Of all of the big celebrity deaths of the last year, none has really had the impact on me as the recent passing of Alex Chilton. Now I know a lot of you are probably going, “Who?” at this point and that’s a real shame, because there are very few people out there who have had such an enormous impact on music with so few actually knowing who they were. Chilton is truly one of the greatest examples of a cult figure in the music world.
At the start of his career in the late 60’s Alex Chilton had a string of pop-soul hits with the Box Tops, such as ‘The Letter’ and ‘Cry Like a Baby’, but he disbanded the group in 1970 to create one of the greatest rock and roll bands of all time, Big Star. The band’s first record, #1 Record, was/is truly a great record, but by a cruel twist of irony it was mismanaged by the record label and never became the hit record it deserved to be. Chilton wrote so many great songs on it, like ‘In The Street’, which is more commonly known as the theme to That 70’s Show, and ‘Thirteen’, one of my all time favorite songs.
They followed #1 Record with their second album, Radio City, but the damage was already done on the band by this point and the group quickly disintegrated. The different members of the group went on to other things, but none of them ever came close to reaching greatest ever again. It’s a damn shame, because songs don’t get much better than ‘September Gurls’, which was on their second album.
These two albums represent musical perfection for me, and are the ideal companion to summertime. Try to not feel nostalgic while listening to them in your car, driving around the countryside on a lazy late summer afternoon. Alex Chilton had the songwriting skills of a Lennon or McCartney, and Big Star should have been as big as The Beatles, but alas it was not meant to be.
Thankfully the few people who did buy the album when it first came out passed their knowledge of it down to other record store addicts and cult of Big Star was born. Big Star stands out there with The Velvet Underground and The Sex Pistols as one of the most influential bands of all time, most obviously heard in The Replacement’s hit, ‘Alex Chilton’.
Do yourself a favor and buy #1 Record and Radio City. If this isn’t already a part of your music collection it should be, especially since you can usually find both albums on a single CD for a measly 10 bucks. Trust me–it’ll be one of the prize albums in your music collection in no time.