Skip to contentSkip to Main Site NavigationSkip to Site Left NavigationSkip to Site Utility NavigationSkip to Site SearchSkip to FooterDownload Adobe Reader
LB Archive impact image

Legless Bird

Legless Bird[1]


Lester Bangs and The Delinquents

[Spoken] I don't know when to come in . . .
Running from myself just as fast as I can.
Trying to see these shifts in the sands.
Might walk on water on my bare hands[2]
but I'm the only one who doesn't understand.
But it's all right.
Don't you worry about thing
'cause the legless bird,
he just sleeps on the wing.
Hey lawzy lizzie,[3] shake 'em on down.
Heart is closed; nerves outward bound
Keep running faster, and I keep on losing ground.
Screamed all night, and I didn't hear a sound.
But it's all right.
Don't you worry about thing
'cause the legless bird,
he just sleeps on the wing.
Shoot that bastard right out of the sky.
See if you can get him in the thighs.
He calls it living, but he's just gettin' high.[4]
Today I say all chicken hawks die.
I was hurt early and I never forgave.[5]
But, that ain't your problem, and not mine to save.
I'm a well bred cripple: I know how to behave.[6]
Just put me in a stupor; let me rant and rave.
But it's all right.
Don't you worry about thing
'cause the legless bird,
he just sleeps on the wing.

Jook Savages On the Brazos, LP, CD
Track §4

LP:Live Wire Records, LW-3 (1981); CD: Moll Tonträger [GER], Moll 6 (1995); CD: re-issue: Live Wire Records, LW-20 (2009)


Transcription by Lester Bangs Archive Management, 2013. 


Last Updated: 08/13/2017


[1] Bearing no lyrical resemblance to it, “Legless Bird” is ostensibly an homage to the Trashmen's “Surfin’ Bird,” set to a bluesy party beat—the kind of parties Lester Bangs went to, that is. The Ramones covered "Surfin' Bird" on their 1977 album Rocket to Russia, from which the Trashmen's song received its punk imprimatur. (Birdland collaborator Mickey Leigh was Joey Ramone's brother.)

[2] "shifts in the sands. / ...on my bare hands": another (unsubstantiated) inspiration for "Legless Bird" may be Jan Berry of the early 1960s vocal surf duo, Jan and Dean, whose sound in such hits as "Surf City" and "Dead Man's Curve" was popularized shortly afterward by the Beach Boys. Jan Berry was permanently crippled by a near-fatal car accident in 1966 and struggled throughout much of his life with drug addiction, an overt topic in "Legless Bird." Rock critic Dave Marsh, in his liner notes to the 1971 Jan and Dean Anthology LP, credits the duo with inspiring the stage aesthetic of punk rockers.

[3] "Hey lawzy lizzie" is possibly an allusion to Thin Lizzy, popular Irish rock band formed in 1969 whose LPs would have been on Bangs's turntable during the decade of the Seventies.

[4] "He calls that living, but he's just gettin' high": a commentary on Lester's contemporaries and their culture of pop music and drug use. Lester's friend and jam-session buddy Peter Laughner perished from acute pancreatitis in June 1977, a result of years of rampant drug and alcohol abuse. Of his demise, Lester wrote, "There is more than a little of what killed Peter in me, as there may well be in you.... Peter Laughner had his private pains and compulsions, but at least in part he died because he wanted to be Lou Reed. That certainly was not Lou’s fault; it was Peter’s. Though he was a casualty of the times, he brought it all upon himself.... Today I would not walk across the street to spit on Lou Reed, not because of Peter but because Peter’s death was the end of an era for me— an era of the most intense worship of nihilism and death-tripping in all marketable forms.” (Source: “Peter Laughner is Dead” New York Rocker September-October 1977.)

In another four year, Bangs, himself, would begin attending AA meetings.

[5] "I was hurt early.../...all chicken hawks die": a possible allusion to the man who sexually preyed on Bangs when he was eleven years old.

[6] "well bred cripple": the term "cripple" is shorthand for a dysfunctional addict. Bangs uses the term more than once in his songwriting (see "Fade Away") and was especially rankled by the hypocrisy of functionally drug-dependent individuals, like himself, who were intolerant of "cripples." The term as used here may also obliquely reference paraplegic Jan Berry. (See Note 2.) 

  • Grossmont
  • Cuyamaca
A Member of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District