Alex Chilton RIP 2010

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I have always been a Chris Bell guy but this is really sad. Spinning Third tonight.

skip, Friday, 19 March 2010 02:11 (seven years ago) Permalink


Crank it:

Cranking it.

probably a sock!! (╓abies), Friday, 19 March 2010 02:13 (seven years ago) Permalink

wish we had a joint so bad

RIP Alex Chilton

badg, Friday, 19 March 2010 03:02 (seven years ago) Permalink

Thoughts from Mr. Westerberg, plus Craig Finn and Patterson Hood:

Ned Raggett, Friday, 19 March 2010 03:12 (seven years ago) Permalink

oh man "Motel Blues", search that shit

totally cried today listening to "For You". the guy wrote like a good half dozen or more of the finest songs ever recorded in this sorry modern era.

sleeve, Friday, 19 March 2010 03:53 (seven years ago) Permalink

("For You" is by Jody Stephens)

Melvin van Osterlow, Jr. (res), Friday, 19 March 2010 04:02 (seven years ago) Permalink

goddamn, Mark Linkous and now Chilton, this is a rough month

― Whiney for No Apparent Reason (some dude), Thursday, March 18, 2010 1:46 AM (3 minutes ago)

this is exactly how i am feeling at the moment

― First and Last and Safeways ™ (jjjusten), Thursday, 18 March 2010 01:51 (Yesterday)


Freedom, Friday, 19 March 2010 04:12 (seven years ago) Permalink

haha sorry Jody (xp). Doesn't Chilton still sing it though?

sleeve, Friday, 19 March 2010 05:04 (seven years ago) Permalink

also "Motel Blues" is by Loudon Wainwright (although yeah Alex's version is great)

Stormy Davis, Friday, 19 March 2010 05:20 (seven years ago) Permalink

is "it came from memphis" worth getting? it seems that the copies from the ny public library aren't available for loan, which is kinda shitty. ("kinda" in that they're available for research and "performing arts," which i don't understand.. what that means...)

zingzing, Friday, 19 March 2010 05:28 (seven years ago) Permalink

by that, i mean will i learn anything significant about chilton or the memphis sound (particularly post-big star) with which he was associated?

zingzing, Friday, 19 March 2010 05:29 (seven years ago) Permalink

So many people have said the sorts of things that I would like to say about Alex. It really boils down to the intimacy. The one on one. I always felt like he was singing about what I was thinking and feeling.

I was 19 when I bought a Big Star compilation on Line Records. I think it was called Big Star's Greatest. Silver cover with a giant red star on it. This would have been around 1991. I wore that thing out. And then the Fantasy "#1 Record/Radio City" disc landed. Wow.

Big Star traced some connection between my intense love for the Beatles and the alternative rock I grew up on throughout the 80s. But more than that, Chilton, particularly from Radio City on, was singing about being the underdog. The awkward, uncomfortable young adult. All these girls come and go. I loved you, well nevermind. That stuff resonates when you're scared, insecure and looking for reasons why you feel that way.

But beyond that, there was that voice. So pure, so crystalline. It's like the best fucking voice in the world. And that guitar. That bell-tone out of phase Strat through a wound up Twin. Compressed - Byrdsian, Nowhere Man chime. It all conspired to create some Parsifalian ideal of the perfect pop frontman. At least in my mind.

Something about the way Alex combined his voice, lyrics and guitar really affected me in a way no other musician ever has. I really thank him for that. And that's why I'm really, truly gutted by his passing. It was said above, but I feel like I lost a friend. Someone I never met, but a friend none the less.

That's the true magic of music. That a song can reshape your entire outlook, a vocal can send shivers down your spine. A guitar figure can make you ecstatic. Alex Chilton managed to do that to me for nearly 20 years, and he'll do it for the rest of my life.

