I enjoy rummaging through the dumpster at my local recycling center for books and magazines. I use them for collage. Earlier this year, the dumpster contained boxes filled with hundreds of copies of an issue of CREEM.
I remember CREEM from the '70s, but I was a child at the time and didn’t know the difference between ABBA and AC/DC. It was on newsstands in the '80s, but by then I had been abducted by skateboarding and punk rock, and thus CREEM, which seemed to feature David Lee Roth on the cover every other month, was of little interest to a stupid baby punker.
So I brought a dumpster copy home. I gathered it was sort of a “best of” edition filled with the magazine’s “greatest hits” from the ’70s. The first article I read was by a woman with a weird name: Jaan Uhelszki.
“Extended dance remix of ‘Jan’?” I wondered. “Jaaaaaaaaan,” I said out loud, trying to determine how long one should hold two a’s for.
In her 1975 article “I Dreamed I Was Onstage With KISS in My Maidenform Bra," Jaan had chosen the rather unusual angle for a story on KISS of being in KISS itself. “I don’t want to see the show,” she said to KISS’ management, “I want to be in it! ”
“What the hell?” I thought as I read. “You can’t do that. That’s absurd.”
But KISS agreed and Jaan traveled with the “contorted Kewpie Dolls...to be on stage for a total of four minutes in an Ice Arena in Nowhere, Pennsylvania.” The band applied some clown makeup, made her into a proper “little monster,” hung a guitar around her neck, and pushed her out on stage for “Rock and Roll All Nite” in front of thousands. Jaan rocked out on stage as a member of KISS.
“You’re a perfect stage personality,” Gene Simmons said to Jaan after the show. “All of a sudden you were hogging the mike. You took over, stealing scenes like a pro.”
I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that Gene Simmons thinks “hogging the mike” is a good thing.
Amazing story, but that was all I read because as I continued skimming I eventually came to a picture of David Lee Roth, so I threw it out.
A few months later I got a call requesting my presence at the relaunch of CREEM.
The coincidence of discovering a dumpster full of CREEM magazines and then being asked to work for CREEM soon after was a sign from the universe too ridiculous to ignore. I agreed.
In studying CREEM’s history, I discovered another interesting coincidence: CREEM and I were both born in 1969. The first issue of the mag came out in March, and I was born on Dec. 14 (oddly nine months later).
After joining the CREEM staff I became friends with my new hero with the funny name, Jaan Uhelszki. Jaan, I learned, is very much into astrology, voodoo dolls, candles, and the like. I arrived with an energy and a birth date that set her crystals abuzz (Jaan insists that she doesn’t charge crystals). There is an important detail about my birthday that Jaan waited more than a month to tell me because she didn’t want to freak me out.
“You and Lester Bangs have the same birthday: December 14,” Jaan said to me one day.
Lester was born in 1948, exactly 21 years before me—I was born the day that Lester was legally allowed to drink. Jaan is much more freaked out by this coincidence than I am because she also has an eerie recurring dream about Lester that accompanies all these peculiar synchronous events. Here is her description:
I’ll be somewhere—usually in Michigan—and I see Lester walking towards me. I’m steaming mad and I say to him, “What are you doing here, I thought you were dead.” He says something like, “Do I look dead? I’m not dead.” And I say back to him, “If you’re not dead, where have you been?” He always answers the same thing: “Florida.” Like it’s the most natural thing in the world. Then he says some version of, “C’mon, let’s go! We still have work to do.” Then we’re transported to a combination of the CREEM office in Birmingham, Michigan, and my ninth-grade English class. And we same-side-sit at these long tables and plan our next escapade. Apparently this.
After much discussion about these strange coincidences, Jaan has suggested that they add up to an unusual conclusion: I am Lester Bangs reincarnated—reincarnated.
I don’t believe in anything, but these synchronicities are difficult to brush off as mere coincidences. So inquiry and investigation ensued. Amid my research I stumbled into the new and exciting field of quantum incarnation mathematics (doesn’t exist), where I made some remarkable discoveries.
Lester’s soul (whatever that is) would, presumably, have inhabited his body all the way up until his death on April 30, 1982. I was 12 years old on that date. My understanding of reincarnation, however, is that the soul of a previously dead individual migrates to the body of an individual yet to be born. So traditional reincarnation doesn’t make any goddamn sense here. But what if one has the ability to swap souls in the middle of life, or can acquire an additional soul post-birth? I don’t feel as if I am Lester Bangs, thus ruling out the former scenario, but could I be harboring Lester’s stowaway soul? [1, 2, 3]
In trying to make sense of my quantum incarnation mathematics (I just realized the acronym would aptly be QUIM), I discovered that graphing the results of my equations resembled a subway map:
In the subway analogy, Lester’s soul boards the B train (burgundy) at its origin, 121,448 Street Station (birth), and rides it to its end at 43,082 Avenue (death). It’s here that my math falls apart, but my theory is that Lester’s soul disembarked, crossed the labyrinthine, piss-puddle station, and quietly transferred to the C train (green) that my soul was on. My soul didn’t notice the arrival of the new passenger because my soul was picking its nose and listening to “Jumping Someone Else’s Train” by the Cure on a yellow Walkman (Soulny?). Both our souls then continued the journey to our destination, CREEM Street Station, where we exited the train and Lester’s soul, echoing Lester in Jaan’s dream, declared, “C’mon, let’s go! We still have work to do!”
While it’s slightly unnerving to imagine my body being occupied by a stowaway soul, especially Lester Bangs’ crazy-ass spirit (a homuncu-Les?), I’m not scared because, as my friend, the writer Earl Parker, once said, “I’m not worried. If anything bad happens, I’ll just write about it.”
Or Lester will write about it.
Or we’ll both write about it?
Whatever. All I know is we’re here to bang out the worst possible music magazine we can. We hope you’re disappointed.
1. April 30 is Wayne Kramer’s (MC5) birthday. He turned 34 the day Lester died. “Which is ironic,” Jaan remarked, “since Lester destroyed the MC5’s career with that review in Rolling Stone.”
2. CREEM executive editor Dan Morrissey was born on April 30,1972.
He turned 10 the day Lester died. Dan is currently working on his own theory regarding Lester’s reincarnation.
3. When Jaan revealed her reincarnation theory to me I was reading The Bone Clocks—a peculiar sci-fi novel that is about a group of immortals called Horologists who are able to reincarnate.