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Big Star


kung
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Not sure if too many folks know this fairly obscure but influential group. Jeff Buckley does a raging take on their Kanga Roo on the Mystery White Boy live album. Known mainly for being inflential they are one of those bands that never got their due except constantly being referenced as an influence by bands that did get their due (see also Pixies). Here's a couple of comments from Tim Perlich's SXSW daily updates about them:

It was an hour of classic Little Richard. In contrast, the Big Star panel which followed was a huge disappointment. Co-founder Alex Chilton was a no-show, as was producer Jim Dickinson and rumoured moderator Peter Buck. Which left Big Star's survivors Jody Stephens and Andy Hummel to exchange puzzled looks and shrug "I don't recall" while Posies members Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow seemed just happy to be there. Ardent engineer Terry Manning reluctantly filled in some of the details but was very careful not to let slip anything controversial. Ho hum.

(Jim Dickinson for those not in the know is Luther and Cody Dickinson of North Mississippi fame's father- although he's famous in his own right for being one of the founder swamp boogie.)

Knowing that Big Star's cult following is seriously skewed towards rock writers and musicians who count for a high percentage of conference delegates, it seemed like a good idea to arrive early, even if that meant missing Dwight Yoakam.

Or so I thought. As it turned out, there was no line-up at all and nearly half the crowd cheering on the Bodeans left with the woefully bland group.

By the time the youthful looking Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens appeared with Big Star fans Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow (on guitar and bass respectively), the high school gym-like space was nearly filled with giddy fans who had never seen a Big Star performance. The cheers were deafening when Chilton kicked off the set with the familiar riff from In The Street, the theme song of That 70s Show.

Considering how infrequently they play together, this version of Big Star was impressively tight with Auer providing pitch-perfect Chris Bell counterpoint. Everything they played sounded like a hit, even the new composition - which Chilton introduced, chuckling, "I hope you like our new direction" - had the unmistakable ring of classic power pop. Can't wait to hear the new Big Star album they plan to finish recording at Ardent in April.

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September gurls do so much

I was your butch and you were touched

I loved you well never mind

I've been crying all the time

December boys got it bad.

September gurls I don't know why

how can I deny what's inside

even thought I keep away

maybe we'll love all our days.

When I get to bed

late at night

that's the time

she makes things right

ooh when she makes luv to me

::

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Years ago, my heart was set to live, oh

But I've been trying hard against unbelievable odds

It gets so hard at times like now to hold on

My guns they're waiting to be stuck by

At my side is God

And there ain't no one gonna turn me 'round

Ain't no one gonna turn me 'round

There's people around who tell you that they know

The places where they send you, and it's easy to go

They'll zip you up and dress you down

Stand you in a row

But you know you don't have to

You can just say no

And there ain't no one gonna turn me 'round

Ain't no one gonna turn me 'round

Ain't no one gonna turn me 'round

Ain't no one gonna turn me 'round

I've been built up and trusted

Broke down and busted

But they'll get theirs and we'll get ours

Just if we can

Just, ah, hold on

Hold on

Hold on

Hold on

Years ago my heart was set to live, oh

But I've been trying hard against strong odds

It gets so hard at times like now to hold on

Well, I'll fall if I don't fight

And at my side is God

Ain't no one gonna turn me 'round

Ain't no one gonna turn me 'round

Ain't no one gonna turn me 'round

Ain't no one gonna turn me 'round

Hold on

Hold on

Hold on

Hold on

Years ago I was all set to go

And I've been trying hard against long odds

It gets so hard at times like this to even hang around

I can either stand or fall

And I believe I'm gonna stand tall

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WOW I didn't know that BIG STAR were back together! And with Ken Stringfellow of R.E.M. and MINUS 5 fame, that's sweet.

I got into Big Star in 1998 while I was starting to listen to GOLDEN SMOG. Golden Smog were a alt-country-rock super band outfit that included Jeff Tweedy of Uncle Tupelo and Wilco (who's CD Single 'Outtasite (Outta Mind)' has a cover of Big Star's 'Thirteen'), Gary Louris and Ron Perlman of The Jayhawks, Dan Murphy of Soul Asylum, Kraig Johnson of Run Westy Run (who's album 'Green Cat Island' was produced by Peter Buck)and The Jayhawks and most recent member Jody Stevens of Big Star.

Luckily I saw Golden Smog perform two of the best gigs I ever attended in my life in December of 1998. Four lead vocalists performing amazing originals and covers all night. I even requested 'Revolution Blues' by Neil Young to Dan and Jody while Gary and Jeff were performing 'Radio King'. After the song Gary wanted to do something different and Dan shook his head no and said in the mic "This is a request from the audience, our drummer Jody doesn't know this song but we'll try it anyway." They ended up performing a helter skelter version of one of my favorite songs by my favorite artist.

About the quote by Jim Dickenson about "Big Star's cult following seriously skewed toward rock writers and musicians who count for a high percentage of conference delegates" not many quotes have ever rang more true.

When Rolling Stone released the Special Collectors Issue The 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time (RS Issue 937) Big Star had three records on this list. Since the band only had three studio records this is pretty impressive. Also since none of them have even been certified gold this also reinforces Jim's above quote.

It's too bad that THAT 70's SHOW didn't use the Big Star original of 'In The Street' instead of having someone cover them. I like Cheap Trick and all, but the original version is far better.

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Mike Daley shows (and the attending crowd) turned me onto Big Star back in the early 90s... great stuff, they really know how to use a hook

you'd probably really enjoy Daley's songs Kung, he's playin pepperjacks a couple of thursdays from now (otherwise just Toronto occasionally, works for CBC radio now)... could picture you and he having lots to talk about (he's pretty up on a ridiculous amount of music)

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Big Star are a fantastic band. Totally anachronistic for their times - playing British-style sixties pop in Memphis in the early 70s. Their first two albums sold less than 4,000 copies each when they were originally released but were critically acclaimed. They never really toured anywhere, a nine date tour of the East Coast was their biggest.

Chris Bell was the prime force behind the band, as far as I am concerned. I feel pretty lucky to have been able to purchase a copy of his one and only 7" single, I Am The Cosmos, released on Car Records just before his death. It's cracked, but it's still worth the $10 it cost me.

For everything you ever wanted to know on Big Star, check out this newly published article from Austin, TX's Pop Culture Press:

http://www.popculturepress.com/big-star.html

Also, check out the Rock City album, which predates Big Star! Cheapies in Hamilton has it in stock, or did last week.

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