Note Bangs' analysis of record labels, radio, rock magazines and rock critics. Has anything changed since 1980?

               cs: Maybe if we start with the economical side of it, what do you see as the major changes in the music
              industry, say in the last ten years? 

              Lester: No money. Itís the major changes in the other industries, itís the change in the economy- itís obviously got
              to effect our whole culture. I mean if you think about one way of looking at it is to say only an economy as in
              much of a boom stage as it was in the 60ís could have supported something like Velvet Underground or Iggy and
              The Stooges you know only an economy in that state and that kinda of eruption, cause those are obviously
              marginal items you know, they werenít really promoted, they didnít sell, you know and then later, ten years later,
              then thereís these big cults they influenced all around the world I mean, those groups wouldnít get signed today
              and say something like South Side Johnny, I know they had an LP on, I guess it was Epic, it sold one hundred
              thousand copies and they were dropped, cause thatís not considered good enough. I mean Iggy and The Stooges
              first couple of albums I think sold twenty five thousand between the two of them you know and so to talk in terms of
              an underground I mean you have to go really to the independent labels and things like that. Cause the big labels,
              the majors, unless they think itís just going to be huge they donít want to know from it. Then on the other hand it
              seem like itís inevitable also that sales will drop off from a lot of these sorta ĎBoston, Kansas, Foreignerí type
              groups you know, say like ĎBlack Sabbath, Uriah Heapí for instance were selling about 100,000 copies less with
              each album through the 70ís. And thereís always that uncertainly factor but when thereís not that much money to
              go around.  At CBS they let at least one person in each department go recently.  Like last year when there was the
              big shake up and they fired just an enormous number of people. I know one man at RCA who was very high up on
              the West Coast in RCA and he was like 55 years old and he had been at RCA for over 15 years, and all of a
              sudden theyíre cleaning house and ĎOut he went!í. I mean this is a man who has family, children heís sending to
              college and all that, where is he going to get a job? I mean go to Casablanca? Ha ha thatís a joke too. 

              cs: So you donít think the music industry recession was a myth? 

              Lester: No I donít think it was a myth at all, anymore than what the recession that the whole country was
              experiencing was a myth, which obviously seems like itís going to get worse and worse. I mean the interesting
              thing I think would be if something happened like, what happened in England where all these kids that all of a
              sudden canít afford the ticket prices. Which had become totally outrageous, to go see groups like Yes and
              Emerson, Lake and Palmer Lester tells himself  theyíre on the way down anyway. But, like The New Barbarians
              charge $12. 50 a ticket for a show that Ron Wood came out and had a music stand in front of him while he was
              playing. Thatís how under rehearsed they were. When kids canít afford to see it anymore maybe weíll have a
              whole resurgence of garage bands all over America and this New Wave thing will start to mean something on a
              grass roots level. 

              cs: You donít see it as meaning very much at the moment? 

              Lester: No, I see it as meaning very little at the moment because none of the groups are about anything. If you
              think about it really the original groups that came out of CBGBís around 1975/6, Television, Richard Hell and the
              Voidoids, The Ramones, Talking Heads, they meant something. They had something to say, they all had
              something unique to say and a unique way of saying it. And the original groups in England The Sex Pistols and
              The Clash and that and really I donít see hardly anything happening now. I mean a group that call themselves
              ĎRobin Lane and the Chartbusters? I donít care how good their music is why donít they call themselves ĎWe Want
              Moneyí. Their just saying we want to sell records we want to be rock stars. I mean, where is this so different to
              anything that happened before. So the songs are short they donít have 90 min guitar solos, so what? All I see is a
              lot of groups that are recycling a lot of 60ís stuff that has been recycled once too often anyway. 

              cs: What do you see as being what those early American New Wave artists were saying? 

              Lester: Well each of them had a different thing to say that was something of their own. I mean Richard Hell was
              very defeatist sorta Nihilism. Talking Heads, were a sorta collegian kinda art school, Iím trying not to make them
              sound so bad cause I really love em. The Ramones were sort of playing with the concept of being dumb but not
              dumb, and being all American but yet alien mutant, you know feeling different, an outsider and yet yearning for
              that all Americancars, girls surfing and all that when you couldnít even drive. Television like Richard Hell was into
              all that French symbolism poetry sorta stuff. And so each of them, there were other groups of course like Patti
              Smith. The thing is that, they all had real strong personalities and real distinct identities, and I donít find most of
              the groups that are coming out now really do.  Like they all sorta like blend together, you know both in the sound
              of the music, and the strongest personality you could probably come up with would be somebody like Chrissie
              Hynde from The Pretenders and the other guys in the group donít have any personality she's the only one that has
              any personality. And really if you look at her as a friend said the other day ďWell itís just another girl with kohl
              around her eyes and the black hair and a black leather jacket . . . Ē you know and on and on it goes. I wish that
              there was more going on right now, but I think as it stands, itís a kinda of a set up because, I mean up until of
              December of last year (1979) everybody was sorta saying ď Well, New Wave is dead and Disco is inĒ. Newsweek
              magazine a little less then a year ago ran a cover article that was titled Ď Disco takes Over!í and now all of a
              sudden Discoís dead right, and New Wave is whatís happening. I canít buy that the change can come by that
              quickly. Well people say ďWell the B-52ís sold recordsí All right so the B-52ís sold records, thatís one group! you
              know they say ďWell The Clash may now be played on the radioĒ, The Clash had an LP out a year before that
              could have been played on the radio! I mean ĎStay Freeí is as pop as anything on this new album they could have
              played that. And the fact is they didnít! The fact is it looks too much like a set up to me that, exactly as weíre gong
              into a new decade, Iíd just like to know who decides these things?  I really would because I donít who it is but
              obviously somebody, somewhere has decided all of a sudden the word comes down, ĎDisco out-New Wave is coolí.
              New wave no longer means Sid Vicious and needles and safety pins through your face itís the really the latest Hep
              thing. And every magazine is filled with it and everything everywhere is full of it. And I just canít buy it that this is
              an organic grass roots populous thing on part of the people. Itís too much of a overnight about face. Especially
              since as I said before, most of the groups that are being marketed in this, and believe me they really are being
              marketed and packaged and moulded and shaped and all that stuff that New Wave was supposed to be against,
              donít particularly have anything challenging or even individual to say. 

              cs: Do you see the original CBGBís New Wave acts had much in common with the British thing that was
              happening at that time? 

              Lester: Yeah!, very much so, I think the original idea was that, you can start from ground zero and reinvent yourself
              and thereby society (mumbles something about Anarchy etc. )And doing so you can recreate yourself and you can
              also come up with something that is not only original and creative and artistic, but also maybe even decent, or
              moral if I can use words like that, or something thatís like basically good. 

              cs: Do you think Richard Hell was interested in that? 

              Lester: Iíd like to think so, I think that he only carried it half way. That a certain point you have to ask ďIs life worth
              living?  / Whatís the point of all this?  / why are we even here? Ē and so you write a song with a title like ĎWho Sez
              Itís Good to be Alive? í. The poor trouble is that, he didnít carry it through after that. You know, it just stopped, so
              no itís not, lets go die. But unfortunately for him he didnít end up like Sid so he canít be a legend now. So he has
              to go do what ever heís going to do.  The great thing about The Clash of course is that they keep searching for
              answers beyond that. And thatís aside from the pure musical values to the stuff interested me in the first place is
              that I guess you could call it existential. Here we are in the 70ís when everything really is horrible and it really
              stinks. The mass media, everything on television everything everywhere is just rotten. You know itís just really
              boring and really evil, ugly and worse. And that this was a challenge to all this. Where as now itís much more like
              appeasement, you know, and so everything it seems like has turned out to be exactly the opposite of what it
              originally set out to be. Which is only sorta what happened also to the Beatniks and the Hippies before that, so itís
              kinda predictable I guess. 

              cs: Do you see it as being sort of continuous with the changes in popular music generally? 

