Big Star – #1 Record…Desert Island Albums

This is my third round choice from Hanspostcard’s album draft…100 albums in 100 days.
2020 ALBUM DRAFT-ROUND 3 PICK 6- BADFINGER20 SELECTS- BIG STAR- #1 RECORD

“Big Star is like a letter that was mailed in 1971 but didn’t arrive until 1985.”
Musician Robyn Hitchcock 

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

“We’ve sort of flirted with greatness, but we’ve yet to make a record as good as Revolver or Highway 61 Revisited or Exile on Main Street or Big Star’s Third.”
Peter Buck

The band didn’t chart a record when they were active. I still hold their music up along 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.  I had to stop myself from writing an open love letter (I may have failed) about this band. Was it the mystique of them? Was it the coolness factor of liking a band that not many people knew? 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.

In the early eighties, I heard stories from an older brother of a friend about Big Star out of Memphis…but their records were hard to come by.  I loved what little I heard and it got lost in the shuffle but it planted a seed for later. 

By the mid-80s I heard more of their songs. In 1986 The Bangles released “September Gurls” and I knew it sounded familiar…and the DJ said it was a Big Star song…then came the song, Alex Chilton, by The Replacements and  I’m ashamed to say it wasn’t until the early nineties, I finally had Big Star’s music along with the Raspberries and Badfinger. My power-pop fandom kicked into high gear and I have never left that genre.

Big Star was the best band never heard. Such a great band but a long frustrating story. They made three albums that were among the best of the decade that were not heard until much later. They signed with Ardent which was a subsidiary of Stax Records.

A power-pop band on the soul Stax label doesn’t sound like a good idea now and it wasn’t then. Stax was failing at that time and could not distribute the records to the stores. Kids loved the music on the radio only to go to a record store with no Big Star records. Rolling Stone gave them rave reviews…but that doesn’t help if the album is not out there to purchase. They were through by 1974 after recording their 3rd album.

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.

Listening to this album with each song you think…Oh, that could have been a single. 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.

I could have gone with ANY three of their albums. I picked this one because of Chris Bell. The songs are a bit more polished on this one than the other two but it fits the songs they present. Chris Bell added a lot to Big Star and after hearing his solo song I Am The Cosmos you see how much. Radio City, their second album, with Chilton in charge many consider their best and their third album, Third/Sister Lovers is not as commercially accessible but I still love it. All three are in Rolling Stone’s top 500 albums of all time.

I’ll go over four songs.

The Ballad Of El Goodo  A song about Vietnam conscientious objector…but it is much more than that. It is one of the most perfect pop/rock songs recorded to my ears. This would make it in my own top 10 songs of all time. The tone of the guitars, harmonies and the perfectly constructed chorus keeps calling me back listen after listen. This is when pop music becomes more.

In The Street is a song that everyone will know. It was used as the theme of That Seventies Show. Cheap Trick covered it for the show. I was not a teenager in the early seventies but with this song, I am there front and center. Steal your car and bring it down, Pick me up, we’ll drive around, Wish we had, A joint so bad.

Thirteen is a song that Chilton finds that spot between the innocence of childhood and the first teenage year where they meet and intertwine with confusion. Won’t you tell your dad, “get off my back” Tell him what we said ’bout “Paint It Black”

When My Baby’s Beside Me has a great guitar riff to open it up. This is power pop at it’s best. A nice rocker that should have been blaring out of AM radios in the 70’s.

I’m not going over every song (but I could easily) because reading this won’t do it…you have to listen if you haven’t already. You will not regret it. Not just these songs but the complete album.

It’s a mixture of songs on the album…rockers, mid-tempo songs, and ballads. Even the weaker song called The India Song is very listenable. My favorites besides the ones I listed are  Watch the Sunrise, Don’t Lie To Me, Feel, and Give Me Another Chance.

I now have rounded out my albums on my island. The variety of The White Album, The rock of Who’s Next, and the ringing power-pop beauty of Big Star…swim or use a boat and come over to my island and we will listen…the Pina Coladas and High Tides (hey it’s an island) are flowing… let’s drink to BIG STAR.

