Jook Savages Redux
Lester Bangs' Austin gang gets revived
By Margaret Moser,
3:30PM, Mon. Jun. 22, 2009
"Give me the Guess Who. They got the courage to be drunken buffoons, which makes them poetic.” - Lester Bangs, Almost Famous
Even better than Almost Famous, I love Untitled, director Cameron Crowe’s lengthier cut of the movie. I love the film because it hits that sweet period when rock was still young enough to be fun, and captures the moment as neatly as Dazed and Confused did. Except for that godawful scene with Stillwater and entourage singing “Tiny Dancer” on the bus, it was quite believable and the way I remember those days. What I can remember, of course.
Crowe did right by critic Lester Bangs in casting Philip Seymour Hoffman to portray him. I knew Lester during his reckless time in Austin, circa 1980, and Hoffman’s portrayal depicted Lester roughly (and fictionally) about five years before that time. The Lester I knew was a person I could argue with about Psychedelic Furs (I love ‘em; he hated ‘em) on the side of the stage while they were playing and still be friends. Like the Almost Famous scene in the radio station when Hoffman’s Lester Bangs rants against Jethro Tull and the Doors in favor of the Guess Who, Lester the person loved to engage in such sparring.
He also seriously pursued his musical career in Austin. Playing first with a ramshackle assortment of musicians and non-musicians – which included the Chronicle’s original music editor Jeff Whittington, Jon Burton of the Huns, and E.A. Srere of the Chickadiesels – Lester rehearsed at places like my living room and we’d argue about the Shaggs (he loved ‘em; I hated ‘em). Among my prized possessions is a collection of Grand Funk (he loved ‘em; I hated ‘em) on vinyl that Lester gave me.
Eventually, Lester landed with a for-real band, the Delinquents. Led by the husband-and-wife team of Brian and Mindy Curley (and featuring singer Layna Pogue, with whom they just re-recorded), the Delinquents specialized in the sort of potent 1960s garage rock that suited his New York sensibility of music better than the rag-tag group of quasi-musicians. The result was Jook Savages on the Brazos, an effort less worthy for Lester’s limited vocal ability than his heartfelt songwriting (and Andy Fuertsch’s fine guitar groove). Like so much vinyl of that pre-CD era, the record had been gathering dust as a relic.
Or so thought Brian Curley. The Delinquents founder and guitarist discovered numerous Internet sites illegally selling mp3s of not only Jook Savages but recordings he did with Roky Erickson and Evilhook Wildlife, plus all five albums from his band 27 Devils Joking. Curley took matters into his own hands and revived the band’s punk-era label, Live Wire Records, with the help of an investor.
Then he announced the re-release of Jook Savages on the Brazos by Lester Bangs & the Delinquents, its first appearance in the U.S. The new edition features a 20-page booklet, containing Lester’s typed lyrics and handwritten notations, plus photos and other “-abilia” Lester fans will appreciate.
The Delinquents gather at Waterloo Records on Monday, June 29 at 5pm, to sign autographs. SF's Triple Cobra celebrates its Live Wire debut, Live Fast & Die Beautiful, and performs live.