4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Lester Bangs, El Cajon kid

The Lester Bangs film will be pirated, natch

Lester Bangs, about 16, in a photo booth (c. 1965). "If you like Lester, you have to like El Cajon because...Lester is El Cajon."
Lester Bangs, about 16, in a photo booth (c. 1965). "If you like Lester, you have to like El Cajon because...Lester is El Cajon."

Grossmont College alum, essayist, moralist, boozer, music lover, self-described “drug punk,” and legend — Lester Bangs (1948–1982), who grew up in El Cajon, is finally getting the documentary he deserves. Grossmont College’s Raul Sandelin, director of A Box Full of Rocks: The El Cajon Years of Lester Bangs, took some questions over email. Check out the Kickstarter campaign to finish the film and head to Grossmont in October for the film’s premiere.

How did you first learn about Lester and his association with Grossmont?

As an El Cajon native and “rock ’n’ roll kid,” I first learned about Lester Bangs as a teenager in the late 1970s. But I didn’t make all of the connections with Grossmont College, etc., until the last Lester Bangs revival, around 2000, when Almost Famous was released and the [Jim] Derogatis biography [of Lester] was published.

Also, Lester’s friend Rob Houghton published an article in the San Diego Reader titled “My Highschool Days with Lester Bangs.” That’s when I learned about Lester’s actual connections to El Cajon.

What gave you the idea to start working on a Lester Bangs documentary?

I’m an El Cajon cheerleader, of sorts. I’m always interested in some facet of El Cajon history. As the Boomers/Gen-Xers now become the caretakers of community and history, it’s only natural that El Cajon’s official history should include Lester Bangs, Iron Butterfly, the Beat Farmers.

So, I started the Lester Bangs Archive at Grossmont College (where I teach writing) in 2009. The film simply evolved out of the archive. There’s been a buzz at Grossmont for several years, probably the result of Almost Famous and the Lester revival of 2000. Another instructor, Sydney Brown, started the Lester Bangs Memorial Reading at Grossmont. The premiere of A Box Full of Rocks coincides this year with the fifth-anniversary memorial reading.

Which figures from Lester’s El Cajon years agreed to participate?

Many key players in Lester’s childhood: Milt Wyatt, Jerry Raney, Jack Butler, Gary Rachac, and Rob Houghton. These five guys, along with the late Roger Anderson, were Lester’s closest friends in El Cajon. Their collective story is quite detailed and compelling. Also, Mike Stax of Ugly Things magazine and Grammy-nominated musician and journalist Jon Kanis give “objective” interviews. Both are fans but never knew Lester. However, both have “studied” Lester, including his El Cajon years, since they were teenagers.

The surviving members of Lester’s old garage band contributed music to the film. How did that come about?

Lester sat in with a band called Thee Dark Ages in high school. He played harmonica on Yardbirds blues covers. After El Cajon’s Iron Butterfly “made it,” The Dark Ages became the top band in town. Thee Dark Ages’ frontline consisted of Jack Butler and Jerry Raney. Later, Jack and Jerry united with Jack Pinney and Greg Willis (Butterfly’s original rhythm section) to form Glory, which is basically seen as San Diego’s top rock band in the early/mid-’70s.

In the ’80s, Jack Butler formed Private Domain and penned Pato Banton’s “Absolute Perfection.” Jerry Raney went on to form the Beat Farmers, one of the pioneers of Cowpunk. Today, Jack, Jerry, Jack, and Greg still gig with their bands and occasionally jam with each other. So, it was very organic to get Jack Butler and Jerry Raney to get together as Thee Dark Ages. In the process, they even wrote six songs specifically for the film.

You’ve mentioned working against the “great man” theory when it comes to Lester and his hometown.

These “great man” theorists see Lester as self-made and El Cajon actually was a hindrance. Those of us from El Cajon, especially those who knew him well, have a much more nuanced view of Lester’s El Cajon years. And, we definitely see Lester as a product of El Cajon. If you like Lester, you have to like El Cajon because...Lester is El Cajon. He’s an El Cajon kid. He acts like one. He thinks like one.

What remains to be done to finish the film? What are your plans after it’s finished?

The plan is to finish the film in September/October. We have to have it done by October 22. That’s when we premiere it at the fifth-annual Lester Bangs Memorial Reading at Grossmont.

Since this film started as a student film and many people have volunteered to help propel the project, I don’t feel right trying to market the film commercially or profit from it. Instead, I’m hoping the Kickstarter money will allow us to press around 500–1000 copies of the film, which will be given to donors, Lester’s family/friends, music writers, media people, etc. Eventually, someone will probably pirate it and post it on YouTube.

And, my job will be done. Then, it can spread virally to who appreciates it.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Grossmont High students break the code

“It’s basically a war on girls”
Next Article

Teledyne touts San Diego and Chula Vista cop drones

How to get to the crime scene in 98 seconds
Lester Bangs, about 16, in a photo booth (c. 1965). "If you like Lester, you have to like El Cajon because...Lester is El Cajon."
Lester Bangs, about 16, in a photo booth (c. 1965). "If you like Lester, you have to like El Cajon because...Lester is El Cajon."

