Alex Chilton Remembered

March 18, 2010 at 12:16 pm (Uncategorized)

Alex Chilton, former singer with the Box Tops, singer-songwriter-guitarist with Big Star died March 17 of a suspected heart attack. A truly outstanding talent is gone.

In an interview with Mojo last year, Chilton stated he didn’t really think Big Star had made any great records and he was puzzled by the fuss about them (the interviewer strongly disagreed – me too!) But it was part and parcel with Chilton’s somewhat erratic career.

Chilton became a star at 16 when he sang lead on the Box Tops’ single “The Letter.”  Although the Box tops had other hits, Chilton became increasingly frustrated with the group, as he and his fellow band members had little control. The group broke up in 1970.

And then came Big Star. Look up seminal in the dictionary and you’ll find a picture of Big Star. Possibly only the Velvet underground are name dropped as often. Big Star recorded three albums, #1 Record, Radio City and Third/Sister Lovers.

After Big Star broke up. Chilton’s career faltered, the magnificently sloppy Like Flies on Sherbert notwithstanding. (there’s also the Cramps first album.) In the early eighties, Chilton was washing dishes and cutting lawns to get by.

Chilton’s career revived in the mid-eighties when he began touring again, as well as recording, but often covers songs. 1987’s High Priest contained more covers than originals, but they came to embody his new style.

I saw Alex Chilton perform twice. Once in 1987 at the El Mocombo and again a year or two later at the Horseshoe Tavern. We sat, we stood, we cheered. We hoped for Alligator Man, we hoped he’d do the falsetto on Little GTO. We begged for No Sex and Bangkok. We were not disappointed.

I’m going to dig out those records today and remember.

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