Big Star – Don’t Lie To Me ….Power Pop Friday

This will wrap up Power Pop Friday for this year…it will return in 2023. 

I never travel far, without a little Big Star
The Replacements

I hold Big Star’s music up along with The Who, Beatles, Stones, and Kinks…they never had the sales but they did have a giant influence. Big Star released their debut album #1 Record in August of 1972. 

Alex Chilton and Chris Bell wrote most of the songs and wanted to emulate Lennon/McCartney and they did a great job but with an obvious American slant to make it their own. After the commercial failure of this album, Chris Bell quit but the other three continued for one more album and then bass player Andy Hummel quit after the second album, and Chilton and drummer Jody Stephens recorded the third.

When their albums were finally discovered by eighties bands, they influenced many artists such as REM, The Replacements, Cars, Cheap Trick, Sloan, Matthew Sweet, KISS, Wilco, Gin Blossoms, and many more. They influenced alternative rock of the 80s and 90s and continue to this day. Billboard went as far as to say, “Every cut could be a single” on their debut album.

Big Star returned in 1993 with a new lineup when guitarist Jon Auer and bassist Ken Stringfellow joined Chilton and Stephens. Auer and Stringfellow remained members of the Posies. In 2005 the reformed band released their last album called In Space

Jody Stephens: “All of a sudden I’m playing with these guys that can write songs that are as engaging to me as the people I’d grown up listening to, so I felt incredibly lucky.” 

Here is the reformed Big Star with original members Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens in 1994. Filling out the rest was two Posies members Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow. 

I did find a date that I will go to when I get a time machine..March 31, 1974. Big Star opened for Badfinger. 

Below is Big Star on that date. 

Don’t Lie To Me

Don’t lie to me
Don’t lie to me
Don’t lie to me
Don’t lie to me

I know where you been
And I know what you been doing
Don’t lie to me

Don’t push me ’round
Don’t push me ’round
Don’t push me ’round
Don’t push me ’round

I don’t like that
Now, I’m telling you
Don’t push me ’round

Don’t cross me babe
Don’t cross me babe
Don’t cross me babe
Don’t cross me babe

You said you wouldn’t
And I’m just making sure
Don’t cross me babe

Raspberries – Go All The Way

I wrote this for Dave’s Turntable Talk at A Sound Day. Be on the lookout for that series at A Sound Day. He has some interesting topics. This one was on One Hit Wonders.

This song has a mixture of The Who, Beach Boys, and The Beatles… a pretty good mixture! I’m cheating a bit…The Raspberries had 4 top 40 hits but this was the only top ten hit and the song they are most known for. The song starts off with a strong Who-like loud riff then continues on with hooks galore.

When people think of The Raspberries this is the song most think of. Personally, I always thought Overnight Sensation was their best song but this one is great and the masses agreed.

The song peaked at #5 on the Billboard 100 and #5 in Canada in 1972. This song was on their self-titled debut album released in 1972. The American and Australian versions of this LP carried a scratch-and-sniff sticker with a strong raspberry scent.

They were one of the 3 great power pop bands of the early 70s. Badfinger, Big Star, and The Raspberries. Out of those three, Badfinger was the most successful but all were good. Many alternative bands that followed would list all three or at least one of them as an influence. The Raspberries released 4 albums in total between 1972 and 1975. They broke up after their last album Starting Over (#143) and the great single Overnight Sensation only charted at #18. After you listen to Go All The Way…check out Overnight Sensation…it’s an epic song.

I moved to a different town when I was 8 and in a new school (we would move back later that year) we went on a field trip to some college. Thinking back, it was a small college and the students there put on a small show for us kids. After the show, they showed us the grounds and I remember Go All The Way booming out of a room. It’s funny how music can send you back to a place and I can remember the smell also.

Eric Carmen said he was inspired by The Rolling Stone’s performance of “Let’s Spend The Night Together” on the Ed Sullivan Show when Mick Jagger had to sing it as “Let’s spend some time together.”

This was before Eric Carmen went solo and started doing ballads and songs on soundtracks such as Dirty Dancing. Carmen hit it big solo but personally, I think his music with the Raspberries was the best he did.

This song appears in the 2000 film Almost Famous but was not included on the soundtrack. It did make the soundtrack to the 2014 film Guardians Of The Galaxy, which went to #1 in America and revived many ’70s hits. My son got the soundtrack mostly for this song.

Fans of the band included John Lennon and Bruce Springsteen. They did reunite in November of 2004 and toured shortly until 2006.

Eric Carmen: “I knew then that I wanted to write a song with an explicitly sexual lyric that the kids would instantly get but the powers that be couldn’t pin me down for.”

