Big Star

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"Thirteen" is such a fucking good song.

NA (Nick A.), Tuesday, 4 May 2004 20:35 (12 years ago) Permalink

Isn't it just.

Sick Nouthall (Nick Southall), Tuesday, 4 May 2004 20:52 (12 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 (12 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 (12 years ago) Permalink

there is a new studio album?

kyle (akmonday), Tuesday, 4 May 2004 22:38 (12 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 (12 years ago) Permalink

When did 'Hot Thing' come out?

de, Wednesday, 5 May 2004 00:24 (12 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 (12 years ago) Permalink

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

de, Wednesday, 5 May 2004 00:38 (12 years ago) Permalink

Really? That's so wrong.

eddie hurt (ddduncan), Wednesday, 5 May 2004 00:50 (12 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 (9 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 (9 years ago) Permalink

yeah

ghost rider, Tuesday, 19 June 2007 01:45 (9 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 (9 years ago) Permalink

iiiiijjjjj where do you live?

calstars, Tuesday, 19 June 2007 01:46 (9 years ago) Permalink

Ya know, Evan Dando covered "El Goodo".

Pleasant Plains, Tuesday, 19 June 2007 01:50 (9 years ago) Permalink

'Thirteen'>>'El Goodo'

Drooone, Tuesday, 19 June 2007 01:51 (9 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 (9 years ago) Permalink

drooone otm but it doesn't even matter

ghost rider, Tuesday, 19 June 2007 01:55 (9 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 (9 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 (8 years ago) Permalink

ENLIGHTENING

strgn, Tuesday, 11 March 2008 11:25 (8 years ago) Permalink

uh x-post

strgn, Tuesday, 11 March 2008 11:29 (8 years ago) Permalink

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

strgn, Tuesday, 11 March 2008 11:30 (8 years ago) Permalink

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

whisperineddhurt, Tuesday, 11 March 2008 15:30 (8 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 (8 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 (8 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 (8 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 (8 years ago) Permalink

yeah, i'll concur there

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

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

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

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

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

@people explosion:

it's called the "Cha-Cha".

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

2 months pass...

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=JC0Wa3P_dO0&fmt=18

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

will, Wednesday, 23 July 2008 13:13 (8 years ago) Permalink

that is sweet! thanks.

tylerw, Wednesday, 23 July 2008 14:06 (8 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 (8 years ago) Permalink

aptly titled 'cause it was their first.

cool video!

G00blar, Wednesday, 23 July 2008 15:17 (8 years ago) Permalink

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

whisperineddhurt, Wednesday, 23 July 2008 15:23 (8 years ago) Permalink

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

andrew m., Wednesday, 23 July 2008 15:38 (8 years ago) Permalink

aptly titled 'cause it was their first.

ahhh, thanks.

schlump, Wednesday, 23 July 2008 15:58 (8 years ago) Permalink

have the ardent studio sessions been discussed here yet?

dell, Friday, 25 July 2008 10:55 (8 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 (8 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 (8 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 (7 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 (7 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 (7 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 (7 years ago) Permalink

The Fritts album is by far the best thing he ever did--Prone to Lean is a cult item from the '70s, and One Foot in the Groove, from 2008, is OK, especially "She's Got a Crush on Me," about an Inappropriate Love Object who bedevils Donnie when all he's trying to do is get thru rehab day by day. But neither had vocals to match the songs, and Oh My Goodness somehow or other catches his vocals the way they should've been, or maybe he just lucked into a moment of grace. Christgau gave it Honorable Mention.

