Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Alex Chilton 1950-2010
We've lost another great. According to a number of sources including the New York Times, Alex Chilton died of a heart attack today at 59.
Two concurrent events in college introduced me to Alex Chilton: a friend of mine turning me on to The Replacements, and another friend putting Big Star's "The Battle of El Goodo" on a mix. These two events happened relatively close to each other - just as I was getting deep into the Replacements, I started to explore Big Star. The former of course immortalized the latter in the song "Alex Chilton" - never travel far / without a little Big Star (Chilton actually produced the song and its parent album, Pleased to Meet Me).
I eventually bought #1 Record/Radio City based purely on the strength of "El Goodo," and was not disappointed at all. Big Star's approach to rock sounded very 1970s, but managed not to fall into the stylistic traps of their peers. That is to say, while the sound of Big Star is identifiably 1970s, in listening to them you never doubted that their hearts were in it. The very same characteristic attracted me to The Replacements, actually. Muscially, the Replacements aren't exceptional. But the combination of Westerburg's lyric's and the band's overall delivery makes it work, and effectively emotes the tone of any given track to the audience. Big Star accomplished the same feat a decade earlier - they simply made you feel.
"The Ballad of El Goodo" remains the best example of this. No matter how many times I hear it or what my listening context may be, the song just makes you stop and absorb its melodic beauty and persevering lyrics.
As Westerburg sang in "Alex Chilton," "I'm in love / with that song."