Eric Carmen:  “I remember ‘Go All The Way’ vividly. The year was 1971. I was 21. I had been studying for years. I had spent my youth with my head between two stereo speakers listening to The Byrds and The Beatles and later on The Beach Boys – just trying to figure out what combinations of things – whether it was the fourths harmonies that The Byrds were singing on ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ – I must have worn out 10 copies of that first Byrds album listening to it over and over, and turning off the left side and turning on the right side trying to figure out why these certain combinations of instruments and echo and harmonies made that hair on your arms stand up. I did the same thing with Beatles records, and I tried to learn construction.

Go All The Way

I never knew how complete love could be
‘Til she kissed me and said

Baby, please, go all the way
It feels so right (feels so right)
Being with you here tonight
Please, go all the way
Just hold me close (hold me close)
Don’t ever let me go

I couldn’t say what I wanted to say
‘Til she whispered, I love you

So please, go all the way
It feels so right (feels so right)
Being with you here tonight
Please, go all the way
Just hold me close (hold me close)
Don’t ever let me go

Before her love
I was cruel and mean
I had a hole in the place
Where my heart should have been

But now I’ve changed
And it feels so strange
I come alive when she does
All those things to me

And she says
(Come on) Come on
(Come on) Come on
(Come on) Come on
(Come on)
I need ya (come on)
I love ya (come on)
I need ya (come on)
Oh, oh, baby

Please, go all the way
It feels so right (feels so right)
Being with you here tonight
Please, go all the way
Just hold me close (hold me close)
Don’t ever let me go no

Chris Bell – I Don’t Know ….Power Pop Friday

This one is a rocking song by Chris Bell. Chris was one  the founding members of Big Star. Alex Chilton would get more publicity…mostly because of him singing for the successful Box Tops. In the pop world, it’s tragic that Big Star wasn’t heard by the masses. They could have become huge but it’s something that we will never know.

The sound that Big Star had largely originated from founding member Chris Bell. Alex Chilton and Chris Bell wrote most of the first album and they modeled themselves after Lennon and McCartney. Their first album was praised by practically everyone but not distributed…people wanted the album but the album was not in the stores for people to buy. Chris left the band not long after that failure.

He kept recording in Memphis with different musicians. In the late seventies, there were rumors that Big Star would reform and tour Europe where they were getting known but it never come to pass. In the fall of 1978, Bell got a call from Car Records and they wanted to release a single with a song called  I am the Cosmos with You and Your Sister as the B side.  It was the only solo release Chris would see in his lifetime. Unfortunately, Chris didn’t get to enjoy it long. He died in a car wreck on December 27, 1978. He was only 27 years old.

Big Star’s and Chris Bell’s recognition started to rise through the eighties with bands like The Replacements, REM, and more singing their praises. The first glimmer of international recognition for Chris alone came in 1992 after Rykodisc released the first edition of his I Am The Cosmos LP. It compiled not only the tracks he recorded at Ardent Studios, but also his 1974-5 sessions at Shoe Productions in Memphis, George Martin’s AIR Studios in London, and Château D’Hérouville in France.

If anyone of you are interested in Big Star I would recommend this documentary (Nothing Can Hurt Me Now) and this book about Chris Bell.

I Don’t Know

Whatever it is you’re thinking
Sit down and let’s give it a try
You know that I’ll always listen
But sometimes I’m wondering why
You don’t lie to me
And I wouldn’t lie to you, oh no
Baby I’m feeling lost
I don’t know what I’m going to do
You don’t know what you’re putting me through
I gotta get away from you
Once in a while you’re lonely
Tell me if needed a friend
I’m wondering what is the matter
But you say that you can’t explain
But you don’t lie to me
And I wouldn’t lie to you, oh no
But baby I’m feeling lost
I don’t know what I’m going through
You don’t know what you’re putting me through
I gotta get away from you
Do you want me
I want you
You don’t want me,
I want you
Don’t you know I’m losing sleep at night
Sleep at night
I don’t know what I’m going to do
You don’t know what you’re putting me through
I gotta get away from you
Whatever it is you’re thinking
Sit down and let’s give it a try
You know that I’ll always listen
But sometimes I’m wondering why
You don’t lie to me
And I wouldn’t lie to you, oh no
But baby I’m feeling lost
I don’t know what I’m going to do
You don’t know what you’re putting me through
I gotta get away from you

Posies – Dream All Day ….Power Pop Friday

Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer started to write songs together while in High School in Bellingham, Washington in 1986. They were influenced by The Hollies, Hüsker Dü, XTC, Elvis Costello, Squeeze, and Big Star.

When they started out, a cassette of songs Stringfellow and Jon Auer traded back and forth went viral, which in the late ’80s meant copies got passed around and radio stations started playing them. The had one big problem though. They didn’t have an actual band together. Drummer Mike Musberger and bassist Rick Roberts were added as the first Posies rhythm section.

This song was on their third album released in 1993 called Frosting On The Beater. Dave Fox had replaced Rick Roberts by this time on bass. Dream All Day was released as the first single on the album.