On a side note. If you want to learn more there is a good documentary out about them called: Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me.

Feel
The Ballad Of El Goodo
In The Street
Thirteen
Don’t Lie To Me
The India Song
When My Baby’s Beside Me
My Life Is Right
Give Me Another Chance
Try Again
Watch The Sunrise
ST 100/6

  • Chris Bell – guitar, vocals
  • Alex Chilton – guitar, vocals
  • Andy Hummel – bass guitar, vocals
  • Jody Stephens – drums

 

 

 

My 10 Favorite Powerpop Songs

As you may have guessed by now I’m an extreme fan of power pop. This list was hard to write…I kept changing most of it… but I knew the top choice and worked from there.

I just gave my self ten choices or I would have gone on and on. A lot of artists and their songs were left off…such as Todd Rundgren, The Cars, Sloan, The Lemon Twigs, The Flamin’ Groovies, The Shivvers, The Jayhawks,  and too many more to mention.

10. The Ride – Twisterella– 1992 – I found this a few months back and have been listening to it ever since.

9. The Records – Starry Eyes– 1979 – Great song. Starry Eyes would end up being The Record’s best-known song. Robert John “Mutt” Lange produced their debut album for The Records.

8. The La’s – There She Goes– 1990 – A very good power pop song that has no verses…It just repeats the chorus four different ways four different times…but that doesn’t matter.

7. Cheap Trick – Voices– 1980 – One of my top Cheap Trick songs. Robin Zanders voice sounds great in this Beatlesque song.

6. The Who –Pictures of Lily– 1967 –  When this song came out Pete Townshend coined the name “power pop” and this song is about the childhood…lusts…of a boy.

5. Raspberries – Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)– 1974 – An epic song by the Raspberries. Not their most popular…that would be “Go All The Way” but this encapsulates everything power pop is about. Bruce Springsteen on Overnight Sensation: It’s one of the best little pop symphonies you’ll ever hear.

4. Big Star – The Ballad of El Goodo – 1972 – The tone of the guitars, harmonies and the perfect constructed chorus keeps me coming back listen after listen.

3. Badfinger –No Matter What– 1971 – The only band to make this list twice. Why? because this song defines the crunchy power pop of bands like Cheap Trick to come.

 2. Tom Petty – American Girl– 1977 – The Rickenbacker, the hook, and a Byrds sounding track.

 

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  1. Badfinger – Baby Blue – 1972 – The number one song was the easiest decision of the list. The rest were changed a few times…this one for me is a no-brainer. This song is the perfect power pop song…strong vocals, Crunchy Brit  guitar, great hook,  and great melody

Cheap Trick – Dream Police —-Powerpop Friday

Cheap Trick…unlike some of their power-pop brethren had staying power. They toured like crazy and released some great music. They are still out there today playing. I became a fan of them when I heard Surrender.

“Dream Police” dates back to 1976. It was one of 22 songs the band had written for their first album, and it didn’t make the cut. The song evolved as they played it live and refined it in the studio, and it was released as the title track of their fourth studio album. By this time, their live album At Budokan had been released, breaking them big with the single “I Want You To Want Me.”

The next single was “Dream Police,” and it became one of their most popular songs, peaking at #26 in the Billboard 100, #9 in Canada, #7 in New Zealand.

From Songfacts

This song is about a paranoid man who is convinced that his dreams are being monitored, and it’s driving him insane. No matter what he does, the “Dream Police” are always inside his head and waiting to arrest him.

Unlike the paranoia of, say, Black Sabbath, this song has a comedic element. Like most Cheap Trick songs, it was written by their guitarist Rick Nielsen, who creates lots of offbeat characters for his compositions, which keeps it in good fun.

A string section played on this track, which added an element of horror – those violin stabs are reminiscent of what we hear during the shower scene in the movie Psycho. When the song was developing, those parts were done with a keyboard arpeggiator as heard in “Surrender,” but when they got the budget, they hired the strings.