              Lester: I donít see that there are any particular changes in popular music. I mean, just because itís The Pretenders
              instead of Foreigner, I mean is this a vast change? What is so vastly original and new and different about The
              Pretenders?  You know, she sounds like Sandie Shaw circa 1964, the band sounds like a million bands, so what.
              Even The Clash for that matter, I mean the stuff on the ĎLondon Callingí album itís like theyíre trying to go back to
              their roots and theyíre really like trying to. And thatís good, itís good that theyíre listening to all these old blues
              singers this and that and the other thing and absorbing all this stuff. But itís really, theyíre not creating anything
              really radically new. I think the first album was much more radical, and I speaking purely in music sense then
              ĎLondon Callingí. I mean the only group that I can think thatís doing anything radically different is P. I. L. 

              cs: I supposed what I meant was rather then being continuous with any major single change, like in a series
              of cycles of changes

              Lester: OH!, yeah, I see what you mean, yes I do believe there are cyclical changes and itís funny because people
              last year were saying ďRock is deadĒ and all that. Nothing ever quite dies, it just comes back in a different form. I
              know that in the late 60ís people were saying ďJazz is deadĒ that rock had completely wiped out Jazz O. K. ,
              meanwhile now here we are like 15 years later Stanley Clark and all these people are selling tons of records. I
              hate Stanley Clark, but I have to admit heís playing Jazz whether I like it or not. Or like in the early 70ís when we
              had the reaction against acid rock and all the fuzz tone, and feedback, and the noise. And you had James Taylor
              and everyone went acoustic and that.  Things do go in cycles so I never believe rock was really dead it was really
              finished or had it, it just comes back in a different form. But as far as this stuff being really new, really different
              thatís something else again. Even the Sex Pistols were playing old Chuck Berry licks. 

              cs: Can you see any sort of threads in the changes that have taken place since the late 60ís, can you see any
              consistency in whatís happened to rock music over the decade? 

              Lester: Yeah!, a pervasive sense of defeat Iíd had to say, when you think the albums that were sort of most
              characteristic of the 70ís mood you think of something like ĎYoung Americansí by Bowie, ĎThereís a Riot Going Oní
              by Sly and the Family Stone, ĎTonightís the Nightí by Neil Young, ĎTake Your Pickí by Lou Reed. Most of them are
              pretty down records, pretty unhappy, pretty confused. Which only reflects how people in general were feeling, I
              mean really the sense that you get is society running down. Specifically in terms of popular music I know like,
              when I walk around and go into stores, deliís, or this little yoghurt place across the street these days. Like last year,
              like last three years, everywhere all you ever heard was disco everywhere was Donna Summer and that THUMP
              THUMP THUMP THUMP.Now I go in there and all I hear is rock oldies, (well if you can even call it rock)
              when I was in the deli yesterday was ĎYou Got a Friendí by James Taylor, and when I went to the yoghurt store
              there was this song playing I kept saying ďIs this America, who is this? Ē and it was ĎYear of the Catí, you know or
              things like Grease, thereís a huge nostalgia culture that has been built up because, very little that anyone is
              coming up with is genially new. And Iím sorry I just really have to question a lot of these New Wave people that
              say what theyíre doing is so radically new and so different. Cause I really donít see it. Something like a lot of these
              synthesiser groups the whole Gary ĎNumanoidí sort of movement, like Kraftwerk did it a lot better half a decade
              ago. So. 

              cs: What was your view of the musicians and people who felt that the music that was being made in the late
              60ís was part of an alternative culture and political movement? 

              Lester: mmmm, dubious at best because, see I always felt that the Ďso calledí counter culture would be absorbed
              into the mainstream American capitalist, I mean it never really ventured that far outside of it certainly not in the
              music business. I mean Jefferson Airplane were working totally from a capitalist point of view, I know that say in
              the case of the MC5 and the White Panther party that Rob Tyner used to sing in the MC5 (heís a friend of mine)
              and he told me about all the money that the band brought in, that was ripped off from them. So as far I could
              ever see thatís all it ever amounted to was that people you didnít know could be making long distance phone calls
              on money that you made, by playing gigs. As far as a truly radical conscience, you have to take it as part of a
              larger thing, that it was sort of historical inevitability that with the coming of a leaguer society people would start
              to use drugs a lot more then they had before. So you canít say ďoh, the revolutionary act of smoking marijuanaĒ
              because everybody else, secretaries, the bossí everybody smokes dope now, it doesnít mean anything. In fact I
              think now weíve reached a point now, where the powers that be really have sort of vested interest in all of us being
              stoned out as much as possible all the time so we donít know whatís going on, and we donít care. 

              cs: Well there was more to the 60ís then smoking dope. . . . 

              Lester: True

              cs: There was the anti-war movement for instance, there was a sense that the music that was coming out at
              that time was part of the political movement. And was sort of paralleling it, were you aware of it at the time? 

              Lester: Except that, I thought that it was a marriage of convenience at best, I never thought that when The Rolling
              Stones recorded ĎStreet Fighting Maní. It like when Jerry Rubin who said ďThe Rolling Stones were a model of the
              revolutionĒ, well as we all have seen since The Rolling Stones were some of the biggest pigs that ever lived.
              Taken by strictly in terms of the revolutionary principle of ĎHow they conduct their livesí (if the revolutionaries
              agree on those principles in the first place). I think thatís whatís happening now with somebody like The Clash, itís
              a lot more sensible and realistic. I mean, they donít align themselves (even though they are on the left) with any
              particular movement, they donít want to get co-opted. I find it really refreshing to read interviews with The Clash /
              Joe Strummer or somebody like John Lydon, as opposed to the interviews you used to see in Rolling Stone, with
              people like David Crosby where itís all like ďWell like dig it man! Nix is trying to lay this heavy trip on our heads. . Ē.
              They donít talk like that they talk straight to you, they say what they mean, make sense, itís not particularly
              pretentious, well, sometimes. I think thatís really refreshing, and Iíd tend to trust them a lot more than who ever so
              called radical leaders in the international pop star community that developed out of the 60ís, I mean Graham

              cs: So you donít see the connection between music and politics much more then good marketing? 

              Lester: Basically no, I mean I think that itís very easy to like I say, smoke a joint or even to wear a Chairman Mao
              button, or do a lot of these things with out knowing whatís behind it, and what it really means. Itís much easier to
              wear a Chairman Mao button and shake your fists in the air and all that, then to actually read the Communist
              manifesto and things like that and actually become involved in politics. I mean itís easier to be in a demonstration
              if itís a trip thatís one of the reasons why the whole thing fell apart in 1971, because it wasnít a trip any longer. It
              got really ugly, it really became hard work and it was left to those who were truly dedicated to carry it through. And
              apparently most werenít because it died very shortly after. 

              cs: Thereís a sort of argument of Greil Marcus in his book Mystery Train' that uses as an example the notion
              that there is something inherently rebellious about rockíníroll music.  Do you subscribe to that view? 

