Thursday, March 18, 2010

Alex Chilton Big Star The Box Tops...may you Rest In Peace

At 5:10am I was driving to the YMCA this morning for my workout. I was listening to NPR like I typically do when "September Gurls" by Big Star came on the radio....I guess I instinctively knew what was coming next. Alex Chilton, legendary singer from the "Box Tops" and "Big Star" was dead at age 59.
Growing up I had always heard the Box Tops "The Letter" and "Cry Like A Baby" on the radio. But of course "Big Star" was never played on the radio. I discovered them in College, like so many others did before and after me. College Radio opened my ears to bands such as R.E.M, the Replacements, Game Theory, the db's. And I would read the music rags to learn as much about an artist as possible. One of my favorites at the time was this extremely difficult to find magazine called "The BOB" that came with flexi discs (flexible records). I would read articles about bands and they were always referencing "Big Star" records as influences. Those albums were out of print and non-existent at that time. Luckily, I went to my parents home during some break in classes and in a local thrift store stumbled across the first "Big Star" LP "#1" for a quarter.
Extremely elated with my find, I put it on my father's turntable and immediately understood. The power of the songs overwhelmed me. Over the next few years I was lucky to find all their Ardent 45's (except for the elusive "September Gurls"), their 2nd LP "Radio City" and final LP "Third/Sister Lovers". I have a special affinity for "Sister Lovers"...the stark beauty mixed with the obvious pain and anguish that Alex was going through during that recording. I'd like think that album helped me through my own dark time in the late 80's after college when I moved to Denver and felt lost and alone.
 "#1" should have made them big stars. But record company ineptness caused these records to vanish. But I am so thankful that the few that had purchased them kept their name alive. They will never be played on the radio....will never get in the rock 'n roll hall of fame; but to those of us that have opened our ears to their greatness are forever thankful. I would highly recommend picking up these releases, as well as the Live CD on Ryko and the new box set.

I was fortunate to see Alex live in 1991(or so) in a small upstairs club in Denver (the name which escapes me). I was working 2 1/2 day shifts (Sunday mornings to Tuesday Afternoons) at this group home in Denver. I remember having a nasty cold and arranging with my boss to have someone cover for me a few hours in the evening so I could go to the concert. The thought of missing his concert never occured to me. Alex played all the songs you would expect from him, and of course he was a little drunk. So, in tribute to this lost soul, I have dragged out a few extras to toast him with. First up is my favorite "Box Tops" song "Soul Deep".

Then add to the mix a couple of songs "September Gurls/In The Street" off of a bootleg 45 I bought about 20 years ago. For pictures, how about a rare miss-pressed "b" side "Thirteen" (label says Don't Lie To Me). I've also included a picture of my Andy Hummel autographed "When My Baby's Beside Me" 45

 And to top it off we have videos from the Box Tops (hard to believe he was 16 when "The Letter" was a #1 hit) as well as the tribute song from The Replacements called "Alex Chilton" - "Children by the million sing for Alex Chilton when he omes 'round. They sing I'm in love, what's that song. I'm in love with that song"

Box Tops - Soul Deep

Big Star - September Gurls/In The Street

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great write-up, and all the links an pics. I was fortunate enough to see Big Star once about 8 years ago at a festival at Randall's Island in NYC (Stooges headlined, other highlights I recall were Bo Diddley, New York Dolls, Raveonettes...). I'm gonna check out this blog now and then...