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Old January 30th, 2013, 05:47 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Big Star

Behind the Velvet Underground, could Big Star be the ultimate cult band? All my favorite bands worship them, yet I never really understood their appeal. I think I liked the idea of Alex Chilton being an eccentric fringe powerpop songwriter more than I liked his actual music.

But then... a few days ago, I suddenly got it. For whatever reason, I put on "3rd/Sister Lovers," and the tunes hit me like a ton of bricks. The level of neurosis, of sheer emotion, coupled with such great melodies and screwball arrangements... I'd heard nothing like it, but I instantly saw the thread of influence from them to all my favorites (Replacements, Gin Blossoms, R.E.M., etc.). It was a pretty cool moment. From there I moved on to "Radio City," which is -in my view- the only really perfect powerpop album I've heard. I'd listened to it before and I thought songs like "O My Soul" were psychotic rants... relistening now, yeah... that pretty much sums it up. But for whatever reason, I love it. It just clicks.



So, any other Big Star fans here? Any haters/doubters-turned-fans?

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Old January 30th, 2013, 05:51 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Love 'em.



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Old January 30th, 2013, 06:09 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I like 'em! I recently got in to them after hearing about them for years and was looking for something new (to me at least) to check out. Hoping to even maybe work a song into my band's work in progress set list one day (I know our drummer is in to it).
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Old January 30th, 2013, 06:21 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Yeah, I love Big Star. I was always more into the Radio City/# 1 Record stuff than Third/Sisters Lovers, but people have been telling me to give the latter a second (twenty second) listen.

You know who is the biggest Big Star fans of all? Teenage Fanclub, one of my absolute favorites of all time. You'll hear Big Star in all the College Rock stuff from the '80s.

You should check out the Chris Bell solo record "I Am The Cosmos" too. He quit the band after #1 Record. I'd link to the title track, but I don't know how on this durn phone.

The band photo on the back of Radio City is my favorite band photo I've seen.
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Old January 30th, 2013, 06:38 PM   #5 (permalink)
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the thread of influence from them to all my favorites (Replacements, Gin Blossoms, R.E.M., etc.).
Don't believe that influence stuff. I know for a fact The Replacements' Paul Westerberg said he wrote a song called "Alex Chilton" not because Big Star and Chilton were such a big influence. No. He said he wrote it simply because he thought it was a cool, hip thing to do. And believe that. When many bands site their influences they simply throw out names of bands they think sound hip and cool.

Do you really think so many bands were influenced by The Velvet Underground. Bob Marley? The biggest laugh I ever got was when Motley Crue said the Sex Pistols were a big influence on them. You see, lots of guys say such and such a band were an influence becuase it simply sounds cool. Westerberg admitted he really had very little idea who Alex Chilton was when he wrote the song "Alex Chilton." He said it was just was a cool, hip thing to throw into a song.

As far as REM, Peter Buck is another one who sites obscure "hip" bands as influences. But you know who his biggest influence was? It was The Beatles. He's a Beatle fanatic, but a guitarist in college band being played on hip college radio in the early '80s could not mention the dinosaur Beatles as an influence. So Buck threw out names like Big Star and The Velvet Underground. Trying to be hip.
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Old January 30th, 2013, 06:45 PM   #6 (permalink)
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OK sure.
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Old January 30th, 2013, 07:22 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I have a couple of friends who think Big Star is the best band in the history of rock music (not joking). I've given them a listen, they really don't do much for me, not surprising at all to me that they never rose above 'cult' status--personally couldn't understand why they even achieved that level, but just different strokes...
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Old January 30th, 2013, 07:31 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I'd heard of Chilton and Big Star for years, but just hadn't connected with it... but like Pants above, suddenly they fell on me like a ton of bricks. I found a copy of #1 Record and Radio City on one CD, popped it in the car CD player, and... it didn't come out for a year. I played it all the time, for everyone, everywhere I went and I'm sure I was plenty annoying to be around. "The Ballad of El Goodo" was my 'where have you been all my life' moment... not sure why it took so long, but I love Big Star.
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Old January 30th, 2013, 07:59 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Don't believe that influence stuff. I know for a fact The Replacements' Paul Westerberg said he wrote a song called "Alex Chilton" not because Big Star and Chilton were such a big influence. No. He said he wrote it simply because he thought it was a cool, hip thing to do. And believe that. When many bands site their influences they simply throw out names of bands they think sound hip and cool.

Do you really think so many bands were influenced by The Velvet Underground. Bob Marley? The biggest laugh I ever got was when Motley Crue said the Sex Pistols were a big influence on them. You see, lots of guys say such and such a band were an influence becuase it simply sounds cool. Westerberg admitted he really had very little idea who Alex Chilton was when he wrote the song "Alex Chilton." He said it was just was a cool, hip thing to throw into a song.