Edd Hurt, Wednesday, 24 August 2016 16:48 (3 hours ago) Permalink

Thanks for the Fritts tips! Hadn't heard of that film or those albums. Good visit w Spooner archived on American Songwriter, though you have to sign up to read it (for free).

xxpost I *like* the hoarseness of Box Tops Alex---the blue-jean jacket collar turned up in the back, he's the lawng-haired kid on the Greyhound, kinda stooped, and whatever he seems to be talking about, it's kinda urgent, something (else?) on his mind---took me a while to get used to his "real" voice for sure, and used wonder about what if he'd used his Box Tops sound in Big Star (as I'd assumed he did, while reading about them, way before actually hearing). Prob not limber enough for those songs---but sometimes I still wonder...

dow, Wednesday, 24 August 2016 16:59 (2 hours ago) Permalink

Also a good interview w Spooner can be streamed or downloaded from Alabama Arts radio show archives (along w some others relevant to Muscle Shoals etc)
http://www.arts.alabama.gov/actc/1/listserverindividual/20151124oldham.aspx

dow, Wednesday, 24 August 2016 17:07 (2 hours ago) Permalink

I talked to Spooner for about 15 minutes last year. Having seen his Deputy Dawg droopy demeanor on stage, I wondered if he'd be up for talking. He was as lucid as could be. His wife co-wrote "1980" on the Pot Luck album, and it was done in 1971 by Ronnie Milsap on a Dan Penn-Oldham production! What a strange song! As for Penn, also check out Clyde McPhatter's awesome 1969 version of Penn-Oldham's "Denver," one of their prime place-name psychodramas--Milsap also did it, but Milsap is a wooden dummy compared to McPhatter.
"Denver":
"Keep on Smiling (1980)":
"1980" (Oldham):

Edd Hurt, Wednesday, 24 August 2016 17:14 (2 hours ago) Permalink

Had the same thought about Big Star before hearing them as well, another surprise upon first listen. Wondered if he decides to sing high because
1) He lost his ability to sing low
2) That's what the kids are doing nowadays
3) Chris told him too
Perhaps there's an interesting discussion to be had about him and Dylan and their real and adopted voices.

Meant to say that "I'd never read that Penn provided the vocal template" etc, but (also) now that you mention it, sure seems to fit!

Feel like I originally read this in Sweet Soul Music and more recently read about Alex's respect for Dan's singing somewhere else, have to check.

Nobodaddy's Fule (James Redd and the Blecchs), Wednesday, 24 August 2016 17:16 (2 hours ago) Permalink

xp to don obv

Nobodaddy's Fule (James Redd and the Blecchs), Wednesday, 24 August 2016 17:16 (2 hours ago) Permalink

Had the same thought about Big Star before hearing them as well, another surprise upon first listen. Wondered if he decides to sing high because

... it was closer to his natural voice?

Aw naw, no' Annoni oan an' aw noo (Tom D.), Wednesday, 24 August 2016 17:21 (2 hours ago) Permalink

Well, I think Alex spoke that way, in that ultra-refined, indolent Mississippi-Memphis accent (which does not occur west of the Tennessee River, no one in Middle or East Tennessee speaks that way). So I think he was coached to sing differently by Penn and the material dictated he adopt a voice that sounded soulful. His voice almost isn't there on some of Radio City, it's in the stratosphere and strains against its range throughout. Most of all, I think Alex was sly and disaffected, and the Box Tops allowed for none of that, though I think I hear him parodying the conventions in "Turn on a Dream," a later Box Tops tune. You can hear him going into Box Tops voice at the end of "Thank You John," ("it's gonna be all right") from Feudalist Tarts--a moment that startled me when I first heard it, as if he'd finally integrated some shit.l

Edd Hurt, Wednesday, 24 August 2016 17:25 (2 hours ago) Permalink

/Had the same thought about Big Star before hearing them as well, another surprise upon first listen. Wondered if he decides to sing high because/

... it was closer to his natural voice?


That never occurred to me at the time, strangely enough.

Nobodaddy's Fule (James Redd and the Blecchs), Wednesday, 24 August 2016 17:31 (2 hours ago) Permalink

When I saw him do "The Letter" as encore to a solo set in a Tuscaloosa dive, mid-80s, he sounded like Jerry Lewis in the last hour of the Labor Day March of Dimes Telethon---which seemed deliberate, but didn't sound *that* different from the more agreeable, Big Star-y tenor of previous renditions---so yeah, can see why Penn wanted something different for Box Tops.

dow, Wednesday, 24 August 2016 17:45 (2 hours ago) Permalink


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