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Textbook Case

Textbook Case[1]

WRITING CREDITS:
Lester Bangs, David Merrill, Matty Quick, and Mickey Leigh

  
Well, I struck a red flag
'cause I lost my glove
run over by tractors[2]
in the middle of the night,
when I just bust [bused?] around
from the heavens above
and I knocked knees with
a woman in white.[3]
 
She said, "Hey-ey, boy,
you sure look lost.
What's that hand, and
what d'you think you're doing?
Have you any idea
whatsoever of the cost
to make love with
a person like you?"
 
I stumbled and I stammered;
I was so hard pressed.
"I'm just tryin' to get some drugs,
I'm just lookin' for some suckers."
She said, "Sucker is right,
I have worked for the best."
You see a shopping bag lady like that,
you might as well f**k her.
 
We did a dance
that I can't describe
that sent such stuff
right into our hides.
At the top of hill
I came to her bedside
I started dribbling
with fear and pride.
 
She said, "By the way, you ever
seen the life on the tip?
They do a deaf and dumb dance
'round their own graves?
Well, how do you think those people
get their candle's lit?
And don't you go and tell them
how it feels to be saved!"
 
I said, "You told me to go,
but I didn't want to look,
I do what I can and
I try to be good.
I seen the world 'cause
I read all the books."
That's when I started
drooling my own blood.
 
She said, "It looks like the time
has finally arrived.
She lay down, and
the door opened up.         
The ocean rolled over,
and I thought I'd sleep at her side [...?].
reach out, reach out,
I don't want to climb up.
She finally picked me up,
slapped me across my face,
said, "Hey now, baby,
you're looking real tight.
How does it feel
to be a textbook case
in child abuse?
Not that it matters."[4]
 
Well, I stumbled down the hill,
my joints all freezed.
Felt like being
in a telephone booth.[5]
I called my friend's number[6]
with a scrap on my knees,
and said, "You'll never guess,
hey man, who I just screwed."

 


APPEARS ON
Birdland With Lester Bangs, LP, CD
Track §1
LP: Add On Records, AD#101 (1986); LP, CD reissue: Dionysus Records, Bacchus Archives 1118 (1998)

SOURCES
Transcription by Lester Bangs Archive management, 2013.

Last Updated: 08/29/2016

ABOUT THE LYRICS:

[1] "Textbook Case": as in a textbook criminal or psychiatric case

[2] "Lost my glove / run over by tractors": During his time with Birdland, Lester was known to wear oversized railroad worker's gloves onstage, in an attempt to make himself appear more cartoonish. However, in the context of these lyrics, a "glove" can also be taken to mean a condom. 

[3] "knocked knees with / a woman in white": As with several of the improvisational tracks on The Creem Office Sessions, "Textbook Case" makes prostitution an open and unabashed topic in the songwriting. Bangs had a close circle of women friends who were prostitutes. One of them, Kathy Miller, often counseled Lester in matters of romance and meeting the needs of women. Miller was an avowed lesbian, so she and Lester were never destined to be more than intimate friends. Regardless, they professed a deep and abiding (mostly) non-sexual love for each other. Lester had a great respect for the opinion of Kathy and her prostitute friends on the subject of modern sexuality and straight male identities. Despite Lester espousing a proud open-mindedness about deviance and prostitution, Miller and others felt he was a fairly conventional straight male in his romanticizing and glamorizing of the sex industry. His abiding "textbook" interest in them, however, led to their frequent appearances in his lyrics—playing principle characters in the melodrama of the 70s sexual revolution, along with gender benders and homosexuals.

[4] "...child abuse. Not that it matters": This lyric (and, indeed, the entire song) may seem flippant about an issue as serious as child abuse, but Lester undoubtedly meant it more satirically, the irony of it being that the slap across the face of a minor, not the illicit sexual act, is what makes it child abuse. Biographers Jim DeRogatis, Rob Houghton, and many others, have written about the influence of Lester's emotionally abusive childhood on of his sexual attitudes about women. In fact, in the months following Conway Bangs's death, Lester was made to take his father's place alongside his mother in bed, and, while nothing overtly sexual is on record, Lester retained a troubling ambivalence about how he was expected to replace his father. Three years later, as an eleven-year-old, Lester was well-and-truly the victim of a sexual predator who lured him into his trailer with promises of comic books and cash; this abuse, which continued for a period of three months, went unreported by Lester out of fear of reprisal from the elders at his mother's church.

[5] "Felt like being / in a telephone booth": Lester Bang's published his infamous take-down of Lou Reed, "A Deaf Mute in a Telephone Booth” in the November 1973 issue of Let It Rock.

[6] "I called a friend's number": if these lyrics reference Bangs's El Cajon years, then the friend is likely to be either Rob Houghton or Roger Anderson.

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