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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Wapella.com Mourns The Loss of Alex Chilton

Wapella.com is sad to note the passing of ex-Box Tops and Big Star leader, Alex Chilton.

For me personally, Big Star are one of the, if not the best power-pop band ever. Doing a mix of the Beatles meets Memphis soul when it wasn't fashionable, Big Star were critical faves, but got lost in the shuffle as the record buying public turned their backs on this classic sound, but only for a little while.

Big Star and Chilton went on to influence some of the biggest names in rock, such as REM, and also heavily influenced one of the best midwestern bands ever, The Replacements.

Accused of underachieving, Chilton says below: "If I did become really popular, the critics probably wouldn't like me all that much," he said. "They like to root for the underdog."


As The Replacements noted in their tribute song "Alex Chilton": "I never travel far/without a little Big Star." Indeed.

RIP Alex.

(Maybe JBP will post a video later. I'd probably go for "Ballad of El Goodo" but JBP thinks Wapella might be more of a Box Tops town.)

JBP Here I am going with a straight tribute, "Alex Chilton" by Paul Westerberg, another non-hit from the non-hit makers The Replacements.

I'll chuck in that Chilton wrote "In the Street" the theme to "That 70's Show" (played by Cheap Trick) and got $70 for every broadcast episode, not bad if he got syndication too, which is probably $70 more than he ever got paid for the #1 Hit "The Letter" (Chilton was 16 when he recorded that song)

Chilton was really a terrific Rock and Roller as were his bands, the Boxtops and Big Star. Commerically, if anything, he stood as the link between the mass market hits of the 1960's and the obscurism that made it possible for record stores to thrive in the 1970's and 80's. Albums and singles that never came near the top 40 were selling hundreds of thousands of copies due to the performers reluctance to co-operate with a botched royalty system, as Chilton knew very well. When Nirvana (and Kenny Rogers) picked up on this trend, they sold 50 million albums, with a deep bow to Alex Chilton.






Full story below:
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Singer and guitarist Alex Chilton, who topped the charts as a teen and later became a cult hero with Big Star, died Wednesday. He was 59.

Chilton died at a hospital in New Orleans after experiencing what appeared to be heart problems, said his longtime friend John Fry. Fry said Chilton's wife, Laura, was very distressed by the unexpected death.

"Alex was an amazingly talented person, not just as a musician and vocalist and a songwriter, but he was intelligent and well read and interested in a wide number of music genres," said Fry, the owner of Memphis-based Ardent Studios.

As the teenage singer for the pop-soul outfit the Box Tops, Chilton topped the charts with the band's song The Letter in 1967. Their other hits were Soul Deep and Cry Like a Baby. Chilton grew up in Memphis, and formed the band with friends from school.

His short run with Big Star brought less mainstream success but made him a cult hero to other rock musicians, as evidenced by the title of the 1987 Replacements song, Alex Chilton. Big Star's three 1970s albums all earned spots on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest.

Chilton said in a 1987 interview with The Associated Press that he didn't mind flying under the radar with Big Star and later as a solo artist.

"What would be ideal would be to make a ton of money and have nobody know about you," he said. "Fame has a lot of baggage to carry around. I wouldn't want to be like Bruce Springsteen. I don't need that much money and wouldn't want to have 20 bodyguards following me."

"If I did become really popular, the critics probably wouldn't like me all that much," he said. "They like to root for the underdog."

Chilton had been scheduled to perform with Big Star on Saturday at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas.

"Alex Chilton always messed with your head, charming and amazing you while doing so. His gift for melody was second to none, yet he frequently seemed in disdain of that gift," the festival's creative director, Brent Gulke, said in an e-mail.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Another Wapella favorite, Fess Parker, passed away as well. Fess wasn't as influential in Wapella as his running mate, Ed Ames (Mingo), with his amazing hatchet throwing demonstrations. RIP, Fess.

Badger Cat

JB Powers said...

Saw that cuz, but Chilton won out on the Board of Wapella Historians.

I went to a Fess Parker Wine Dinner in Evanston about 10 years ago. He had some good stuff brewed up. I think his vineyard was in Santa Barbara area.

Ed Ames a bigger draw, unless you knew about the Fess's wine stash.

JBP

Anonymous said...

BC, you bear sad tidings indeed for all of Wildcatdom. With all due respect to A. Chilton, the loss of F. Parker is even tougher to bear. I hope wapella.com and the board of historians will reconsider and pull out a few stops on this sad day.

Mr. Parker's portrayal of Daniel Boone was true and wise. I am certain he warmed the hearts of many of Wapella's natives with Kentucky roots in his portrayal of the best of the Scotch-Irish pioneers. Whether is was huntin', trappin', fightin' when needs be, maybe a little lovin', or foundin' a country of free men and women, Fess brought home the bacon. Let us honor his memory.

Hoosier Gato

EEP said...

Actually, another passing to report, and one that is just as depressing, for me anyway - Bruce Roehrs, a staple at the famous punk rock/new wave magazine, MAXIMUM ROCK'N'ROLL, passed away the same day as A.Chilton.

MAXIMUM ROCK'N'ROLL is the Rolling Stone of the "zine" world, and Bruce was a columnist.

Met the guy a few times while seeing various bands over the years. Very geniune, very polite and geniunely loved rock'n'roll. Am told he was to leave for London to see The Who this Tuesday.

RIP Bruce.

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