Alex Chilton: Kiddie-Fiddler!

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A friend just pointed towards this old article from the New Statesman: the Great Big Star Kiddie Fiddling Scare of 2001. Who knew?!?

New Statesman
September 3, 2001
LENGTH: 784 words
HEADLINE: My pop idol had feet of clay; When Michael Hann saw through his hero, he began to doubt his own identity
BYLINE: Michael Hann
I am a 32-year-old man, with a marriage, a mortgage and a year-old daughter. But I feel like a teenage girl: I have lost my pop hero.
Mine didn't break my heart by getting married; I just saw through him. His name is Alex Chilton and he is best known, in so far as he is known at all, as the singer of an American band called Big Star, who split up in 1975 but played one of their occasional reunion gigs the other week in London. Chilton is an authentic cult hero, hailed as one of the great songwriters by the few thousand thirtysomething and older men who care about these things, in part because he never sold more than a few records.
But Chilton, I now realise, is a man who has an unpleasant fixation with the sexuality of young girls. Chilton has always defended his song 'Thirteen', which is about being obsessed with a girl of that age, by saying it was written from the perspective of a 13-year-old boy. So why, at a gig in 1993, did he choose to dedicate it to Michael Jackson? Was he also adopting a child's perspective the other week when he sang a song called 'Patti Girl', whose subject is 'only 12 years old', and another called 'Hot Thing', about a girl who's 'too young to go steady'? And what was he up to when he recently released a solo album called Loose Shoes and Tight Pussy?
At the gig, the young men in front of me sniggered, then quoted the words of the songs back to each other as if they were the highlights of a stand-up comedian's set. A few years ago, I would have reacted in the same way. But now I am a parent, and if my child had been a boy, I might well have named him Chilton. What kind of deluded fool had I been?
I've loved pop - really loved it, the way the characters of Nick Hornby's High Fidelity do - since my teens. I take it far too seriously; my wife has accused me of being more interested in the history of the Creation record label than in her or my daughter.
Why, as a responsible adult, do I attach such importance to pop singers? And why do I feel so cheated when I am robbed of my faith in them? It has to be a male thing. I don't know a single woman of my age who still believes Duran Duran are prophets without honour, or that Spandau Ballet are among the great underrated artists of the late 20th century. But I know plenty of men who will sit for hours arguing about the relative importance of the Beach Boys and the Byrds, assertion heaped upon assertion.
There are swathes of men who need heroes well into adulthood; it is part of the way we order the world. We like to assess and rank the forces that we feel have shaped us. Unless we can assign a precise value to something, we cannot be sure how greatly it has affected our lives. Some do that with politics, others with sport. I do it with pop music, because that is what has defined my life through its most crucial moments. I remember relationships, new jobs, exam results through the records I was listening to at the time; for example, my daughter was born to 'Hang on to Your Ego' by the Beach Boys (although I had hoped she would emerge to 'God Only Knows', the song with which I wooed my wife).
Women claim men obsess about pop and sport because they provide substitutes for conversation. Wrong. Every chat about music and football is a sophisticated code that enables men to assess each other's personality, background, aspirations, professional status and world-view. Sometimes the assessments might even be accurate.
So our heroes are not embodiments of virtue, but those with whom we have stayed for the long haul, those in whom we have invested the most time and effort. By virtue purely of their (or, more accurately, our) constancy, they have provided the framework for our lives.
But when our relationships with our heroes collapse, we realise that the ordering of our lives was founded on cultural sand. If I could have been so wrong about Alex Chilton, what else might I have been wrong about? And if he is not who I thought he was, am I the person I thought I was? Laugh as much as you like, but I bet I feel the same as the Gang of Four did when they left the Labour Party to found the SDP.
Asked if I liked Big Star, my 'yes' really meant something like: 'My attitudes and outlooks are shaped by the 1960s, though they are not of that decade. I enjoy being a step more esoteric in my tastes than most people, though I am not so adventurous as to be interested in experimentalism. I take popular culture seriously, and am willing to spend a great deal of time researching the subject. I went to university, I am left-leaning but I love Americana.' Now I have to say 'no' and it will mean: 'I fear I am at one with the News of the World.'
LOAD-DATE: September 13, 2001
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Chuck Tatum (Chuck Tatum), Friday, 26 September 2003 16:11 (sixteen years ago) link

Oh you're a pretty thing
Somebody must have been nice to you
Oh walking down the lane
Coming back from the catholic school

Hey! Hey! Hey! Little Child Hey! Little child
Oh little fool
Are you learning anything in school?
Maybe you should drop out
Maybe travel way down south

Hey! Hey! Hey! Little child Hey! Little child
Hey! Sacred Heart Hey! Little Child
Now you look so forlorn
Passing by in your uniform

gygax! (gygax!), Friday, 26 September 2003 16:18 (sixteen years ago) link

that's really stupid, like arguing Lolita is the work of a pedophile... and anybody who was suddenly shocked to find that Alex Chilton writes unpleasant, antisocial, narcissistic, nasty, miserable lyrics was never listening in the first place

Fritz Wollner (Fritz), Friday, 26 September 2003 17:03 (sixteen years ago) link

Yes. I mean, if Alex Chilton actually diddled 13-year-old girls as an adult, then this guy would have cause for alarm. Plenty of men have sung about being obsessed with something they can't have, or shouldn't want. It doesn't make them evil.
And dedicating "Thirteen" to Michael Jackson was probably just a sick joke, however unfortunate.

