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Lester Ray

Lester Ray [an adaptation of "Sister Ray"]

Improvisational lyrics by Peter Laughner
Music by John Cale, Sterling Morrison, Maureen Tucker and Lou Reed; original "Sister Ray" lyrics, written by Lou Reed.

Cowgirls sweet slit.
Gillian McCain Ray girl's[1]
flailin' on the Reed[2]
but at this [?]
Got a tush like 10 South
with an eye to match it.
Tongue that kiss, proud face of the gentile.
I love to love Nurse Ratched,[3]
so I threw the vixen, wooly and wild.
Saw one way that you go,
I've seen you in the Valley
take time out for mudlarks.
Set eyes upon the alleys.
And see a lot of lenses,
wiles and wills, perdition gorge,[4]
momma, shake my senses,
against the game that's playin' for her.
I'm walking through New Orleans.
I'd like to wager a dollar.
Wanna be Dale Hawkins[5]
scream "Psycho,"[6] get to holler at Reed.
Walkin' on down the street
in the middle of a southern town,
so on your way to new ground.
I've seen you in the valley.[7]
I've see you between the palm fronds
of our life. Take out time for the mudlarks
who drive you mad,
like the jinks that fell down in Florida.
Good-bye to newsreels, goodbye to movies,
which means mama demolitions.
She likes to comb the alleys,
grazing away, gazing along the way,
as long as they don't take her away,
we're safe and safe-safe-safe.
Look out for the children underneath the bridge.
The one's who will slit your throat in a moment
without even thinking.
Seen a lot of lenses
wiles and wills, perdition gorge,
momma, shake my senses,
against the game they're playing for her.


The Creem Office Sessions bootleg cassette, MP3 disc
Track §9
WFMU (1975-1976), New Jersey; MP3 disc (2007)
Note: The Creem Office Sessions (a.k.a., The famous Lester Bangs Session) were recorded live in the Creem Offices in 1978, without the benefits of a recording studio or a sound engineer. In the tradition of the jam session, the content of these recordings, including lyrics and music, are largely improvisational and, while the lyrics have been transcribed as faithfully as possible, they are at times notably ad libbed. In addition to forgiving the periodic lapses that occur in these particular transcriptions because of the source's poor sound quality or garbled diction, readers are encouraged to overlook the occasional incoherence of these lyrics as well.

Live Wire Compilation, Cassette
Track A§14 (as "Sister Ray")
Live Wire Records, Trash Publishing, LW15 (1988)

Throat Culture Flexi-Disc
Track A§1 (as "Sister Ray")
7-inch flexi disc EP, Throat Culture 2 (1990)

Transcription by Lester Bangs Archive management, 2013.

Last Updated: 08/13/2017


Bangs plays merely an ancillary role in Peter Laughner's oracular adaptation of Velvet Underground's "Sister Ray." Laughner takes lead on the vocals, but his obscure references and subcultural allusions are sometimes enough like Eliot's The Wasteland to show that he and Bangs were, artistically speaking, kindred spirits.

[1] Gillian McCain / Ray Girl's flailin'": Canadian born New York poet and photographer; author of Please Kill Me (The Oral History of Punk).

[2] "the Reed": The Velvet Underground's Lou Reed

[3] Nurse Ratched: a villainous character from Ken Kesey's 1962 novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

[4] "perdition gorge": in the vernacular of ol' time religious sermons, a term meaning the crack in the Earth to hell, or the pits of hell (e.g., "I fell into perdition gorge"); alternatively expressed as "perdition ravine.

[5] Dale Hawkins: songwriter responsible for the 1957 hit, "Suzy Q," and for "Grandma's House," adapted by Lester Bangs and the Delinquents.

[6] Scream "Psycho": in 1975, the young Talking Heads performed "Psycho Killer" for the first time at CBGB's. Alluding to the title of the popular Hitchcock thriller, the song's lyrics are from the point of view of a French-speaking serial killer; "Psycho Killer" would become the signature tune for the Talking Heads. Although Laughner's allusion to the song cannot be substantiated, it seems likely he would have known of the Talking Heads CBGB performance, and that this, added to his reference to the French Quarter of New Orleans, was the impetus for his lyric. 

[7] Valley: some have been tempted to attribute this as a reference to Lester's high school, El Cajon Valley High, in the Cajon Valley Union School District, where he attended from 1962 to 1966; however, Peter Laughner, not Lester Bangs, is improvising the lyrics while Lester vamps from the sidelines, making the El Cajon reference improbable. Given the context in the previous lyrics of the song, the reference is more likely an allusion to Charles Manson, who, in 1969, spearheaded a series of the cult murder, including that of actress Sharon Tate (Valley of the Dolls). Afterward, Manson and his "family" took refuge from authorities at the now infamous Barker Ranch, located in Death Valley National Park.

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