Brooker T Buckingham, Friday, 19 March 2010 05:50 (seven years ago) Permalink


by another name (amateurist), Friday, 19 March 2010 06:05 (seven years ago) Permalink

'It Came from Memphis' is good: not a whole lot of it is about Alex, really, but also, it all is. Really insightful on figures such a Dickinson, on John Fry and Manning, on the Memphis bohemia that nurtured Big Star.


sonofstan, Friday, 19 March 2010 06:06 (seven years ago) Permalink

so that craig finn thing:

But there are so many songs that just give me so much joy. ‘Thank You Friends’ is one of my favorites. As someone who spends a lot of time thinking about positivity in rock n’ roll, I think that’s about as positive a rock song as has ever been written.

lol what?

henri grenouille (Frogman Henry), Friday, 19 March 2010 08:15 (seven years ago) Permalink

sure bobby g is a berk but the fact is he and mcgee did as much as anybody in the uk to promote and enshrine chilton's reputation in the 1980s and beyond, dude has earned the right to blah abt him now

Oh yeah, what a surprise, two guys from Glasgow who liked Big Star and Alex Chilton, how novel of them. Give Bob his due though, at least he didn't claim to have been at the first Big Star rehearsals or to have played synth on the title track of "Like Flies On Sherbert". On the latter, had that blasting on the headphones as I walked (dawdled) to work this morning, walked into the building as the last notes of the title track (Bobby and all) died away...

The Oort Locker (Tom D.), Friday, 19 March 2010 10:13 (seven years ago) Permalink

i'm totally a lost-period chilton fan, but when he played it with reverence, he's just as compelling. i love this man.

yeah: there's something super satisfying, in terms of career arcs, in the teenage rock star turning into this guy who loved playing standards with pickup groups, putting out let's get lost and jamming on ah ti ta ti ta ta

we just have to get over it that's science (schlump), Friday, 19 March 2010 10:23 (seven years ago) Permalink

Yeah, I always thought Alex was being deeply sarcastic in Thank You Friends


ColinO, Friday, 19 March 2010 15:10 (seven years ago) Permalink

you can hear it either way, but in the context of that record it sure sounds like the friends who made this total collapse all so "probable" are being blamed as much as they're being thanked

Brio, Friday, 19 March 2010 15:39 (seven years ago) Permalink

It's a great song, any way you slice it.

Trip Maker, Friday, 19 March 2010 15:40 (seven years ago) Permalink

But not surprising that Finn, who is neither stupid nor unaware of rock history, chooses to interpret it literally, given his interests in rock'n'roll as a source of positivity.

ithappens, Friday, 19 March 2010 15:47 (seven years ago) Permalink

yeah - it's not like Finn doesn't write songs that are ambivalent and conflicted about the positive power of rock'n'roll himself

Brio, Friday, 19 March 2010 16:01 (seven years ago) Permalink

I think it can be taken both ways: sarcastic because he's thanking his "friends" for success that never materialized, but he is also genuinely thanking his friends for keeping him alive through the dark times.

Moodles, Friday, 19 March 2010 16:03 (seven years ago) Permalink

can't believe craig finn died

velko, Friday, 19 March 2010 16:07 (seven years ago) Permalink

Heaven needed another Springsteen fan.

Ned Raggett, Friday, 19 March 2010 16:08 (seven years ago) Permalink

weird i guess i never ever thought about "thank you friends" as being sarcastic.

deeply moving song to me.

snorgfaced germans (M@tt He1ges0n), Friday, 19 March 2010 16:10 (seven years ago) Permalink

he is also genuinely thanking his friends for keeping him alive through the dark times.

i think this interpretation is fine as long as you dont listen to the vocal.

henri grenouille (Frogman Henry), Friday, 19 March 2010 16:10 (seven years ago) Permalink

I never paid attention to it, so I never thought it was sarcastic. I had the same problem for about thirty years with the song "Reason To Believe."

Ole Rastaquouère (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 19 March 2010 16:11 (seven years ago) Permalink

yeah, it always seemed kinda bitter to me

velko, Friday, 19 March 2010 16:11 (seven years ago) Permalink

huh weird. well i'm going to keep interpreting the song the way i need it to be.

snorgfaced germans (M@tt He1ges0n), Friday, 19 March 2010 16:12 (seven years ago) Permalink

I think he might be genuinely thanking his friends for keeping him super-wasted, and acknowledging that maybe more could have happened for him career-wise if that hadn't been the case.

Brio, Friday, 19 March 2010 16:14 (seven years ago) Permalink

i never heard it as sarcasm, either, but interpreting it that way is an interesting twist!

thanks again, ilm.