Cheap Trick was always big on visual presentation and were one of very few American bands making concept videos before MTV (Devo was another). The “Dream Police” video was directed by Arnold Levine and starts with a vignette showing each band member in an interrogation, answering to the Dream Police (Bun E. Carlos says: “I’ll never eat another double cheeseburger before bed”). Later in the clip, each member is shown with his alter ego who keeps watch.

When MTV went on the air in 1981, this song was almost two years old, but they played it anyway, giving it renewed exposure.

Dream Police

The dream police
They live inside of my head
The dream police
They come to me in my bed
The dream police
They’re coming to arrest me
Oh no

You know that talk is cheap
And rumors ain’t nice
And when I fall asleep
I don’t think I’ll survive

The night the night

‘Cause they’re waiting for me
Looking for me
Every single night
(They’re) driving me insane
Those men inside my brain

The dream police
They live inside of my head
The dream police
They come to me in my bed

The dream police
They’re coming to arrest me
Oh no

Well I can’t tell lies
‘Cause they’re listening to me
And when I fall asleep
Bet they’re spying on me tonight,
Tonight

‘Cause they’re waiting for me
Looking for me
Every single night
(They’re) driving me insane
Those men inside my brain

I try to sleep
They’re wide awake
They won’t let me alone
They don’t get paid to take vacations
Or let me alone
They spy on me
I try to hide
They won’t let me alone
They persecute me
They’re the judge and jury all in one

‘Cause they’re waiting for me
Looking for me
Every single night
(They’re) driving me insane
Those men inside my brain

The dream police
They live inside of my head
The dream police they come
To me in my bed

The dream police
They’re coming to arrest me

The dream police (police, police)
The dream police (police, police)

Cheap Trick – She’s Tight —-Powerpop Friday

We had fun with this song in high school. I’m surprised it only peaked at #65 in 1982 because it got a lot of airplay and MTV exposure. The song was on the album One On One and it peaked at #39 in the Billboard Album chart in 1982. I liked the album and it had my favorite Cheap Trick song…If You Want My Love.

Cheap Trick does what Cheap Trick does best in this song. They give us a great edge with the guitar with Beatles type harmonies. The song was written by Rick Nielson as were most of their songs. I only got to see them in concert once but it was worth it. They didn’t take themselves seriously and had a good time as did everyone else.

She’s Tight

When I’m down I make a call.
Got the number written on the wall.
First it’s busy then I try again.
Oh, who’s she talking to, could it be him?

I got the number and it starts to ring.
I get excited and I start to dream.
I start to fantasize of memory lane.
Then she answers and she says right way.
She says I’m home on my own, home all alone.
So I got off the phone.

(She’s tight.) She’s ahead of her time.
(She’s tight.) She’s one of a kind.
(She’s tight.) She’s a talented girl.
(She’s tight.) She’s got her head down tight.

I have something got to say to you.
Amnesia and my train of thought.
On the tip, tip of my tongue.
I had a vision when I was young.

You floated in, we floated up.
Through the window and down the hall.
I had a smoke and went upstairs.
Turned the door and opened the key. She spoke…
I’m on my own, home all alone.
So I got off the phone.

(She’s tight.) She’s ahead of her time.
(She’s tight.) She’s one of a kind.
(She’s tight.) She’s a talented girl.
(She’s tight.) She’s got her head down tight.

(She’s tight.) She’s giving me the go.
(She’s tight.) She’s giving me the high sign.
(She’s tight.) We’ll turn off the lights.
(She’s tight.) Pull down the shades.
(She’s nice, she’s tight.) Turn on the cam’ra.
(She’s nice, she’s tight.) And getting ready for action.

Turn off the radio.
Turn on the video.

Cheap Trick – I Want You To Want Me —Powerpop Friday

I Want You To Want me is when I first started to notice Cheap Trick…the version off of the Cheap Trick At Budokon album

The song was included on their second album In Color, which was released later in 1977. This version had a medium tempo with a country feel and a honky-tonk piano throughout the song.

