Big Star

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For giving Teenage Fanclub a career, classic. For inspiring every other halfwit Glaswegian indie band, dud.

Agree with dave q, the soppy gurly ballads win over the rockers everytime (esp on #1 record), and yup Sister Lovers is overwrought and overrated but any Lp with Holocaust, jesus christ and Kanga roo is ok by me (though I prefer This Mortal Coil's versions).

I will pass on the Raspberries coz' all I know about them is that they taste nice in trifle.

Billy Dods, Friday, 19 October 2001 00:00 (12 years ago) Permalink

Weeellll I've never been that partial to "#1 record" unless I'm completely in the right mood for it, the rockers sound forced but the ballads are wonderful, especially the last few on side two. "Radio city" is end to end genius without doubt. "Sister lovers" has too much of a reputation hanging around it of 'tortured genius' to ever live up to it - didn't NME vote it most depressing album of all time a few years back? Oh come on! But it still has moments. And I'm probably the only person here who'll admit that they like the Columbia live album (but hell I love the Posies so what do you expect?) The rockier songs from "#1" sound better on "Columbia" than the originals - discuss.

Rob M, Friday, 19 October 2001 00:00 (12 years ago) Permalink

The three BS albums are like a drunk's progress. First album - happy buzz, sociable and 'up'. Second album - nasty, sloppy, mean-minded, initially amusing but unpleasant to be with. Third album - all the grief, dysfunction and ultimate serenity of the hangover. I like a lot of their stuff, I love a bit of their stuff - ultimately Chilton has to take some of the indirect blame for lo-fi's cult of the fuck- up.

Tom, Friday, 19 October 2001 00:00 (12 years ago) Permalink

Nice comparison Tom. Why didn't I have that idea? "Kangaroo" is the delirium tremens isn't it?

alex in mainhattan, Friday, 19 October 2001 00:00 (12 years ago) Permalink

Never heard them in my life.

the pinefox, Friday, 19 October 2001 00:00 (12 years ago) Permalink

'Like Flies on Sherbert', the solo alb AC made after 'Sister Lovers', is the real good'un - we're talking one last reckless binge before the Betty Ford clinic beckoned. So ramshackle and woozy it makes the Dead C seem like King Crimson.

I also like 'I Am The Cosmos',the posthumous Chris Bell alb.

Andrew L, Friday, 19 October 2001 00:00 (12 years ago) Permalink

Foxy: you might actually like 'em quite a bit, especially the slower moments (Ballad of El Goodo, for ex., and of course the immortal Thirteen.)

Everyone else: The first two records rock Third's world. Radio City is, I think, my favorite of the moment, b/c tho it has fewer instant hits it feels mature and thoughtful as opposed to angsty. Also, because of Septermber Gurls. Third has probably the most breathtakingly stunning songs, but I can't listen to something so morose that often. I need lifestyle music, eh?

Sterling Clover, Friday, 19 October 2001 00:00 (12 years ago) Permalink

dave q: I like the Raspberries reference. Very, very nice.

JM, Friday, 19 October 2001 00:00 (12 years ago) Permalink

Big Star weren't on Stax proper but rather Ardent, a Stax subsidiary with which Stax misguidedly took on the white rock market. I don't think it was much of a priority for Stax, which was a mixed blessing in that it allowed such a singularly weird band to pretty much do what they wanted but hurt them in that the Stax guys didn't have much interest in or aptitude for promoting anything other than soul.

fritz, Friday, 19 October 2001 00:00 (12 years ago) Permalink

Actually, Rob, I liked Columbia too, also being a fan of the Posies. I think it's maybe telling that I like a lot of the bands that Big Star influenced a bit more than I like Big Star proper (esp. Replacements), but mostly because they are more powerpop and eliminated most of the rawk cliches of those first two albums, whether they invented them or no.

Sean Carruthers, Friday, 19 October 2001 00:00 (12 years ago) Permalink

anyway, what's wrong with kiss?

g, Friday, 19 October 2001 00:00 (12 years ago) Permalink

or Teenage Fanclub for that matter? They have gotten a bit boring...

g, Friday, 19 October 2001 00:00 (12 years ago) Permalink

The first time I heard "Thirteen" I nearly cried. I *heart* this band so much.

Helen Fordsdale, Friday, 19 October 2001 00:00 (12 years ago) Permalink

Big Star totally live up to the hype. Their history is nearly as compelling as their music. "Radio City" defines it's era, much like X's "Wild Gift" defines it's own era.

Mole Man, Saturday, 20 October 2001 00:00 (12 years ago) Permalink

Sean - doncha love it when everyone gets sidetracked?

