Big Star

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Thoughts on these fellas?

David, Thursday, 18 October 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

new answers

David, Thursday, 18 October 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

why, is there a new release or something ;-)

g, Thursday, 18 October 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

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

mark s, Thursday, 18 October 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

I know you wanna buck the conventional critical wisdom and say something like that, but sometimes you just can't...

They really did make 3 really great records

g, Thursday, 18 October 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

Agreed.

Sean, Thursday, 18 October 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

All of the hype is deserved. There only crime is partial responsibility for Teenage Fanclub.

Dan, Thursday, 18 October 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

They were touring recently.

David, Thursday, 18 October 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

Their truest crime is their holy grail status, which they did not wish for but had foisted upon them.

Ned Raggett, Thursday, 18 October 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

they're horrible, their first album sounds like kiss.

ethan, Thursday, 18 October 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

2nd best VU cover.

Mr Noodles, Thursday, 18 October 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

sisters/lovers is absolutely terrific. haunting and beautiful.

matthew stevens, Thursday, 18 October 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

They're grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrreat! You gotta clean out those ears, ethan--that first record sounds more like a revved up Kinks crossed with the glam glory of T.Rex, and there's nothing wrong with that. If it sounds boring and cliched, now, it's only because they invented some of those cliches. (Besides, if it does sound anything like Kiss, and I'm not saying that it does, Kiss would have cribbed from Big Star, seeing as how Kiss' first album came out two years after Big Star's #1 Record.)

Ultimately, I'm most partial to Third/Sister Lovers, but the first two certainly have a prominent place in my collection.

Sean Carruthers, Thursday, 18 October 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

Thirteen

O My Soul

September Gurls

Down The Street

Mod Lang

I'm In Love With A Girl.

Yep. Legend secure...

JM, Thursday, 18 October 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

i heard the bands that sound like them first, therefore big star are secondary to awful indie-leaning alt rock. and the first album sounds so much like kiss. how could the nearly untouchable stax release that kind of shit?

ethan, Thursday, 18 October 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

Their ballads were nice, the rockers crap. For that, see Cheap Trick or the Raspberries, or even the Beatles in a pinch

dave q, Friday, 19 October 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

First two = classic. Sister Lovers = dull + overrated.

The Rasperries - NO! Sugary proto-poodle soft-metal.

Dr. C, Friday, 19 October 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

ethan-i'vw made a kiss comparison myself ,but with the second album . the indie grandfathers aura works against this nice loser pop band , their first record sounds good anyway

francesco, Friday, 19 October 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

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 (twenty years ago) link

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 (twenty years ago) link

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 (twenty years ago) link

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 (twenty years ago) link

Never heard them in my life.

the pinefox, Friday, 19 October 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

'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 (twenty years ago) link

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 (twenty years ago) link

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

JM, Friday, 19 October 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

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 (twenty years ago) link

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 (twenty years ago) link

anyway, what's wrong with kiss?

g, Friday, 19 October 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

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

g, Friday, 19 October 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

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

Helen Fordsdale, Friday, 19 October 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

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 (twenty years ago) link

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 (twenty years ago) link

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 (twenty years ago) link

Smithereens - AAARGGGGHHHH (makes retching sounds)

dave q, Monday, 22 October 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

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

TFC way, way better than BS.

Billy Dods, Monday, 22 October 2001 00:00 (twenty years ago) link

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 (twenty years ago) link

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 (twenty years ago) link

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 (twenty years ago) link

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 (twenty years ago) link

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

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

Isn't it just.

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

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 (eighteen years ago) link

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 (eighteen years ago) link

there is a new studio album?

kyle (akmonday), Tuesday, 4 May 2004 22:38 (eighteen years ago) link

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 (eighteen years ago) link

When did 'Hot Thing' come out?

de, Wednesday, 5 May 2004 00:24 (eighteen years ago) link

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 (eighteen years ago) link

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

de, Wednesday, 5 May 2004 00:38 (eighteen years ago) link

Really? That's so wrong.

eddie hurt (ddduncan), Wednesday, 5 May 2004 00:50 (eighteen years ago) link

I like it. Pollard’s output has been generally strong with this latest lineup.