By 1978, the band had dropped this song from their setlist but restored it when they toured Japan that year since Japanese audiences loved the song. They played it on April 28 and 30 at their famous concerts that took place at the Budokan temple in Tokyo, which was a big deal because many Japanese citizens felt the temple was sacred and not appropriate for rock concerts. When the Beatles played at Budokan their were protests a decade before.

The song peaked at #7 on the Billboard 100 in 1979.

 

From Songfacts

This song has a long and intriguing history. It was written by Cheap Trick’s guitarist Rick Nielsen and recorded for their 1977 self-titled debut album, but it didn’t make the cut. 

 The concerts were released as the Live At Budokan album, which captured Cheap Trick’s live energy and turned their fortunes around in America, where the album was released in February 1979 and sold over 3 million copies. The extracted “I Want You To Want Me” became their first hit, charting at #7.

According to Rick Nielsen, the band considered this “sort of hokey pop” when they first recorded it, and the arrangement matched that sentiment, with finger snaps and a plaintive country feel. Robin Zander played up the schmaltz in the vocal, sounding like a woebegone cornpoke. This studio version fell flat, but when they played it as an earnest rocker, it worked.

The famous At Budokan version of this song was inspired by a French cover version (“J’attends Toutes les Nuits”) by a fairly obscure French synthpop artist named Niko Flynn, who sped up the tempo and put a beat to the song.

Many early Cheap Trick songs written by Rick Nielsen are from the perspective of characters who are a little unhinged (see: “Dream Police”), and the band played that up with their eccentric fashions and accessories. The guy in this song is a bit desperate and delusional, figuring a shoeshine and a new shirt will make the girl love him.

This is one of the few rock songs that starts with the chorus.

In 1978, this appeared as the B-side of Cheap Trick’s single “California Man.”

In 1997, the group recorded a new version of the In Color album (complete with this song), with producer Steve Albini, but it was never released.

The studio version

The live version

I Want You To Want Me

I want you to want me
I need you to need me
I’d love you to love me
I’m beggin’ you to beg me
I want you to want me
I need you to need me
I’d love you to love me

I’ll shine up my old brown shoes
I’ll put on a brand new shirt
I’ll get home early from work
If you say that you love me
Didn’t I, didn’t I, didn’t I
See you cryin’ (cryin, cryin’)
Oh, Didn’t I, didn’t I, didn’t I
See you cryin’ (cryin, cryin’)
Feelin’ all alone without a friend
You know you feel like dyin’ (dyin’, dyin’)
Oh, didn’t I, didn’t I, didn’t I
See you cryin’ (cryin’, cryin’)

I want you to want me
I need you to need me
I’d love you to love me
I’m beggin’ you to beg me

I’ll shine up my old brown shoes
I’ll put on a brand new shirt
I’ll get home early from work
If you say that you love me
Didn’t I, didn’t I, didn’t I
See you cryin’ (cryin, cryin’)
Oh, Didn’t I, didn’t I, didn’t I
See you cryin’ (cryin, cryin’)
Feelin’ all alone without a friend
You know you feel like dyin’ (dyin’, dyin’)
Oh, didn’t I, didn’t I, didn’t I
See you cryin’ (cryin’, cryin’)

Feelin’ all alone without a friend
You know you feel like dyin’ (dyin’, dyin’)
Oh, didn’t I, didn’t I, didn’t I
See you cryin’ (cryin’, cryin’)
Feelin’ all alone without a friend
You know you feel like dyin’ (dyin’, dyin’)
Oh, didn’t I, didn’t I, didn’t I
See you cryin’ (cryin’, cryin’)

I want you to want me
I need you to need me
I’d love you to love me
I’m beggin’ you to beg me

Cheap Trick – Voices

One of my top Cheap Trick songs. Robin Zanders voice sounds great in this Beatle-esque song.

