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

 

 

 

Gin Blossoms – Follow You Down —-Powerpop Friday

The Gin Blossoms made some good power pop in the 90s.

This song was released in 1996 and was part of a double A-side with Til I Hear It From You. The song peaked at #7 in the Billboard 100, #1 in Canada, and #30 in the UK in 1996. Billboard lists the song as Follow You Down/Til I Hear It From You. It did hit #1 in the Billboard Alternative Charts.

The song was on the album Congratulations… I’m Sorry and it peaked at #10 in the Billboard Album Charts in 1996.

The song was written by D. Scott Johnson, Jesse M. Valenzuela, Phillip Rhodes, Phillip N. Rhodes, Robin Wilson,  and William Leen.

The Gin Blossoms broke up in early 1997 but reunited in 2002. They still perform to this day but with some personnel changes.

Follow You Down

Did you see the sky?
I think it means that we’ve been lost
Maybe one last time is all we need
I can’t really help it
If my tongue’s all tied in knots
Jumping off a bridge is just the farthest
That I’ve ever been

Anywhere you go, I’ll follow you down
Anyplace but those I know by heart
Anywhere you go, I’ll follow you down
I’ll follow you down, but not that far

I know we’re headed somewhere
I can see how far we’ve come
But still I can’t remember anything
Let’s not do the wrong thing
And I’ll swear it might be fun
It’s a long way down
When all the knots we’ve tied have come undone

Anywhere you go, I’ll follow you down
Anyplace but those I know by heart
Anywhere you go, I’ll follow you down
I’ll follow you down, but not that far

How you gonna ever find your place
Running in an artificial pace
Are they gonna find us lying face down in the sand
So what the hell now we’ve already been forever damned

Anywhere you go, I’ll follow you down
Anyplace but those I know by heart
Anywhere you go, I’ll follow you down
I’ll follow you down, but not that far

Gin Blossoms – Found Out About You —-Powerpop Friday

This was written by guitarist Doug Hopkins. He had problems with mental health and alcohol abuse and was fired from the band before this was released. He committed suicide on December 5, 1993. This song peaked at #25 in the Billboard 100 in 1994.

Gin Blossoms broke up in early 1997 but reunited in 2002. They still perform to this day but with some personnel changes.  The band had a total of 4 songs in the Billboard 100 with 1 top ten hit… Follow You Down/Til I Hear It From You.

From Songfacts

The song is based on a compilation of episodes with several of Hopkins’ girlfriends:
“I heard about nights out in the school yard. I found out about you.” – This has a double meaning. He found out about a girlfriend meeting another guy in a schoolyard and it is also where he and another girl swung on the swings and talked finding out about each other.
“Street lights blink on through the car window. I get the time too often on A.M. radio.” – The group members hung around together and this particular line refers to a night when the girl from the swings was with Doug and Robin was driving. They were doing a lot of partying and were listening to the radio when the announcer said the time.

Found Out About You

All last summer in case you don’t recall
I was your and you were mine forget it all
Is there a line that I could write
Sad enough to make you cry
All the lines you wrote to me were lies
The months roll past the love that you struck dead
Did you love me? Only in my head.
Things you said and did to me
Seemed to come so easily
The love I thought I’d won you give for free

Whispers at the bus stop
Well I heard about nights at the school yard
I found out about you

Rumours follow everywhere you go
And when you left I was last to know
You’re famous now and there’s no doubt
In all the places you hang out
They know your name and know what you’re about

Whispers at the bus stop
I heard about nights out in the school yard
I found out about you
I found out about you

Street lights blink on through the car window
I get the time too often on AM radio
You know it’s all I think about
I write your name drive past your house
Your boyfriend’s over I watch your lights go out

Whispers at the bus stop
I heard about nights out in the school yard
I found out about you

Gin Blossoms – Til I Hear It From You —Powerpop Friday

This song was released in 1996 and was part of a double A-side with Follow You Down. The song peaked at #9 in the Billboard 100, #1 in Canada, and #30 in the UK in 1996. Billboard lists the song as Follow You Down/Til I Hear It From You. 

One of my favorite pop songs of the 90s.

Gin Blossoms lead singer Robin Wilson wrote the lyrics to this song. The music was composed by the band’s guitarist Jesse Valenzuela with help from Marshall Crenshaw. Crenshaw said that he and Valenzuela didn’t know each other, but Jesse tracked him down to help finish the song. Crenshaw wrote the verse melody and worked on the ending.

From Songfacts (Til I Hear It From You)

The music industry trade magazine Billboard called this “The closest thing to a perfect pop song to hit radio in recent memory,” a sentiment appreciated by the band’s guitarist. 

“This song reminds me why I work. I can count on hearing it in grocery stores, and I like playing it. It’s really nice pop perfection, and just saccharin enough,” says Gin Blossom Jesse Valenzuela with a chuckle. “As an artist, you have to start realizing what you do carries some value, even monetarily. And this song is a pretty big one for me to help me realize that this is what I’ll do for a living from now on. And how lucky I am – because it’s all I really love doing, and I get to do it all the time.”

The first time Jesse heard this song over the public announcement system at a grocery store, he says he almost wanted to tell somebody, “Hey! That’s my song!” he laughs. But he resisted. He remembers being proud, but being very anonymous at the time. Then there was the trip to Lowe’s (home improvement department store). “One time my wife and I went there for lighting fixtures, and she wanted one. I said, ‘Let’s go for the cheaper one.’ And she wanted one that was just a little more expensive. And I was like hemming and hawing, and all of a sudden one of my songs came on the radio, and she said, ‘It’s not as if you can’t afford to get me the more expensive one.’ I was like, ‘All right.’ She did have a case.” (read the full interview with Jesse Valenzuela)

In early 1997, right as the band was splitting up, the Gin Blossoms accepted an award from ASCAP (American Society of Composers and Publishers) for this song (along with “Follow You Down”) in recognition of having the two most-played songs the previous year.

Til I Hear It From You

I didn’t ask, they shouldn’t have told me
At first I laughed but now
It’s sinking in fast, whatever they sold me
But baby

I don’t want to take advice from fools
I’ll just figure everything is cool
Til I hear it from you

It gets hard, when memory’s faded
And who gets what the say
It’s likely they’re, just jealous and jaded
Or maybe

I don’t want to take advice from fools
I’ll just figure everything is cool
Til I hear it from you

Til I hear it from you

I can’t let it get me off
Break up my train of thought
As far as I know nothing’s wrong
Until I hear it from you

Still thinking about not living without it
Outside looking in, till we’re talking about
Not stepping around it
Maybe

I don’t want to take advice from fools
I’ll just figure everything is cool
Til I hear it from you

Til I hear it from you