The song peaked at #4 on the Billboard  Alternative Airplay Charts and #17 in the Billboard Mainstream Charts in 1993.

The Posies soon got signed to DGC and “Golden Blunders,” the first single from their Dear 23 debut on the label, became enough of a college radio hit that Ringo Starr recorded as part of his 1992 album Time Takes Time.

The made 8 albums altogether with the last one being in 2016.

In 1993 Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer joined Big Star’s Jody Stephens and Alex Chilton to reform Big Star. They toured and released a Big Star album in 2005 called In Space. It came to an end in 2010 with the death of Alex Chilton.

Dream All Day

I’ve got a lot of thoughts
Got a lot of plans
I lost a lot of sleep
Trying to understand

I could dream all day

In a blackened room
Staring into space
Underneath a thousand blankets
Just to find a place
Where everything is reachable
Imagining is safe
I tried to make it so
I didn’t even know

I could dream all day

I dreamt I was awake
My mouth was colored grey
As the world revolved around me
I could only say

I could dream all day

Big Star – Feel ….Power Pop Friday

Happy Friday Everyone! Hope your week is going well. Lisa from Tao Talk did me an honor by posting an article I wrote on her site about Maria McKee from Lone Justice in her Women Music March series…she has had some great artists! Check it out if you can.

When Big Star comes up, when people think of a member…it’s usually Alex Chilton. That is not a bad thing but on their debut album Chris Bell was just as prevalent as Chilton. This song was off of their debut album named #1 Record. It’s the only album to feature Chris Bell along with Alex Chilton the entire album. They complimented each other perfectly.

After writing a post for Dave’s site about Badfinger (thanks Dave)…a band that I obviously like…I thought I would post about another band that is right up there. I hold Big Star’s music up with The Who, Beatles. and Kinks…they never had the sales but they did have a giant influence. They released this album as their debut in August of 1972. Whenever I write about this band, I always have to stop myself from gushing about them. Was it the mystique of them? Was it the coolness factor of liking a band that not many people know? No and no. It’s about the music. Mystique and coolness wear off and all you are left with is the music…We are fortunate to have 3 albums by Big Star to enjoy.

“Feel” leads off the album with a bang. Feel was written by Chris Bell and Alex Chilton and Bell takes the lead vocal. There are more hooks in this song than in a tackle box. This is what power pop is all about. If I had to introduce someone to power pop, I would ask them to listen to #1 Record by Big Star and Straight Up by Badfinger.

All three are in Rolling Stone’s top 500 albums of all time. For a band that never charted a record that isn’t too bad. When their albums were finally discovered by later bands, they influenced many artists such as The Replacements, REM, The Cars, Cheap Trick, Sloan, Matthew Sweet, KISS, Wilco, Gin Blossoms, and many more. They influenced alternative rock of the 80s and 90s and continue to this day.

Drummer Jody Stephens: “All of a sudden I’m playing with these guys that can write songs that are as engaging to me as the people I’d grown up listening to, so I felt incredibly lucky.” 

Paul Westerberg:  “I never travel far, without a little Big Star,”

Alternate Mix

Feel

Wondering what are you doing?
You’re driving me to ruin
The love that you’ve been stealing

Has given me a feeling

I feel like I’m dying
I’m never gonna live again
You just ain’t been trying
It’s getting very near the end

I feel like I’m dying
I’m never gonna live again
You just ain’t been trying
It’s getting very near the end

Wondering what are you doing?
You’re driving me to ruin
The love that you’ve been stealing
Has given me the feeling

I feel like I’m dying
I’m never gonna live again
You just ain’t been trying
It’s getting very near the end

I feel like I’m dying
I feel like I’m dying

Big Star – Kanga Roo

This album was quite different than the other two Big Star albums. This song has a wonderful melody but it sounds like the world is collapsing around him when he sings it.

This song was on their 3rd album “Third/Sisters Lovers.” By this time the bands founder Chris Bell had been gone since the debut album was released and bassist Andy Hummel quit after their second album Radio City. There were only two original members on the album…Alex Chilton and drummer Jody Stephens. This album sometimes has been looked at as an Alex Chilton solo album…Jody did contribute a song and brought in a string section that was used in other songs.

They used different Memphis musicians on the album. Alex was dating Lesa Aldridge (who would go on to form a punk band calle The Klitz) and she helped with the album also.

Jim Dickinson produced this album and he got close to Chilton and encouraged him to try new things. Alex sometimes cut tracks late at night, then presented them to Jim the following day. After the two had been discussing the producer’s role, Alex showed up with “Like St. Joan,” possibly referencing the martyred Joan of Arc, which morphed into “Kanga Roo.”

