Big Star - #1 Record/Radio City
CD, Compilation Reissue, Remastered 1992
The Memphis fab four that became the mighty three by the second album is one of the great music adventures in the pop world. Of course at the time, one couldn't give away their records. I think I orginally bought both of their albums in the cut-out bin at Warehouse Records in Woodland Hills. But alas, this little lighter turned into a huge fire over the years. There are at least three excellent books out on the band, plus a wonderful documentary. So being quiet, and over time, the attention came to the band. Unfortunately too late for Chris Bell, the co-writer and player in Big Star. Now there is only one surviving member, which is sad, because there is great sadness in their music. Big Star is an all-white band in Black Memphis, but still, they had a great deal of soul.
Many years later I found this CD, that is both the first and second album on one disk. Which economically speaking is great, but I find both albums totally the opposite of each other. Sound wise as well as attitude. The now ironically called #1 Record is full of hope that a love will come around and success is around the corner. The melodies sneak up on you and the guitars keep charming the pants and dresses off you. There is darkness on the edges, but it is held inside. The only really silly song on this album is “The India Song” which is about drinking gin and tonic in the forest. Probably the most un-spiritual song ever with the name India attached to it. A minor song yes, but a great minor song.
What is interesting is the sweetness of the voices blending together, but also Chris Bell's idea of pop maybe a tad different than Alex Chilton's. So there is the tension between the two figures in Big Star, and especially in #1 Record. By the second album, Chris is out and it's just Alex, Jody, and Andy. And here is where it gets really interesting.
Radio City is a masterpiece. Alex Chilton is one-of-a-kind force in nature that when he's on, there is no one that can beat him on his game. Over-all there is never a moral issue with Chilton, it is basically he sees the world in a certain light, and that is what he goes by. When I hear a Chilton song I am hearing something from his mouth to his music, and there is no interference with a third party. There are songwriters who make grand statements, but Chilton is basically focused on the only source he can trust – himself. And even with that, “Way Out West” by Jody, their drummer is my favorite song off this album. But never underestimate the beauty of “September Gurls.”