              Lester: Iím really schizophrenic about that, because on the one hand I would say, yes there is, thereís something
              inherently, even violent about it, itís wild and raw and all this.  On the other hand, the fact is that ĎSugar Sugarí is
              great RockíníRoll, and thereís nothing rebellious about that at all. I mean thatís right from the belly and heart of
              capitalism. Or that the Byrds on their first album they didnít except for McGuinn, they didnít even play on it, it was
              done by LA session men. Itís kinda hard to believe in a rebellion formatted by a bunch of session men?  I would
              like to believe that RockíníRoll was inherently that way.  And I think that most of the stuff that is being palmed off
              as rock these days is so obviously way off in the other extreme. Thatís one reason why itís pretty worthless, I canít
              totally buy it, if you think about it, itís things like the Phil Spector records. On one level they were rebellion, on
              another level they were keeping the teenager in his place. Itís an adjunct of consumerism, and itís certainly an
              adjunct of sexism. RockíníRoll has never done very much as far as.  ĎWomenís Liberationí, so as far as itís potential
              as a radicalising / agent in society I really wonder. I have to see it much more as fundamentally capitalism, I
              certainly donít see any RockíníRoll coming out of Vietnam or China or Russia. In fact it would be interesting now
              that the Stones supposedly are going to play China, what if they went over there and bombed?  What if nobody
              liked them, itís perfectly possible that could happen.  I felt that was interesting was when I saw The Clash in
              England. In some ways there is almost parable with like when I saw Slade over there in 1972. I mean with Slade it
              was like ď OK! Lets all do these football cheers and Yeah Yeah! . . .  (mumbles) you know. .  The fact that The Sex
              Pistols really did manage to scare that country as badly as they did I think is wonderful. But, in the end they
              proved to be a paper tiger didnít they. 

              cs: Do you see RockíníRoll as being part of a much larger tradition of American popular music as being the
              popular music of the present day? 

              Lester: Oh yeah of course, RockíníRoll comes out of a tradition of black American music, the blues and soul music.
              I mean in a way as much as I disliked most disco, one thing I do find distressing in the new wave scene is the
              racism that just absolutely refuses to recognise any black music besides (ha ha) Reggae, you know cause thatís hip.
              I mean Iíve had parties in this very apartment where Iíve put on an Otis Redding or Aretha Franklin record cut in
              1967, and the people from the CBGB scene would say ďOh Lester! why are you playing that nigger disco stuff for? 
              Why donít you just get it off. ĒTheyíre just totally ignorant, donít wanna be any other way and really are not open
              to other forms of music. Of course RockíníRoll is part of a whole tradition of American music that goes back. Really
              what I think it is the tradition of miscegenation.  Itís that tradition of black and white, getting together to create this
              thing that reached itís ultimate fruition with beginning with Elvis. Well it carried on when Mick Jagger came out
              and sang all these Muddy Waters blues songs. And I guess it even carries on today when The Clash do ĎPolice and
              Thievesí a Reggae song originally done by Junior Marvin I think? And itís a conditional tradition of miscegenation
              of black and white music coming together to form something new. . That is really vital and healthy and I think
              when that element goes out of it.  When it just becomes all white, then it loses something for me. I mean I really
              think that, cause itís funny cause it doesnít work the other round. Music can be all black, and I still enjoy listening
              to it but when itís all white if thereís none of the blues influence I think it really loses something it loses the thing
              that fused it, that made it vital in the first place. 

              cs: How much do you think that the highly organised and integrated capitalist structure of the industry affects
              the music thatís made ? 

              Lester: Well, I think that itís not so much the capitalist industry itís more that down to things like demographics.
              These polls are taken, and thereís various scientific methods that have been determined about what is the lowest
              common denominator, what will get the most number of people to tune into the radio. You know, what is the least
              offensive or least threatening image for something to have and therefore what is the most marketable. And so you
              end up with everything turned into a formula which is what we have been experiencing everywhere.  Essentially
              what it boils down to is that all the music industry as well as the magazine industry and the book industry as itís
              starting to be now. Everything everywhere the radio certainly is become like network TV. Itís just the lowest level of
              that is bland enough to appeal to the largest, widest number of people. And I think also that the public shares
              complicity in this because people, they feel very threatened now and very frightened, they want something thatís
              not every challenging. Really what they want I think is blank screen, a nonentity that they can project what ever
              when they want onto which is what our big stars now are. Theyíre nonentity like a Travolta, Blonde or really most
              of the bigger stars now really have no personality, and especially thatís certainly everyone on TV, and I think thatís
              what people want. So in that sense you could even say the industry is catering to the needs of the public rather
              then dictating to them. 

              cs: Do you think that the search for the lowest common denominator and mass sales being maximised as
              much as possible, is it an inedible sort of a function of an industry that has been growing over the past 20

              Lester: I donít know, I mean it would be nice to think that an industry that has been growing that much for that
              long, could have grown to support more marginal types of acts like say ĎThe Persuasionsí an a Capella group from
              Brooklyn who sell 2000 copies. Thereís been so many groups their whole careers amounted to nothing more then
              a tax write off for CBS or Warner Bros or what ever. I still donít understand why something like the Persuasions
              couldnít be treated in that light and supported. Or there could be some mini socialism so that things that donít sell
              that much, if the industry is that huge there could be a niche for them. But it seems that itís all going in the other

              cs: Do you think thatís got to do with the process whereby the bigger companies have absorbed more and
              more of the smaller companies? 

              Lester: Yeah I do because I know that when WEA had all merged, Warner Bros, Atlantic and Elektra / Asylumall
              merged. The Atlantic catalogue was a tremendously vital catalogue of blues and R&B and Jazz that went back all
              the way into the late 40ís, certainly albums had been released since the 50ís. And there was this huge catalogue
              of stuff like Charlie Mingus, Ray Charles and John Coltrane, there a whole lot of stuff that just went out of the
              catalogue immediately when they merged like that. I guess itís so effective the bigger it gets the less attention
              there will be to these kinda of details. I know thereís a lot of stuff in the Columbia catalogue that when John
              Hammond dies will disappear, like traditional American music. That has like an enormous amount of value
              whether itís a Robert Johnson album if Robert Johnson albums are even still listed,Iím sure he must be cause heís
              kept all these (titles) like the Gospel sound, the story of the blues, all these kinds of things that are tremendously
              valuable to anybody who really wants to get into American Music and where it all comes from and the roots of all
              this stuff, essentially I think what itís coming too is more and more of the whole concept of just disposable. You
              know that something is popular for a little while and then you just chuck it, and you just keep churning out more
              and more, and the public will keep buying it. And then on the other hand you have the nostalgia thing but that
              kind of narrows down too. Because, what it narrows down to is actually a reprocessed repackaged version of the

              cs: Like Somebodyís Greatest Hits? 

              Lester: Well like say Grease as a classic example or Happy Days or Sha Na Na and people find that more
              acceptable then the originals which might be a little too raw or this or that. 

              cs: How much do you think that the composition of the audience has changed that attention to demographics
              and so on have revealed something I supposed? 

