I'm reminded of a really poignant part of David Reisman's "Listening to Popular Music" essay, where he talks about how teenagers, though they felt uncomfortable admitting it, most often listen to pop records when they're alone, and how singers often times worked as vicarious company, as a way to combat loneliness, for the pop fan.
Big Star is one of those bands that kept you company like that. With some bands and singers you don't so much just listen to them as you feel like you invite them into your home, your bedroom, or some other private place, to experience things with you, and thus their death impacts you like the loss of a friend. News of Chilton's death was like hearing that someone I used to hang out with all the time died.
― Cunga, Thursday, 18 March 2010 05:45 (3 years ago) Permalink
still gutted. can't talk about this. Elvis I'm having a drink with you here in SF.
― all yoga attacks are fire based (rogermexico.), Thursday, 18 March 2010 05:46 (3 years ago) Permalink
ach. what a thing to wake up to.
thank you, alex.
― henri grenouille (Frogman Henry), Thursday, 18 March 2010 05:58 (3 years ago) Permalink
this little note really stuck with me when folks were talking about the box set
description of what's going ahn demo sounds great too, that song's pretty perfect. there are all these beautiful stories about the backstory (like a GREAT one i think i typed somewhere before about jim dickinson's crutches on nature boy), and one of them is a similar sort of thing as above about watch the sunrise; when big star were rock city but starting to hang out with alex, they ended up in the studio asking him if he had any songs or what he could do, and he sat and played it, and that's it, just with an overdubbed twelve string at the start. so great.
― corps of discovery (schlump), Friday, May 29, 2009 11:39 PM (9 months ago)
also this posthaving interviewed Alex Chilton in 1981 and seen him play in various contexts since then--maybe I've seen him 30 times, in every situation from Panther Burns to Big Star reunion to half-assed Alan Vega thing in NYC to New Orleans gig in which he was part of a band doing Huey Smith and Coasters covers to solo shows--I do think he's been a misunderstood artist in almost every way possible. He, I believe, is interested or was interested or is intermittently interested in the kind of thing Big Star did (gloss on West Coast '60s pop and so forth). The thing that people who have never spent time in Memphis truly attempting to soak up what's unique about the town's musical heritage can never understand is the sheer range of the musical endeavor the town has essayed. In Chilton's case, many people who have a rather limited understanding of what music is and will always be, at least in North America, think that the "powerpop" aspect of Chilton supersedes the other stuff he has been interested in preserving, much like Snooks Eaglin or some other broad-ranging musician who has sensed that the intersection of pop and something deeper and older (Elmore James meets the Beatles). In other words, there's always been something else and Alex Chilton has realized that--it's the source of his power and the reason so many people whose minds stop at "September Gurls" or whatever can't get their heads around the other stuff. The blues, r&b, thwarted pop, and so forth. I mean Artful Dodger were a good band but who cares about 'em now, whereas the Big Star records are a bit deeper.
The rub is that Alex Chilton sorta realized the contrast between the pop expectations of the '60s and the other stuff, which was always there and which is in my opinion as important as the Beatles or the Byrds. Chilton is correct to say that "Radio City" is a matter of production values as much as it is music; incorrect, perhaps, or just perverse, to say that the songs aren't "about" anything. Chris Bell, on the other hand, was more a Beatles obsessive.
So that's why I like the folkie shit on the Big Star box that came out this year. Like "Country Morn," where the words are all about how Chris Bell can't understand the world. Bell, had he lived, would've turned into...what? Freedy Johnston? Hard to tell. Whereas Chilton understood, I think, the limits of pop and its ability to understand the world, and I think he realized his audience (who is in the main rather more stupid than he is, given the short-sighted nature of pop fans who, after all, have an interest in getting RID of their past as opposed to gaining strength from it, as Alex Chilton has at least attempted to do) has the somewhat idiotic idea that pop gets rid of history. Quite the opposite, right? Which is why 99% of everything written about Big Star sorta misses the point. At this late date in my life, I think "Third" is the one. A record that actually sums up what I've tried to grope toward in this post, about the way the past and present fight each other in the struggle to create pop, and the limits of pop. This is what Alex Chilton has tried to describe, and if he failed, so have we all.
