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Alex Chilton: Take Care, Please Take Care

March 18, 2010

There are already plenty of articles written about Alex Chilton that will answer all the trivia questions. There’s also plenty of writing out there worrying their way through attempts to dissect Alex’s lyrics or preaching about his place in the Rock n’ Roll canon.  Those are all fine and well, and I’m usually the first one to start bitching and moaning when one of my favorite bands doesn’t get it’s due. But I have to be honest and say, this time, I could give a rat’s ass.

Alex Chilton’s songs are such a big part of my life, that I’m finding it incredibly hard to separate them from that heart/brain connection and write something universal for both the super-fan with all the original pressing vinyl and the noob with 92kpbs mp3s downloaded off of a blog.

Here’s the truth about Alex Chilton for me: Big Star’s #1 Record/Radio City has never left my car. Ever. It was the first thing I uploaded onto my iPod, and has never been deleted. Most of my best memories involve Big Star. Most of the roughest parts of my life involve Big Star. When nothing else sounds right to me, Big Star fits the bill. Those first three records, and to a small degree some of Alex’s solo albums, have inspired so much art from me. One of the things I love about Alex Chilton is that he was unafraid of expressing joy. Sure, he wrote some of the saddest damn songs ever, but it says a lot to me that the same person who wrote “Holocaust” and “Give Me Another Chance” also wrote “September Gurls”, “Back of A Car”, “Thirteen” and produced The Cramps! There is a (very) short list of things in my life that have really endured. Big Star is on that list.

Thank you, Alex Chilton.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. March 18, 2010 6:00 pm

    Here’s the truth about Alex Chilton for me: Big Star’s #1 Record/Radio City has never left my car. Ever.

    This is fantastic. The drawing made my eyes well up. You captured that indescribable thing that was Alex and your reverence totally transported this beyond “bummer, dude, alex is gone!” clown horn eulogies that have been making their way around the ‘net.

    You’re ace.

  2. Miguel permalink
    March 18, 2010 8:39 pm

    I think its really hard to seperate the whole mythology the Replacements and others built around Alex Chilton from his music. All the articles about him and Big Star that are floating aound know focus on the whole archetype of ‘underappreciated geniuses who never got their due’ and the comparisons to the Velvet Underground, and it sucks because their failure isn’t the reason Paul Westerburg wrote that song.

    Alex Chilton was a brilliant songwriter, and his music, along with Paul’s, moves me so much and has been an inspiration. There are so many of those perfect, emotionally devestating moments in his music that make my stoumach flutter, like the moment the solo guitar enters in Thirteen, or the first blare of feedback on Kangaroo, or that first drum fill that takes the Ballad of El Goodo to the chorus.

    The Replacements themselves have become mythologized, playing the same role of the ‘band that couldn’t,’ and their self-destruction is given more attention than the REAL kinship they share with Big Star and Alex Chilton: those same brilliant moments like the endlessly sustained solo of Sixteen Blue, or the way the horns hit on Can’t Hardly Wait.

    Thank you for writing this beautiful, honest peice. It does more justice to Alex Chilton than any trivia article could.

    (also, have you heard Chris Bell’s solo album, I am the Cosmos? It has some really beautiful stuff on it!)

  3. March 18, 2010 11:46 pm

    I really didn’t know who Alex Chilton was before this, but this is a great introduction.

  4. March 20, 2010 1:58 pm

    Thanks all. I was scared shitless to write this. I am by no means a Chilton expert, but damn, dude was and still is important to me.

  5. March 20, 2010 2:02 pm

    And, @Miguel, Yes! I adore that album. Alex was always the raucous, broken, romantic, troubled genius… but I love that Chris was the quieter, internal one. The opposite side of the Alex’s coin.

  6. Robin permalink
    March 22, 2010 12:19 pm

    This is totally heartbreaking to me. I’m from Memphis so of course Big Star is huge to the culture of my hometown. Coincidentally, I was there when he died last week. You could feel the sorrow in the air; it was intense. Big Star was on the verge of a big reunion show right where it had all started; it makes the timing of his loss especially tragic. RIP Alex.

  7. March 22, 2010 2:48 pm

    It’s still weighing on me. And then I red this today:

    And I teared up right at work.

  8. msjacks permalink
    March 22, 2010 3:13 pm

    It was so super extra sad to me because it is so sad to my parents. They’re his age; Alex used to train hop with my mom’s cousin; they went to Box Tops shows in high school. That just goes to show how huge he was, though- totally broke all generational boundaries. His death is breaking so many hearts. I’m sorry it’s such a tough one for you. Sometime we’ll all take a FMIB field trip to Memphis and I’ll show you all the LX sights.

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