Alex Chilton is Dead

by Henry Farrell on March 18, 2010

Guardian story “here”:



Barry Freed 03.18.10 at 3:06 pm

Amazing songwriter. But you all knew that.
That is all.


bob mcmanus 03.18.10 at 3:07 pm

I have been resistant to Big Star for almost 40 years now, and I am spending today trying to understand why. I am obviously wrong. Listening to #1 Record as I write, the resistance is still there. I like almost everything else, including Emmitt Rhodes and Flaming Groovies, Metallica, Buzzcocks, name it. I do have trouble with Little Feat.

It may be the perfection of the production and the tightness of the band, and my constant attempt to fit it into a genre. Yeah. The songs and all the components are great, but I feel a lack of focus and commitment. Really can’t blend Emmitt Rhodes and the Groovies.

The song after BS was Faces “Stay With Me” and it felt like coming home. Does anybody else have a problem with Big Star?


Substance McGravitas 03.18.10 at 3:27 pm

Listening to #1 Record as I write, the resistance is still there.

Understandable. It’s plainer than Radio City and whatever you want to call the third one. I listen to the last two a lot more.


Hidari 03.18.10 at 3:28 pm

John Lydon is doing butter adverts, Iggy Pop is advertising car insurance, and Alex Chilton is dead.

If our children ask us ‘what sort of age was this?’ I think the above three facts should provide evidence for the contention: ‘well it was a bit shit, actually’.


Platonist 03.18.10 at 3:35 pm

Hidari, you should read the Hooray For Everything thread about the internet a couple posts ago. It will totally cheer you up!

On the bright side, the only thing Lou Reed’s doing is Laurie Anderson. Legacy intact.


belle le triste 03.18.10 at 4:21 pm

If the three names we invoke to summarise the age are Lydon, Pop and Chilton, then our children are rising 30 anyway, and can make their own judgments about the age, which largely belongs to them.


Uncle Kvetch 03.18.10 at 4:41 pm

On the bright side, the only thing Lou Reed’s doing is Laurie Anderson. Legacy intact.

Not so much. He did TV commercials for Honda scooters back in the 80s.


bob mcmanus 03.18.10 at 4:44 pm

8:If those two are Chilton’s peers, then what I am probably hearing is an anarchy internal to the work, and what may be distracting me is that it is such a pretty anarchy, with the melodies and sweet voice on top of a metal background in some cases. Could I draw a line from Big Star directly to Ride and MBV?


Platonist 03.18.10 at 5:05 pm


It took me a long time to learn to like Big Star, and I’m still selective about it. I actually find the first record much more immediately appealing. I like their bittersweet summer afternoon songs best. When they start to rock, I have a harder time.

The Ride and MBV link is an interesting and surprising suggestion. However, re-listening to their albums today, I’m struck by a very strong Nowhere-era Beatles guitar, which I think has a rickenbacher (sp?) quality that recalls Ride. I’ve never really thought about a power-pop link to shoegaze, but you may be onto something.


Platonist 03.18.10 at 5:05 pm


But he was making the New York album around the same time, so all is forgiven.


8 03.18.10 at 5:18 pm

Chilton never appeared on CT, or anywhere in college-blogland, until he was dead.


om 03.18.10 at 7:22 pm

Sad, sad. A rock’n’roll master (if only for a short period of time). No rock or pop song out there surpasses the beauty of Stroke It Noel, Take Care, Thirteen, El Goodo, Daisy Glaze, September Gurls, etc. etc. etc. The Beatles or the Byrds were more original, sure — but they never recorded songs as emotionally shattering as these.


Jim H. 03.18.10 at 7:24 pm

There was something about living in the American South in the ’70s that Chilton’s Big Star managed to capture in spare, elegant poetry: angst, disaffection, loneliness, despair, love glorious love, friendship, hope. Big Star was relevant. It might not be so much so today; you had to be there. Then there was that clean guitar and emphasis on pop songwriting craft that had gotten lost in the prog-rock messsiness. It spoke to those of us who could find it; #1 Record was an obscure gem, and that made us want it more.

His death washes over as a warm breath of nostalgia for a certain time and a certain place—not necessarily a time or a place you’d want to go back to, but nevertheless a time and a place that you had to pass through to become who you are today.

And still, some of his songs endure.

Jim H.


Platonist 03.18.10 at 8:02 pm

D’oh. “Nowhere-era Beatles” should be “Rubber Soul-era.” Mixing up Ride’s album title Nowhere with song title Nowhere Man.


Tom from the Bronx 03.18.10 at 8:46 pm

Lou plays free jazz now, folks.


Steph 03.18.10 at 8:57 pm


I’m a Big Star fan, but unlike a lot of others, the album I keep going back to is the original 70’s era Big Star Live record. It’s a stripped down set, and the songs really stand on their own. I especially love the mid-set accoustic numbers.


J. Fisher 03.19.10 at 1:29 am

bob and Platonist,

I’m not really into Big Star. I’ve been threatening to give them another shot for a while, particularly since I think their records were just remastered (I could be wrong on that).

Re: Ride and MBV–I’ve actually heard Big Star tossed around in discussions of Teenage Fanclub’s Bandwagonesque more so than with Nowhere or anything MBV really. (There’s probably a more direct line between The Byrds and Ride anyway.)

In any case, I find Bandwagonesque to be one of the more underwhelming records in the Creation catalogue. That might be the reason I’ve stayed away from BS for so long. Maybe I’ll rethink things now. Definitely maybe I’ll rethink them.


Platonist 03.19.10 at 2:05 am

Bronxy Tom, that’s a serious charge. Do you have any evidence of this crime?


David 03.19.10 at 3:45 am

I can’t speak to Chilton as I’ve never, as far as I know, heard anything. But as to commercials, you’ll never hear The Doors’ music in a commercial because John Densmore is a righteous dude and Jim Morrison, he dead. The other two can squawk all they want. It wasn’t all shit.


chris y 03.19.10 at 8:27 am

Who he?


Anderson 03.23.10 at 8:34 pm

Magnapop didn’t write “Thirteen,” I belatedly learn. Maybe I should obtain some Big Star albums.

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