We’ve name checked Big Star enough it’s about time we got down to reviewing what is arguably the greatest power pop band to come out of America.
Written by: Eric
ARTIST: Big Star
ALBUM: No 1 Record
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
LINEUP: Alex Chilton – guitar, vocals * Chris Bell – guitar, vocals * Andy Hummel – bass, vocals * Jody Stephens – drums
TRACK LISTING: 01 Feel * 02 The Ballad Of El Goodo * 03 In The Street * 04 Thirteen * 05 Don’t Lie To Me * 06 The India Song * 07 When My Baby’s Beside Me * 08 My Life Is Right * 09 Give Me Another Chance * 10 Try Again * 11 Watch The Sunrise * 12 ST 100/6
We’ve name checked this band enough here at Glory Daze, it’s about time we got down to actual review of what is arguably the greatest power pop band to come out of America. Never heard of their music? More than likely you have. If you ever watched the popular sitcom ‘That 70s Show’ you’ve heard Cheap Trick covering Big Star’s ‘In The Street’ and snippets of the band’s music used in several episodes.
Like The Raspberries, Blue Ash, Stories and Canada’s The Wackers, Big Star rebelled against the hippie aesthetic of the previous decade, making simple pop music with giant hooks in the midst of progressive rock’s pretentiousness and radio’s perceived malaise.
Formed in Memphis and featuring Alex Chilton formerly of The Box Tops (‘The Letter’) on lead vocals, Big Star’s first album ‘No 1 Record’ sold very few copies and after a few gigs in Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi the band split up for a short time after the departure of guitarist Chris Bell.
It wasn’t until the 1980s that critics and power pop fans began picking up on ‘No 1 Record’ and their second LP ‘Radio City’ which quickly became sought after collectibles until their reissue on CD in the early ’90s.
It goes without saying Big Star were influenced by The Beatles and show me a power pop band who wasn’t or isn’t. Yet these guys were also influenced by the California fringe and leather country rock movement including The Byrds which is evident on cuts like ‘The Ballad Of El Goodo’ with it’s down home chorus and gorgeous melody.
Cheap Trick‘s version of ‘In The Street’ is an improvement on the original, but this is one of Big Star’s better rock songs and I don’t miss the ‘Hello Wisconsin!’ tacked on the end! ‘Thirteen’ is a sweet acoustic ballad and another cut that’s appeared on several television shows as well as covered by other bands with half the talent and from here ‘No 1 Record’ moves effortlessly.
It goes from strength to strength with my favourite cut ‘My Life Is Right’ again conjuring up comparisons to The Byrds first couple of albums which is alright by me. Overall a brilliant record with twelve stellar cuts that make for an American classic and nearly four decades later sounds as fresh as ever.
A few years ago a plethora of Big Star releases made their way to fans including a live recording from the old days and the very hard to find and schizophrenic third album.
Convinced the time was right for a reunion, Alex Chilton with the help of The Posies Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow put Big Star back on the musical map with a very uneven studio album and a series of sporadic club dates.
None of this activity hurt Big Star the legend since the original albums stand on their own thank you very much. But as we’ve seen with so many ‘reunions’ in recent years, some things are better left untouched with a legacy intact – Big Star included.