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):
Other March 17 :
- William Patrick “Billy” Corgan, Jr. (born March 17, 1967) is an American musician, producer and occasional poet best known as the frontman and sole permanent member of The Smashing Pumpkins. Formed by Corgan and guitarist James Iha in Chicago, Illinois in 1987, the band quickly gained steam with the addition of bassist D’arcy Wretzky and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin.
- Richard William Curless (March 17, 1932 – May 25, 1995) was an American country-music singer, a pioneer of the trucking music genre, commonly known as the “Baron of Country Music.” He was easily distinguished because of the patch he usually wore over his right eye.
- Scott Gorham (born William Scott Gorham on March 17, 1951 in Glendale, California) is an American guitarist and songwriter who rose to international recognition as one of the “twin lead guitarists” of the Irish-formed rock band, Thin Lizzy.
- Nathaniel Adams Coles (March 17, 1919 – February 15, 1965), known professionally as Nat King Cole, was an American musician who first came to prominence as a leading jazz pianist. He owes most of his popular musical fame to his soft baritone voice, which he used to perform in big band and jazz genres. He was one of the first black Americans to host a television variety show, and has maintained worldwide popularity since his death.
(Sources: Wikipedia, The Guardian, The New York Times, Rolling Stone Magazine, Allmusic)