Friday, March 19, 2010
With some artists its when you find your way in. Christgau had been saying for years that Alex Chilton was putting out sides that were worth picking up, but I couldn't find "Like Flies on Sherbet" or "Feudalist Tarts"-- and I didn't know about Big Star. What I ended up with was "High Priest"-- the one where Chilton covers "Volare". Hard to say if it is his quirkiest side-- Bruce Eaton makes the argument that Chilton was misunderstood, and not really quirky. Excentric maybe. Bruce would know. Chilton is an interesting figure in American pop-- the Box Tops material is almost certainly his best known stuff, but his influence-- particularly with Big Star-- is remarkably pervasive. In an odd way Chilton really was a pure artist working in a genre where pure artists are not really acknowledged-- it's called pop, after all, because the goal is to be popular. You have really made it as a pop star when they use your music in car commercials, and even though Chilton wrote a song that became the theme to a sitcom he doesn't seem to have been interested in working towards that goal. As I scanned the obits and the tributes I was struck by how some media outlets understood his significance and others didn't really get it.
Mojo did a profile of Big Star a couple of months ago, and now I guess I know why. I have "Feudalist Tarts", but it's not much of a record, an EP of Chilton doing blues covers and a couple of is own numbers, but "No. 1 Record" is really good.