              Lester: Well, one thing that it did reveal is that the audience is getting older and thatís one reason why the music
              has been getting softer. I guess with ZPG and this had been pointed out as long as two years ago. That the baby
              boom was one thing and then it sort of stopped and itís getting less and less all the time. I know a lot of people my
              age Iím 31 still not married and donít have any kids, it looks like I may never have any kids. And, if as seems to be
              the trend, the population gets older and older, I guess more and more people and I include myself in this totally,
              are going to be old people in old houses puttering around with old things, Iím talking you know in 20 - 30 years
              from now. I can actually see myself 20 years from now puttering around with my beat up old copies of Velvet
              Underground and Iggy and the Stooges records I mean itís pathetic admittedly, I mean everybodyís going to be
              doing it so you might as well admit it. And it will be the same with the Sex Pistols, just hopefully the only
              alternative hopefully is somebody actually does come up with something new. Some kind of rebellion that isnít as
              defeatist in itís essence as the punk thing turned out to be, and that can carry on through.  And also some kind of
              new sense to the music, I canít predict what it will be. I mean I have my own ideas, of things Iíd like to hear but
              that would be something truly different, something truly new. 

              cs: Do you see RockíníRoll as being young peoples music? 

              Lester: I donít know, I mean everybody seems to think so Iíve always wondered about that because. For instance
              The Velvet Underground, I keep harping on them cause theyíre about my favourite group ever. I mean those are
              really adult songs, about adult things and I think thatís really great. 

              cs: Can you just expand on that? 

              Lester: Sure, a song like ĎPale Blue Eyesí is a song about adultery, itís about somebody, it doesnít say what sex or
              any of that but itís about somebody having an affair with someone elseís wife or husband. Which is not quite the
              same as wanting to take your girlfriend parking, and seeing how far you can go. And there have been a few other
              things in rock n roll that has been as adult, some of Van Morrisonís work and. I donít know, on one hand. . . . . see I
              guess one thing I donít buy is that in your life thereĎs this one adolescence surge of rebellion and then everybody
              calcifies and drops dead, I just never believed that. I know that speaking in terms of my own life that as Iíve grown
              older Iíve actually felt better, more in touch with myself and the world, and less confused. 

              cs: How much do you think that it was the adolescence of the baby boom that had to do with what was
              happening in the late 60ís? 

              Lester: Well a huge amount, because it was like a youth culture it totally was. Well everything was centred around
              this to the extent that we become so narcissistic that we thought that the universe and the world was really like that
              and the fact is it wasnít. The reason why everything was centred around us was because we had a huge amount of
              economic clout. Now a friend of mine had an interesting theory back in 1972  which Iíve never been quite able to
              refute. She said ďthe only reason RockíníRoll came into being in the first place was because of the creation of this
              new economicsĒ. It was purely a function of capitalism in an economic market that all of a sudden there was this
              thing called ĎThe Teenagerí. Never before in history did anybody have such a concept of ĎThe Teenagerí all of a
              sudden thereís this concept thatís was created, so you got all these people with all this money. They have to call
              them something, they call them this and so ďOh lets see, theyíve got money in their pockets, what can we come up
              with that can appeal to themí. Admittedly thatís a pretty cynical viewpoint, but Iím sure thereís some truth in it, and
              still is. 

              cs: It doesnít have to be a conspiracy sort of theory. . 

              Lester: Right

              cs: All you need to do is see something selling, recognise thereís an untapped market and go for it. It still
              has some integrity, it can still come from ground up or something. 

              Lester: Yeah, thatís interesting because I was just looking at this old Fabian album the other day and itís really
              hilarious the liner notes on it. Itís written by his producers and his managers and itís just stuff like ďHe is a nice, well
              behaved boy, heís never gonna make any trouble for anybodyĒ . . .  and I mean itís like the kind of thing I showed
              a friend of mine that was in Richard Hell and the Voidoids Robert Cline. And I said ďLook at this, imagine if this
              was on the back of your album? Ē . You know, Bing Crosby saying ďThis boy is a credit to AmericaĒ you know.  
              . . . 

              cs: How much relevance do you think RockíníRoll can have to an ageing population? 

              Lester: Well, Itís like a friend of mine said when I asked him ď Do you think The Rolling Stones should break up
              now that theyíve put out ĎSome Girlsí and quit while theyíre ahead or should they keep going? Ē. And he said ďOh
              no, absolutely, they should keep going until theyíre totally senile, and a little bit more creepy and pathetic and
              creaky each time playing the same old Chuck Berry riffs until theyíre 60 years oldĒ. And I agree thatís exactly what
              they should do, and I think RockíníRoll as it goes along gets more creaky. The whole culture will get more creaky
              and why not. I mean Iíd rather listen to the Stones than Tony Bennett or something like that. I guess what youíre
              asking is if the youth is a minority, and then RockíníRoll as being. . . . .  well. . .  Lets look at it this way, lets
              compare it to say Jazz or to Blues, music where some of the greatest work was done. When the artist Charlie Parker
              or Mingus or who ever, who were in their 30ís and 40ís. I mean I thinks itís a total myth that only someone who is
              an adolescence can create good RockíníRoll. Patti Smith didnít start till she was in her 30ís and sheís created some
              excellent RockíníRoll, some of it even great. Lenny Hayes is in his 30ís, in fact to tell the truth this whole punk rock
              thing, half of the people in it are in their 30ís. When you get right down to it, nobody admits their age, very few of
              them are 21 years old I guarantee you. I mean the people that make it are like Bob Seger, Ted Nugent what ever
              you may think of them, theyíve been slogging around for 10 years. Most of the people that make it have been
              slogging around for ten years. Debbie Harry, that whole group, itís just simple arithmetic that these people could
              not be teenagers if theyíve been trying for that long. It usually takes about that long in fact or it quite often does.
              So it stands to reason that you know itís not this myth that this person drops out of high school and grabs a guitar
              and the next week is the biggest thing in the country, I mean yes this happens, but in general itís not that way at

              cs: Thatís a change isnít it, from say ten years ago? 

              Lester: Um. Yeah, I guess it is, like going back to Fabian and people like that. Also those were artists that were
              picked up, and I mean they were just a kid on the street corner they were just picked and totally moulded and
              shaped and groomed and sculpted and told what to do and everything. I mean there are exceptions I mean I
              guess The Clash they are as young as they report to be. Um, but, yeah itís a change Iím just wondering why and
              how itís a change. Well no, I mean even The Stones, when they came out Charlie and Bill had both been playing
              around in Jazz and Skiffle and R&B groups for a long time. 

              cs: Do you think that the organization of the industry in terms of the control the people have of their careers
              has changed? 

              Lester: Well actually thatís interesting because to a large extent the people that are coming up now donít have
              control of their careers. I mean what make The Clash or even more radically PIL, a departure is that they
              absolutely demand control of what comes out about them, of like the advertising and everything from the word go.
              Most of the groups that are coming out of New Wave, the Ďso calledí New Wave groups are very obviously as I said
              before, packaged and slicked up and etc etc. . . You know a group like Cheap Trick say is totally the product of
              packaging, theyíre like Kiss on another level really, itís just a cartoon. Hopefully what can happen to change that
              will be the effects of people like The Clash and PIL that will resist that and say Ď No, this is me, take it or leave ití.
              And one would hope to see more groups like that instead we seem to be seeing a million clones of Cheap Trick
              and now all these Elvis Costellos all over the map, itís really funny, or a million Bob Dylans. . . . .  What can you

              cs: What do you think about the incredible increase in the last 10 years in the involvement of Lawyers and
              Accountants, an elaboration in that side of the industry?

