A friend of mine knows I’m a Big Star fan…he dropped this documentary of Big Star off for me to watch and I wasted no time.
Such a great band but a frustrating story. Someone in the documentary remarked, “Big Star is like a letter that was mailed in 1972 but didn’t arrive until 1985.” That is a great way to explain them. They made three of the best albums of the decade that were not heard until much later. When they were finally discovered they influenced many artists such as The Replacements, REM, Matthew Sweet, and more.
The first album got great reviews…you couldn’t ask for better. When the label called radio stations trying to get them to play it…the stations would say it’s not selling. When someone actually heard the songs on the radio they couldn’t find the record to buy it. This was basically the same story with all of the albums.
Distribution problems and just bad timing. Stax didn’t do a good job of distribution…they made a deal with Columbia before the second album to distribute the album…problem solved right? Nope, Clive Davis who made the deal was then fired at Columbia. The deal fell through and then Stax disintegrated.
Chris Bell who was key in creating the sound the band had quit after the first album. He came back but then quit again. Chris had depression problems and wanted badly to do something on his own. Alex Chilton continued and finished the second and third album with a new bass player on the third album.
After that, it follows Chris and Alex’s career to the end of both. It also covers Jim Dickinson’s role on the third album. Family members, fans, and rock writers also share their love of Big Star and memories of the band members.
In May of 1973 Ardent Studios where Big Star recorded invited a 100 rock writers down to Memphis to hear Big Star live. They all loved Big Star and it went over great…but that wasn’t the band’s problem…it was the business side. What would have happened if they would have signed with a label more suited to them?
Before watching this documentary I didn’t realize Chris Bell was so instrumental in developing their sound. I knew it wasn’t the Alex Chilton band but Chris was invaluable and started the ball rolling. All 4 members did contribute writing and singing but Chilton and Bell were the Lennon and McCartney of the group.
It’s a good documentary about a great band that had the talent but not fate.
My recommendation? Get this and watch it…