― ebbjunior, Wednesday, January 6, 2010 7:25 PM (2 months ago) Bookmark
both from the main Big Star thread
― sleeve, Thursday, 18 March 2010 06:00 (3 years ago) Permalink
Coincidentally, after hearing some song in the car today (wish I could recall it) I said something to myself along the lines of "God Bless every person who's ever been in a decent power pop band at any point in time -- they all deserve hugs."
The light-hearted fun that's inherent in the tone of the genre is one of the wonderful things about it, and a lot of that comes from Big Star.
― Cunga, Thursday, 18 March 2010 06:15 (3 years ago) Permalink
good post Shasta
it's not like I need ILX to connect w/people who like Alex Chilton (all my closest friends are big fans) but it feels good to read this stuff tonight
― dmr, Thursday, 18 March 2010 06:25 (3 years ago) Permalink
god Third is hard to fucking listen to. I'm up to Femme Fatale. bed soon.
― dmr, Thursday, 18 March 2010 06:29 (3 years ago) Permalink
Working my way through the box set. "What's Going Ahn" demo on now. fucking hell...
― Elvis Telecom, Thursday, 18 March 2010 06:39 (3 years ago) Permalink
Watching this was what finally made the tears come. Candid Big Star footage ca. 1972 set to "Thirteen." Fittingly, the last image of Chilton is him running around a corner and then a plane flying away. :(
― Johnny Fever, Thursday, 18 March 2010 06:41 (3 years ago) Permalink
kinda don't know what to say, waking up to this.
"I'm just doing what I like to do, what sounds melodious to my ears."
― Most important performer of our generation: (Euler), Thursday, 18 March 2010 07:05 (3 years ago) Permalink
That 70s Show just came on and the opening credits killed me! RIP, AC.
― kate78, Thursday, 18 March 2010 07:06 (3 years ago) Permalink
Aw fuck this.
Sleeve OTM about Memphis, I feel. Only spent a week there once, but I remember feeling a growing understanding of how much what he was could be understood in light of where he came from.
― sonofstan, Thursday, 18 March 2010 07:13 (3 years ago) Permalink
Always thought he's live to a great age actually: unlike most pop singers, he'd have made a fine old guy: I could see him like Furry Lewis, swapping songs for whiskey or joints, telling tall tales, quietly reveling in being effortlessly cooler than all the young folks: and even, like Furry, somehow blagging a pension off the city of Memphis....
― sonofstan, Thursday, 18 March 2010 07:38 (3 years ago) Permalink
I think I might be the first person on this thread to admit that I didn't know Alex Chilton until I heard This Mortal Coil in the early '80s (I was a huge 4AD stan back then), but after both hearing and being gobsmacked/heartthwacked by "Kangaroo", I at least dug back into Big Star's stuff to enough of a degree that I rejoiced that I'd found another very awesome band to keep me company when actual company wasn't actually working.
Really fucking sorry he's gone.
― Lostandfound, Thursday, 18 March 2010 07:48 (3 years ago) Permalink
― StanM, Thursday, 18 March 2010 08:34 (3 years ago) Permalink
no words really. would just like to go back to bed and pretend today didn't happen.
― Jamie_ATP, Thursday, 18 March 2010 08:35 (3 years ago) Permalink
Argh, I really wish I wasn't reading this at work. Now I can't go play Thirteen. Now I'm not allowed to cry.
RIP dude, you'll be missed terribly.
Ah fuck, this seems so fucking unreal.
― Nathalie (stevienixed), Thursday, 18 March 2010 08:48 (3 years ago) Permalink
Gah, now they are playing it on the radio. Gotta run somewhere else and not cry.
― Nathalie (stevienixed), Thursday, 18 March 2010 08:56 (3 years ago) Permalink
I'm so sad. So so sad. Listening to "Back Of A Car" as I write this and it sounds so youthful and desperate yet confident. Thank you for the gorgeous moments, Alex.
