Alex Chilton’s death was the third musical hero of mine to pass away this year. His death following far too quickly on from those of Sparklehorses Mark Linkous and the pure song writing genius of Vic Chesnutt. I have spent the time since reading about Alex Chilton’s death loading up on the Boxtops, Big Star and solo material. I first hear Chilton via the song “No Sex” which was released on a tape by a short lived UK music paper Underground in 1988 titled strum + Drum. I was totally unaware of who he was at this point and had never heard of Big Star as a callow 17 year old indie kid. However I liked the song it made me smile and hum along.
It was later that I started to pick up on the references to Chilton and Big Star in the English music press. The legend of the band and glorious way in which the music was described had me really interested but the records where impossible for me to find. At this point I found out about the covers of Big Star on the debut This Mortal Coil LP and on first listen fell head over heels in love with “Kangaroo” and “Holocaust”. The simplicity of the songs, the direct nature of the lyrics, the naive melodies, the way in which the songs ached. Beautiful and haunting.
I was truly hooked from this point on. I tracked down copies of the Big Star records oddly working backwards from Third/Sister Lover, to Radio City and finally #1 Record. The records have stayed with me when much of my heavy listening from the time now seems so gauche and juvenile. Third helped me through a number of tough times and although it seems a stupid thing to say I have a fair amount of emotion tied into that record.We are bound together my memories and those songs.
The Boxtops records where bewitching in a completely different way. Alex Chilton’s voice so different it was hard to believe it was the same guy pouring out his soul.
Big Star are one of those musical touchstones. When I meet other Big Star fans I know I am in the company that I like. So thank you Alex and rest in peace.
My musical Journey through Alex’s Chiltons Career on Spotify.
Alex Chilton/Big Star Spotify Playlist