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Alex Chilton, Big Star, Dead at 59


Guest post by Rich from Phoenix

Like many others, the first thing I did when I heard of Alex Chilton's passing was to put on the wonderful yet ironically titled Big Star  #1 Record, to hear the first chorus sing "I feel like I'm dying".  According to early reports, Alex collapsed while mowing the lawn. That may be the best argument against household chores ever.

When I think about Chilton, the overarching aspect is the brilliance of his early career in The Box Tops and Big Star, unmatched by his later work as a solo artist.  In that regard, Chilton may have felt a little like dying for decades.

And the early music was truly brilliant, even if Chilton didn't favor it later.  There was real magic in those Big Star records, and their regular inclusion in most influential album lists was no accident.  Many of those songs are as close to perfect as rock songs get. They influenced modern rock to a profound degree.   

If Chilton suffered from the curse of lost promise, in part it was because he was so fully formed as an artist so early.  That sure didn't sound like a teenager on those Box Top hits, to say the least.  And even a song like 13, from Big Star's #1 Record, sounds like a  wise man looking back on his teenage years with insight few possess at any age.   

Despite the strength of the music, fame and fortune eluded Big Star and the band broke up after 3 albums for no better reasons than: bad timing, bad management, bad luck.  Chilton lost a decade to drugs and drink, but managed to get clean and continue as a solo artist, never looking back. 

My personal memory of Chilton is a show he did in a club in Chicago in 2003.  Most of the set was uninspired, taken from Chilton's solo career.  But then he lit into When My Baby's Beside Me, a Big Star single, and the room just levitated. 

May you truly rest in peace, Alex.  Your bell keeps on ringing.

Big Star will perform at tribute to Alex Chilton at South by Southwest Saturday March 20 at Antone's.


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