Wednesday, March 17, 2010

IF HE DIED IN MEMPHIS, THEN THAT'D BE COOL, BABE: Sad, sad news tonight--Alex Chilton is dead. He was 59 and the cause of death was an apparent heart attack. Chilton was known to many as the lead singer of the Box Tops, whose blue-eyed soul hit "The Letter" is a staple of oldies radio. But it was with his next band, Big Star, that Chilton had his biggest influence. The band had next to no commercial success in its time, but it influenced a generation of pop-rock bands most notably REM, the Replacements (who of course went so far as to record "Alex Chilton"), and Wilco, among thousands of others.

Don't take my word for it, though. Seek out some Big Star and I guarantee you will be enchanted. "September Gurls" is a great place to start, though you might prefer "In the Street" (aka the theme from "That '70s Show," albeit as covered by Cheap Trick). Or even better yet, let Sound Opinions' Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot guide you through Big Star's albums in this episode of their show from last fall.


  1. The Other Kate11:45 PM

    Oh no. God, how I love those three Big Star albums.

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  3. kevbo nobo7:10 AM

    Damn.  I was lucky enough to see the re-formed Big Star(Chilton, Jody Stephens and 2 guys from the Posies) in the 90's- when they played "Jesus Christ" it was transcendent.  Somewhere Paul Westerberg is thinking 'bout drinkin.

  4. lisased9:39 AM

    When I was in college, I went on a last-minute road trip with a boy named Alex. We drove from Virginia Tech to Georgetown to see the Connells. For their encore, they mentioned Big Star and played "O Dana". In the times before iTunes and the Internet, it took me a while to find a copy of "Sister Lovers" but I remember discovering a used copy in the bins at the Record Exchange. I enjoyed the hell out of Big Star.

  5. bill.9:41 AM

    Combing this with the SPIN post, there's the August 1991 issue with SPIN trying to anoint Paul Westerberg as the soul of rock 'n' roll.

    SPIN: What about someone like Alex Chilton? You made him a rock hero in your song.

    Westerberg: No. I don't know what Alex represents. Now I listen to his new Rhino compilation, and it's like, I can't make up my mind whether Alex was some brilliant chameleon or just a guy who fucking lost it real quick. I almost regret writing that song. It's sad, because kids will come and ask me about Alex and you'll see this look in their eyes, and they think he's some guy in leather pants that jumps from amplifiers or something. It's like, if they only knew.

  6. Wow, I was just listening to "The Letter" (original and some great covers) yesterday; it's so absolutely infectious in all versions.  Sad sad news. 

    Yeah, the Big Star albums are great.  Will be playing them today.