This song peaked at #32 on the Billboard 100 and #12 in Canada in 1980. The song was on the Dream Police album that peaked at #6 in 1979 in the Billboard album chart. Voices was written by Rick Nielsen.

Rick Neilsen on Voices: We started off with the chorus as opposed to building up to the chorus. Because it’s like you know “Voices,” okay, and that’s the same thing with “Dream Police,” you know, you hear voices in your head or somebody’s just messing with your brain and hears voices. You hear something, it’s like you didn’t know what you were listening for until you heard the voices. Somebody, your mind’s eye, has some talking to do to you.

From Songfacts

Long before their earnest #1 hit “The Flame,” Cheap Trick released another ballad: “Voices.” It’s a love song of sorts:

I fell in love with you again
Please, can I see you every day?

Except that it’s coming from inside his own head. “You hear voices in your head or somebody’s just messing with your brain and hears voices,” the song’s writer, guitarist Rick Nielsen, told The A/V Club. “You hear something, it’s like you didn’t know what you were listening for until you heard the voices. Somebody, your mind’s eye, has some talking to do to you.”

The “title track of the album,” has a similar theme, with the singer dealing with someone else inside his head. Both songs also use a string section.

Arnold Levine directed the video for this song, which was done on the same shoot for the “Dream Police” clip.

Voices

You didn’t know what you were lookin’ for
Til you heard the voices in your ear

Hey, it’s me again
Plain to see again
Please can I see you every day

I’m a fool again
I fell in love with you again
Please can I see you every day

You didn’t know what you were lookin’ for
Til you heard the voices in your ear
You didn’t know what you were lookin’ for
Til you heard the voices in your ear

Words don’t come out right
I try to say it oh so right
I hope you understand my meaning

Hey, it’s me again
I’m so in love with you again
Please can I see you every day

You didn’t know what you were lookin’ for
Til you heard the voices in your ear
You didn’t know what you were lookin’ for
Til you heard the voices in your ear

I remember every word you said
(Word you said)
I remember voices in my head
(In my head)
I remember ever word you said
(Word you said)

I heard your voice-it
Your voice is-cool voices
Warm voices
Just what I needed, too
Words don’t seem right
But its
Cool voices-warm voices
Your voice is
Just what I needed for
Love is the word-it’s
Warm voices-your voice is
Cool voices
Just what I needed, too
I heard your voice-it was
Your voice is-cool voices
Warm voices

Just what I needed, too
Just what I needed, too
Just what I needed, too

Cheap Trick – If You Want My Love

A great Cheap Trick song. In 1982 it was released off the album “One on One” and peaked at #45 on the Billboard 100 and #57 on the UK Charts. That surprised me somewhat because it received heavy airplay on MTV when they actually played music videos.

When I heard the bridge of this song I heard the strong Beatle influence. Cheap Trick was one of the hardest working bands ever…they toured relentlessly.

If You Want My Love

If you want my love, you got it
When you need my love, you got it
I won’t hide it
I won’t throw your love away, ooh

If you want my love, you got it
When you need my love, you got it
I won’t hide it
I won’t throw your love away, ooh

Yes, I thought you were a mystery girl
A special girl in this crazy old world
You couldn’t see me when I laid eyes on you

Lonely is only a place
You don’t know what it’s like
You can’t fight it
And it’s a hole in my heart, in my heart

If you want my love, you got it
When you need my love, you got it
I won’t hide it
I won’t throw your love away, ooh

You hold the secrets of love in this world
I’m hypnotized by your every word
A special face, a special voice, a special smile in my life

‘Cause lonely is only a place
You don’t know what it’s like
You can’t fight it
And it’s a hole in my heart, in my heart

If you want my love, you got it
When you need my love, you got it
I won’t hide it
I won’t throw your love away, ooh

If you want my love, you got it
When you need my love, you got it
I won’t hide it
I won’t throw your love away, ooh

If you want my love, you got it
When you need my love, you got it
You won’t hide it
You won’t throw your love away, ooh