Jim jumped into action, adding electric guitar feedback, strings via a Mellotron, and his own amateurish drums—since Jody wasn’t there that day—including a very loud cowbell. Inspired, Alex grabbed a drumstick to use as a bow on his Strat, creating an eerie sound. Effects were added to Alex’s drowsy vocals, which presumably related the story of his and Lesa’s love affair:

Jim Dickinson: “Alex came in one morning and he had this little evil grin on his face,” “He said, ‘Lesa and I cut something last night I want you to hear.’ Okay, so he plays me ‘Like a Kangaroo’ [its second title], which is acoustic twelve-string and vocal on one track [making it difficult to separate the sounds]. I said, ‘Yeah, Alex, what do you hear on that?’ And with the evil grin, he says, ‘Well, why don’t you produce it, Mr. Producer?’” “I first saw you, you had on blue jeans / Your eyes couldn’t hide anything . . . Thought you were a queen, oh so flirty.” Alex later said of the lyrics that he was spewing things out loud, just song after song. . . . The whole process was kind of automatic, free association.” “I think of Alex as a collaborator. He allowed me to collaborate with him.

Kanga Roo

I first saw you
You had on blue jeans
Your eyes couldn’t hide anything
I saw you breathing, oh
I saw you staring out in space

I next saw you
You was at the party
Thought you was a queen
Oh so flirty
I came against

Didn’t say excuse
Knew what I was doing
We looked very fine
‘Cause we were leaving

Like Saint Joan
Doing a cool jerk
Oh, I want you
Like a kanga roo

Jayhawks – Big Star

I love this band…it seems I have a fondness for bands that released good to great music but never could get over that hump to mass audiences. Maybe if they would have cleared that obstacle their music would have changed…but who knows… maybe it’s a part of their appeal.

This song comes out in 1997 and was on their Sound of Lies album. At first I thought it was about the Memphis band Big Star and it is kinda…and also about The Jayhawks and loving what you have now. The album peaked at #112 in the Billboard Album Chart and #61 in the UK.

They have a Kinks tie… They recently backed Ray Davies on his albums Americana and Our Country – Americana Act II. Their 2016 album Paging Mr. Proust was produced by Peter Buck of REM.

They formed in the mid-80s in the Twin Cities .

Gary Louris when asked if the song is about the band Big Star: “Not exactly. Maybe in the back of my mind.” “You could say it about the Velvet Underground or Big Star or The Jayhawks,” “world’s unluckiest bands. They should have been bigger. But everybody in the audience started a band. Everybody that saw them started a band. The old cliché. But it’s true.”

 “I have a lot of famous friends.” “about achieving a place that you thought you wanted to be and maybe it would make you happy. It’s a typical human response. If I get there, then I’m finally going to be happy. And in reality, you probably won’t be. You should just be happy with what you have.”

Big Star

I’m flat-busted
Wild-eyed and free
I couldn’t get arrested if I tried
A has-been at a mere thirty-five

Straight, honest, forthright and true
Great expectations for someone
Doesn’t anybody know how to have fun
But I’m

Gonna be a Big Star
I’m gonna be a Big Star someday
I’m gonna be a Big Star someday

Grape’s bitter
I’m no quitter
Revolutions come one by one
Seems it’s high noon and I ain’t got no gun

But it’s so hard
So hard
So hard getting by

Gonna be a Big Star
I’m gonna be a Big Star someday
I’m gonna be a Big Star someday

Fine bourbon, Cuban cigars
Rude remarks observed at the C.C. Bar
I’m perfecting the finest art of wasting hours
But I’m

Gonna be a Big Star
I’m gonna be a Big Star someday
I’m gonna be a Big Star someday

I’m gonna be a Big Star
I’m gonna be a Big Star someday

Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me Documentary

Hanspostcard is hosting a movie draft from 12 different genres…this is my musical entry and final pick.

Such a great band but such a frustrating story. Robyn Hitchcock 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, Cheap Trick, Matthew Sweet, and more. The last time I checked it was on Netflix…watch this documentary.

When these musicians and critics talk about Big Star…they talk about them like people talk about The Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Who, and The Kinks. In this documentary you have Cheap Trick, REM, Mitch Easter, Robyn Hitchcock, and others talking about the band.

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 experimental 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 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, a couple of years back 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 great documentary about a great band that had the talent, but fate wasn’t on their side.

There is the often-used Peter Buck quote that everyone who bought the first Velvet Underground album went out and started a band…the same is true with this band.