― Bow Before Zeezrom!!! (Capitaine Jay Vee), Thursday, 18 March 2010 09:14 (3 years ago) Permalink
Oh man, can't believe it. RIP Alex. What a disaster.
― The Oort Locker (Tom D.), Thursday, 18 March 2010 09:37 (3 years ago) Permalink
Listening to #1 Record now and wishing him well. Time to sleep.
― Bow Before Zeezrom!!! (Capitaine Jay Vee), Thursday, 18 March 2010 09:39 (3 years ago) Permalink
I hope they play "I've Had It" at his funeral. Wanna listen to everything he ever did right now.
― The Oort Locker (Tom D.), Thursday, 18 March 2010 09:46 (3 years ago) Permalink
shocking news first thing in the AM but steve shasta's fine fine post put it in perspective/RIP
― the mighty the mighty BOHANNON (m coleman), Thursday, 18 March 2010 09:49 (3 years ago) Permalink
I was just listening to his recording of "Nature Boy," and the sad, happy-desperate laughter that enters his voice in the last verses just broke my heart.
― MumblestheRevelator, Thursday, 18 March 2010 11:13 (3 years ago) Permalink
testifying to this guy and his guitarso glad i got to see this guy - leading big star through an elgar cover, because they were playing in london, y'know - and bopping around with the box tops (picking up a bass for green onions), looking sixteen years old throughout.
will be blasting CLICHES asap. there will never be another alex.
― we just have to get over it that's science (schlump), Thursday, 18 March 2010 11:22 (3 years ago) Permalink
This is so sad. I saw him just last year, fronting the Box Tops at an outdoor street fair. He was charming, engaged, ...happy. It was such a pleasure to see. I'm glad that's my last memory of him. That Box Tops reunion cd, "Tear Off," is a lovely little set of Memphis classics.
― Thus Sang Freud, Thursday, 18 March 2010 11:25 (3 years ago) Permalink
i've only just heard about this - this is such sad news. RIP Alex. :(
― Roz, Thursday, 18 March 2010 11:26 (3 years ago) Permalink
first saw him at Folk City (in a series of $3 shows booked by Ira Kaplan) circa '83, last w/ Box Tops in the plaza of the World Trade Center in the summer of 2001. RIP
― Fusty Moralizer (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 18 March 2010 11:38 (3 years ago) Permalink
RIP. Some great albums with Big Star, and "September Gurls" will forever remain a true classic.
― Tied Up In Geir (Geir Hongro), Thursday, 18 March 2010 12:15 (3 years ago) Permalink
I know it's not the first thing on his resume, but I was a huge Cramps fan in the early '80s, so I also automatically associate him with his production work--"production work" (in a good way!)--on Gravest Hits and Songs the Lord Taught Us.
― clemenza, Thursday, 18 March 2010 12:19 (3 years ago) Permalink
― The Oort Locker (Tom D.), Thursday, 18 March 2010 12:20 (3 years ago) Permalink
"Kangaroo" god... if a song could swoon...
― Roz, Thursday, 18 March 2010 12:29 (3 years ago) Permalink
This sucks. I can't believe it.
Big Star was my constant companion during my high school years. Still love them.
― Moodles, Thursday, 18 March 2010 12:32 (3 years ago) Permalink
Watching that Neon Rainbow clip,and the YLT Femme Fatale above, reminds me that not least of the things I loved about Alex was his speaking voice and his haut- bourgeois Memphis enunciation: I can imagine what it did to women.....
― sonofstan, Thursday, 18 March 2010 12:44 (3 years ago) Permalink
there was also a crazy video piece that was all doped up footage of Alex Chilton, Jim Dickinson and everyone else who figured into "It Came From Memphis" (amazing book btw) xpost re eggleston exhibit
― dmr, Thursday, 18 March 2010 04:55 (7 hours ago) Permalink
Memphis writer Robert Gordon (not the singer) put that together for the "It Came From Memphis" book tour he did. Awesome footage of all kinds of Memphis-related stuff including if I remember correctly--a local Memphis tv news feature on Chilton producing the Cramps. I don't think Gordon(who has also done work on music docs for PBS and others now) could ever get the rights from all involved to release that video collection. In DC there were just a handful of us there at that bookstore watching the video and we were all mesmerized.
