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Big Star

THE SINGER NOT THE SONG: ALEX CHILTON VS. CHRIS BELL

Here's a noteworthy comment, I received based on my assessment of Alex Chilton/Big Star's 3rd/Sister Lover

I don't have much to add seeing as how I wasn't there at the time.


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Alex Chlton Singer Not the Song EP

As producer of Singer Not the Song, I am not sure what you mean by well-crafted. I'm glad you think it is a gem, but it was extracted more than crafted. At this particular point in time, Alex was wholly disinterested in craft. Although I would have been delighted to be a part of a collaborative work of greatness, Alex was only marginally interested in the recording process, the only thing that seemed to be of interest to him was that I might somehow be able to make a record with him that would allow him to leave Memphis. That did happen. The unpleasantness he displayed in the studio was only a hint of how much of a dick he would be in the years to come.

I found Chris Bell to be a far more engaged person, both as a musician and a human being. If anyone should have continued Big Star it should have been Chris, whose vision created the band, focused the songs on the first album, and infused the songs on Radio City (some of which were cowritten by him but uncredited) with a pop/rock sensibility that Chilton never was able to capture on subsequent work.

best,
Jon Tiven





ALEX CHILTON'S 1st MASTERPIECE

Alex Chilton in the studio

Growing up in Memphis back in '67, I used to get tired of hearing the Box Top's ‘The Letter’ (#1 hit in the world that year) on the radio every second because DJs felt obligated to reduntantly remind listeners that here, at last, was a hometown band that had hit the Big Time. (In The eyes of Nehru-clad visionaries, Memphis's Sun rockabilly and Stax soul – the untamed past – were irrelevant to the expectations for a bright Sgt. Pepper future.)

Fame's a brief candle though, and soon the Box Tops were inserted in the annals of anthropop history. That is, until '72 when their ex-vocalist Alex Chilton began making racket with Big Star, a name not meant as a cynical reference to the Box Tops' instant stardom but simply referring to Memphis' Big Star supermarket chain, where as a teen I used to buy Hit Parader (which printed the lyrics to all the Box Tops' hits).

Much has been written about Big Star's initial lack of success. True, #1 Record and Radio City are infectious pop LPs, but they're also rather uneven, their best moments on singles (i.e. ‘When My Baby's Beside Me’, ‘September Gurls’). As for Alex Chilton, his cultism is worth examining, not only because his recent works, the Singer Not The Song EP and ‘Bangkok’ 45, are well-crafted gems, but also because he's still out there fighting for fresh sounds (despite a disbanded Big Star, whose influence is heard in the music of Sneakers/Chris Stamey and Memphis Scruffs).



I Love You More Each Day: CURT BOETCHER

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THE UBIQUITOUS POP MASTERPIECE

Billboard feature on the Beach Boys Pet<br />
Sounds

“Sometimes I almost feel/Just like a human being.”
–Elvis Costello, “Lipstick Vogue,” 1978

The discovery of self, getting to know the inner you, is the very stuff of our troubled and crazy times. The growing number of support groups, the proliferation of psychotherapists, and the overwhelming and seemingly all-powerful self-help sections at bookstores attest to this fact. “Feel the pain,” sez Zippy the Pinhead as he hands a friend a box of Milk Duds just before he heads spiraling into a nervous breakdown.

Pop music abounds in such eccentric edifices of the inner self. In fact, pop music is such a refuge for so many selves in search of self that pop and rock are probably nothing more than the babble generated by a series of cathartic experiences. Many of rock’s landmark albums are probing works, painfully introspective, almost dull in fact, until you hear them in the isolation of your empty room after a long night of dark fear and sweaty terror.