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

 

 

 

Matthew Sweet – Sick Of Myself —Powerpop Friday

Sick of Myself peaked at #52 on the Billboard 100 in 1995. I first heard of Matthew Sweet with his 1992 song Girlfriend. Sweet specializes in catchy melodic hooks and this song is no exception.

Sick of Myself was on his album 100% Fun that peaked on the Billboard album charts at #65 in 1995.

From Songfacts

In this nihilistic song, Matthew Sweet is so out-of-sorts over a girl, he’s made himself sick. The world may be ugly and a lie, but she’s beautiful and true, and it’s driving him mad.

Sweet has admitted that many of his songs are personal, but they’re not necessarily a plea for help.

This was Matthew Sweet’s biggest hit, earning airplay on rock radio alongside the likes of Soundgarden and Collective Soul. He was 31 and well into his career when the song reached its chart peak in 1995. After making a name for himself in the Athens, Georgia music scene, he got a deal with Columbia Records and release his first album in 1986. His follow-up came in 1989, but neither charted and the label dropped him. Zoo Records issued his breakthrough, Girlfriend, in 1991 after a tumultuous time when he went through a divorce and lost his record collection to flood damage.

Richard Lloyd, founder of the exalted New York City band Television, played guitar on this track. Sweet and Lloyd crossed paths in the ’80s when they played together in a band called the Golden Palominos. Lloyd played on three songs from Sweet’s 1989 album Earth, and contributed to his subsequent albums up to and including 100% Fun.

In a Songfacts interview with Richard Lloyd, he said: “Matthew used to fly me in and he would send me demos like a week before. I’d listen to them through and then I would get there and they would have new songs or different songs. Some songs he would just throw at me, and depending upon the emotion in the song itself, that would lend itself to a certain kind of playing, and ‘Sick Of Myself’ had that kind of angst in it, so I tried to portray that.”

The video was directed by Roman Coppola, son Francis Ford Coppola of Godfather fame.

We don’t know this for sure, but this is likely the second-highest-charting song on the Hot 100 by a solo artist who was born and raised in Nebraska [Sweet is from Lincoln, Nebraska]. The only one we found to top it is “Never Been In Love” by Randy Meisner, which went to #28 in 1982. Nebraskan Buddy Miles charted a few times, but never higher than #62 with “Them Changes” in 1971.

The album title comes from a line in Kurt Cobain’s suicide note: “The worst crime I can think of would be to rip people off by faking it and pretending as if I’m having 100% fun.”

Sick Of Myself

You don’t know how you move me
deconstruct me and consume me.
I’m all used up, I’m out of luck I am star struck
By something in your eyes
that is keeping my hope alive.

But I’m sick of myself when I look at you 
something is beautiful and true.
World that’s ugly and a lie
it’s hard to even want to try.
I’m beginning to think
maybe you don’t know.

I’ll take a leave, the room to breathe 
The choice to leave it
I’ll throw away a chance at greatness just to make this
dream come into play
I don’t know if I’ll find a way

‘Cause I’m sick of myself when I look at you 
something is beautiful and true.
World that’s ugly and a lie
it’s hard to even want to try.
I’m beginning to think
maybe you don’t know.

I’m beginning to think
maybe you don’t know.

Something in your eyes
that is keeping my hope alive.

But I’m sick of myself when I look at you 
something is beautiful and true.
World that’s ugly and a lie
it’s hard to even want to try.
I’m beginning to think
maybe you don’t know.

I’m beginning to think
maybe you don’t know.