cover image Love Unlimited: Insights on Life and Love

Love Unlimited: Insights on Life and Love

Barry White. Broadway Books, $23 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-7679-0364-6

In the 18 years since Lester Bangs's controversial overdose, music critics have pronounced rock 'n' roll dead at least a hundred times without really checking its pulse. But if Bangs, who is probably best known for his blaring, Beat-influenced reviews in Creem, Rolling Stone and the Village Voice during the 1970s and early '80s, was still kicking in these teen-pop times, he likely would've mustered the courage to unearth some redeeming beauty. Those with punk and Beat obsessions should especially thank DeRogatis for his complete and loving portrait of a man who has been reduced to a mysterious adjective (""Bangsian"") in recent pop culture. Technically, DeRogatis, the pop music critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, began his research in 1982 when he interviewed Bangs for a high school journalism project. Between June 1996 and January 1999, vital sources including Creem colleagues, Bangs's nephew and literary executor, Ben Catching III, ex-girlfriends, musicians like Debbie Harry and Bangs's longtime object of obsession, Lou Reed, offered anecdotes, contempt, musings and, in some cases, photographs. What's more remarkable than this degree of cooperation is DeRogatis's cogent synthesis. He achieves the assured, rhythmic voice of a composite confidante, someone who saw the best and worst of Ole Les. All of the gory, well-gossiped details are here--yes, Bangs was a pill-popping, Romilar-guzzling drunk--as well as Bangs's sober, serious pursuits, such as his desire for a long-term, monogamous love and to have a novel under his belt. Even the clich d, live-fast-die-young ending goes down easier with the addition of a hysterical, previously unpublished essay by Bangs titled ""How to Be a Rock Critic."" (Apr.)