My recommendation? Watch it…NOW

Cast

Billy Altman … Self – Writer
Jon Auer … Self
Lester Bangs … Self (archive footage)
Chris Bell … Self (archive footage)
David Bell … Self – Chris Bell’s Brother
Norman Blake … Self
The Box Tops … Themselves (archive footage)
Panther Burns … Themselves (archive footage)
Cheap Trick … Themselves
Stephanie Chernikowski … Self – Photographer
Alex Chilton … Self (archive footage)
Rick Clark … Self – Writer and Musician
Stephen Ira Cohen … Self – U.S. Congressman (archive footage) (as Steve Cohen)
The Cramps … Themselves (archive footage)
John Dando … Self – Band Manager, Ardent Studios 1972-1975
Luther Dickinson … Self
Mary Lindsay Dickinson … Self
Steven Drozd … Self
Van Duren … Self – Musician
Mitch Easter … Self – Musician and Producer
Bruce Eaton … Self (voice) (archive footage)
William Eggleston … Self
Tav Falco … Self
John Fry … Self – Founder, Ardent Studios
John Hampton … Self – Engineer, Ardent Studios
Douglas Hart … Self – Bass, The Jesus and Mary Chain
Robyn Hitchcock … Self
Andy Hummel … Self (archive footage)
Ross Johnson … Self – Writer and Musician
Ira Kaplan … Self
Lenny Kaye … Self – Writer and Musician
John King … Self – Promotions, Ardent Studios 1972-1975
Curt Kirkwood … Self
John Lightman … Self
Carole Manning … Self – Ardent Studios 1972-1975
Mike Mills … Self
The Replacements The Replacements … Themselves (archive footage)
Steve Rhea … Self – Promotions, Ardent Studios 1972-1975
Will Rigby … Self – musician
Richard Rosebrough … Self – Engineer, Ardent Studios 1972-1975
Kliph Scurlock … Self
Tom Sheehan … Self – Photographer
Chris Stamey … Self – Musician and Producer
Big Star … Themselves
Jody Stephens … Self
Sara Stewart … Self – Chris Bell’s Sister
Michael Stipe … Self
Ken Stringfellow … Self
Matthew Sweet … Self
Alexis Taylor … Self
Marge Thrasher … Self – Hostess of Straight Talk (archive footage)
Jon Tiven … Self
Pete Tomlinson … Self – Writer
Jaan Uhelszki … Self – Writer (as Jaan Uhelzski)
Terry Edwards … Conductor, London (uncredited)

dB’s – Black and White ….Power Pop Friday

The Db’s were a great unknown power pop band…who would influence many bands but not sale many records. The band members were Peter Holsapple, Chris Stamey, Will Rigby, and Gene Holder.

All of the members are all from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, but the band was formed in New York City in 1978. They never broke through to the masses but they were heard on college radio in the 80s. 

“Black and White,” is the leadoff track to The dB’s debut album Stands for Decibels, and it is pure power pop. The dB’s were signed to the U.K. label Albion, which had trouble licensing the record for American distribution…. and subsequently went un-promoted in radio and only received sporadic play from college radio stations.

The Stands for Decibels album was ranked at number 76 on Pitchforks list of the 100 best albums of the 1980s. The dB’s would released 6 albums in all. The last album was released in 2012 when the members reunited. 

The dB’s broke up in 1988 and Peter Holsapple would go on to be an auxiliary guitarist and keyboardist for REM on the Green tour. He then helped in writing and recording their Out Of Time album. Holsapple subsequently worked with Hootie & the Blowfish as an auxiliary musician.

The dB’s worth checking out. 

Good story on two of the members meeting two Big Star members:

In May of 1978 two members of the dB’s Will Rigby, Peter Holsapple, and future R.E.M producer Mitch Easter made a pilgrimage to Memphis. They were about the only people in America who, while attending high school in the early ’70s, were under the impression that Big Star was a major band.

Their first stop was Danver’s…a restaurant that former Big Star’s Chris Bell worked at and his father owned. They passed a note to the server to talk to Chris and out he came. He was shocked that fans would track him down. It had been 6 years since the Big Star debut album was released.  They were impressed by how nice he was to them.

Bell invited them to join him after work at a ferny bar-café called the Bombay Bicycle Club. Here, while Bell played backgammon with a buddy, the three guys peppered him with questions: What kind of guitar did he play? How did he get those great sounds? 

Bell wondered if the boys were up for maybe checking out a Horslips (local rock band) concert. They instead decided to go over to Sam Phillips Recording Service to visit Alex Chilton, Bell’s former Big Star bandmate, then making his experimental album Like Flies on Sherbert. Bell and Chilton exchanged quiet hellos before Bell went home. 

A few days later Alex Chilton drove Easter and Rigby (Holsapple had already left) around Memphis, showing them the old Sun Studios building (which had a Corvair parked inside it), and taking them up a bluff overlooking the Mississippi. He pulled out a cassette and played a song on a junky little cassette player that took his visitors by surprise.

Chilton played the guys a Chris Bell song. He was raving about it saying it was Chris’s best song and it was the ultimate “Big Star song “…the song was I Am The Cosmos which the public had not heard at this point. 

Chris Bell would die in a car wreck on Decemeber 27, 1978…only 7 months after this happened. 