              Lester: Well thatís inevitable when it gets that big isnít it, you know. I mean, if I was as big as the Rolling Stones Iíd
              want to have Allen Klein handling my business for me. Because he might be a shark but, so is everybody else.
              Basically what Iíve observed over the years in terms of managers of rock bands is that it seems like your caught that
              either your manager is shark in which case, heís gonna rip you off probably as much as everyone else. Or, heís a
              fan which in case heís going to be inept and your not going to end up with any money either way. So itís sorta
              Ďdamned if you do, and damned if you donítí. 

              cs: What do you think have been the effects of the vertical integration of the industry as the record
              companies have begun to control marketing, distribution, retailing and often concert promotion as well? Do
              you see that as having brought any changes?

              Lester: Well, I think the record companies in getting so big they really are out of touch with anything thatís
              happening or could be happening. I know that somebody at CBS told me about a year ago that everybody at
              there thinks Elvis Costello was a real far out of avant garde artists. The perception now is that everyone wants to
              be a star, everyone wants to make it, and everybody is willing to play ball to do so to get there. And if that means
              compromising to absolutely anything or everything about themselves, whether itís putting on bat wings and black
              and white make-up, or this or that with the songs, theyíll do it. As long as the artist or the bands take that kind of
              position of appeasement, which is obvious that most of them are, all you have to do is look at any random bunch
              of product that comes out. Then really I just think thatís itís really good thatís thereís all these little independent
              labels, not that a lot of the stuff on it isnít garbage as too, well most of everything everywhere is garbage. But at
              least anything alternative or anything different has a chance of getting through and occasionally does in the
              industry itself. 

              cs: How important do you think the star system is in RockíníRoll?

              Lester: Well I hate RockíníRoll stars, I have for a long time, I really have been against it. I really think the star
              system was good in the 60ís I guess. You know, with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and that, and even then it
              was probably pretty sick. But really the end of the star system of RockíníRoll I think you could see from about the
              late 60ís & early 70ís.  When you then have people who didnít have personality that were set up like stars like say
              Joe Cocker or Eric Clapton, Cream and that, or Robert Plant and Led Zeppelin. I mean, these arenít tremendously
              strong personalities like John Lennon or Mick Jagger or Bob Dylan. They just arenít. And since then itís just been
              getting worse and worse, I mean for every Bruce Springsteen or Patti Smith who really does deserve to be called a
              star, youíve got a dozen Styxís, I mean who are those guys? Who knows who cares? Theyíre totally faceless, so I
              donít see how you can call people stars that are either clones of Mick Jagger like that guy in Aerosmith or clones
              of Bob Dylan or clones of this or that, or so completely faceless that you canít even tell who theyíre a clone of. I
              really think they should leave the stars to Hollywood and just make music. And I thought this was also again what
              New Wave was suppose to be about, and thatís one reason to really like a group like Talking Heads is that they
              donít come on like rock stars, they come on like regular people. That to me is part of a whole democratic aspect of
              rockíníroll is that you should have that feeling always.  That a kid could just walk about the audience pick up a
              guitar and start doing it, I mean thatís whatís so exciting about it. But when you have that elitism thatís itís being
              handed down from the Mount Olympus, and every new LP being released by one of these superstar groups was
              like or any concert appearance is dolled out with utter contempt. I mean anybody thatís been to a Led Zeppelin
              concert in the last half decade has to know what Iím talking about, to be treated like such utter morons, and just so

              cs: Well I havenít been to a Led Zeppelin concert in the last 10 years so. . 

              Lester: Well the last time I saw them they just sort of stood up there with this attitude, they barely moved, I mean
              any of them, the expression on their faces, the whole way the carried themselves was like ĎYou people are so lucky
              to even get to look at us, so why should we do anythingí. They didnít play that well, they were just very indifferent
              and they just didnít give to their audience as opposed to The Clash that just give and give and give, and give
              some more and are really concerned about their audience. I was amazed when I was on tour with The Clash to do
              a story on them, the thing that they would actually do at the end of each show, go out into the audience and
              meet the kids in these towns and say ďHi, whatís this town like?Ē. And then they would take some of the kids they
              really enjoyed talking to back to the hotel with them and sit up through the night talking to them. It wasnít a
              groupie scene, you know, they were really actually interested in these kids and what they were up to , and what
              they were like. And that kind of openness and accessibly I think is much more exciting and everything then all this
              elitism. Iíve seen such sick scenes in dressing rooms sometimes when you go in there, and these ĎStarsí or Ďthe Starí
              is trying to control the vibes of everybody in the room, with a million hatchet men, itís just sick. 

              cs: Do you see the RockíníRoll star system as being part of the great American show biz tradition?

              Lester: Yeah, and it also fits in with the whole Andy Warhol thing. People magazine of the cult of celebrity hood
              when youíre famous for being famous, rather than anything youíve actually done. Which the end result of that is
              that somebody who does actually create something good and really works at it is equitably famous to somebody
              who has done absolutely nothing to merit their fame at all. So which ends up with nobody having no reason to try
              to do anything at all, except being famous. 

              cs: Do you see the RockíníRoll world and the Hollywood world similar?

              Lester: Theyíve been merging yeah. I think that the most vital RockíníRoll will always be created as far, not just
              geographically, but as far from the Hollywood milieu as possible. Because Hollywood is much more a closed shop.
              Well. . . . OK, lets put it like this. That once you decide you have an image that is fixed, and then this image
              becomes marketed. Then you are in a position where you are going to start living up to that image and acting like
              that image and then really youíre sunk, youíre dead. Coz, how can you grow and change as a person or as an artist
              if you are locked into this image? And I think really this whole thing of images, the cult of images is what as much
              as anything has served to destroy the music. Because people end up being self-parodies, and this is just as true of
              non RockíníRoll people like Hunter.  S Thompson as it is of the musicians. And itís really sad when people get so
              locked into that they canít grow and change. I think the whole thing that John Lydon did when he went from
              Johnny Rotten back to his real name, and went directly out of the records from Sex Pistols into a group that was
              called Public Image Limited. I mean, I understood totally the reason why he called the group that, and why he
              would want to do that. Because he got a complete overload and overdose of all this People magazine garbage
              when he was in the Sex Pistols, and saw what it can do anybodyís creativity as an artist. I know that Brian Eno now
              he barely does interviews anymore, because he wants to deflect attention away from himself and onto the music,
              and I think that totally admirable. 

              cs: How do you think that the concerns of Rock music has changed over the last ten years. Do you see any
              patterns in it?

              Lester: Oh the basic concerns havenít changed that much at all, that gets back to what I was talking about before,
              is ĎHow much is rock actually potentially anything other than an instrument of capitalist/corporate consumerismí.
              Really the average kid, he wants to get to drunk, he wants to get high, he wants to get laid, he wants a car you
              know. ĎCars, Girls, Surfing, Beer Nothing Else Matters Hereí like The Dictators said. Since Chuck Berry up to the
              present I donít think thatís changed very much at all. . .  OK lets say The Clash, I seriously doubt that most of their
              fans understand what their lyrics are about or care, cause I think they get off on the music. In fact I doubt that most
              people anywhere care about any lyrics, they just like the way something sounds, they donít listen to the lyrics. Now
              itís great if you can have something that can work on both levels as The Clash obviously do. But, for the majority
              of the rock audience itís just something else to consume, itís really become less of an obsession I think. A lot of the
              same kids Iíve noticed at Madison Square Gardens go every week, it doesnít matter if Black Sabbath, Bob Dylan,
              Crosby, Stills & Nash or who is playing, they just go as a social event. They talk through the show, they walk
              around, they see their friends, they get high and shoot off fire crackers, they donít care, itís something to do, some
              place to go. 

              cs: I suppose what I was trying to say was have you found any dominate form in the music over the years?

