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:
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):
“Misdirection is my path. How many roads must a man walk down before you can call him lost? I’m there, baby.” – Paul Westerberg (2012)
Paul Westerberg (born December 31, 1959) is best known as the former lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter in The Replacements, one of the seminal alternative rock bands of the 1980s. He launched a solo career after the dissolution of that band. In recent years, he has cultivated a more independent-minded approach, primarily recording his music at home in his basement.
Achin’ To Be by The Replacements:
I’ve always loved his music, both in the Replacements and as a solo artist, I like that rough “I really don’t care” attitude. But I, of course, also love his melodic sense and his songwriting talent. He doesn’t do bad music, he’s always interesting, always on the move.
My favourite Westerberg solo song, Time flies tomorrow:
Paul Westerberg recently told Rolling Stone magazine that he’d reformed the Replacements, and in late September, recorded four cover songs for an EP:
What brought you back together with Tommy Stinson?
The downfall of the slender one. Slim [Dunlap] had a wicked-ass stroke, he’s in rough shape. It’s difficult to go there: He can’t talk very much, he’s sort of paralyzed, he can move his leg a little bit. He speaks in a whisper. When I mentioned this [benefit record], it seemed like something he really wanted to happen. “You guys get together,” he said in a whisper. “Go play a song.” So I figured, “What the hell?”
Chris [Mars] really didn’t want any part of this. I was not surprised, but I was a little disappointed. I’d talked to him, I thought maybe he might come down and play with us. That’s fine, he’s totally into painting, and doesn’t want to return to the skins. All I’ll say is, it felt pretty natural. It felt very much like it used to.
After two or three hours, my voice was shot, but we were rocking like murder for a while. (Read more)
We hope for a tour, but take what we can get 🙂
Happy birthday Paul!
This day’s album is my favourite solo release from Paul Westerberg, Eventually: