Like much of the blogosphere, I'm in a state of shock over Alex Chilton's premature death last night. I've been vocal about how I think he's squandered his considerable talent over the last three decades or so, but the fundamental truth is that squandering his talent was his prerogative. When he was great - and I don't think it's humanly possible to overstate his greatness and importance to rock music - he was wholly unappreciated by the public. When public tastes finally caught up to him, he took one look at the mantle of "elder statesman of rock" and chose to Bartleby. God bless him for his irascibility. There was no one else like him.
Here's some of what I've written about Chilton and Big Star at this blog:
Bach's Bottom and 19 Years: A Collection.
1970. (Here I should state that I have a bunch of Chilton's solo albums on vinyl and cassette, but I never listen to those media anymore, so I really need to replace them with digital versions. Also: man, I was terse in those early days of my music listening project.)
Big Star. (I beat up on In Space, which isn't as bad as I say, and John Fry - the engineer from Ardent Studios! - steps in to tell me that I'm wrong. Sweet!)
Big Stars In The Radio City. (In which I try to explain how sophisticated Chilton's approach to rock music was.)
I didn't know the guy. In fact, based on his attitudes when I've seen him live (and man alive, did the guy put on some killer live shows), I assume he would have held me in nothing short of complete contempt for my starstruck fandom and my focus on the music of his youth over his more recent efforts. But a world without Alex Chilton is a far crappier place. He, more than anyone, should have been able to stare down his own death and simply state, "I prefer not to."
Incidentally, if I had to pick one, this would be my favorite Big Star song:
That's "Dream Lover," for anyone who reads this on Facebook without the attached video. There's no reason in the world for this song to work. The whole thing seems always on the verge of falling apart. I especially love the long pause before the guitar solo and the way that none of the elements of the song seem even remotely close to the beat, and yet there's this aggregate effect that wraps the whole song together with dream-logic. It's an uncoverable song. Who could do it justice?