              Lester: Itís hard to say, because, when you talk about the dominate form of the music, we must recognises that as
              much as we in the press would like to think otherwise. A lot of the times the things we were writing about are not is
              what is most popular, in fact quite often they're not. If it was true, then ĎRaw Powerí by Iggy & The Stooges
              probably would be the best selling record of all time. Just because we were writing about it glitter didnít make the
              New York Dolls one tenth as popular as Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Just because we had been writing about New
              Wave doesnít make the Sex Pistols as popular as Yes or Styx is the most popular group in America, I mean would
              the Sex Pistols been as popular as Styx in America? 

              cs: Still David Bowie, Roxy Music...

              Lester: Well, look at what David Bowie did, I mean David Bowie essentially did, heís always reminded me of a
              Chicago, because in both cases what you have is style collectors. Like he takes a little bit from here, a lot from Lou
              Reed, a lot from Anthony Newy, a little bit from Iggy, stuff from Kraftwerk and he mixes it all together and a form,
              that is more mass market palatable. And a little bit more thinned out, and a little bit less threatening then the real
              thing. I mean certainly, Lou Reed is certainly closer to the real thing than David Bowie, which is one reason why
              Lou Reed can never be as popular as David Bowie. This is not an ironclad rule, but, most people I think what they
              want or is the most popular is not necessarily the most vital of any art form. When the Stones were at their peak,
              they were radically outsold in terms of number of records sold by people like Santana and Crosby, Stills & Nash.
              But like I say, Iíd hate to make that an ironclad rule, because then the next thing after that is saying anything is
              only a quality in perfect proportion to itís popularity. In other words the more popular it is the worse it is, vice versa,
              which is just as dumb. 

              cs: What do you think has been the effect of the increase of sophistication in recording techniques?

              Lester: Horrible. I hate it. I think that the best records are made on garbage equipment and played on garbage
              equipment. The utter surreality of the recording studios of today can only be matched with the utter surreality of
              the equipment that people have to play their records on. A friend of mine who editors the records review section
              of Rolling Stone, went out and spent a thousand dollars on a new stereo system and he says like he got rooked, he
              got created and threw his money away. Cause he said Jackson Browne sounds fantastic on it and the Ramones
              just get lost, they donít make records players to play RockíníRoll on it anymore. The Dolbyís, the studios and the
              whole surreality of the thing, it just takes all the mud and the guts out of it. I mean the music is supposed to be
              distorted in the first place, and the clearer you make it, the more you rob it. Well, one extreme of this of course is
              with Phil Spector's ĎBack to Monoí, but I donít necessarily agree with that. But I do believe to make RockíníRoll I
              think youíre better off with primitive equipment on any level. Even in guitars, if you talk to guitarists, well it
              depends on who you talk to, you know guitar and amps and things, itís reached a point where you canít get that
              old gusty sound. Iíve got an old Ike Turner album here that was made in the early 50ís that I was talking to Robert
              Cline the other night when we were listening to it he said ď You just couldnít get that sound anymoreĒ.  Because
              they donít make guitars like that anymore or amps or recording studios, itís really that gutsy sound. Like the sounds
              that Sam Phillips got nobody hardly any place could get one, thatís really a shame. 

              cs: This might be a bit of a conspiracy theory kind of question but... as a way of increasing the control of the
              record companies because as it becomes more sophisticated it becomes so much more expensive to
              record therefore you need the backing of a major record contract to record? 

              Lester: I donít see it as a conspiracy, I think everybody went technology crazy. I mean for a while it was good but, I
              have a point where I draw the line, I like Fuzztone I didnít like Wah-Wah. And other people would probably draw
              the line further down the line. There was a tremendous explosion of technologically in the 60ís that allowed
              things like The Byrds to happen that was just phenomenal and allowed everyone to experiment and do all these
              magnificent things. But the creativity actually of the music itself in the 70ís has not kept pace with the technology,
              and the technology has gotten totally out of hand as it has gotten more and more overwhelming. The musicians
              have gotten more and more passive with it, so now you have things that are almost all technology and thereís no
              feeling in the music anymore. But then you wonder if there would anyway given with the feeling thatís in anybody
              these days really. I think it reflects probably the desire on the part of the public not to be presented with something
              with a whole lot of feeling in it because thatís threatening. 

              cs: How important do you see the rock press as being?

              Lester: Um, well I always tended to downplay the actual power that people like me/I had. Because I could say the
              new Rolling Stones album stunk, till I was blue in the face, and if I had read that Iíd still go out and buy the
              album, itís not going to stop anyone from buying the album. People have told me ďNo, that affects them. . Ē, all
              right, if it does it does in terms of ego and that. I know that the MC5 review I did of ĎKick Out The Jamsí that time
              (ED: in Rolling Stone) did affect them getting kicked off Elektra. But that was in the 60ís when Jack Holzman who
              was the president of Elektra at the time, paid a lot of attention to the press. The press it not as nearly as significant
              as radio, obviously for the simple fact that someone telling you something and actually getting to hear it for
              yourself are two different universes. Especially in the case of New Wave, a music extensively without rules, where
              a lot of it is amateurs itís very hilarious to read all these reviews all these different critics, none of them can seem
              to agree on which New Wave groups are good and which are horrible. I mean I certainly donít agree with any of
              my colleagues. 

              cs: Everybody loves The Clash, every single person.

              Lester: Alright thatís one case but thatís the exception to the rule, everybody doesnít love The Ramones,
              everybody doesnít love PIL. There you go. 

              cs: Everybody Iíve talked to does, Iíve been really surprised by the uniformity.

              Lester: Yeah actually there has been more, the review in the current issue of Rolling Stone is mixed on PIL
              everybody didnít like their first album I know that for sure, I did. But everybody didnít like Richard Hell & The
              Void-Oids I know that cause I was one of the few that did like them. 

              cs: What do you think has been the effect of the music press dependence of record companies advertising?