Jazzbo (jmcgaw), Friday, 26 September 2003 17:10 (sixteen years ago) link

I do worry about people like the writer who take everything (like the Michael Jackson joke) literally.

Nicolars (Nicole), Friday, 26 September 2003 17:12 (sixteen years ago) link

Catholic. Schoolgirls Rule.

Pleasant Plains (Pleasant Plains), Friday, 26 September 2003 17:57 (sixteen years ago) link

His name is Alex Chilton and he is best known, in so far as he is known at all, as the singer of an American band called Big Star

"My baby just wrote me a letter...."

Even had the young girl fetish back then.

VMP, Friday, 26 September 2003 18:01 (sixteen years ago) link

Men drive like this.
While women drive like this.

tokyo rosemary (rosemary), Friday, 26 September 2003 18:07 (sixteen years ago) link

When Michael Hann saw through his hero, he began to doubt his own identity

cinniblount (James Blount), Friday, 26 September 2003 18:28 (sixteen years ago) link

Oh good Lord. Alex Chilton is a big creep. Not a shocker. A pedophile? I doubt it. Big creep? Mos def.

Lee G (Lee G), Friday, 26 September 2003 19:09 (sixteen years ago) link

"I. don't. like. dogs."

cinniblount (James Blount), Friday, 26 September 2003 19:20 (sixteen years ago) link

He sounds like a sad self-righteous whiney protagonist from a Hornby novel, come to think of it.

scott m (mcd), Friday, 26 September 2003 19:31 (sixteen years ago) link

"Won't you let me walk you home from school..."


notkeithtownsend, Friday, 26 September 2003 19:40 (sixteen years ago) link

Play Led Zep's "The Ocean" to this guy and see what happens

dave q, Friday, 26 September 2003 19:48 (sixteen years ago) link

Isn't this the same guy who wrote an article complaining about punk baby tshirts ?

tokyo rosemary (rosemary), Friday, 26 September 2003 20:50 (sixteen years ago) link

Geez if we're going to convict every person who wrote a lolita like lyric, Sonny Boy Williamson and all the performers of "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" should be rubbed out of history

mentalist (mentalist), Saturday, 27 September 2003 11:30 (sixteen years ago) link

"Children by the million sleep with Alex Chilton..."

Adam Flybot, Saturday, 27 September 2003 17:15 (sixteen years ago) link

Not to mention Chuck Berry, John Cale and proabably dozens of others. ("Marie is only 6 years old, information please, help me get in touch with Memphis Tennessee.")

nickn (nickn), Saturday, 27 September 2003 17:59 (sixteen years ago) link

my wife has accused me of being more interested in the history of the Creation record label than in her or my daughter.

I can't imagine why anybody would want to share this accusation with the world, excepting Alan McGee.

Anthony Miccio (Anthony Miccio), Saturday, 27 September 2003 21:16 (sixteen years ago) link

Men drive like this.
While women drive like this.

rosemary unfortunately via the internet we can't see your gestural demonstrations of the driving manners of men and women so please describe in detail.

amateurist (amateurist), Saturday, 27 September 2003 21:22 (sixteen years ago) link

men drive whilst watching porn and eating chili dogs
women drive whilst sewing and eating cucumber sandwiches

cinniblount (James Blount), Saturday, 27 September 2003 22:23 (sixteen years ago) link

Eating porn and watching chili dogs?

Ned Raggett (Ned), Saturday, 27 September 2003 23:13 (sixteen years ago) link

men drive while listening to Big Star and the Byrds
women drive while listening to Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran

tokyo rosemary (rosemary), Saturday, 27 September 2003 23:31 (sixteen years ago) link

men drive while listening to Big Star and the Byrds
I don't know if we want to call them men.

Anthony Miccio (Anthony Miccio), Saturday, 27 September 2003 23:33 (sixteen years ago) link

my chili dog just moved!

amateurist (amateurist), Sunday, 28 September 2003 16:18 (sixteen years ago) link

"I had. A bad. Experience."

s1utsky (slutsky), Monday, 29 September 2003 06:02 (sixteen years ago) link

Okay that was way too late

s1utsky (slutsky), Monday, 29 September 2003 06:03 (sixteen years ago) link

sixteen years pass...

listening to this Bar/None Records Alex Chilton playlist that just went from 'No Sex' to 'Oogum Boogum' and even though it's extremely hitting the spot on this not-too-hot summer evening, all I can think about is would this dude have been cancelled had he not died mowing his lawn ten years ago

shout out to pplains for hooking me up with pretty much one of my only decent friends I had during the time I lived in Wisconsin, a fella respectable enough to text another fella a text that said "RIP Alex Chilton"

the burrito that defined a generation, Wednesday, 29 July 2020 01:47 (one week ago) link

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