As far as REM, Peter Buck is another one who sites obscure "hip" bands as influences. But you know who his biggest influence was? It was The Beatles. He's a Beatle fanatic, but a guitarist in college band being played on hip college radio in the early '80s could not mention the dinosaur Beatles as an influence. So Buck threw out names like Big Star and The Velvet Underground. Trying to be hip.
I'm hip to your game. I saw you over in the Marshall amps thread saying that the only reason that people buy Marshalls is to look cool. Now you're saying that the only reason that people like Big Star is to look cool.

That's fine. I'm not gonna overthink it though.

Here's the title track from that Chris Bell record I was talking about before. Pretty cool.

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Old January 30th, 2013, 08:34 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Love them- I'm an old power pop nerd so they are right in my wheelhouse from when I was an intern at Ryko in college and they reissued the albums. Chris Bells' album has some beautiful moments; the title track and "You And Your Sister" (i adore the This Mortal Coil version of that a/ Kim Deal and Tanya Donneley).

I have a show in Boston in 3 weeks with Ken Stringfellow of the Posies who played Big Star shows with Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens for about 10 years.
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Old January 30th, 2013, 09:16 PM   #11 (permalink)
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... a few days ago, I suddenly got it. For whatever reason, I put on "3rd/Sister Lovers," and the tunes hit me like a ton of bricks...
One of my favorite albums ever. I dig the other Big Star albums too. Some stellar power pop and ballads, but Sister Lovers is just so...singular. There's nothing really like it.
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Old January 30th, 2013, 11:20 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Don't believe that influence stuff. I know for a fact The Replacements' Paul Westerberg said he wrote a song called "Alex Chilton" not because Big Star and Chilton were such a big influence. No. He said he wrote it simply because he thought it was a cool, hip thing to do. And believe that. When many bands site their influences they simply throw out names of bands they think sound hip and cool.

Do you really think so many bands were influenced by The Velvet Underground. Bob Marley? The biggest laugh I ever got was when Motley Crue said the Sex Pistols were a big influence on them. You see, lots of guys say such and such a band were an influence becuase it simply sounds cool. Westerberg admitted he really had very little idea who Alex Chilton was when he wrote the song "Alex Chilton." He said it was just was a cool, hip thing to throw into a song.

As far as REM, Peter Buck is another one who sites obscure "hip" bands as influences. But you know who his biggest influence was? It was The Beatles. He's a Beatle fanatic, but a guitarist in college band being played on hip college radio in the early '80s could not mention the dinosaur Beatles as an influence. So Buck threw out names like Big Star and The Velvet Underground. Trying to be hip.
Have you read "All Over But the Shouting"? Lots of great anecdotal accounts of the Replacements' career, and Chilton weighs in a few times on Westerberg, and Westerberg on Chilton. If not, you should give it a read... the way you describe the musical relationship between Westy and Alex is not the way I remember the book describing it. The way I understood it, they were barely -if at all- personally acquainted at the time he wrote the song, but that doesn't mean he wasn't inspired by the man musically in at least some way.

Remember, Westy grew up on powerpop- "Go All the Way" was the song that inspired him to play guitar. Arguably, he did at one point try to fit into a scene where he might not have belonged, but you've got it backwards. It was the early punk posturing on the first 2 Mats albums that was the act, not his later college-rocky material.

As for Peter Buck... can it not be possible to be influenced by both Big Star and the Beatles? And I can't stand the Velvet Underground, but I'm not gonna accuse people of pretending to like them to seem hip. Like Big Star, and probably even more so, they've proven their music has staying power over several generations and countless "scenes." Don't you think that's saying something more about the music and less about the "cool" factor if people have kept coming back to them in the face of ever-changing cultural concepts of "cool"?

The Strokes on the other hand... people definitely pretend to like them...
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Old January 30th, 2013, 11:26 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Love them- I'm an old power pop nerd so they are right in my wheelhouse from when I was an intern at Ryko in college and they reissued the albums. Chris Bells' album has some beautiful moments; the title track and "You And Your Sister" (i adore the This Mortal Coil version of that a/ Kim Deal and Tanya Donneley).

I have a show in Boston in 3 weeks with Ken Stringfellow of the Posies who played Big Star shows with Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens for about 10 years.
You're playing with Ken Stringfellow? That's awesome! What did you think of the new album? I can't stop listening to "110 or 220v"-- it just hits the right vibe for me. Also, I checked out your video in your sig, and you, sir, rule. Keep on doing what you're doing.

I'm actually from Boston too- my powerpop band just finished recording our first album in Medford. If you guys are playing in the area when I'm in town next, I'll definitely drop by!
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Old January 30th, 2013, 11:47 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Have you read "All Over But the Shouting"? Lots of great anecdotal accounts of the Replacements' career,...
Listen, all I can tell you is that two or so decades ago I read a quote from Paul Westerberg where he basically said "I just used the name Alex Chilton in that song because it sounded hip and cool to use that name." That's a fact. It was decades ago so I can't recall exactly where he said it, but he did. Westerberg in a moment of super-cool candor admitted he pulled one over on all the hipsters.

