Category: Big Star

Big Star – Radio City

ARTIST: Big Star                  220px-Radio_city_cover

TITLE:  Radio City

YEAR RELEASED: 1974

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: O My Soul, September Gurls

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Way Out West, Back of a Car

LINEUP: Alex Chilton, Andy Hummell, Jody Stephens. Danny Jones and Richard Rosebrough helped at times.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second album from star-crossed power pop band, recorded during turmoil, is just a little bitty step behind their debut. Still, a classic.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Chris Bell left, came back, left again. For a while Alex Chilton recorded with studio musicians. At times, it seemed this album would never come out, and when it did, Stax Records couldn’t get it in the stores because of a distribution issue with Columbia.

All of that, and still, most everything on this album is a winner.

There are some songs here that Chris Bell co-wrote before he left, or when he left and came back, then left again. A few songs were written or co-written by Andy Hummel, and the most famous of those (and a hidden gem) is “Way Out West”, sung by drummer Jody Stephens.

A few cuts seem off, and not in the flow of everything else. But with classics like the singles, “Way Out West”, “You Get What You Deserve” and “I’m In Love with a Girl”, you can’t deny it’s place in power pop / rock history.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They started to record this in earnest after a great gig at the Rock Writer’s convention in Memphis in 1973

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: It’s on CD along with their debut.

GRADE: A: Not perfect, not AS good as their debut, but what really is. A fine record.

Big Star – #1 Record

ARTIST: Big Star       220px-Big_Star_-1_Record

TITLE:  #1 Record.

YEAR RELEASED: 1972

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: In the Street, Don’t Lie to Me

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: A lot of indie people know this now. Maybe Thirteen was a song that was covered and you know.

LINEUP: Alex Chilton, Chris Bell, Andy Hummel, Jody Stephens

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Almost perfect power-pop record with soaring songs, impeccable singing, and a sense of fragility and wonder. Thanks to record company bungling, and the times, it didn’t sell.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: A lot of biographies of indie artists and bands, especially those who favor guitars with harmonies and pop melodies, list Big Star as an influence. This is for good reason; all you need to do is listen to this record.

The songs of Chris Bell and Alex Chilton are from a time, but are also timeless. Bell loved the Beatles and was a studio rat. Chilton knew about stardom first hand from the Box Tops, and wanted to be creative and sing what he wanted to. Those two created 11 songs (with bassist Hummel adding one) of beauty, tenderness and when needed, attitude. The guitars ring, the melodies flow, the harmonies awe, and the production nails it.

It’s one of my all-time favorites, and I feel I need to hear it at least once a month to get myself grounded. I hear new things in it all the time .

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “In the Street” was covered by Cheap Trick to use as the theme for “That 70’s Show”.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: It was released on CD with their second album.

GRADE: A+: I’m cynical about the hype given to the influences of indie musicians, as sometimes they play “top this obscurity”. Here, the hype matches reality. A must have.