Chris Stamey on Big Star:“They were my favorite, and as far as I knew they were popular all the way across America. At least for that moment, I forgot about Emerson, Lake, and Palmer.”

Peter Holsapple on meeting Chris Bell and I Am The Cosmos:  “that the person who made all that beautiful music was a right-on kind of guy, too.” “It’s that kind of rife-with-sadness record, but it’s realized with the same imploding beauty that Big Star had. I mean, I Am the Cosmos-it’s just wry enough to make you turn your head and do a double-take, you know, the first sixteen thousand times you listen to it.”

Black and White

I, I never would hurt you
But even if I did you
You never would tell me
Oh, we are finished
As of a long time ago
As of a long time ago
I stop
I don’t enjoy you anymore
Well I guess I just don’t enjoy you anymore
Well I guess it’s all laid out in black and white
You don’t like it at all

Love
Love is the answer
To no question
But thanks for
Oh, the suggestion
I know I don’t care at all
Yeah, I know I don’t know anything at all
But I stop

I don’t enjoy you anymore
Well, I guess I just don’t enjoy you anymore
Well, I guess it’s all laid out in black and white
You don’t like it at all
You don’t like it at all
You don’t like it at all
(In black and white)

Posies – Golden Blunders…. Powerpop Friday

Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer started to write songs together while in High School in Bellingham, Washington in 1986. They were influenced by The Hollies, Hüsker Dü, XTC, Elvis Costello, Squeeze, and Big Star.

They released an album Failure on cassette and vinyl near the end of 1988 on local indie label PopLlama. Several major labels noticed the band early on and in late 1989 they signed to new Geffen Records imprint DGC Records. The released an album Dear 23 in 1990 and this was their first single. The song peaked at #17 in the US Modern Rock Tracks in 1990.

Ringo Starr would cover Golden Blunders on his 1992 solo album Time Takes Time.

There is no surprise after listening to the Posies that guitarists  Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer  would join Big Star’s Alex Chilton and drummer Jody Stephens to record and tour as Big Star in the 90s and up until Alex’s death in 2010.

Ken and Jon’s harmonies, writing, and playing are top notch. The 80’s and 90’s popular  radio left a lot to be desired, at least to me, they could have really used these guys…I may have liked that era much better hearing more of this.

Jon Auer on Golden Blunders: “It’s about two kids in high school who mess up the rest of their lives,” “There’s the implication of a teenage pregnancy but there’s not any amazing message here.”

Golden Blunders

Golden blunders come in pairs, they’re very unaware
What they know is what they’ve seen
Education wasn’t fun, but now that school is done
Higher learning’s just begun
(Chorus)
You’re gonna watch what you say for a long time
You’re gonna suffer the guilt forever
You’re gonna get in the way at the wrong time
You’re gonna mess up things you thought you would never
Disappointment breeds contempt, it make you feel inept
Never thought you’d feel alone (at home)
His and hers forever more, throw your freedom out of the door
Before you find out what it’s for
(Chorus)
Four weeks seemed like a long time then – but nine months is longer now
But even if you never speak again – you’ve already made the wedding vow
(Chorus)
Honeymoons will never start, bonds will blow apart
Just as fast as they were made
Men and women please beware : don’t pretend you care
Nothing lasts when nothing’s there
(Repeat Chorus)

Chris Bell – Better Save Yourself —- Power Pop Friday

Chris Bell was the founding member and guitarist/singer/songwriter for Big Star. Chris left after the first album never sold.. He played afterwards a little but then went into a huge depression.

This song has a hard trippy edge to it. I love his voice in this one…he sounds like he is on a mission and he was at the time.

He was doing drugs, drinking, and basically shutting himself off to people. He was this way for months and his brother David took him over to Italy to try to help him. His brother snapped this picture of Chris that was used on his debut album that was released after his death.

I Am The Cosmos (180 Gram Vinyl)

Little by little Chris started to get better and more religious…that helped him cut out the hard drugs. He would battle depression for the rest of his short life but he never got as bad as when he quit Big Star. You can hear the hurt in his voice in this song.

This song is about him finding God.. The lyrics are brutally honest. He did attempt suicide twice and states that in the song. Although this was recorded in the mid-seventies…it wasn’t released until the 90s long after Chris had died in an auto accident.

Better Save Yourself

I walk the streets
I’m all alone
I just can’t think
What I’ve been doing wrong

I know you’re mine
He treats you nice
It’s suicide
I know, I tried it twice

You should’ve given your love to Jesus
It couldn’t do you no harm
Should’ve given your love to Jesus
It wouldn’t do you no harm
You’ve been sitting on your ass
Trying to find some grace
But you better save yourself
If you wanna see his face

I guess there are things
You’d like to know
It’s getting late
And I know you want to go

Tommy Hoehn – Blow Yourself Up… Power Pop Friday

I’ve been reading about the early to mid-seventies Memphis scene and have found out that we missed out on some great power pop that was never heard by the general public. To my readers I have to pass all of this along. I do appreciate of you reading about these more unknown artists…but if one person listens to some of these posts and likes one…it makes it worth it…it also feels good living up to my WP power pop name.