Perhaps he enjoyed Chilton's music, but I remember at that time it seemed EVERYBODY enjoyed and was influenced by Alex Chilton and Big Star. It was the hip thing to say. Many people saw through it. Just as many people saw through Motley Crue saying The Sex Pistols were a big influence on them.

As for Peter Buck, he deliberately got angry when people suggested he played a Rickenbacker because of The Beatles. It was an act. An "I'm-hip-and-not-into-classic-rock" act. At that time for REM's college radio position it was the in thing for Buck to say that he was into obscure '60s garage bands rather than say he was influenced by the biggest band of the '60s. Buck used to speak with actual venom about The Beatles back then. Years later I found out Buck is one of the biggest Beatle fanatics around. Showed me he was a poser. A phony. He couldn't tell an NYU radio DJ that he loved The Beatles.

You know who was cool and honest back then? Robyn Hitchcock. That guy would proclaim his love and devotion to the obscure garage bands AND The Beatles, particularly John Lennon. Hitchcock never tried to be hip because he was hip. Westerberg and Buck played a part back then. They were actors playing the hip underground musician. (But I will say that didn't stop me from playing and loving their records.)
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Old January 31st, 2013, 12:24 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Yeah, I love Big Star. I was always more into the Radio City/# 1 Record stuff than Third/Sisters Lovers, but people have been telling me to give the latter a second (twenty second) listen.

You know who is the biggest Big Star fans of all? Teenage Fanclub, one of my absolute favorites of all time. You'll hear Big Star in all the College Rock stuff from the '80s.

You should check out the Chris Bell solo record "I Am The Cosmos" too. He quit the band after #1 Record. I'd link to the title track, but I don't know how on this durn phone.

The band photo on the back of Radio City is my favorite band photo I've seen.

Don't miss Big Star Live (1974) and Nobody Can Dance (even earlier).

It's an all-Alex Chilton Big Star and he and the drummer do all the heavy lifting on these two live sets.

Very few trios you've ever seen or heard live come close to this stuff.

Chilton's guitar is like a whole band.
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Old January 31st, 2013, 12:41 AM   #16 (permalink)
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Taxer, you might not want to take everything Paul Westerberg in interviews 20 years ago as gospel; he's a contrarian and bull**** artist from way back- although, God bless him, a wonderful songwriter.

Fact is, the song "Alex Chilton" was released well before Big Star's resurgence. Those albums were out of print at the time and Alex Chilton's solo albums of that time were shaky at best. The album with that song was produced by legendary Memphis producer Jim Dickinson and Chiton himself plays guest guitar on "Can't Hardly Wait" on the same album. The Idea that Paul was just dropping some hip name he heard somewhere doesn't really hold up to closer inspection.

Now, I'm right there with you any time you want to praise Robyn Hitchcock. I spent my birthday a few years back singing side one of the White album with him and he knew all the chords. Lovely guy.
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Old January 31st, 2013, 12:48 AM   #17 (permalink)
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Yeah dude. That album is the absolute tee-its! Are you aware of the movie about them?
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Old January 31st, 2013, 10:58 AM   #18 (permalink)
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I have tried and tried to get into Big Star, and there are some things I like, but not all of it. I have the box set with all the old stuff on it, and a lot of it just doesn't move me. The dead, dampened drum sounds don't agree with me, the preponderance of ballads bothers me, and the too-spanky Fender guitar sounds on much of it grates on my nerves as well. I also have one of the later CD's Chilton and Jody did with those younger guys. It's OK, nothing earthshaking.
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Old January 31st, 2013, 11:22 AM   #19 (permalink)
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I have a couple of friends who think Big Star is the best band in the history of rock music (not joking). I've given them a listen, they really don't do much for me, not surprising at all to me that they never rose above 'cult' status--personally couldn't understand why they even achieved that level, but just different strokes...
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I have tried and tried to get into Big Star, and there are some things I like, but not all of it. I have the box set with all the old stuff on it, and a lot of it just doesn't move me. The dead, dampened drum sounds don't agree with me, the preponderance of ballads bothers me, and the too-spanky Fender guitar sounds on much of it grates on my nerves as well. I also have one of the later CD's Chilton and Jody did with those younger guys. It's OK, nothing earthshaking.
The same goes for me. I bought the albums when they were first reissued. I tried. And tried. But Big Star and I did not connect.

I do, however, love "The Letter" by Alex's previous band The Box Tops.
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Old January 31st, 2013, 11:52 AM   #20 (permalink)
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I think the Sex Pistols actually did have an influence on the Crue, just like they say.

Remember, there are ways to be influenced other than musically.
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