Big Star

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"Thirteen" is such a fucking good song.

NA (Nick A.), Tuesday, 4 May 2004 20:35 (10 years ago) Permalink

Isn't it just.

Sick Nouthall (Nick Southall), Tuesday, 4 May 2004 20:52 (10 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 (10 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 (10 years ago) Permalink

there is a new studio album?

kyle (akmonday), Tuesday, 4 May 2004 22:38 (10 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 (10 years ago) Permalink

When did 'Hot Thing' come out?

de, Wednesday, 5 May 2004 00:24 (10 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 (10 years ago) Permalink

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

de, Wednesday, 5 May 2004 00:38 (10 years ago) Permalink

Really? That's so wrong.

eddie hurt (ddduncan), Wednesday, 5 May 2004 00:50 (10 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 (7 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 (7 years ago) Permalink


ghost rider, Tuesday, 19 June 2007 01:45 (7 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 (7 years ago) Permalink

iiiiijjjjj where do you live?

calstars, Tuesday, 19 June 2007 01:46 (7 years ago) Permalink

Ya know, Evan Dando covered "El Goodo".

Pleasant Plains, Tuesday, 19 June 2007 01:50 (7 years ago) Permalink

'Thirteen'>>'El Goodo'

Drooone, Tuesday, 19 June 2007 01:51 (7 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 (7 years ago) Permalink

drooone otm but it doesn't even matter

ghost rider, Tuesday, 19 June 2007 01:55 (7 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)


gershy, Tuesday, 19 June 2007 05:18 (7 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


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.
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 (6 years ago) Permalink

"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."

Agreed. Vulnerability and attitude in brilliant proportion.

Usual Channels, Thursday, 8 May 2008 16:59 (6 years ago) Permalink

yeah, i'll concur there

Charlie Howard, Thursday, 8 May 2008 17:01 (6 years ago) Permalink

Sweet, poppy, cool, but also kinda fucked up. Quite obviously on Third, but also the hatefully desperate vibe on "Life Is White," and "She's a Mover" is some MANIC shit. I loved them when I was younger -- I was listening to "Thirteen" when I was 13 (funny how i hear it differently now -- so I was amazed when I put their records on about a month ago and they sounded better than ever. It's true, they will always somehow sound contemporary, like any inspired true-believing rock&roll, hey hey my my

people explosion, Thursday, 8 May 2008 17:13 (6 years ago) Permalink

Hes got a good range on Like Flies On Sherbert too, a bit more free than the Big Star stuff

silkworm exploding, Thursday, 8 May 2008 17:17 (6 years ago) Permalink

I love that album! It was a recent discovery for me. It's absolute proof that he was in complete sympathy with all things Rock n Roll. "Hey! Little Child" is amazing with its "Whold Wide World" beat* and Chuck Berry-level teenage lechery.

"Oh little fool, are you learning anything in school
maybe you might drop out, maybe travel somewhere down south
Hey hey little child"

*is there a better name for this beat? I had heard it all my life, but it never really came to life until I heard the Wreckless Eric song

people explosion, Thursday, 8 May 2008 17:28 (6 years ago) Permalink

hehe! very observant. I really dont know though, have to do some research...

silkworm exploding, Thursday, 8 May 2008 17:31 (6 years ago) Permalink

Radio City: best guitar and drum sound, ever. perfect. archetypal.

nerve_pylon, Thursday, 8 May 2008 17:41 (6 years ago) Permalink

@people explosion:

it's called the "Cha-Cha".

Steve Shasta, Thursday, 8 May 2008 17:43 (6 years ago) Permalink

2 months pass...

from the dvd accompanying the Oxford American Best of the South issue this month

will, Wednesday, 23 July 2008 13:13 (6 years ago) Permalink

that is sweet! thanks.

tylerw, Wednesday, 23 July 2008 14:06 (6 years ago) Permalink

the 'aptly titled number one record' thing's kind of off though, right? i thought that lazy stax distribution meant that they never really did much, sales-wise.

i'm seeing them in a couple of months. i think i'd maybe prefer to see alex play skewed guitar solos and clichés stuff alone, but, still, way exciting.

schlump, Wednesday, 23 July 2008 14:57 (6 years ago) Permalink

aptly titled 'cause it was their first.

cool video!