ColinO, Monday, 18 April 2022 17:02 (three months ago) link

Why talk about it here? Not policing, just curious.

dow, Monday, 18 April 2022 17:18 (three months ago) link

It's a tribute to Big Star called "Alex Bell".

a superficial sheeb of intelligence (jon /via/ chi 2.0), Monday, 18 April 2022 17:19 (three months ago) link

The title kind of broke my brane.

Wile E. Kinbote (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 18 April 2022 17:28 (three months ago) link

Ha, it took me seeing the 7" cover art to actually understand the title.

a superficial sheeb of intelligence (jon /via/ chi 2.0), Monday, 18 April 2022 17:45 (three months ago) link

I assume he wanted to avoid confusion with the former Hull City striker.

https://www.programmecollector.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/book_chillo.jpeg.jpeg

Où est Lee Mason de fromage? (Tom D.), Monday, 18 April 2022 19:26 (three months ago) link

a musical tribute to alex trebek and kristen bell

na (NA), Monday, 18 April 2022 19:28 (three months ago) link

three months pass...

I love the whole record, but those three songs are certainly Radio City highlights. It's hard to imagine the record without them.

Halfway there but for you, Monday, 18 July 2022 21:08 (four weeks ago) link

Wow, never knew! Also hilarious to picture Chilton pointing to a Dolby Noise Reduction button or switch and saying "what's this Dolby fucker do?" That's like a perfect throwaway line in a Coen brothers movie.

birdistheword, Monday, 18 July 2022 21:27 (four weeks ago) link

Who would ever have thought that the personnel on a Big Star album was somewhat ambiguous?

L.H.O.O.Q. Jones (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 18 July 2022 21:31 (four weeks ago) link

also: that big photo from three months ago-doctor, my eyes!

L.H.O.O.Q. Jones (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 18 July 2022 21:45 (four weeks ago) link

whoa! At least “What’s Going Ahn” is a co-write with Hummel.

assert (matttkkkk), Monday, 18 July 2022 22:02 (four weeks ago) link

Thanks! & good to know about the book they quote:

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/31ZTkHuWLgL.jpg

dow, Monday, 18 July 2022 22:15 (four weeks ago) link

of course, Third/Sister Lovers is all over the place, and Complete Third omg duhhh, but even/especially that is *going* all over the place, with own sort of momentum.

dow, Monday, 18 July 2022 22:22 (four weeks ago) link

Oh, speaking of Stones as packrats, try Metamorphosis.

dow, Monday, 18 July 2022 22:24 (four weeks ago) link

That book is good.

It always amazes me how often Terry Manning shows up in different contexts. Just the other day was revisiting the fact that he engineered Hot Buttered Soul.

L.H.O.O.Q. Jones (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 18 July 2022 22:25 (four weeks ago) link

Sorry, my last two posts were meant for Major 'informal' albums

dow, Monday, 18 July 2022 22:28 (four weeks ago) link

you forgot to add #onethread #pvmic

L.H.O.O.Q. Jones (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 18 July 2022 22:29 (four weeks ago) link

xxpost Manning also worked on Led Zeppelin III at Ardent:
https://www.memphisflyer.com/remembering-led-zeppelin-iii-generations-of-memphians-affected-by-album

dow, Monday, 18 July 2022 22:33 (four weeks ago) link

or rather "mixed and mastered at Ardent," with TM also engineering some overdubs.

dow, Monday, 18 July 2022 22:35 (four weeks ago) link

Well I said he worked on it yeah did all that

dow, Monday, 18 July 2022 22:36 (four weeks ago) link

I’d told Chris to stay away, but he couldn’t help it. He came by sheepishly, with a bottle of wine. So we let him in, and Jimmy and Chris and I hung out. We listened to Gimmer Nicholson all night. And Ali Akbar Khan.
Another mention for xpost Gimmer! AAK makes thread debut, I think.

dow, Monday, 18 July 2022 22:39 (four weeks ago) link

Was Richard Rosebrough etc not always credited on the album?

