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There's a Man In There

There's a Man In There

Brian Curley and Melinda Curley

The night was awful, but the food was good.
We all stood just where we should.
Everybody comin' in the congregation—
comin' in to watch the conflagration.
It was the finest fire they ever seen.
Don't mistake just what I mean.
A real Eighth Wonder of a manmade pit
till I saw a hand wade so deep in it.
Said, "There's a man in there.
He's peeling his shapeless, bubbling fat."
They took a glance and just laughed, "Where?"
Stoked the furnace, and that was that.
So I crept a little closer, just to check my wits.
Saw two eyes pleading from an iron spit.
Shot right between them with a smell most foul.
That was when he begun to howl.
Cried, "There's a man in there.
Not pretty to look at, but he's not all gone.
Give him, give him, give him some air!"
So they refilled my drink, and smiled, "Welcome home."
It's just kindling from that same old bin.
Civilized folk don't go burning men.
We all can tell sport from sin.
"Sometimes," I said, "kindling's kin."
Blazed and razed till it was sated.
I could not wait until the fire faded.
The folks went home, but I was caught:
by such deep dread and knew not what I sought.
"There's still a man in there!"
I screamed and fell to tear the ashes,
but janitors just stared and stared.
My heart burned ten thousand lashes.
There's a man in there.
There's a man in there.
There's a man in there.
There's a man in there.


Birdland With Lester Bangs, LP, CD
Track §9
LP: Add On Records, AD#101 (1986); LP, CD reissue: Dionysus Records, Bacchus Archives 1118 (1998)

Live Wire Compilation, Cassette
Track B §9
Live Wire Records, Trash Publishing, LW15 (1988)

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

Last Updated: 08/29/2016


Despite the liner notes of Birdland crediting the Curleys for the song, the lyrics are clearly owed to Lester Bangs, who broaches in them one of his most personal and painful childhood memories.

Lester's convict father perished in a house fire in the early hours of August 5, 1957. The official cause of death was "partial cremation," and the report described the victim as a "transient truck driver." When the San Marcos Volunteer Fire Department arrived on the scene, the flames had already completely consumed the house; they soon discovered the partially immolated remains in the rubble, identified by a wristwatch belonging to Conway Bangs. Owing to his reputation as an ex-con, the case of forty-one-year-old Conway Bangs was never pursued further, despite his stepson's belief and the suspicions of other family members that he might actually have been the victim of a revenge arson.

Lester was deeply distraught over the loss of his father, but forbidden by his mother from expressing grief over it, as dictated by the strictures of the Jehovah's Witnesses. The experience would instill in Lester a lifelong terror of death by fire, a troubled relationship with his mother, and a sensitivity to religious warnings about Hell, the flames of perdition, and the apocalyptic conflagration predicted by the Jehovahs to be the end of the world. (Source: Let It Blurt: The Life and Times of Lester Bangs)

In discussions about Lester's difficult childhood, "There's a Man In There" is frequently paired with "Day of the Dead," the lyrics of which chronicle the day Norma Bangs told her son in the car about the sordid details of his father's death.

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