― curmudgeon, Thursday, 18 March 2010 12:54 (3 years ago) Permalink
Anything to do with the video stills on the "Like Flies On Sherbert" sleeve?
― The Oort Locker (Tom D.), Thursday, 18 March 2010 12:56 (3 years ago) Permalink
― neurological bandwidth doctor (Hunt3r), Thursday, 18 March 2010 12:57 (3 years ago) Permalink
x-post. Don't remember. There's the Eggleston home movie footage and photos and there's the Robert Gordon home-made comp of Memphis musicians stuff that he acquired over the years. Don't recall everything Gordon included.
― curmudgeon, Thursday, 18 March 2010 13:14 (3 years ago) Permalink
I had to poke around a bit, but here's Rob Sheffield's recollection of meeting Renee Christ from Love Is a Mix Tape:
"Renee and I met at a bar called the Eastern Standard in Charlottesville, Virginia. I had just moved there to study English in grad school. Renee was a fiction writer in the MFA program. I was sitting with my poet friend Chris at a table in the back when I fell under the spell of Renee's bourbon-baked voice. The bartender put on Big Star's Radio City. Renee was the only other person in the room who perked up. We started talking about how much we loved Big Star. It turned out we had the same favorite Big Star song--the acoustic ballad "Thirteen." She'd never heard their third album, Sister Lovers. So, naturally, I told her the same thing I'd told every other woman I'd ever fallen for: 'I'll make you a tape!'"
― clemenza, Thursday, 18 March 2010 13:18 (3 years ago) Permalink
Crist, not Christ.
― clemenza, Thursday, 18 March 2010 13:19 (3 years ago) Permalink
One thing listening to Chilton has meant for me, over the years, is becoming aware of how different my understanding of what an artist is doing, and where she's coming from, may differ from the artist's self-understanding. He's been tapping into something different than my own pop trajectory---not just more personal, though of course that, but also different musical and even pop traditions. This is pretty obvious for someone from Latin America or even Europe, but I was raised in the South, but still in such a different musical place than him. So when I listen to him I wonder if I'm hearing what he thought I'd hear, or what he wanted me to hear. To me he came to seem more more alien as I became more aware of my own pop understanding, and the promise of following him back to his homeworld remains an elusive hope.
― Most important performer of our generation: (Euler), Thursday, 18 March 2010 13:24 (3 years ago) Permalink
including if I remember correctly--a local Memphis tv news feature on Chilton producing the Cramps
sounds cool. what I was talking about though (what was in the Eggleston exhibit) was the Stranded in Canton movie Hatch linked to upthread
― dmr, Thursday, 18 March 2010 14:10 (3 years ago) Permalink
One of the disadvantages to listening to NPR so early is hearing the announcement of someone's death that casts a pall over the whole morning.
― Il suffit de ne pas l'envier (Michael White), Thursday, 18 March 2010 14:22 (3 years ago) Permalink
― can it compete with the wagon wheel (Eazy), Thursday, 18 March 2010 14:36 (3 years ago) Permalink
That opening line!
― Ned Raggett, Thursday, 18 March 2010 14:44 (3 years ago) Permalink
totally shocked to see this last night. major bummer. RIP crazy dude, you made some beautiful stuff.
― famous for hating everything (Shakey Mo Collier), Thursday, 18 March 2010 15:14 (3 years ago) Permalink
all the westerberg quotes remind me what a perfect song about alex chilton it is. at least he got the eulogy he deserved. (and while he was alive to hear it, too.)
― hellzapoppa (tipsy mothra), Thursday, 18 March 2010 15:15 (3 years ago) Permalink
I'm not crazy about Westerberg's solo on that song – my only quibble.
― The Magnificent Colin Firth (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 18 March 2010 15:22 (3 years ago) Permalink
many xposts... found the interview where he refers to it as "That $70 Show"
― sofatruck, Thursday, 18 March 2010 15:24 (3 years ago) Permalink