Daniel, Esq., Friday, 19 March 2010 16:14 (seven years ago) Permalink

i find it very moving too. mainly for the severe disconnect between the vocal and the lyric/arrangement/production. i mean this is why radio city songs are more powerful than
#1 record songs, cos you can hear the anger and bitterness and distaste. that's doubled on third.

henri grenouille (Frogman Henry), Friday, 19 March 2010 16:18 (seven years ago) Permalink

frogman otm

velko, Friday, 19 March 2010 16:18 (seven years ago) Permalink

It's too bad they never had a number one record. The greatest band ever. Why bother going on.

Earth Dye (u s steel), Friday, 19 March 2010 17:02 (seven years ago) Permalink

I've talked about Alex, the whole Memphis thing and all that a lot on here. Getting to burrow under that scene a bit and walk the streets down there, and in New Orleans too, taught me a lot about what it takes to play music. Or at least rock 'n' roll music. I find it interesting that Chilton was into baroque music in the later years of his life. I think Chilton was interesting not least because he kind of saw through what had happened in "rock" "pop" "indie" or whatever that shit was, starting around the time he took some time off to get his head together in New Orleans. I'm basically one of those people who likes a lot of what "rock" and "pop" and "indie" or whatever the fuck that was had to offer, after about 1980, but doesn't really connect with a lot of it all that much. At least compared to how I feel about New Orleans r&b or soul or '60s/early '70s pop. I never though that New Order or even Bowie were exactly good for the general state of music-making. Or Roxy Music; I like Roxy Music, but it never was any kind of template for how I may want to lead my life. I understand there's a big wide world of deracinated music out there and that's how pop works, to some degree. But my latching onto that--what did that ever really do for me?

I think a lot of people felt Alex Chilton was a conservative if not a reactionary, always covering Ernie K-Doe and Chris Kenner and soul shit that was like, nice, but hardly modern. Or that he tried some of the more or less typical experimental extensions of existing pop forms in the '70s and then decided he'd had enough of it. Hard to say. When you saw Alex Chilton you saw something that wasn't always perfect--he could sing out of tune, play indifferently, and coast; but he could also hit it just right in the moment and I, at least, had to sit back and think, "Hell, I couldn't do that in a million years." There weren't any drum machines or overly rehearsed or perfect elements to what he was attempting. I believe that part of what went wrong in American music after about 1980 has to do with the lack of a real tradition--beyond rock 'n' roll and Bowie and the fucking Stooges and all that kindergarten shit. You could call it jazz sensibility, I guess--professionals living in the moment and trying to hit it right, within certain parameters that may seem (no, did and do seem) old-fashioned and proscriptive to indie people who have only a blurry conception of what music used to be, say, in that old-tyme Fats Waller era or whatever. A foreshortened and rather dim idea of what music-making could be. I'm not saying I think everything after 1980 is worthless at all, I certainly like and love a lot of it, from hip-hop to Nashville country to, fuck, the Japandroids or whoever: noble savages with their guitars and all that, all the revisionist young people attending to their Zombies or Gang of Four records, the neo-folkies.

But put 'em up there with some simple--seemingly simple--r&b song to play more or less the way it was intended to be played, hit it and make it work, without the apparatus of irony. Who among them has the wisdom to do that, or the professionalism to make it work? I mean, if Count Basie could play them old standards more or less in the way you'd expect, having paid your money, then tell me why it's an advance that a whole generation or two of musicians have rejected that outright, given their social/cultural advantages? I'm not saying I know the answer, but that it's a legit question. It's like I always tell people here in fucking Nashville: these people here expect music to be a certain way that is just so out of proportion with what music actually DOES or at least what it used to do. Doesn't make sense to me. Of course, here, you just plug into the machine and get some songs tossed off by people whose idea of human experience is pretty lame and make a record that is controlled by fifty people from start to finish, so you're naturally gonna have expectations that have stepped off the actual stage or parlor or room that music used to be made in.

Chilton's career more or less embodied what I'm talking about, and I believe he understood a lot of this far better--because he was a working musician--that what I can express above. Has something to do with humanity, humility and all that shit.

ebbjunior, Friday, 19 March 2010 17:26 (seven years ago) Permalink

(if you don't mind, could you please keep going?)