PaulTMA, Tuesday, 19 July 2022 01:46 (four weeks ago) link

mine's a repress but he has a writer's credit for "mod lang"

Western® with Bacon Flavor, Tuesday, 19 July 2022 02:47 (four weeks ago) link

Jody interviewed by a lil nipper for Nippertown: totally charming, v. informative:

Jody chats with Ellie Everywhere!https://t.co/G1srdyCS9z

— Big Star (@BigStarBand) July 18, 2022

dow, Tuesday, 19 July 2022 19:40 (four weeks ago) link

Wow, hooray for my local blog! And I briefly freaked out thinking Jody Stephens had played here recently and I somehow missed it.

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Tuesday, 19 July 2022 22:02 (four weeks ago) link

R.I.P. John King. Co-founder of Ardent Records & a brilliant promo man from Memphis music's golden era, he helped build the legend of Big Star (coming up with the idea for the 1973 Rock Writers Convention). Here's a look at his colorful life and legacy. https://t.co/SDn63gPOnF

— Bob Mehr (@BobMehr) August 2, 2022

dow, Tuesday, 2 August 2022 03:23 (two weeks ago) link

Good story, Bob Mehr does it again. But why were Big Star albums so hard to find? I read plenty about them, but the only ones I ever saw, decades before the Line twofer CD and Ryko series, were vinyl promos, sold for 99 cents (somebody beat me to them, going back from the magazine rack to the bargain bin).

dow, Tuesday, 2 August 2022 03:43 (two weeks ago) link

We were both reading Creem that day...

dow, Tuesday, 2 August 2022 03:44 (two weeks ago) link

I think the Caropop podcast with Jody talks about this, but the first album was sabotaged by Stax's shitty deal with CBS Records. Clive Davis made the deal, then was famously fired for misuse of company funds, and the people who took over didn't give a shit about Stax - to them it was like, "why should we spend a dime on them? We should be using that money for OUR R&B acts." Stax tried to get out the CBS deal, but in perverse fashion, CBS refused because they also didn't want Stax to sign with another big label and become direct competitors. (Makes Mo Ostin's passing feel all the more sad - he really was one of a kind.)

I forgot what happened with the third album, but I think by then the money wasn't there for anybody (they were no longer under CBS's control) and I don't think they believed they had a profitable record either so they might've balked at spending too much of what little money they had left.

birdistheword, Tuesday, 2 August 2022 04:07 (two weeks ago) link

I should say the first TWO albums were sabotaged by the CBS deal.

birdistheword, Tuesday, 2 August 2022 04:07 (two weeks ago) link

And yes, Big Star wasn't an R&B act, but regardless it's still the same principle - spend money on CBS acts, not Stax.

birdistheword, Tuesday, 2 August 2022 04:08 (two weeks ago) link

By the third LP there wasn't really a band to tour with, so spending money on the record may have seemed like throwing good money after bad.

nickn, Tuesday, 2 August 2022 16:51 (two weeks ago) link

Even when there was a band to tour with, they barely toured. Do we even know how many live shows they did when Chris Bell was in the band?

