-and-blodT
boyfriend: "My virginal image (of4
penis) was that of a cross betweena
sleepy pink baby worm and a
vengeful billy club with one crazed"
Soon enough, Miss Pamela loses
all fear and begins to pursue male;
companionship with a vengeance.
She is befriended by Captain Beef-,
heart, who leaves her determined to,
"plunge ahead into unknown realms:
of hipness," and then singled out by:;
Frank Zappa -"I knew he must;'
See BOOKS, page 9


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