Big Star RADIO CITY: New Book

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by rstamberg, May 3, 2009.

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  1. rstamberg

    rstamberg Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Riverside, CT
  2. rstamberg

    rstamberg Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Riverside, CT
    No love for Alex Chilton or Big Star here? I'm very surprised.
     
  3. Chris M

    Chris M Forum Resident

    Location:
    Baton Rouge, LA
    Plenty of love here. Radio City and 3rd/Sister Lovers are probably in my all time top 10 albums list. Pretty sure this book isn't out yet though. I've had it pre-ordered for several months.
     
  4. babyblue

    babyblue Forum Resident

    Location:
    Pacific NW
    I'm excited about this book too and have had it in my Amazon wishlist for over a year. It's still not published yet.
     
  5. reechie

    reechie Forum Resident

    Location:
    Baltimore
  6. sacsongs

    sacsongs Well-Known Member

    Location:
    St. Louis , MO
    Another great book about the Memphis music scene is It Came From Memphis by Robert Gordon. There is a lot of emphasis in the book on the impact of Big Star and Alex on not just Memphis, but the national music scene.
     
  7. mark f.

    mark f. Forum Resident

    There's an excerpt here.

    Not super big fan of this series (some great, others not so) but this on should be interesting.

    Does Chilton live in Philadelphia? The writer says that he met with him in Philly and that his girlfriend lives on South Street.
     
  8. reechie

    reechie Forum Resident

    Location:
    Baltimore
    Last I'd heard, Chilton lived in New Orleans. In fact, for a few days during Hurricane Katrina, there was some concern because he'd stayed in the city, and no one had heard from him afterwards, until he finally turned up safe.

    Maybe he's moved?
     
  9. mark f.

    mark f. Forum Resident

    Maybe. I always associate him with NO. If he lives here I'll keep an eye out for him. ;)
     
  10. Same here. Not sure what the problems are, but I do know this should be a good one because Bruce Eaton, the author, has a fairly long history with Chilton including playing with him. I'm really looking forward to it.
     
  11. mark f.

    mark f. Forum Resident

    I'm wondering why they included this particular interview excerpt from Chilton on the 33 1/3 blog.:confused: It's not exactly musically compelling IMO:

    Alex Chilton: That’s how my branch of the Chiltons got to Mississippi and they stayed there until three years before I was born. John Marshall Chilton, my great-great-grandfather was a lawyer and wrote a history of colonial Mississippi territory that is pretty good reading. He died in 1859 at the age of 43 but left a lot of children. My great-grandfather had been born in 1853. His name was Harrison Randolph Chilton. I guess that some of the Chiltons fought in the siege of Vicksburg but they seemed to have moved inland sometime around the 1860s to around Clinton, Mississippi. By the 1870s they were in Clinton and stayed around there.

    My great-grandfather moved over to a river county. He tried having a big plantation over there but it washed away in a big flood and ended up being sheriff in Isiqueena County, which is the end of the world. If you ever end up going there you’ll know exactly what I mean. It’s way, way out there – the poorest place I’ve ever been in my life. I’ve read a statistic that around the turn of the 20th century, when he was still sheriff, the ratio of blacks to white was nineteen blacks to one white in the height of the Jim Crow era. My grandfather grew up there in the town of Meyersville. My father [Sid Chilton] grew up over there in eastern Mississippi around Starkville and stayed in Mississippi until the war – he was in the Navy during the war.
     
  12. babyblue

    babyblue Forum Resident

    Location:
    Pacific NW
    That's the thing with the 33 1/3 series. I've loved most of the ones that I've read, but sometimes they tend to go off on tangents. Some work, some don't. I just finished the Dusty in Memphis book where the author interviews producer/record executive Jerry Wexler and he only uses it for one chapter. Virtually the rest of the book is about the history of Memphis. A wasted opportunity in my opinion. Go read It Came from Memphis instead for an excellent musical history of the city.
     