I heard Big Star before I heard either the Posies or Replacements or even the Fannies (a brother who had exceedingly bad taste most of the time finally got something right when he got "#1 Record" / "Radio city" in '91), and I've converted my fellow bandmate (a Fannies / Replacements / Smithereens fan) into a BS fan, his trying to convert me on the 'Mats and Smithereens has never worked in my direction for some reason. But we're totally agreed on the Posies and the Fannies though. Odd. I just can't get my head around the 'Mats at all, I've tried loads of times with different LPs of theirs, but still nothing. Mind, Paul Westerburg's last solo LP was rather good!

Rob M, Monday, 22 October 2001 00:00 (12 years ago) Permalink

Call me old fashioned but I think one property of an era-defining record ought to be people actually buying it during that era, not 20 years later.

Tom, Monday, 22 October 2001 00:00 (12 years ago) Permalink

Smithereens - AAARGGGGHHHH (makes retching sounds)

dave q, Monday, 22 October 2001 00:00 (12 years ago) Permalink

It is an era defining record, era being 1990 unfortunately.

TFC way, way better than BS.

Billy Dods, Monday, 22 October 2001 00:00 (12 years ago) Permalink

Could somebody PLEASE explain TFC's appeal? Start a new thread if you have to. This one really perplexes me.

dave q, Monday, 22 October 2001 00:00 (12 years ago) Permalink

From my experience, Teenage Fanclub is exemplary of most Britpop bands - Hey! We like such-and-such bands! Let's pay homage to them through shameless, lifeless emulation! Everyone'll LOVE us!

Bandwagonesque was all fine & good, but a bit slow (even when going fast) and surprisingly bland as a whole. Pleasant in certain situations, though. This is the only album I can confidently speak on, so feel free to ignore my pronouncements.

David Raposa, Monday, 22 October 2001 00:00 (12 years ago) Permalink

Basically TFC = Big Star with 'originality' replaced by 'lyrics and sentiments early 90s students could relate to better'. As an early 90s student I hugely preferred them.

Tom, Monday, 22 October 2001 00:00 (12 years ago) Permalink

From my experience, Teenage Fanclub is exemplary of most Britpop bands

'Britpop' = term with huge ever growing scope creep

Nick, Monday, 22 October 2001 00:00 (12 years ago) Permalink

2 years pass...
"Thirteen" is such a fucking good song.

NA (Nick A.), Tuesday, 4 May 2004 20:35 (9 years ago) Permalink

Isn't it just.

Sick Nouthall (Nick Southall), Tuesday, 4 May 2004 20:52 (9 years ago) Permalink

I like the third one the best myself. "Radio City" is the most fully realized of the three "official" BS albums, but "Third" really did something that hadn't been done before, I think.

The Stax org was in such disarray in the early '70s that it's a wonder the records even got out there as much as they did. I've read that each of the first two albums only got into the marketplace in ridiculously small quantities...4000/5000 is a number I've seen.

I don't know if they "define" any era. A post above maintains that to define era, their records would've have to been bought by somebody. So I guess they were one of the first true indie/critic's bands...the reviews were mostly glowing. In retrospect they do seem to define the period much better than any number of more popular acts, though. I see nothing wrong with revisionist nostalgia myself.

For a long time I loved them without reservation, then went thru a period during which I'd just heard them too much. For a lot of us they were like the Beatles, the absolute gold standard of pop records. Now I just accept them as a great pop band, period, and wish people would quit gushing about them so much, or maintaining that they weren't really all that good. As a live band they seem to have sucked; but I can't think of any better-conceived record than "Radio City." Such style. And they seem to define not an era but a state of mind, one epitomized by the Eggleston "red ceiling" photo that graced the original "RC" LP...bad dreams and vibes in an oversexed room, distilled into melancholy, perhaps? With a few good times vaguely recalled? Maybe that's the '70s, I don't know.

Interesting to see what the new Big Star album will be like...

eddie hurt (ddduncan), Tuesday, 4 May 2004 21:12 (9 years ago) Permalink

a friend of mine is assisting with the engineering at Ardent. He says it sounds amazing.

of course, Chilton & company could scrape a chalkboard with rusty chisels and this guy would say it's the best thing ever.

(I think I listen to Third the most, too)

Will (will), Tuesday, 4 May 2004 22:25 (9 years ago) Permalink

there is a new studio album?

kyle (akmonday), Tuesday, 4 May 2004 22:38 (9 years ago) Permalink

Yeah, they've been recording at Ardent since March, I believe.