Tommy Hoehn is another in a long line of musicians  who should have been heard but it just didn’t happen. I would have never thought of Memphis as a power pop location but a generation of local musicians were heavily influenced by the Beatles, Who, and the Kinks. They took mid-sixties pop… along with Badfinger and the Raspberries and put a different spin on it.

The most known band from that period from Memphis is Big Star…you won’t hear that sentence a lot. Tommy Hoehn played with Big Star’s Chris Bell and Alex Chilton as well as helping out on Big Star’s 3rd album. “Blow Yourself Up” is full of hooks and his voice is perfect for power pop.

All of these musicians at the time hung out a lot at Ardent Studios. The owner John Fry would let them record and gave many keys to come in when they could and no one took advantage of it for a long time. That is one reason many of these artists sounded really good…they had time to get a sound they wanted.

This song was released in 1977 on Power Play Records, a local Memphis label and it was a regional hit. That same year, Power Play Records released Hoehn’s first solo album Spacebreak, which contained two of the songs Hoehn had recorded with Prix as well as the Blow Yourself Up single.

Blow Yourself Up was featured on Rhino’s D.I.Y.: Come Out and Play: American Power Pop (1975-78) compilation that was released in 1993.

He continued to release albums in the 80s, 90s, and 2000’s. In late 2009, Hoehn began work on a solo album tentatively titled Pi. However, in December 2009, he was diagnosed with cancer, and became too ill to sing lead vocals on the album. He died on June 24, 2010, at the age of 55.

Blow Yourself Up

She lie / in a cool repose / She breathing
Tries to believe I don’t know it
I’m not dull, I show it
She shies away:
Shaken / and I push her just a little
Even enough to fool just her
Ooo I really mussed her
Cutchya’ I’ll blow yourself up

She-vades / Such a crude contempt
I invade
She gets away and I feel it
Then I just can’t hide it
She shies away
Thinkin’ / There’s a full moon, I’m not thinkin’
Stupid as nails she keeps askin’
“Who just opened my door?”
Come in and blow yourself up

Stop! We don’t care!
Step above, I could stare –
In your eyes, for a week
Maybe two
They’re so blue…

She lie! / In a room she made to wonder
Tries to believe in a reason
Frets inside her feelings
Comin’ so close – solo!
And the overcast is breathing
Even the leaves gonna shudder
I see stars and colors
Something to blow yourself up 

Van Duren – Chemical Fire —-Power Pop Friday

Van Duren is a power pop musician in Memphis and was managed by Andrew Loog Oldham. He made his first album called Are You Serious in 1978. He is another power pop rocker from the early seventies in Memphis. He was in a band with Big Star’s Chris Bell and drummer Jody Stephens called The Baker Street Regulars. He auditioned as the 2nd guitar player for Big Star just before the band’s demise.

Chemical Fire is an excellent power pop song. It could have very well been played on late seventies radio. It still sounds fresh today.

His style has been compared to Paul McCartney and Todd Rundgren. Personally I hear Marshall Crenshaw also. Big Star wasn’t noticed until over a decade after they recorded their last album. Van Duren waited 30 years before he was properly found.

His second album Idiot Optimism was recorded in 1979 and because of record company problems its wasn’t released until twenty years later. Memphis power artists could not catch a break. There is a documentary about Van Duren that was released in 2019 and his two first albums were re-released also.

According to a documentary, the record label had Scientology connections, which meant they attempted to convert all the acts on their roster. Duren, already in debt, just wanted to finish his record, which he correctly thought was his one shot at stardom. It flopped, and by the mid-80s, after another near-miss with another band, Good Question, his musical career was as good as over.

He is still known in the Memphis area.

Sorry I could not find the lyrics

Big Star – Life Is White

Love this driving song by Big Star. It was on Radio City, their second album. Some say it is a response to the Chris Bell song off the first album called My Life Is Right…or a message to his girlfriend Diane (Don’t like to see your face Don’t like to hear you talk at all) that he was splitting with at the time.

After the failure of their first album, singer/songwriter guitar player Chris Bell quit Big Star. Alex Chilton didn’t know if Big Star was going to make another album. He continued making demos because he could always do a solo album. The two other members, drummer Jody Stephens and bass player Andy Hummel wasn’t sure either what was going to happen. They had talked about ending the band.

Their record company Ardent was under the Stax umbrella. They sent out invitations to all of the major rock journalists of the day in 1973. They invited them to Memphis to see Ardent’s roster of bands but most of all Big Star. The rock writers loved Big Star. Many legendary writers were there including Lester Bangs.