G00blar, Wednesday, 23 July 2008 15:17 (6 years ago) Permalink

"Hey! Little Child" is a cha-cha. xp

whisperineddhurt, Wednesday, 23 July 2008 15:23 (6 years ago) Permalink

why in the world would they couple this footage with that tune?

andrew m., Wednesday, 23 July 2008 15:38 (6 years ago) Permalink

aptly titled 'cause it was their first.

ahhh, thanks.

schlump, Wednesday, 23 July 2008 15:58 (6 years ago) Permalink

have the ardent studio sessions been discussed here yet?

dell, Friday, 25 July 2008 10:55 (6 years ago) Permalink

I think what the fella meant was that it was No 1 Record as in it's NUMBER ONE, man. As in, Fuckin A, totally bodacious etc.

Freedom, Friday, 25 July 2008 12:35 (6 years ago) Permalink

have the ardent studio sessions been discussed here yet?

is that the thank you friends comp? i think this is where i heard about it. i was pretty excited to hear the demo of downs, because there's a story about the recording of it in the book. apparently they were playing it, when some ardent a & r guy bowled in saying, this could be a HIT!, this song has POTENTIAL!, and so alex said 'i want to use a basketball for the snare drum'. well good.

schlump, Friday, 25 July 2008 12:42 (6 years ago) Permalink

2 months pass...

Could someone explain where the song "Jesus Christ" came from? That is to say, they never had, to my knowledge, any other songs with any religious content and yet it seems to be unironic in its sentiment. The "we're gonna get born now" perhaps belies this a small bit.

Freedom, Monday, 20 October 2008 16:31 (5 years ago) Permalink

"it seems to be unironic in its sentiment."

are you kidding. just listen to the way chilton sings the verses.

Shacknasty (Frogman Henry), Monday, 20 October 2008 16:33 (5 years ago) Permalink

"they did rejoice/fine and pure of voice/and the wrong shall fail/and the right prevail": this couplet seems so completely trite that maybe it has to be ironic given that the album as a whole is about fucky uppyness, but I dunno, does chilton discuss it anywhere?

Freedom, Monday, 20 October 2008 16:36 (5 years ago) Permalink

also there's loads of incongruous, disconcerting elements to the music which are clearly mocking or doubting the chorus.

Shacknasty (Frogman Henry), Monday, 20 October 2008 16:36 (5 years ago) Permalink

(i.e., Big Star's music wasn't as anachronistic for the time as it's made out to be in retrospective accounts).

This is otm. I read about them for years as a teenager and pictured them as this incredibly contemporary-sounding group that was misunderstood for being ahead of its time. When I heard #1 Record and Radio City for the first time, they didn't sound as revolutionary as I expected.

Obviously they're incredible and I love each of their records deeply, but I've never bought the band-out-of-their-time components of their critical narrative. Like in the documentary, Mike Mills or someone says that their records were just released 10 years too early, and they didn't make sense until the 80s. I don't really hear that when I listen to them.

Man, when I tell you she was cool, she was red hot, I mean she was (intheblanks), Thursday, 21 August 2014 15:48 (1 week ago) Permalink

Anyone seen the Third tour? The whole idea sounds a bit horrible on first glance and this video doesn't change my mind:

skip, Thursday, 21 August 2014 16:45 (1 week ago) Permalink

To be honest though I still have a lot of questions about Chilton that neither books nor documentaries have been able to answer, how someone could go from making "September Gurls" (I think about this song a lot) to making "shitty" records in such a short span of time. Why did he come unravelled so quickly and spectacularly?

One thing that came across clearly in the Holly George-Warren book was how big the Box Tops were; I guess I'd always kind of thought of them as a one-hit wonder.
He was 17 when the Letter went to #1, but they ended up with 3 top 20 singles (or one less than the Stones in the same era).