              Lester: Oh well, I know that when I was at Cream Magazine our publisher used to come in from time to time and
              say ďYou gotta have a review of this particular album in the current issue cause they bought an ad blah blah blah.
              . Ē, and Iíd just ignore him. But Iím sure that it does have an effect, because the fact is they are dependent on the
              record companies for this advertising. I think really the truth is in the music press in America is just totally in the
              pocket of the industry. I mean look at Rolling Stone, the features in there are not objective features, most of them
              are not a little more than advertisements for the artists. Thereís all sorts of incidents I could sight, like when Dylan
              did this thing about Hurricane Carter the guy that wrote the article. He just reported on the whole thing, and at the
              end he had this whole paragraph of one sentence that said ďBut what if heís wrongĒ, they took that out. I think itís
              much better what they have in Britain with the magazines there like NME where a sort of adversary relationship is
              expected. Partially because the press there has more power because thereís not as much radio there. It seems to
              me the healthier state is if you expect to get slagged off in the press when you put something out, rather then the
              case here. Iíve experienced it with Frank Zappa, he bought an ad on the back cover of Cream one time. In the
              same issue was a review of the current album called ĎOne Size Fits Allí written by me. He called up his press office
              who called up the magazine screaming ďHow dare they! How dare you! We bought this ad and you run this review
              in the same issue panning this album. . . Ē. So they said ďWill you please write a letter to Frank explaining why you
              did this. . Ē, and I said ďYes I willĒ. So I wrote a letter back to Frank that said ďDear Frank, I know what a 
              genius you are. I canít wait until you start your own magazine, because $1,150 is the best rates Iíve ever heard for
              record review in my lifeĒ. . . But that is the attitude, they really expect that just because, thereís always been that
              kind of contempt there. But I can remember when most rock critics held the record companies and that in
              contempt, and just went and wrote what they wanted. Where now it seems like itís really the opposite, that most of
              the people writing about the music are pretty much in the pocket of the record companies. Itís not even a question
              of payola, you donít have to give them payola, itís really just a question of trendies, of like ďWell, what am I
              expected to like this week and whatís the proper attitude about it etc etc. . . Ē. Then itís disgusting coz itís just one
              more example of people not thinking for themselves, and these are the opinion makers not thinking for

              cs: Itís sort of ironic coz in the time that a lot of music magazines began they were much more relevant,
              even Rolling Stone identified itself as some sort of opposite culture. 

              Lester: Well yeah, thatís obviously not the same as it is today. Really I think the prototype for everything in
              magazines in the United States today is People. Which is just like I say is like Network TV, itís totally bought out,
              itís like. . .  So and so makes a new movie, so and so makes a new album. So itís the word is out all the press is to
              cover this like a big event, you know, itís really a set up. There just isnít enough adversary journalism, criticism and
              all the times you find that if you do write this kind of criticism that you donít get as much work, or you get it thrown
              back in your face, because they donít tow the party line. And itís gotten worse and worse more and more
              disgustingly that way throughout the 70ís, I can testify cause Iíve been there writing about it the whole time. 

              cs: In a sense, to condemn an album can be to take it more seriously than to write something like a bland
              piece or promo like piece

              Lester: Well. . . 

              cs: It means that you're expecting something of it rather than just another piece of product. 

              Lester: Right, but at the same time when something comes out like say a Dylan album or a Stones album whether
              itís good or bad the record company is going to amount this huge promotional campaign. Designed to convince
              you that this is the greatest record ever released and you absolutely can not live with out it. Now it seems to me
              that if this is not true, the job of a critic is to listen to it with an open mind, and if he or she determines that
              actually this is not the greatest thing since the invention of the photographic record, then to say so. And not that
              the public canít think for themselves either, but itís nice to have somebody to like confirm, say in yourself as a
              listener that maybe like you tend to get swamped by these things. And you feel like maybe theyíre right, maybe
              Iím wrong, maybe this is great. . .  Iíve experienced it on the other end as well, when Dylan put out that horrible
              ĎHard Rainí live album they (CBS) had a TV commercial for it that was run about every station break. . .  Iíd heard
              the album, I knew it was horrible and after seeing that commercial that many times, I was ready to go out and buy
              it and Iíd already been sent a copy of the album in the mail for free that Iíd sold. So, not to pat ourselves on the
              back too much to over say the importance of the critic. But just to say ďNo, this is the emperor new clothsĒ thatís just
              part of the function of being a good critic, and I think itís also the function of a good audience to maybe disagree
              and say ďNo, you donít know what youíre talking about. I mean I never mind it when people tell me that I
              contradict myself, I donít know what Iím saying or that Iím totally wrong about this or that or the other thing, I think
              there should be that kind of dialogue. 

              cs: Do you think there was a golden age of the music press when it did have more integrity? 

              Lester: Sure, I think the late 60ís and the early 70ís, obviously, it didnít last that long. 

              cs: Can you speculate about why it happened then?

              Lester: Because it was a new thing, the idea of the music press as something as a serious thing was unheard of
              before it was just fan magazines. And that is not to denigrate things like 16 either because theyíre really neat you
              know, and really fun. But when Rock started to grow up and take itself very seriously there was a press around it
              that was the same. I guess you could mark the decline of it and sort of the decline of the music, when the music
              started to become formalised, cynical and that the music press got the same way. I know that there was a certain
              point at which reviews in Rolling Stone for instance and this wasnít very deep into the 70ís, it was around 72. The
              review editor of Rolling Stone at the time, actively looked for people who liked what ever album he was seeking to
              review at that particular point, he wanted all favourable reviews. If you look at something like Rolling Stone today,
              about all it is like one of the trades like Billboard or something. They have all this behind the scenes industry stuff
              thatís utterly boring, but what else is there to cover? Because lets face it, Dee Anthony is more interesting than
              Peter Frampton as a personality. 

              cs: Was it ever really different?

              Lester: Well yeah, this goes back to what you were talking about before. There was a certain, very brief period of
              time when the record industry actually did let itself be somewhat led by certain artists. When they actually decided
              that maybe the kids knew something they didnít, and thereís always been a germ of that from at the beginning and
              always will be. And thatís one thing thatís wonderful about it, itís like they really in some sense donít know whatís
              going on, or donít know what might turn out to be the next big thing. So every once in a while theyíll sign up a
              bunch of things like all these New Wave groups like Sire Records signed in 1975/6 and take a chance on
              something like that. But, in general few and fewer chances are being taken all the time. 

              cs: When you look at the press though do you think Rolling Stone had a time when it was more genuine?

              Lester: Oh sure, cause I followed it from the beginning and I started writing for it in 1969, Iíd say the golden era for
              Rolling Stone would be 68/69 and the decline began in 70. 

              cs: Well what were they doing then that theyíre not doing now?

              Lester: Now itís like I said before . . .  grabs the recent issue and evaluates it. . .  Here we go, Bob Seger on the
              cover, heís got an album out ďMotor City Rockers Ride to the TopĒ, the new album might be lousy, might be great,
              but the fact is thereís a piece of product that has to be promoted there so thatís when Bob Segerís on the cover or
              so and so is making a new movie. Itís just so keyed into that where as then, you would have things like the issue
              they did on Altamont, and obviously also it was a time when more was going on. And they would take chances
              theyíll put Miles Davis on the cover of one issue for instance theyíll put Sun Ra on another issue, things like that,
              things that would just never happen today. I mean there must be a lot other people who are as sick as I am of
              seeing every magazine that has nothing but Steve Martin and Linda Ronstadt on the cover issue after issue after

              cs: Were you a fan of Rolling Stone before you started writing for it?

              Lester: Yeah, like I say I used to live for it, my whole life was centred around every other Friday Iíd run down to the
              news stand and there it would be the latest issue and I would just eat it up, it was my bible. 

              cs: Can you imagine kids doing it these days?

              Lester: No! Of course not nobody does that. 

              cs: Not with Rolling Stone anyway. 

              Lester: Well what would they do it with these days? I mean you tell me what magazine these days is as vital as
              that was then or as Cream was a little bit later.

              cs: Yeah itís a lot more happening in England. 

              Lester: Yeah I could see someone in England running down to pick up NME. 

              cs: What about radio, has say FM radio followed a particular similar path?

