Thursday, 18 March 2010
2010 is turning into an awful year if deaths of musical heroes is an index to consider. I woke this morning to learn the sad news that Alex Chilton died yesterday. He was 59 and scheduled to play a big gig at South By Southwest later in the week.
I got into Big Star as a teenager. Reading about their influence was unavoidable in interviews with many of the bands I loved - REM, The Lemonheads, Teenage Fanclub, The Jayhawks and so on. I've no doubt that Thirteen is far and away my favourite Big Star song because Wilco covered it.
Here then is one of their most-loved tracks and two great covers.
MP3: Big Star - September Gurls
Buy Big Star's Radio City - 7digital | Amazon
MP3: Wilco - Thirteen
Buy Big Star, Small World - Amazon
MP3: Evan Dando - The Ballad of El Goodo
Buy the Empire Records soundtrack - 7digital | Amazon
It was only relatively recently that I learnt about Alex Chilton's pre-Big Star years. As a teenager Chilton was the lead singer of Memphis blue-eyed soul group The Box Tops. Their 1967 single The Letter, produced by Dan Penn, was a multi-million seller. You'd never guess it from hearing his vocal but Chilton was just 16 years old.
MP3: The Box Tops - The Letter
If you've a penchant for jangly guitar and top melodies and are unfamiliar with Big Star do rectify that.You used to be able get Big Star's first pair of albums in a classic 'twofer' but it seems they're now only available individually (which is preferable actually as you can better enjoy the William Eggleston photo on the cover of Radio City).
Alex Chilton dies, The Memphis Commercial Appeal
Remembering Big Star's Alex Chilton - nice piece in the Guardian
Alex Chilton: I'm In Love With That Song - post on the Aquarium Drunkard blog