The story goes that Lester Bangs, beloved rock critic of the era when rock critic was a viable career, turned out what was supposed to be a quickie, for-fans bio of Blondie in a weekend. While his peers question that timetable, it’s strange that there’s less opposition to the notion that Blondie is for fans, or by a fan, period. While Bangs admits in the book he thought the band was fun when he first saw them, he spends most of the book’s 96 pages shitting on the band in the kind of thorough, passive-aggressive manner usually reserved for people trying not to sound bitter as they describe the ex they still passionately loathe who did them wrong in high school. It’s a fascinating little piece of rock history (that, while long out of print, is easily found used online), because it’s a book that was intended to be a puff-piece but came out as an exploration of how Blondie broke Bangs’ heart.
Perhaps Bangs had a little crush on Debbie Harry, not just because she was gorgeous, but because he spends way too much time picking on her by mentioning how ashamed she was of her age and her involvement with her first group, a hippie outfit called The Wind in the Willows. He also takes time to interview every musician he feels the band screwed over on their way to becoming Blondie, or all the bands he feels are far superior, which he does with his trademark, unbridled enthusiasm. Bangs could unleash amazing nastiness, as well, (he once described Springsteen’s voice as “like Robbie Robertson on Quaaludes with Dylan barfing down the back of his neck”), which is why his attempts to mask his anger are way more telling; sure, he knew he couldn’t tear the band a new one when he was paid to write a fan book, but he didn’t have to go and interview all of their enemies in a fan book, either.
I realize this isn’t a must-read for most people, but for record nerds of a certain ilk, it’s like the book equivalent of a rare, early 7” single by a favorite artist; it might not be the strongest selection from their catalog, but it’s a crucial part of the collection, if only because it informs on the artists’ output as a whole.