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28 March 2010

children by the million sing for Alex Chilton when he comes 'round They sing I'm in love What's that song? I'm in love with that song

Perhaps the second post of the original Vleeptron, I promised not to junk it up with obituaries, because I disaprove of death, and feel most people and animals shouldn't do it. I still feel that way, but people and animals have not heeded my wishes, and have died when I didn't want them to.

In particular this winter has been hard -- not just on me, but on the world. Voices of unequalled talent, beauty and originality have gone forever silent.

One has filled me with such sadness that a month has gone by since her death, and I still cannot bring myself to post the news here. My only consolation is that, while she lived, Vleeptron filched and shared and even translated some of her songs (as best as I could), and they seemed to please lots of Vleeptroids.

Here's a song The Replacements wrote and sang for one of their inspirations and one of their pals, Alex Chilton. Chilton was no Mozart or Glenn Gould, but there are millions of stars in the universe, and if you listen closely, you can hear the unique beauty -- and fun and joy and pleasure -- that they created, beauty which previously had not existed.

Chilton and his group The Box Tops became famous with his AM radio smash hit, "The Letter." They belonged to an odd genre called "blue-eyed soul" -- white boys singing and writing songs in the style of black Rhythm & Blues and Soul artists. Sometimes they did it surprisingly well, none better than Alex Chilton. Chilton shaped his sound not to exploit the work of the black giants and geniuses, but to reflect his authentic love for this amazing body of music.

speakers ON
right-click OPEN IN NEW TAB

"Alex Chilton"
by The Replacements

written by Paul Westerburg, Chris Mars, Tommy Stinson
from the album "Pleased to Meet Me" (1987)

if he was from Venus
would he feed us with a spoon?
if he was from Mars
wouldn't that be cool
standing right on campus
would he stamp us in a pile?
hangin' down in Memphis all the while

children by the million
sing for Alex Chilton when he comes 'round
they sing
I'm in love
what's that song?
I'm in love
with that song

cerebral rape and pillage
in a village of his choice
invisible man who can sing in a visible voice
feeling like a hundred bucks
exchange good lucks face to face
checkin' his stash
by the trash at St. Mark's place

I never travel far
without a little Big Star

runnin' 'round the house
Mickey Mouse and the Tarot cards
falling asleep with a flop pop video on
if he was from Venus
would he meet us on the moon?
if he died in Memphis
then that'd be cool, babe


The New York Times
Friday 19 March 2010

Alex Chilton,
Influential Rock Singer,
Dies at 59

by Dave Itzkoff

Alex Chilton,
a mercurial rock musician whose work ranged from the soul songs of the Box Tops to the multiple incarnations of his pop band Big Star, and who left a legacy more easily measured in artistic influence than in commercial impact, died on Wednesday in New Orleans, where he had been living since the 1980s. He was 59.

His death was confirmed by his wife, Laura. The cause was believed to be a heart attack, though autopsy results had not yet been released. Ms. Chilton said she drove her husband to Tulane Medical Center on Wednesday afternoon after he had complained of shortness of breath and chills. Mr. Chilton lost consciousness during the ride and was pronounced dead at the hospital, she said.

Mr. Chilton, who grew up in Memphis, was just 16 years old when the Box Tops, in which he sang and played guitar, had a No. 1 hit with “The Letter” in 1967. “Cry Like a Baby,” which also featured his precocious growl, peaked at No. 2 the next year.

After the Box Tops broke up in 1970, Mr. Chilton formed Big Star with the drummer Jody Stephens, the guitarist Chris Bell and the bassist Andy Hummel. The band’s first album, “#1 Record,” released in 1972, was full of Mr. Chilton’s gentle contemplations on youthful yearnings (“Won’t you tell me what you’re thinking of?/Would you be an outlaw for my love?” he sang in “Thirteen”), but in a year dominated by country-rock, prog-rock and glam-rock, it did not come close to fulfilling the commercial promise of its title.

Neither did a follow-up album, “Radio City,” released in 1974, which embraced the influences of bands like the Beatles and the Beach Boys and added poignant pop tunes like “September Gurls” to Mr. Chilton’s catalog. Nor did a somber final album, “Third” (later reissued as “Sister Lovers”), on which Mr. Chilton and Mr. Stephens were the only founding band members to participate. Produced by Jim Dickinson, it was not properly released until 1978, four years after the band had split up.

The rapidly changing sound of Big Star across these three albums reflected the emotional evolution of its members, Mr. Stephens said in a telephone interview. “#1 Record” portrayed “a sort of innocence,” he said, “and with ‘Radio City,’ you have something that’s a little more emotionally on edge and not as na├»ve. With the third record you have something that is dark and melancholy, and a little bit cynical.”
What remained consistent, Mr. Stephens said, was the talent of Mr. Chilton, who was always “brilliant at relating that particular emotion of the moment.”

After the demise of Big Star, Mr. Chilton continued to release solo albums and produce records for grimy garage-rock bands like the Cramps and the Gories. But the music of Big Star found dutiful listeners via college and independent radio stations, and the songs’ introspection and modesty wove their way into the spare sounds of outside-the-mainstream artists from R.E.M. to Elliott Smith.

Perhaps the surest measure of the tug Mr. Chilton exerted on subsequent bands can be found in the lyrics of the Replacements — another malleable rock act that moved more hearts than retail units — who sang in the song “Alex Chilton”:

“Children by the million
Sing for Alex Chilton
When he comes ’round
They sing, ‘I’m in love
What’s that song?
I’m in love with that song.’ ”

In recent years Mr. Chilton resumed performing with the Box Tops, as well as with a reconstituted Big Star lineup. A reworked version of the Big Star song “In the Street,” recorded by the power-pop band Cheap Trick, reached millions of listeners as the theme song to the Fox sitcom “That ’70s Show.”

Still, Mr. Chilton was perplexed by fans’ devotion to Big Star.
“He was proud of his songs, he was proud of ‘Thirteen’ and ‘September Gurls,’ but he was always kind of frustrated,” Ms. Chilton said. “He wanted people to know of other things, other than Big Star.”

John Fry, the founder of Ardent Studios, where the Box Tops and Big Star both recorded, said, “He was, in a sense, always forward looking, and perhaps didn’t like or understand the attention that was focused on things in past.” He added: “But whatever regard people have for that music, it came organically. Nobody tried to cause that to happen; it just happened.”

In addition to his wife, Mr. Chilton is survived by a sister, Cecelia, and a son, Timothee, by a previous marriage.

Big Star is scheduled to perform on Saturday at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Tex. In a statement, the festival’s creative director, Brent Grulke, said: “Alex Chilton was an artist of the very highest caliber. It’s too early to do much but cry about our loss right now, but he’ll be missed, and missed more as the ages pass and his myth continues to expand — that music isn’t going anywhere.”

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1 comment:

replacementfromch said...

Since nobody is leaving a comment I have to say this. Great song about a great man from one of the greatest songwriters of our age who played in one of the most underrated bands. In a just universe The Replacements should have ruled the charts. And in a just universe Big Star should be a major influence on every guitar band. If my memory is correct then some Big Star albums got rereleased last year with some extra tracks. They sound like The Byrds which is fine with me. If you have any spare money to buy CDs with, then spend it on Big Star, Chilton and The Replacements

I could go on about The Replacements but my baby just wrote me a letter