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Ramones Week – Day 2: Lester Bangs, “There are Only Three Rock Groups in America,” New Musical Express, September 1976

IN CELEBRATION OF THE 40TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE RAMONES’ EPONYMOUS DEBUT ALBUM,  WE’RE PLEASED TO BRING YOU THE SECOND INSTALLMENT OF RAMONES WEEK BY NICHOLAS ROMBES, AUTHOR OF THE 33 1/3 ON  RAMONES.

From the beginning, the Ramones were met with a weird combination of excitement, bewilderment, and national jealousy in the UK. In his first installment of an intermittent column at New Musical Express, Lester Bangs let loose in his buckshot way, playing up the role of the American bad boy: “We’ll forgive you for not comprehending the genius of the Ramones. You didn’t appreciate the Dolls either. Screw you.”

LesterBangs-Day2Although the Ramones take up only a few lines in the column (and they are, indeed, one of the “only three rock groups in America” according to Bangs, the other two being Patti Smith and the Dictators), they loom large across the column, a sort of reverse British Invasion. In classic Bangs fashion he even goes so far as to claim that the Ramones are more “literary” than Patti Smith. Although in lots of ways Bangs was the ultimate punk writer and character, stripping down language to something raw and hot in the same way that punk music did, he also offered a smart and uncomfortable critique of the scene. In his 1979 Village Voice essay “The White Noise Supremacists” he wrote: “So many of the people around the CBGB’s and Max’s scene have always seemed emotionally if not outright physically crippled—you see speech impediments, hunchbacks, limps, but most of all a spiritual flatness. You take parental indifference, a crappy educational system, lots of drugs, media overload, a society with no values left except the hysterical emphasis on physical perfection, and you end up with these little nubbins.”

One comment

  1. SPENCER DRATE

    LESTER BANGS used to call me at my “renegade” indie label I was album designing for ESP-DISK-notorious for THE FUGS! Lester always wanted to know about cool indie music being produced! Later I designed iconic albums “Road to Ruin” and “End of the Century” for RAMONES and SIRE RECORDS and in a Ramones Show now at Queens Museum and on tour!

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