I wonder how committed Chilton is to the whole idea of Big Star these days. Probably not very. I didn't think much of "Hot Thing."

eddie hurt (ddduncan), Wednesday, 5 May 2004 00:22 (9 years ago) Permalink

When did 'Hot Thing' come out?

de, Wednesday, 5 May 2004 00:24 (9 years ago) Permalink

Umm, it was sometime after the Columbia reunion...maybe '95? It's on the somewhat misbegotten Rkyo "Big Star Story."

eddie hurt (ddduncan), Wednesday, 5 May 2004 00:26 (9 years ago) Permalink

Yeah, £15 for a 'best of', £10 for #1 Record/Radio City. Hmmm.

de, Wednesday, 5 May 2004 00:38 (9 years ago) Permalink

Really? That's so wrong.

eddie hurt (ddduncan), Wednesday, 5 May 2004 00:50 (9 years ago) Permalink

3 years pass...

guys seriously I love "Ballad of El Goodo" so much

I want to be in a band that covers this

iiiijjjj, Tuesday, 19 June 2007 01:41 (6 years ago) Permalink

don't make me say a bunch of shit about it, just fire back re: yes this would be a pretty good thing to do, be in a band that covers this

iiiijjjj, Tuesday, 19 June 2007 01:42 (6 years ago) Permalink

yeah

ghost rider, Tuesday, 19 June 2007 01:45 (6 years ago) Permalink

I purchased the Blitzen Trapper song 'Summer Town' just because the vocal hook reminded me of BS' 'Thirteen.'

calstars, Tuesday, 19 June 2007 01:46 (6 years ago) Permalink

iiiiijjjjj where do you live?

calstars, Tuesday, 19 June 2007 01:46 (6 years ago) Permalink

Ya know, Evan Dando covered "El Goodo".

Pleasant Plains, Tuesday, 19 June 2007 01:50 (6 years ago) Permalink

'Thirteen'>>'El Goodo'

Drooone, Tuesday, 19 June 2007 01:51 (6 years ago) Permalink

fucking love them. i honestly feel sad for anyone who who passes them by.

Frogman Henry, Tuesday, 19 June 2007 01:51 (6 years ago) Permalink

drooone otm but it doesn't even matter

ghost rider, Tuesday, 19 June 2007 01:55 (6 years ago) Permalink

overrated Grandpappy Indie (VU notwithstanding); not worthless, but nor are Wishbone Ash, for goodness sake
-- mark s, Wednesday, October 17, 2001 5:00 PM (5 years ago)

"overrated"

gershy, Tuesday, 19 June 2007 05:18 (6 years ago) Permalink

8 months pass...

overrated Grandpappy Indie (VU notwithstanding); not worthless, but nor are Wishbone Ash, for goodness sake

-- mark s, Wednesday, October 17, 2001 5:00 PM (6 years ago) Bookmark Link

strgn, Tuesday, 11 March 2008 11:24 (6 years ago) Permalink

ENLIGHTENING

strgn, Tuesday, 11 March 2008 11:25 (6 years ago) Permalink

uh x-post

strgn, Tuesday, 11 March 2008 11:29 (6 years ago) Permalink

and 'mod lang' is what needs to get cover treatment

strgn, Tuesday, 11 March 2008 11:30 (6 years ago) Permalink

"Mod Lang" is quite easy to play, so a cover would be cool.

whisperineddhurt, Tuesday, 11 March 2008 15:30 (6 years ago) Permalink

and somehow, strangely, Big Star lives on.
http://www.ticketweb.co.uk/user/?region=gb_london&query=detail&interface=shepemp&event=257724
wish i could go ... is this one of them Don't Look Back things? Are they playing Radio City in its entirety?
i'll also take this opportunity to say that Alex Chilton probably has one of the top 5 singing voices in rock and roll history. Serious.

tylerw, Tuesday, 11 March 2008 15:41 (6 years ago) Permalink

Actually, listening to Radio City and Third, Alex Chilton kind of reminds me of a vanilla Barrett Strong Rude from Lethem's "Forttress of Solitude." Moments on Third definitely sound fucked up enough to come from three-week coke binges.

That being said "Blue Moon" and "Stroke it Noel" totally PWNs! The former is better than "Thirteen" (which, sadly, contains no oboes).

Drugs A. Money, Wednesday, 12 March 2008 02:44 (6 years ago) Permalink

1 month passes...

sweet jesus this band is good. they seem to have such a unique and effortless ear for hook and melody. such a pleasure to listen to.
and on another note, 'i'm in love with a girl' appeared on a shuffle the other day. i was feeling a little absent-minded and it took me about 30 seconds to recall who it was without checking. such a sweet, simple song and yet it feels about 20 years ahead of its time.

