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Live

Live

WRITING CREDITS:
Lester Bangs, Robert Quine, and Jody Harris

 

People in the cemetery,
they're not all alone.
Some buried in each others' arms,
and some have telephones.[1]
 
They don't mind dyin';
they got a message to give,
and they ain't lyin'
when they say,
 
"Live!"
 
Death is only temporary,
but life rolls on and on.
There's a lot of folks walkin' around
who've turned to stone.
 
And if they don't mind dyin'
'fore it's time to give in—
I'm not tryin' to cop no attitude;
just tryin' to say one thing:
 
Live!
 
Don't mean to be didactic;
there's plenty enough static around already.
It's just that stealin' from yourself[2]
is such an odd kind of stealth.
 
So forgive me before you forget
that the dead are talkin' straight at you, baby.
And they're takin' such sorrowful bets
that you won't
 
Live!

 

 
APPEARS ON
"Let It Blurt" 7-inch single, 45 rpm
Track B§1
Spy Records Ltd., SPY 003 (1979)

SOURCES
DeRogatis, Jim. "Appendix 2: Selected Lyrics by Lester Bangs." Let It Blurt. Broadway Books, 2000.

Last Updated: 08/29/2016

ABOUT THE LYRICS: 

Biographer Jim DeRogatis describes the ballad, "Live": "For the flip side of the single the band recorded a slow, warped ballad built around one of Quine’s circular guitar riffs. Lester delivered another dramatic vocal as the verses built up to the one-word chorus and title. The sustained scream of 'Live!' could be heard as a command to a premature corpse or a plea from a lifeless body. 'This is the one I’m most proud of,' Lester wrote, 'although nobody but Nancy [Alexander] seems to agree with me.' In fact, Cale was a fan of both songs. 'It was a ballsy move,' the musician said. 'It was like Lester relished the idea of putting his head in the lion’s mouth, and I think that he pulled it off. It was funny as hell, and it was all Lester.'" (Source: Let it Blurt: The Life and Times of Lester Bangs.)

[1] “some have telephones”: this urban legend is an updating of the actual 19th c. practice of tying a bell to the hand of the deceased in the event of his premature burial (a legitimate concern before 20th century embalming practices began). One popular version involved an heir to the Ball canning jar fortune during the 1930s, who, because of his phobia about premature burial, directed in his will that he be interred with a telephone. Several days of “busy” signals later, after the family cannot reach Ball’s grieving wife, they find her dead of fright, still gripping the phone. When they put her to rest beside her husband in his tomb, they discover his telephone—inexplicably off the hook! In 1964, Rod Serling’s popular sci-fi/fantasy series, Twilight Zone, adapted the legend for an episode named “Night Call” (Season 5, ep. 19), which aired about the same time producer Jim Aubrey phoned Serling to say the show had been canceled.

[2] "stealin' from yourself": “When you steal from the government, you’re stealin’ from yourself, you dumb ox!” (from Born Yesterday, 1946 political stage play by Garson Kanin)

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