The Friday Morning Listen: Patti Smith Group – Easter (1978)

I’m beginning to wonder if anybody has passion about anything anymore. And why would I think this? An impromptu study in contrasts.

A few days ago, somebody tossed me a link to this terrific essay about the late rock critic Lester Bangs. Titled “How Lester Bangs Taught Me To Read,” writer Maria Bustillos notes the many literary and cultural references that tumbled out of Lester’s words. By following the trail laid down by his (sometimes arcane) clues, Bustillos’ own world was necessarily expanded.

Yes, Bangs was a sponge of sorts. He dove headlong into many genres of music and literature. The seeming haze that his thoughts emerged from, while certainly added to by the alcohol and the Romilar, was caused by an almost limitless passion. He managed to escape the trap of being a condescending prick (so tough for critics to avoid) while working through several ideas at once, all in service to this: Here, you’ll love this (or hate it). Here’s why.

I haven’t fucked much with the past, but I’ve fucked plenty with the future
- Patti Smith

As the campaign for the White House heats up (Or festers…pick your own description), I find myself thoroughly disgusted with all of it. Maybe this has always been the case, but it seems like people don’t even care anymore. And by this I don’t mean that they’re sitting around on their hands. On no, quite the contrary. There are lawn signs and front porch banners (favorite so far — “OMG: Obama Must Go!” Yeah, clever), and signs being waved at intersections, and silly proclamations about things like “taking our country back” and dogs on car roofs.

On the surface, it kind of looks like passion. And it might even be that if it wasn’t so black-hearted and shallow. If any of these people had a true passion for affecting positive outcomes, they’d be coming up with actual ideas, not lame fact-free cliches and withered slogans. Here’s the big difference between modern campaign “passion” and what Lester Bangs had: you couldn’t shake his convictions with any amount of force. In politics, it’s all about being “right” and “winning.” The steaming air currents spewing from the gaping maw of the campaign do nothing more than spin the political weather vane. It diminishes us all.

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he writes several weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.

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