Charlie Howard, Thursday, 8 May 2008 16:44 (5 years ago) Permalink

Before that, he worked in Texas at an airplane factory.

pplains, Thursday, 16 January 2014 20:49 (3 months ago) Permalink

Andy died just a few months after Alex did. Jody is the only one left, and still does occasional "Big Star" shows with Stringfellow and Auer I think, though they probably don't use the name anymore.

Johnny Fever, Thursday, 16 January 2014 20:50 (3 months ago) Permalink

all appetizers always half off at that TGI Friday's in the sky

Sufjan Grafton, Thursday, 16 January 2014 20:51 (3 months ago) Permalink

Stephens manages Ardent Studios, I believe.

tylerw, Thursday, 16 January 2014 20:54 (3 months ago) Permalink

I seem to recall a quote from Chilton in an interview about how the hardest drugs his circle had access to in the Big Star days were pills, and how they wouldn't have known what to do with coke or heroin even if they had access.

...out of that weakness, out of that envy, out of that fear.. (C. Grisso/McCain), Thursday, 16 January 2014 20:56 (3 months ago) Permalink

yeah i think 3rd is basically an album under the influence of valium

tylerw, Thursday, 16 January 2014 20:58 (3 months ago) Permalink

2. What was it like being a white musician making British-influenced music in a predominantly black city known for its own forms and styles

I wondered about this too. I can't remember if it was in the doc or not, but I remember someone saying that Bell hated Memphis and wished he'd lived in Britain. I found that baffling; I mean, he was into what he was into, and that apparently didn't include the Stax scene, but I just can't for the life of me imagine growing up in Memphis in the 60s and hearing "Green Onions" and thinking, "Meh."

3. Couldn't the doc have actually tried a little harder to figure who was ultimately responsible for fucking up the promotion and distribution of Big Star records?

I don't think there was a single person or event that fucked this up. Stax was in a bad way, and was being attacked from all angles (fairly well covered in the Stax doc Respect Yourself). I would be surprised if there weren't other records that suffered the exact same fate as Big Star's.

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Thursday, 16 January 2014 21:04 (3 months ago) Permalink

imagine growing up in Memphis in the 60s and hearing "Green Onions" and thinking, "Meh."

But imagine hearing it day after day after day while you're being told you ought to sound more like Carl Perkins or the Bar-Kays.

pplains, Thursday, 16 January 2014 21:13 (3 months ago) Permalink

Yeah, I suppose...I can see that.

I guess I feel like, Chilton didn't seem to have any problem incorporating his favorite Memphis and British influences into his songs, so it's a little difficult for me to grok Bell's perspective.

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Thursday, 16 January 2014 21:28 (3 months ago) Permalink

Bell seemed to have a tortured artist persona from day one, though, so the way he viewed the world was probably a little different.

Johnny Fever, Thursday, 16 January 2014 21:31 (3 months ago) Permalink

Couldn't the doc have actually tried a little harder to figure who was ultimately responsible for fucking up the promotion and distribution of Big Star records?

this would involve pretty direct finger-pointing and cause friction for all parties being interviewed - people who deserve the blame aren't going to accept it on camera, and people directing the blame at them would just be stirring up shit and opening old wounds. so of course no one's going to go into detail about this.

Ayn Rand Akbar (Shakey Mo Collier), Thursday, 16 January 2014 21:34 (3 months ago) Permalink

and how they wouldn't have known what to do with coke or heroin even if they had access.

there's quotes about Chilton injecting things into his neck (throat?) in the Jovanovic book. so they had access to something.

Ayn Rand Akbar (Shakey Mo Collier), Thursday, 16 January 2014 21:35 (3 months ago) Permalink

Jody Stephens on LinkedIn
www.linkedin.com/pub/jody-stephens/8/6b4/78a

xp

Pale Smiley Face (dandydonweiner), Thursday, 16 January 2014 21:40 (3 months ago) Permalink

occasionally I go thru bursts of stalking old skool indie types on LinkedIn

Pale Smiley Face (dandydonweiner), Thursday, 16 January 2014 21:41 (3 months ago) Permalink

jody stephens is a killer drummer

tylerw, Thursday, 16 January 2014 21:42 (3 months ago) Permalink

and how they wouldn't have known what to do with coke or heroin even if they had access.

there's quotes about Chilton injecting things into his neck (throat?) in the Jovanovic book. so they had access to something.

― Ayn Rand Akbar (Shakey Mo Collier), Thursday, January 16, 2014 1:35 PM (12 minutes ago)

As noted many times upthread, Bell had a smack habit...

