Wednesday, March 17, 2010
RIP Alex Chilton
Wow: apparently Alex Chilton just died at 59 of a presumed heart attack. If you don't know his music, and appreciate pop craftsmanship and American singer/songwriter stuff, you should spend a few minutes on him. You needn't, in my opinion anyways, spend a lot of time on the Box Tops; check out this vintage footage of Big Star, with Chilton singing "Thank You Friends;" or, say, the even better songs "The Ballad Of El Goodo" and "September Gurls;" or the fragile, haunting (if sometimes somewhat bitter/maudlin) "Take Care," "Holocaust," "Nighttime," and "Big Black Car," off my favourite album of his career, Big Star's 3rd: Sister Lovers (The 4 Men With Beards vinyl repress sounds great, by the way - I highly recommend it). (I'd also put up a link to "You Get What You Deserve," one of their stronger rock numbers from an earlier Big Star album, but I can't find one). There's also a really good countrified version of his "Free Again" from around this time on Youtube. You should further acknowledge, after Big Star had disintegrated in the mid-1970's - along apparently with Alex - his sloppy rock rave-up years, where I assume he was stoned or drunk in the studio quite often, since he presents as a bit of an indifferent wastrel - tho' there is a careless exuberance to his songs from this period that can be quite delightful, as with "Take Me Home And Make Me Like It" (which I think Art Bergmann could cover credibly) or, say, these three cover songs - climaxing with the terrific "Alligator Man" - from Like Flies On Sherbert (1979), which is taken either as a gem or as excrement by music fans, with little middle ground. There may have been a few lost years thereafter (or at least periods where he wasn't active musically) - I would have to actually read his Wikipedia page to say for sure - but around the time of the Replacements tribute song about him, he had attained enough of a cult status that he enjoyed a comeback and ended up on college charts (and even MTV!) with songs like "No Sex," a reaction to AIDS at the height of the panic. There was even a Big Star reunion and a new studio album, which I confess to not having heard... I really didn't follow his last few years that closely, and never had the opportunity to see him perform, but I've gotten a lot of pleasure from his music over the years, so: my respects to Alex Chilton, those close to him, and his fans, and my sympathies for his too-soon departure. In closing, one last great song by Big Star (tho' I think Chris Bell sings this one): "Try Again."