I can’t put into words what Alex Chilton and Big Star have meant to me over the years, what kind of influence his music has had on me – by osmosis at first, through the Replacements, Posies, Teenage Fanclub, etc. – and then directly, from the albums #1 Record, Radio City and Third/Sister Lovers.
By now, you may well know that he passed away yesterday at the age of 59, and it is a sad day here at LMHQ. Although he was a brilliant lyricist, songwriter and guitar player, he never got his due. People always say that the Velvet Underground was the most influential rock band post Beatles, but I think there is a strong argument for Big Star. Everyone who heard VU may have started a band, but everyone who heard Big Star learned how to write songs – big difference. Just ‘cuz you start a band doesn’t mean you’re gonna have good songs to play, and for my money, Chilton’s were among the best, and the ones who cite him as a major influence are no slouches, either.
While fame and fortune eluded him, Alex Chilton never gave up – he made a ton of records with Big Star and under his own name, and while they were of varying degrees of brilliance over the course of his lifetime, the fact that he kept pushing himself without the fanfare of the media to hold him up says something about the man as an artist. He tried hard against unbelievable odds, no question.
My pal Brooker is one of my favorite people – a great guitar player and all-around awesome friend, and his knowledge of rock music is staggering. This is what he posted on the ol’ Facebook last night about 5 minutes after I found out about Alex Chilton’s death-
Alex Chilton, you were one of my favorite songwriters, singers and guitar players all rolled up into one genius of a man. The world just lost a little light. You were one of the El Goodos.
Amen, Hammer. Amen.
Alex Chilton, RIP
Big Star’s “The Ballad of El Goodo”
(Click on the Play button beside the song title to launch the music player
or right-click on the link to download it to your computer.)