Grossmont College alum, essayist, moralist, boozer, music lover, self-described “drug punk,” and legend — Lester Bangs (1948–1982), who grew up in El Cajon, is finally getting the documentary he deserves. Grossmont College’s Raul Sandelin, director of A Box Full of Rocks: The El Cajon Years of Lester Bangs, took some questions over email. Check out the Kickstarter campaign to finish the film and head to Grossmont in October for the film’s premiere.

How did you first learn about Lester and his association with Grossmont?

As an El Cajon native and “rock ’n’ roll kid,” I first learned about Lester Bangs as a teenager in the late 1970s. But I didn’t make all of the connections with Grossmont College, etc., until the last Lester Bangs revival, around 2000, when Almost Famous was released and the [Jim] Derogatis biography [of Lester] was published.

Also, Lester’s friend Rob Houghton published an article in the San Diego Reader titled “My Highschool Days with Lester Bangs.” That’s when I learned about Lester’s actual connections to El Cajon.

What gave you the idea to start working on a Lester Bangs documentary?

I’m an El Cajon cheerleader, of sorts. I’m always interested in some facet of El Cajon history. As the Boomers/Gen-Xers now become the caretakers of community and history, it’s only natural that El Cajon’s official history should include Lester Bangs, Iron Butterfly, the Beat Farmers.

So, I started the Lester Bangs Archive at Grossmont College (where I teach writing) in 2009. The film simply evolved out of the archive. There’s been a buzz at Grossmont for several years, probably the result of Almost Famous and the Lester revival of 2000. Another instructor, Sydney Brown, started the Lester Bangs Memorial Reading at Grossmont. The premiere of A Box Full of Rocks coincides this year with the fifth-anniversary memorial reading.

Which figures from Lester’s El Cajon years agreed to participate?

Many key players in Lester’s childhood: Milt Wyatt, Jerry Raney, Jack Butler, Gary Rachac, and Rob Houghton. These five guys, along with the late Roger Anderson, were Lester’s closest friends in El Cajon. Their collective story is quite detailed and compelling. Also, Mike Stax of Ugly Things magazine and Grammy-nominated musician and journalist Jon Kanis give “objective” interviews. Both are fans but never knew Lester. However, both have “studied” Lester, including his El Cajon years, since they were teenagers.

The surviving members of Lester’s old garage band contributed music to the film. How did that come about?

Lester sat in with a band called Thee Dark Ages in high school. He played harmonica on Yardbirds blues covers. After El Cajon’s Iron Butterfly “made it,” The Dark Ages became the top band in town. Thee Dark Ages’ frontline consisted of Jack Butler and Jerry Raney. Later, Jack and Jerry united with Jack Pinney and Greg Willis (Butterfly’s original rhythm section) to form Glory, which is basically seen as San Diego’s top rock band in the early/mid-’70s.

In the ’80s, Jack Butler formed Private Domain and penned Pato Banton’s “Absolute Perfection.” Jerry Raney went on to form the Beat Farmers, one of the pioneers of Cowpunk. Today, Jack, Jerry, Jack, and Greg still gig with their bands and occasionally jam with each other. So, it was very organic to get Jack Butler and Jerry Raney to get together as Thee Dark Ages. In the process, they even wrote six songs specifically for the film.

You’ve mentioned working against the “great man” theory when it comes to Lester and his hometown.

These “great man” theorists see Lester as self-made and El Cajon actually was a hindrance. Those of us from El Cajon, especially those who knew him well, have a much more nuanced view of Lester’s El Cajon years. And, we definitely see Lester as a product of El Cajon. If you like Lester, you have to like El Cajon because...Lester is El Cajon. He’s an El Cajon kid. He acts like one. He thinks like one.

What remains to be done to finish the film? What are your plans after it’s finished?

The plan is to finish the film in September/October. We have to have it done by October 22. That’s when we premiere it at the fifth-annual Lester Bangs Memorial Reading at Grossmont.

Since this film started as a student film and many people have volunteered to help propel the project, I don’t feel right trying to market the film commercially or profit from it. Instead, I’m hoping the Kickstarter money will allow us to press around 500–1000 copies of the film, which will be given to donors, Lester’s family/friends, music writers, media people, etc. Eventually, someone will probably pirate it and post it on YouTube.

And, my job will be done. Then, it can spread virally to who appreciates it.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Teledyne touts San Diego and Chula Vista cop drones

How to get to the crime scene in 98 seconds
Next Article

Triangle-shaped in Solana Beach

The “manicured grounds” add a pop of color to an exterior that’s otherwise black, white
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Outdoors — Weekly changes in flora and fauna Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Street Style — San Diego streets have style Surf Diego — Real stories from those braving the waves Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close