Sunday, October 21, 2012

Lester At The Beach, Smelling of the Bells Of Hell

Yeah, so?
I will add image to this to the stack in my Lester Bangs photos file, and it will sit on top for a long time, I'm certain. Chris Stein of Blondie snapped this at Coney Island sometime in 1977, and just look: the composition is pure snapshot aesthetic, a clanging, half-accidental blend of the ridiculous and the sublime. Lester's in full-on Eighth Avenue garb: sneakers, jeans, mouthy t-shirt, leather jacket, cap, sunglasses, cigarette and (open) beer. The Coney Island Wonder Wheel has burst forth from his head, mimicking whatever whirling, nutty thought process he's chasing, or avoiding. Lester's standing between two girls. His friends? Or did he just meet them? One's in a skimpy bikini, her gaze a bit more studied than Lester's, a bit as if she's trying on this pose that came so easily to Lester; the other is dressed fully, a balance to Lester's outfit. She's also in a leather jacket. She's holding a chain. On a beach. All three are drinking. It was the Seventies.

What makes the photo greater than just another smirking portrait of Bangs is the family on the right. The mom's mildly intrigued by the Lower East Side scuz, or she's beating it out of there, her boy staring directly into the camera, a less guarded and more innocent version of the gaze that Lester's trying to level. There doesn't need to be a fence between Lester and His Girls and the family; there already is. I wonder: does the kid want to jump over, or does he want run away? What would you do?

There's something about this photo that is very rock and roll, though I can't quite quantify what that is. Lester At The Beach, Smelling of the Bells Of Hell. Where he went after this, I haven't a clue. Ruby's? The train? Someone's floor? I resist mythologizing the man, but this street-meets-beach noisy beaut of an image doesn't help me do that.


Roch Parisien said...

Your ruminations on this photo really resonnated with me Joe...cheers!

Joe Bonomo said...

Thanks, Roch. The photo does all the work!

Ned Stuckey-French said...

No, I disagree. You do a lot of the work too, Joe, and you send me back to the picture to see it more clearly, more fully, more rock n' roll. Nice.

Joe Bonomo said...

Thank ya, Ned!