R.I.P. Alex Chilton

18 03 2010

A couple hours after I got home from work tonight, I found out that Alex Chilton (Box Tops, Big Star) died a few hours prior, of what is believed to be a heart attack.  He was 59.

As I sat down to write this, I pulled out my ipod and made of playlist that started off with The Replacements’ “Alex Chilton”, and fleshed out the rest of the playlist with Big Star and Box Tops tracks (in case you’re thinking you have no idea who Alex is, you’ve undoubtedly heard “The Letter” by the Box Tops.)  I put the ipod on shuffle, but made sure the first song that played was the Replacements song.  Serendipitously, the very next song that was shuffled on next was Big Star’s “Thank You Friends” which features the lyrics, “Thank you friends…I’m so grateful for all the things you helped me do…I’m often a bead of light…without my friends I’d be swept up high by the wind.”

I remember the day I made a concerted effort to get into Alex Chilton.  It was about 13 ago now.  It seemed every time I opened Rolling Stone or SPIN, a band was citing Big Star as an influence.  I’d never heard of Big Star, but I knew I needed check this band out.  I went to Cheapo in St. Paul and picked up Big Star’s #1 Record, Radio City, & Third/Sister Lovers, as well as The Best of the Box Tops.  I was really taking a risk because I knew & heard nothing at all of Big Star and the Box Tops.  So, being an 18 year old making minimum wage at a restaurant, I was spending a good chunk of my money on 4 albums that I wasn’t entirely certain I’d like.  There was a moment of reassurance though when I went to pay for them and the clerk looked at my stack and said “Oooooh, Alex Chilton!  Someone’s gonna have some fun tonight!”

It did take a tiny bit of getting used to…but I’ve found that the best music out there takes time to grab hold.  That shows there’s substance.  Most of my favorite albums of all time didn’t really take the first few times.

I am saddened by Alex’s passing.  I find it very strange that just a few weeks ago, I felt the urge to grab the first three Big Star albums and listen to them all day long.  Then a couple weeks ago, I told a friend of mine that she should really check them out.  Maybe Alex will finally get the respect he justly deserves.  I do regret that I never picked up Big Star’s fourth studio album,  2005’s In Space.  I’ll definitely have to rectify that “oversight” this weekend.




One response

18 03 2010

I had to retrace my college days and find one particular song we used to play over and over again; that was Big Star’s O My Soul. I can’t even tell you how many times we played that in the car.

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