✌.✰|ʘ‿ʘ|✰.✌ (Steve Shasta), Friday, 19 March 2010 17:43 (seven years ago) Permalink

Yes, please.

sonofstan, Friday, 19 March 2010 17:47 (seven years ago) Permalink

totally feelin you on the lost tradition angle - very true. kinda destroyed by punk's whole "you don't HAVE to know how to play your instrument" thing which is true in some ways but horribly wrong in others and in general bad for maintaining any general level of cultural vitality and continuity

famous for hating everything (Shakey Mo Collier), Friday, 19 March 2010 17:47 (seven years ago) Permalink

chilton played it both ways, too,

Chilton later said that when the recording sessions began, he began to think, "'Man these guys don't know the songs...this must sound terrible'. But when I went in the control room and heard what we’d been doing, it was just incredible sounding. Getting involved with Dickinson opened up a new world for me. Before that I'd been into careful layerings of guitars and voices and harmonies and things like that, and Dickinson showed me how to go into the studio and just create a wild mess and make it sound really crazy and anarchic. That was a growth for me."

Dickinson affirmed that Chilton consciously wanted the musicianship to be sloppy. He clarified that he plays guitar on the album despite not being technically proficient: "A lot of the guitar on Sherbert is me. Alex said, 'You still play like you’re 14 years old.' I said, 'Yeah, I play bad.' That's what he wanted."

mizzell, Friday, 19 March 2010 17:53 (seven years ago) Permalink

chilton played it both ways, too,

aw man I thought you meant he and Chris Bell really did have a thing :(

The Magnificent Colin Firth (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 19 March 2010 17:55 (seven years ago) Permalink

there's kinda a similar strain with Miles (or Sun Ra) in the 70s making people play instruments they weren't familiar with etc. but I think the key difference there is that guys like Chilton and Miles and Sun Ra were exceptionally conscious of tradition, and were trying to figure out how the traditions they were versed in could accomodate that other kind of unschooled/wild playing and expand the existing boundaries.

whereas several generations later you just had kids who literally didn't know anything beyond "Sid Vicious couldn't play his bass - why should I bother learning?"


famous for hating everything (Shakey Mo Collier), Friday, 19 March 2010 17:58 (seven years ago) Permalink

like, it didn't go any deeper than that - there was no experience, no wisdom behind it

famous for hating everything (Shakey Mo Collier), Friday, 19 March 2010 17:58 (seven years ago) Permalink

kids these days

by another name (amateurist), Friday, 19 March 2010 18:17 (seven years ago) Permalink

I fully admit that I subscribed to this "you don't need to know how to play!" philosophy as a young'un. it's true at first, but obviously if you keep playing you um learn stuff. I do think that what is still completely true is that you do not need to subscribe to any established convention about HOW to play your instrument, but you should have some idea of the sound you are trying to achieve and a technique/method for achieving it.

famous for hating everything (Shakey Mo Collier), Friday, 19 March 2010 18:19 (seven years ago) Permalink

i really feel like people say "oh punk bands couldn't play" but honestly lots of the great punk bands had some SICK players in them.

like okay who are the fathers of american hardcore? you'd have to say bad brains and greg ginn - dudes could fuckin' tear it up...shit the minutemen were next level and most of the bands that started sorta ramshackle, like huskers or ESPECIALLY the meat puppets, got good really the time the meat puppets do up on the sun they are on some super crazy grateful dead fast shit

snorgfaced germans (M@tt He1ges0n), Friday, 19 March 2010 18:21 (seven years ago) Permalink

frankly one of the problems with capital P punk bands now is that most of the bands are so guitar center with their chops IMO

snorgfaced germans (M@tt He1ges0n), Friday, 19 March 2010 18:22 (seven years ago) Permalink

if you count the matlock era pistols as the "real" lineup, then all the dudes could play really well

snorgfaced germans (M@tt He1ges0n), Friday, 19 March 2010 18:22 (seven years ago) Permalink

(edd, I'm waiting 4 u 2 continue, even thru this zzz off-topic sidebar)

✌.✰|ʘ‿ʘ|✰.✌ (Steve Shasta), Friday, 19 March 2010 18:34 (seven years ago) Permalink

i really feel like people say "oh punk bands couldn't play" but honestly lots of the great punk bands had some SICK players in them.

this is totally true and I'm not gonna dispute it - it was more the generations that came after it (I'm lookin at you Calvin Johnson) that took this philosophy to unfortunate extremes

famous for hating everything (Shakey Mo Collier), Friday, 19 March 2010 18:35 (seven years ago) Permalink

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