Alex Chilton, power pop genius died 17. March in 2010 three years ago today.
Paul Westerberg wrote these words in The New York Times three days after Alex Chilton passed away:
It was some years back, the last time I saw Alex Chilton. We miraculously bumped into each other one autumn evening in New York, he in a Memphis Minnie T-shirt, with take-out Thai, en route to his hotel. He invited me along to watch the World Series on TV, and I immediately discarded whatever flimsy obligation I may have had. We watched baseball, talked and laughed, especially about his current residence — he was living in, get this, a tent in Tennessee.
Because we were musicians, our talk inevitably turned toward women, and Al, ever the Southern gentleman, was having a hard time between bites communicating to me the difficulty in … you see, the difficulty in (me taking my last swig that didn’t end up on the wall, as I boldly supplied the punch line) “… in asking a young lady if she’d like to come back to your tent?” We both darn near died there in a fit of laughter.
Yeah, December boys got it bad, as “September Gurls” notes. The great Alex Chilton is gone — folk troubadour, blues shouter, master singer, songwriter and guitarist. Someone should write a tune about him. Then again, nah, that would be impossible. Or just plain stupid.
He is one the all time best pop melody makers, he’s up there with Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson and Pete Townsend. When you hear his songs for the first time you’ll swear you’ve heard it before, but you have not. It is just so instantly recognizable, so familiar and so right!
The Box Tops – The Letter:
Alex Chilton was involved in great music all his life, he was like the music worlds Coen brothers, they may be making some movies that are not fantastic, but they are always good. And in most cases better and more interesting than anything else out there. Chilton had a very consistent career and deserved so much more recognition than he got.
The Ballad of El Goodo (live, 93):
It is difficult to get across the admiration I have for Alex Chilton, let’s just say that he is one of the all time best and listen to his music.
Oh, and I think we should include that “stupid”song that Mr. Westerberg is talking about above. Alex Chilton, here in a solo Paul Westerberg live clip:
From the Guardians Obituary:
Alex Chilton defined the term cult hero. He was difficult, mercurial, endlessly self-sabotaging and, for a brief time, utterly brilliant. His 70s group Big Star remain almost unknown to the mainstream but are one of the key abiding influences in rock music of any calibre, their short life only fuelling their near-mythical status. “I never travel far without a little Big Star,” sang the Replacements on their strange love song, “Alex Chilton”. Several influential rock groups, from REM to Primal Scream, Teenage Fanclub to Wilco, would echo that sentiment. REM’s Peter Buck once described Big Star as “a Rosetta stone for a whole generation”.
My (Hallgeir) list of Alex Chilton’s top 21 songs (actually 22, I had to include The Letter even if he didn’t write that one):
I never thought of myself as being a good songwriter. There are a ton of other people that are good songwriters, but I don’t think I’m in the club. What I do well is perform, sometimes sing pretty good, and accompany myself well and arrange fairly well.
If you’re writing anything decent, it’s in you, it’s your spirit coming out. If it’s not an expression of how a person genuinely feels, then it’s not a good song done with any conviction.
The Box Tops – The Letter (Upbeat 1967):
|Birth name||William Alexander Chilton|
|Born||December 28, 1950
Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
|Died||March 17, 2010 (aged 59)
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
|Genres||Rock ‘n’ roll, power pop, proto-punk, hard rock,blue-eyed soul, indie rock|
|Occupations||Musician, singer, songwriter, record producer|
|Associated acts||Box Tops, Big Star, Tav Falco’s Panther Burns|
A young Alex Chilton w/ Dan Penn:
William Alexander “Alex” Chilton (December 28, 1950 – March 17, 2010) was an American songwriter, guitarist, singerand producer, best known as the lead singer of the Box Tops and Big Star. Chilton’s early commercial success in the 1960s as a teen vocalist for the Box Tops was not repeated in later years with Big Star and in his indie music solo career on small labels, but he drew a loyal following in the indie and alternative music fields and is often cited as an influence by many mainstream rock artists and bands.
Big Star – Thirteen (1972):
Box Tops – I Shall Be Released (Bob Dylan Cover):
Big Star – #1 Record (1972):
…. Big Star’s debut album for the first time decades after its release (as, inevitably, most people must), you may be reminded of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers or R.E.M., who came after — that is, if you don’t think of the Byrds and the Beatles, circa 1965. What was remarkable about #1 Record in 1972 was that nobody except Big Star (and maybe Badfinger and the Raspberries) wanted to sound like this — simple, light pop with sweet harmonies and jangly guitars. Since then, dozens of bands have rediscovered those pleasures. But in a way, that’s an advantage because, whatever freshness is lost across the years, Big Star’s craft is only confirmed. ….
~William Ruhlmann (allmusic.com)