Stax agreed to foot the bill, which amounted to $40,000 to fly in more than one hundred rock critics from across the U.S. and U.K., put them up at the Holiday Inn, wine and dine them, bus them to Memphis landmarks like Graceland, and, on the final night, knock them out with a showcase at Lafayette’s Music Room, featuring Skin Alley, Larry Raspberry and the High-Steppers, and Big Star.

As writers from California (Shaw, Gene Sculatti, and Cameron Crowe), the New York City area (Richard Meltzer, Andy Shernoff, Gary Kenton, Pete Tomlinson, Lenny Kaye, and Nick Tosches), upstate New York (Billy Altman), Austin (Chet Flippo), Detroit (most of Creem’s staff, including Lester Bangs and Jaan Uhelszki), and the U.K. (Simon Frith, Ben Edmonds, and Pete Frame) signed on, Big Star was persuaded to play the gig.

The writers sat through the other bands and by the time Big Star took the stage, around midnight, they were well lubricated. Big Star couldn’t have had a more receptive audience. Rock critics are not known to dance but they were all on the floor and some has since called the performance by Big Star magic. Some called it the greatest performance and sound they ever heard. That night is what convinced Big Star to stay together and finish their second album Radio City. They played most of the first album, some covers, and a few songs they had worked on including Life Is White.

What I question is…Stax would give money for things like this but could not distribute records?

Alex had the quote below while he was in Big Star. What he said foretold Big Star’s future. It would be years later before the album would sell anything and get noticed. They would make one more album…Big Star Third/Sister Lovers before ending it.

Alex Chilton: “The important thing is to make a good record,” “because if you make a good record, it doesn’t matter what happens. It’s going to sell from then on to some degree, even though it doesn’t sell anything when it comes out and is a big disappointment to everybody. If it’s really good, people are going to want it from then on, and that’s the important thing. It might take five or ten years for it to pay off—or it might take twenty years, and you might be dead when it pays off. If it’s good, it’s going to pay off for somebody, sometime.”

Life Is White

Don’t like to see your face
Don’t like to hear you talk at all
I could be with Ann
But I’d just get bored

Can’t even bring myself to call
And I don’t want to see you now
‘Cause I know what you lack
And I can’t go back to that

Whatever’s all the same
Now there’s nobody to know
And I can’t recall, recall your name
All I can say is so

And I don’t want to see you now
‘Cause I know what you lack
And I can’t go back to that

Your life is white
And I don’t think I like
You hanging around

Don’t like to see your face
Don’t like to hear you talk at all
I could be with Ann
But I’d just get bored

Can’t even bring myself to call
And I don’t want to see you now
‘Cause I know what you lack
And I can’t go back to that now

Chris Bell – You and Your Sister

When people think of Big Star…when people do think of Big Star…Alex Chilton comes up more often than anyone else. That is not an over sight really because he was on all of their albums. The sound Big Star had largely originated from founding member Chris Bell. Alex and Chris wrote most of the first album and they modeled themselves after Lennon and McCartney. Their first album  was praised by practically everyone but not distributed…people wanted the album but the album was not in the stores so it failed. Chris left the band not long after that failure.

Chris went into a depression but Alex carried on with Big Star making two more albums.

Chris visited and stayed in England off and on and recorded some solo material but a record deal never materialized while he was there. He brought some recordings over that he made in Memphis and Geoff Emerick mixed it for him. Geoff was the engineer for the Beatles. The song that he mixed was I am the Cosmos. Chris would continue to record some in Memphis through the mid to late seventies.

In fall of 1978 he got a call from Car records and they wanted to release a single with a song called  I am the Cosmos with You and Your Sister as the B side.  It was the only solo release Chris would see in his lifetime. Unfortunately, Chris didn’t get to enjoy it long. He died in a car wreck on December 27, 1978. He was only 27 years old.

When he recorded You and Your Sister he got Alex Chilton to sing harmony vocals with him.

By the way…if you haven’t heard I Am The Cosmos give it a listen. It’s a layered, lush,  almost perfect pop song. I hope you enjoy this song.

14 years after his death in 1992  Rykodisc released Chris Bell’s solo album from the songs he recorded including the two songs on this single.

You and Your Sister

They say my love for you ain’t real
But you don’t know how real it feels
All I want to do
Is to spend some time with you
So I can hold you, hold you
Your sister says that I’m no good
I’d reassure her if I could
All I want to do
Is to spend some time with you
So I can hold you, hold you
Plans fail every day
I want to hear you say
Your love won’t be leaving (Run run, run run)
Your eyes ain’t deceiving (Run run, run run)
Fears will soon fade away
Smile now, don’t be afraid
All I want to do
Is to spend some time with you
So I can hold you, hold you
And let me whisper in your ear
Don’t you worry, they can’t hear
All I want to do
Is to spend some time with you
So I can hold you