              Lester: Sure itís all muzak, itís all stuff for elevators and stuff like that, I mean whatís the difference between
              Johnny Mathis, The Roy Connis Singers and ĎYear of the Catí or any of the stuff really. Even ĎTrain in Vainí (The
              Clash) for that matter. .ha. 

              cs: Was there a time when radio was different from that?

              Lester: Well yeah there was, in the very late 60ís and the very early 70ís you had in certain places in the United
              States, what was called your ĎFree Formí Underground rock radio. Which began I guess Ď68 in East Orange New
              Jersey with a show called ĎCocaine Karmaí with Bob Rudnic & Dennis Froley, and Danny Fields was also on the
              same station. They would play Sun Ra, MC5, John Coltrane, Bach, Chuck Berry, they just played everything, they
              played what they wanted to play. And I know that when I first moved to Detroit it was somewhat like that at a
              station there called WABX. And gradually, itís only reasonable that as it was revealed or realised, that the ratings
              were not as great for stations that took this sorta experimental attack. As they were for others which viewed to more
              or less of a Top 40 format, all the stations came across. And now, I can remember when I first began to be aware
              of this was when I went to interview the programme director at a station in Detroit in Ď75. He said ď Look, the jock
              on the station is just like a guy down the line at the Ford factory screwing a bolt onĒ. Thatís all he does he has no
              personality, he has no function other than to play what heís told to play. Then he was telling me about how he
              decided all these things what could and what could not be played on the radio. And I said ďWait a second, youíre
              telling me that if I was a DJ here I could play the new Steve Stills album, but I couldnít play no old Buffalo
              Springfield albumĒ and he said ďThatís rightĒ. And I said ďI could play ĎWalk on the Wild Sideí but I couldnít play
              something off the 2nd Velvet Underground albumĒ and he said ĎThatís rightĒ.   I mean this is the attitude, and I
              suppose it makes sense if more people will tune in if you play only what they are totally used to hearing. And to
              be totally safe and comfortable with, but on another level. Itís gotta be unhealthy in terms of music scene or a
              musical culture at large in general. 

              cs: Are you aware of changes in the sorts of things look for as a critic or in the way you listen to music?

              Lester: Mmmm, thatís a good question. Basically all I look for is passion and I donít care what form it comes in.
              There are other things I look for, like I look for somebody who has something to say. I think all the greats in the
              history of RockíníRoll or at least since it became rock and more of an ĎArt formí have had a vision. And the Doors
              had a vision, The Band had a vision, The Velvets and on down the line through Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen,
              The Sex Pistols and The Clash, they all had a vision that they wanted to communicate. 

              cs: When you talk about a vision can you tell....

              Lester: I mean like an idea, a view of the world a point of view that was unique and individual, that they stood for
              something or they were about something. As opposed to just being love songs and looking cute and all that. I
              mean even Elvis Costello is about something, he has a peculiar slant on the roll, which basically boils down to
              spite, but itís his spite and heís welcome to it. But at least he stands out from the crowd because of that and so I
              look for that.  But more then that even I just really look for passion itís gone out of music and everything so much.
              And even if it hadnít Iíd still look for it, because thatís what itís all about especially the music, and I think thatís
              what life is about, but thatís what music is about. 

              cs: Are you aware of having shifted at all in the sorts of things that have interested you say ten years ago
              when you were writing? 

              Lester: Well, I think I can say that Iíve shifted to the extent of becoming a little more interested in reflective, and a
              little less interested in purely sensational. i.e.. that ten years ago all somebody had to do was get me all revved
              all it didnít matter what was inside, what the lyrics were about or anything, as long as it was exciting. And now I
              like things that are exciting but back then I also liked things that were about something. Like I said a vision. But, I
              think I was much more willing then to settle for something that was just like. .  Well like Heavy Metal, a lot of those
              bands like Deep Purple I mean what the hell were they about? Nothing really, but they were fun. And now Iím
              much more looking for people that are really three dimensional like, like them or hate them that have something
              to say and hopefully an original way of saying it. Really committed to something that is actually larger then just
              becoming a RockíníRoll star and making a million dollars. 

              cs: How do you see RockíníRoll as a medium for saying things?

              Lester: Well I think itís a fantastic medium for it, but I think what has to be taken with a grain of salt is itís power as
              a medium that is actually capable of affecting large scales of social changes, I really doubt that. I think that on a
              one to one level people can receive ideas from RockíníRoll. But another person will hear the same piece of music
              and just enjoy it purely as music

              cs: Do you see music as having any social change? 

              Lester: Well to some extent yeah, but like we say like we were talking about before like about the 60ís and that.
              There would have been an Anti-War movement if Rock had never existed, there would have been more people
              taking drugs if RockíníRoll had never existed. I mean, before RockíníRoll existed people were taking drugs and
              listening to Be-Bop and things like that. The Civil Rights movement happened pretty much independently of
              RockíníRoll, it was all tried up with Folk music. So I donít really see RockíníRoll as entrenchedly linked to social
              change or necessity creating it, itís nice if and when it can. But I think those occasions are relatively few and far

              cs: Do you think itís possible to talk about social things, to see, to draw conclusions about the culture that
              music emerges from by looking at the music? 

              Lester: Yeah sure, a lot of us critics would be out of business if we didnít think that. Yeah I think that anything
              reflects the culture that it comes out of whether itís movies, magazines, best seller list or anything. When you look
              at what people are feeding on in terms of mass culture, then you know what their obsessions are and their fears,
              and their dreams I guess. I think actually what we are currently experiencing is a kind of situation where the
              bottom is dropping out of popular culture, itís really going bad. So one effect of that is that more and more of
              everything is fragmenting, and there is less of one sort of monolithic mass audience so you have local scenes.
              Which I think you will see more and more of, that people are more and more into whatever is happening in their
              little community in RockíníRoll.  Say in the local club, the local groups, and I think weíll see a lot more of that in
              the future. 

              cs: What are you listening to now?

              Lester: Queen of Siam by Lydia Lunch, Monster Movie by Can, Veen Fleece by Van Morison, some old Blind Lee
              Johnson albums on Folkways, The Great RockíníRoll Swindle by The Sex Pistols, Pangaia a Japanese live album
              by Miles Davis, an old Crown album called ĎIke Turner Rockís the Bluesí, ĎTrying to Get to Youí from the first Elvis
              album, Orr by Alexander Spence, ĎFor Your Loveí the first Yardbirds album, Miles Davis ĎOn The Cornerí, the 3rd
              Velvet Underground album, a classical piece called Ďthe winds rise in the northí by Harley Gabour, Miles Davisí
              ĎGet up with ití, the Charles Manson album, ĎBroken Englishí by Marianne Faithful and ĎNo Knobí by Rosco Midgit.

              cs: Do they all fit your criteria?

              Lester: Oh, also everything by PIL, well yeah, they all sort of probably fit my sort of extremism. 

              cs: What about in terms of the new groups? You mention PIL, The Sex Pistols theyíre not so new. Who else
              do you like at the moment? 

              Lester: Nobody...(laughs), I like PIL. . .  let me think, what else came out this year that I liked? I donít like very
              much that has come out very recently. I really like the Ramones last album, but new groups like new groups that
              just came out in the last few months. Well I guess just PIL and The Gang of Four, well now that I saw them live I
              quite like the Gang of Fours record and I play it, but thatís about it really. Very little. 

The interview was conducted on the 13th of May 1980 
Taken from