Big Star Album Reviews
Formed around former Box Tops lead singer Alex Chilton and Chris Bell, Big Star existed for a brief period of time in the early 1970s and were spectacularly unsuccessful during their lifetime due to poor promotion and distribution. But their influence has spread far and wide – the group have earned a deserved cult profile due to their influence on 1980s and 1990s alternative bands such as R.E.M., The dB’s, Wilco, and The Replacements.
While their guitar based sound doesn’t sound revolutionary, it was unusual in the context of the early 1970s. Their debut album #1 Record revisited the mid 1960s, musically bringing a slightly harder edge to mid 1960s recordings such as The Beatles‘ Rubber Soul and The Byrds‘ Mr Tambourine Man, but emphasising tunefulness and bringing back a wisful and youthful innocence to songs like ‘Thirteen’ and ‘In The Street’.
Chris Bell left before the more rock oriented Radio City, and the band’s final album, the slow and mournful Third languished in the vaults before finally seeing release in 1978. Each record has a distinct flavour, although Radio City is the clear standout for me, and is high among my all-time favourite albums.
While Chilton and Bell were the leaders, the rhythm section also contributed; bassist Andy Hummel co-wrote half of Radio City while drummer Jody Stephens has a recognisably busy and splashy style, and also contributed songs and lead vocals.
Ten Favourite Big Star Songs
Back Of A Car
The Ballad of El Goodo
Life Is White
Give Me Another Chance
I’m In Love With A Girl
Way Out West