Sometimes Lester was full of shit. Of course there are facts in
rock n roll, and they are valuable tools for deflating the myths, thereby
making heroic deeds seem possible for us lowly humans. This was a pursuit that Lester
loved almost as much as constructing the myths in the first place.
the great gonzo journalist, gutter poet, and romantic visionary of rock writingits
Hunter S. Thompson, Charles Bukowski, and Jack Kerouac all rolled into one. Out of tune
with the peace n love ethos of the60s and the Me Generation navel-gazing
of the 70s he agitated for sounds that were harsher, louder, more electric, and more
alive, charting if not defining the aesthetics of heavy metal and punk. Where others
idealized the rock n roll lifestyle or presented a distant academic version of
it, he lived it, reveling in its excesses, drawing energy from its din, and
matching its passion in prose that erupted from the pages of Rolling Stone, Creem,
and the Village Voice. In the process he became a peer of the artists he
celebrated, brash visionaries and dedicated individualists such as Captain Beefheart, Iggy
Pop, Patti Smith, Richard Hell, and most of all Lou Reed, with whom he had a relationship
that was equal parts Johnson / Boswell, Vidal / Mailer, and Mozart / Salieri (and it was
often difficult to tell who was who).
I set out
to meet the Lester of legend on the afternoon of April 14, 1982...
next few hours I caught a glimpse of another Lester: the magnetic, loyal, righteous,
outrageously funny, and occasionally frustrating man behind the persona. ...
for a long time when I asked him to define good rock n roll, and even as an
inexperienced interviewer I was surprised that his answer wasnt boilerplate.
"Good rock n roll is something that makes you feel alive," he said
at length. "Its something thats human, and I think that most music today
isnt. Anything that I would want to listen to is made by human beings instead of
computers and machines. To me good rock n roll also encompasses other things,
like Hank Williams and Charlie Mingus and a lot of things that arent strictly
defined as rock n roll. Rock n roll is an attitude, its not
a musical form of a strict sort. Its a way of doing things, of approaching things.
Writing can be rock n roll, or a movie can be rock n roll.
Its a way of living your life."
sitting in my bedroom transcribing our interview two weeks later when I heard the news of
Lesters death on WNEW-FM. This biography began that day.