I always heard the Daisy Glaze lyric "And I'm thinking Christ/Nullify my life" as a heroin cop... hmm.

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Thursday, 16 January 2014 21:52 (3 months ago) Permalink

well it's definitely a ref to the song "heroin"

tylerw, Thursday, 16 January 2014 21:53 (3 months ago) Permalink

xpost to the point about making white music in a town known for black music. I asked Robert Gordon something along those lines when I was writing about Third. He said: "I don’t think Stax and soul was ever the dominant sound on the street in Memphis, certainly not on the mainstream street. The people at Stax complained about not getting local radio play. The two dominant radio stations were playing southern rock."

Unsettled defender (ithappens), Friday, 17 January 2014 08:28 (3 months ago) Permalink

Was that the case in the early/mid-60s though (when Bell and Chilton's Beatles/British Invasion obsessions presumably began) ?

After a switch to all-black programming, WDIA was the city's top station.[2] In June 1954 WDIA was licensed to increase its power to 50,000 watts. Its powerful signal reached down into the Mississippi Delta’s dense African-American population and was heard from the Missouri bootheel to the Gulf coast. As a result WDIA was able to reach 10% of the African-American population in United States.[1][3]

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Friday, 17 January 2014 15:04 (3 months ago) Permalink

2. What was it like being a white musician making British-influenced music in a predominantly black city known for its own forms and styles

I thought there were quite a lot of younger musicians and bands in Memphis who were more influenced by the Beatles than Stax, in the early 70s I mean

Eats like Elvis, shits like De Niro (Tom D.), Friday, 17 January 2014 16:38 (3 months ago) Permalink

I mean, even Stax was influenced by the Beatles!

Eats like Elvis, shits like De Niro (Tom D.), Friday, 17 January 2014 16:38 (3 months ago) Permalink

heeey

mambo jumbo (La Lechera), Friday, 17 January 2014 16:41 (3 months ago) Permalink

xpost But that doesn't mean Bell and Chilton were listening to WDIA – they may have been listening to the mainstream rock stations. Certainly, Gordon was pretty clear it was an outsider's view of Memphis to assume everyone cared about Stax/Volt. Just like plenty of people who live in Hackney couldn't give a toss about grime.

Unsettled defender (ithappens), Friday, 17 January 2014 17:38 (3 months ago) Permalink

John Fry had a oft-repeated quote that the Ardent gang were Anglophiles, and the only other music they felt was worth listening to was R & B, and most of the best of those records came from Memphis.

...out of that weakness, out of that envy, out of that fear.. (C. Grisso/McCain), Friday, 17 January 2014 20:07 (3 months ago) Permalink

What was it like being a privileged white person in that area in the early 70s?

Josh in Chicago, Friday, 17 January 2014 20:18 (3 months ago) Permalink

lol

Ayn Rand Akbar (Shakey Mo Collier), Friday, 17 January 2014 20:21 (3 months ago) Permalink

I used to pry my dad for details – he and Alex Chilton were about the same age, both grew up in Memphis. Both into the Beatles, though I think Dad was just into anything on Top 40 radio.

So a long time ago I had the chance for a sit-down interview with Chilton and asked Dad for some insider questions to ask him. Dad said he didn't know anything about the guy, didn't ever hang out with any of those White Station boys.

So I reversed it and when I finally sat down with the man, I asked him something lame along the lines of how it felt for some White Station kid to make it to the top of the charts at 16. Chilton just looked at me and sneered, "White Station? Fuck those guys, I came from Central."

My point maybe to all of this is that Memphis is a larger city than you might think.

pplains, Friday, 17 January 2014 21:26 (3 months ago) Permalink

This was the piece I wrote about Third (with contribs from Jody Stephens, John Fry, Carl Marsh, Leza Aldridge, Chris Stamey, Mitch Easter, Pat Ranier).

Unsettled defender (ithappens), Monday, 20 January 2014 11:36 (2 months ago) Permalink

That's an excellent piece, ithappens.

one way street, Monday, 20 January 2014 14:55 (2 months ago) Permalink

this was a wonderful movie

the very last scene when it's John Fry and his assistant and they have the master tapes to Radio City up and they are playing around with it on the board, the very last moment Fry is struck by how good it all still sounds, how perfect it is, and he looks up and is just beaming with pride, i thought that was the best little moment i think i ever saw in a music movie

Ronnie James 乒乓 (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Tuesday, 21 January 2014 15:26 (2 months ago) Permalink

thanks for the link ithappens excited to read that

Ronnie James 乒乓 (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Tuesday, 21 January 2014 15:29 (2 months ago) Permalink


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