And while Chilton was obviously a music industry veteran when he hooked up with Ice Water, Bell and Chilton would have been 21 and 22, respectively, when #1 Record came out.

campreverb, Thursday, 21 August 2014 17:18 (1 week ago) Permalink

Well, here's what xgau said about 'em in the 70s; pretty much the consensus, although I was among those more enthusiastic about the debut than he was. Radio City sounds more audacious, more exuberant, also, as xgau said about punk, "bored enough to fuck with it"--"it] being poptones, incl. mastery of, as musician and listener Third is obv. audacious in another way, the mid-70s late night collegetown FM downer classic, Berlin, Tonight's The Night etc. way):
#1 Record [Ardent, 1972]
Alex Chilton's voice is changing. When he was a teenage Box Top, his deep, soulful, bullfrog whopper was the biggest freak of nature since Stevie Winwood sang "I'm a Man," but now that he's formed his own group he gets to be an adolescent, complete with adenoidal quaver. Appropriately, the music tends toward the teen as well, but that provides brand new thrills. Special attraction: a fantasy about India with gin-and-tonic in it. B+

Radio City [Ardent, 1974]
Brilliant, addictive, definitively semipopular, and all Alex Chilton--Chris Bell, his folkie counterpart, just couldn't take it any more. Boosters claim this is just what the AM has been waiting for, but the only pop coup I hear is a reminder of how spare, skew, and sprung the Beatles '65 were, which is a coup because they weren't. The harmonies sound like the lead sheets are upside down and backwards, the guitar solos sound like screwball readymade pastiches, and the lyrics sound like love is strange, though maybe that's just the context. Can an album be catchy and twisted at the same time? A

Third [PVC, 1978]
In late 1974, Alex Chilton--already the inventor of self-conscious power pop--transmogrified himself into some hybrid of Lou Reed (circa The Velvet Underground and/or Berlin) and Michael Brown (circa "Walk Away, Renee" and "Pretty Ballerina"). This is the album that resulted--fourteen songs in all, only two or three of which wander off into the psycho ward. Halting, depressive, eccentrically shaped, it will seem completely beyond the pale to those who already find his regular stuff weird. I think it's prophetically idiosyncratic and breathtakingly lyrical. A-

dow, Thursday, 21 August 2014 17:54 (1 week ago) Permalink

Radio City not only sounds more audacious than #1, it sounds more audacious with each remastering (I'm tempted to spring for the audio Blu-Ray, which will no doubt be available in due time, if it isn't already.) His "semipopular" is about messing with familiar, popular elements; the results may themselves be popular (Van Morrison, The Band) or not so much, at least initially (Stooges,Flying Burritos). Those were his examples in 1970, and he was among those ready for Big Star (a bit frustrated by solo Chilton, but always more inclined to cherry-pick than nit-pick).(So Chilton brought out the Dean's better nature!)

dow, Thursday, 21 August 2014 18:06 (1 week ago) Permalink

I also prefer Radio City. To me, those two albums point in two somewhat different directions; #1 record is the album that provides the blueprint for all power pop groups, while Radio City tilts towards a bittersweet slacker abandonment which can be seen later on in the Replacements/Pavement lineage.

cpl593H, Thursday, 21 August 2014 19:35 (1 week ago) Permalink

transmogrified himself into some hybrid of Lou Reed (circa The Velvet Underground and/or Berlin) and Michael Brown (circa "Walk Away, Renee" and "Pretty Ballerina")

This is pretty good. One fun thing about being an Alex or a Lou fan is the hours of fun to be had discussing and debating which albums were pranks or cynical moves and which were actually disguised subversive masterpieces-no two people will agree all through the catalog. Plus the generally frustrating but ultimately lovable orneriness of the two guys in question means this definitely comes down to trusting the work instead of the unreliable narrator. Or does it?

I Am the COSMOGRAIL (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 21 August 2014 23:59 (1 week ago) Permalink

Wow yeah that Left Banke comparison... I think of "Daisy Glaze" as this weird middle ground between "Walk Away Renee," the Who's "A Quick One, While He's Away," and Television's "Marquee Moon." The thing about Chilton and Left Banke is that they were Americans who responded very appropriately to British music but ended up as outsiders exactly because of how they ended up sounding. Or possibly because of something else I don't know.

fields of salmon, Friday, 22 August 2014 00:27 (1 week ago) Permalink

Person it all filtered down to was Elliott Smith.

I Am the COSMOGRAIL (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 22 August 2014 01:37 (1 week ago) Permalink

lol i was just about to post "just pretend elliott smith is alex chilton after time travelling"

brimstead, Saturday, 23 August 2014 01:59 (1 week ago) Permalink

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