Powerpop Friday – Big Star – In The Street

Most people today know this song as the theme to That 70s Show. They never used Big Star’s version for some reason. Todd Griffin covered it the first season and by the second season, Cheap Trick’s version was used. Big Star’s drummer Jody Stephens said, “I don’t know if the general population even knows that Big Star had anything to do with it.” …that is unfortunately true. The general population doesn’t know Big Star which is a crime.

The song was on their great debut album named #1 Record which was released in August of 1972. Billboard went as far as to say, “Every cut could be a single”On the picture above it says “Distributed by Stax Records”…unfortunately it WASN’T… They did a tour and no one could find the album because many record stores didn’t have it. Stax was not equipped to distribute rock records.

By the second album, this was going to be resolved. Columbia was gonna distribute Stax, and then they would have got Big Star into big-box retail outlets. But what happened was Clive Davis, who’s huge in the music world, was the one who brokered that deal… and then he was fired. So the whole thing fell apart after that. America lost out on one of the best bands it ever produced. I would recommend to anyone the documentary on Big Star called…Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me

The song has a great riff and wonderful teenage seventies lyrics.


From Songfacts

Stephens played in a band called Golden Smog with Jeff Tweedy, and when Tweedy’s band Wilco came to Memphis, Jody sat in with the group. “We played ‘In The Street’ together – I sat in on drums and Glenn Kotche played the cowbell part and John Stirratt sang lead,” he recounts. “My wife was in the audience and she said when we started playing ‘In The Street,’ somebody sitting in back of her said, ‘Why are they playing That ’70s Show song?'”

In what he described as “ironic” in a 2000 Rolling Stone interview, Alex Chilton received $70 in royalty payments every time That ’70s Show was broadcast.

Cheap Trick’s cover features the lyrics “We’re all all right,” an allusion to their 1978 hit “Surrender” from the album Heaven Tonight. Perhaps a chirpy re-interpretation to suit a primetime network sitcom, the inclusion undermines the ambiguity of the original, which evokes adolescent boredom without either romanticizing or condemning it.

This ambiguity is perfectly encapsulated in the lyric, “wish we had a joint so bad” (also absent from the theme tune, although pot smoking was a recurring theme on the show), the double meaning of which can be read as meaning the protagonist’s craving to get high or for a place to go with his friends. There is certainly a theme of being disposed that runs throughout the deceptively simple lyrics, which is juxtaposed with the major key Power-Pop music.

Chilton has said that along with “When My Baby’s Beside Me,” “In The Street” is the best song he ever wrote

In The Street

Hanging out, down the street
The same old thing we did last week
Not a thing to do
But talk to you

Steal your car, and bring it down
Pick me up, we’ll drive around
Wish we had
A joint so bad

Pass the street light
Out past midnight

Hanging out, down the street
The same old thing we did last week
Not a thing to do
But talk to you

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

14 thoughts on “Powerpop Friday – Big Star – In The Street”

  1. Wow! I learned things there! I didn’t know it wasn’t a Cheap Trick original. Think I like this Big Star version better than the tv show. That $70 could add up – wonder if that was just for first run network or if it included reruns in syndication? Either way, Chilton died rather poor, a real shame for a talent . Like Badfinger, bad management and business decisions did them in I’d say.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You know how much I love Badfinger right? I would say out of the Raspberries, Badfinger and Big Star…Big Star had the most potential.
      I would reccomend you listen to #1 Record…their first album.
      Critics not only went crazy over them…they were true fans.
      A good example of their songs would be The Ballad of El Goodo… if you have time check it out at some point…it’s one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard…spirtual almost.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes I am…sad story though nothing compares to Badfinger. My dream concert…outside of the Beatles and Who would be… the three groups I’ve mentioned…

        Liked by 1 person

  2. You can’t go wrong with Alex Chilton. He was a genius. This is the only song I know by Big Star and, yes, it’s because of That 70s Show. I’ve heard they have a couple of really good albums and I need to check them out. I know more stuff from Chilton when he was with The Box Tops.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They really had did have two great albums and their last was really good. The Ballad of El Goodo, September Girls and Thirteen are 3 examples of just wonderful songs.
      Alex was a genuis…his voice could change with the song. Hard to believe this was the singer of the Box Tops.

      Liked by 1 person

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