Under the Influence
I was having a fantastic conversation about one of my favorite topics today; Music. My conversation partner is a self professed Music Snob, which I can respect (She is also a Sox fan, which I can’t…but I digress) and we were firing off names of bands and songs that we love that don’t get enough…well…love.
Eventually the name of (in my humble opinion) one of if not THE best and most influential bands of the 70’s came up and, due to our intense love and respect for this group, our mutual admiration society was born.
That band, of course, is Big Star.
What? You say you’ve never heard of them? Are you kidding me?! How is that POSSIBLE?!
(notice I said Best and Most Influential…popular has nothin’ to do with it…sadly)
Well, I’ll tell you how it’s possible. There are bands that despite writing the hookiest, most bad ass ear candy you have EVER heard in your life cannot get arrested. Alex Chilton IS that guy. He was the Paul McCartney who never had a break. He was Elvis if he just stayed at home and Hound Dog’d to the mirror. In short, he was a fucking genius who was mismanaged, mishandled, and missed. (He was also in the Box Tops in the 60’s…you know..the Box Tops? Jeez!)
Big Star, god love ’em, came out of Memphis in the early 70’s and released 3 albums. 3 measley albums. #1 Record (ambitious title, gotta love that) Radio City and Third/Sister Lovers. Each is a gem in it’s own right. Who bought it? No one. Bread had massive hits in the 70’s, and Big Star struggled to pay rent. It makes me crazy. Ironically though, in the 80’s, suddenly every critic on earth was saying that these were the preeminent recordings of the 70’s. That Alex Chilton was a damned genius, and shame on you all for listening to disco and not owning #1 Record.
And just what is the big deal? All 3 of these albums were on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Albums. ALL. THREE. Ask every pop band that you consider “influential” from the 80’s and they’ll tell you. REM was a hard core disciple of their music when REM was still worth listening to…hell, the best early REM stuff is directly ripped off from Big Star half of the time. The Replacements? Ditto. Screw it…it’s maddening for me to even talk about this.
When I hear people talk about the Velevet Underground and how they were the most influential underground band and no one knows them and they made SUCH A HUGE IMPACT I think two things…
1) You probably don’t know who Nico is and you’re saying this because you read it. (As it’s inevitably some Hipster spouting off about music, but he learned it all in like Blender and Spin)
2) You don’t mean Velvet Underground…you mean Big Star.
If you like truly great pop…I mean, REAL POP…you simply owe it to yourself to hear this band.
There. I will now get off my soapbox.