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Tuesday, 2 August 2022 17:09 (two weeks ago) link

xp The fact that they couldn't even finish the third album - like just sequence it and say "THIS is the album, it's DONE" - probably hurt as well. Like imagine if you're a company that's putting out an indie film and the director can't be bothered to finish his cut, even though you gave him creative control. You're not even sure if you have a complete work to put out - the last thing on your mind is "let's pour everything we got into this!"

birdistheword, Tuesday, 2 August 2022 17:13 (two weeks ago) link

Thanks, yeah, all that sounds right: been so long since I read Ron J.'s Big Star book, but yeah.And Stax, if you read their own story, was pretty much on the skids then, direction-wise as well as financially. Complete Third, as discussed and live-blogged upthread, is creatively, not commercially, justified and ancient, despite a few good-faith missteps (and even those are to be determined by individual listeners, who may change their mynds, suiting mutable moods and music).

dow, Tuesday, 2 August 2022 18:01 (two weeks ago) link

Although original Third/Sister Lovers (the one on Ryko is all I know) is fine its own self.

dow, Tuesday, 2 August 2022 18:03 (two weeks ago) link

Not that Stax's struggling with direction, trying to adapt, didn't lead to skids only: for instance, Edd Hurt pointed me toward the frequently remarkable round-up Stax Country a few years ago.

dow, Tuesday, 2 August 2022 18:07 (two weeks ago) link

not that Stax's etc *led* to skids only, I should have said.

dow, Tuesday, 2 August 2022 18:08 (two weeks ago) link

Stax was already caput by the time the Third sessions wrapped up (part of why they were able to drag on so long is that there really wasn't anyone left at the label to formally pull the plug), and so John Fry was free to shop the tapes to other labels, but iirc he or Jim Dickinson said nobody would even accept the tapes as demos to finance rerecords.

Just prior to Chris Bell's death there was some renewed interest in the band, with Ardent being able to strike deals with EMI in the UK to reissue the first two albums as a double LP, and a little later the first commercial release of Third happened on a US Indie, with several variations to follow.

Stax was still having big hits with Johnnie Taylor up until around '75: they could still market R&B, but didn't know thing 1 about selling Rock.

@dow the Ryko Third is probably the definitive version, so I think you're good. Maybe not in terms of sound/mastering, but the presentation is great. Omnivore's box set is great and sounds a bit better, but it's not really a good comparison because it's everything and not everyone's going to want two discs of demos, alternates, etc.

Forgot one detail from the Caropop podcast - it sounded like "Sister Lovers" was intended as a potential band name. According to Jody Stephens, Chilton told him "we should call ourselves Sister Lovers!" because they were both dating sisters, so if he wrote that on the label, it might've been a new band name he was considering since it wasn't entirely Big Star anymore with Bell and Hummel gone.

I wonder if Taylor's success made Big Star's unfortunate situation worse. Like if CBS was afraid of letting Stax out of their contract and turning into formidable competition elsewhere, Taylor's success would only validate those concerns.

birdistheword, Tuesday, 2 August 2022 19:31 (two weeks ago) link

It's possible. I mean, after Stax went down, Taylor signed with Columbia and immediately had his biggest hit ever with "Disco Lady".

FWIW Omnivore has a "back to school" sale that ends today - 50% off everything except pre-orders and new releases, and they've got a ton of Big Star, Alex Chilton and Chris Bell releases that are eligible, so now's a perfect time to scoop them up.

birdistheword, Sunday, 14 August 2022 18:00 (two days ago) link

Thanks for the heads up! Ended up with no Big Star (have a lot already), but a lot of Buck Owens, Bobby Rush, and Uncle Walt's Band, so I think Alex would still approve.

The site doesn't say the Posies' Frosting and Amazing Disgrace lps are out of stock, but I can't add them to my cart. Assume they're out and just not showing it, but that's a bummer (even though Ken Stringfellow is a human trash can).

Ⓓⓡ. (Johnny Fever), Monday, 15 August 2022 02:46 (yesterday) link

yeah thanks for the tip. i got some muffs, some gladiators, and mumps!

Thus Sang Freud, Monday, 15 August 2022 15:42 (yesterday) link

filling out my "mu" section apparently.

Thus Sang Freud, Monday, 15 August 2022 15:43 (yesterday) link


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