  13. Paul K

    Paul K Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    It is Chilton's family history...what isn't compelling about this?
     
  14. mark f.

    mark f. Forum Resident

    All of it.

    Maybe the author can tie it back to the subject at hand but the quote isn't the best way to sell the book. It's pretty boring as a matter of fact. I have the book on order because I assume there's better stuff in it but I'm a bit concerned that Chilton's view on his musical history isn't what we hope it is. This quote kind of looks as if Chilton is pulling the author's leg.

    I've tried to like some of them. The two I really like are (forum member) Andy Miller's book on Village Green and the one on Piper at the Gates of Dawn - mainly because they got Norman Smith to talk on that one. The others I've looked at in the store and put them back for lack of substance. I'm sure there are other good ones in the series but not on albums I care a lot about. I do have high hopes for the Radio City book but that quote concerns me a tiny bit.
     
  15. babyblue

    babyblue Forum Resident

    Location:
    Pacific NW
    What got me hooked on the series was one of the "best of" collections and some of my favorite sections were about albums I didn't care about, so you never know.

    While a Chilton interview is quite a coup, who can tell how substantial it will be? He could very well put the author on. He's always been a prickly character, especially when talking about his music.
     
  16. mark f.

    mark f. Forum Resident

    True. To be fair we don't know much from that one excerpt. I just find it an odd choice.

    Here's a post from Bruce Eaton (on the blog for the book itself) that gives me a lot of hope that there's much more:

    When I wrote the proposal for the book I did so without any plan for interviewing Alex. It was only after I'd interviewed everyone else involved that I thought it was a possibility. I think that the participants – John Fry, Andy Hummel, Richard Rosebrough, Jody Stephens etc. – grew comfortable with the fact that I focused on the music – what was in the grooves and how it got there. John Fry talked to Alex about participating and Alex agreed to at least listen to what I was up to. We met in Philadelphia for a day – basically catching up and shooting the breeze. At the end of the day he agreed to be interviewed formally. I met up with him a few months later and we spent two afternoons with the tape recorder on. I think that there were two keys other than John Fry taking a real interest in the book. The first was that I had no interest in all the personal stuff. I mean, who really wants the exploits of their youth dredged up and put in print? What's the point? Why would you want to feed that? It's the record(s) that counts. The second is that I've always dealt with Alex straight up on the level and in the present. Even though I've played gigs with him and even shared a hotel room, I never asked him a question about Big Star until the book. We always talked about music we liked and whatever else. So I'd like to think that he was comfortable with the fact that I didn't have an underlying agenda beyond setting the record straight on what actually happened.

    As a result of Alex participating, I dropped some of the material about my experiences to make room. I'll be posting some of the extra material in the weeks ahead so stay tuned.
     
  17. mark f.

    mark f. Forum Resident

    I sent Bruce Eaton a link to this thread. He implied that he didn't pick the Chilton quote I referred to so perhaps the publisher just found it interesting. Anyway, hopefully Bruce joins us to tell us more about the book.
     
  18. bruceeaton

    bruceeaton New Member

    Location:
    Buffalo, NY, USA
    Hi Everyone - I'm the author of the 33 1/3 book. Since Steve contacted me I've posted a few things at my blog which should address some of your questions and concerns. >http://bigstarbook.blogspot.com/< As far as where Alex resides now...it is indeed New Orleans. His girlfriend was living in Philly at the time of our interviews so that was a convenient place to meet up. One thing I was very conscious of when writing the book was not to go off on tangents (a la Dusty In Memphis book) or get bogged down in my story (even though I actually played with Alex and set up a tour). I used my experience more as a way to explain Alex's career post-Big Star. Feel free to fire away with your questions and comments on all matters Big Star. Looking forward to the conversation...Bruce Eaton
     
  19. rstamberg

    rstamberg Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Riverside, CT
    I got it by ordering directly from the publisher. It's out -- I have it.

    It's a better read than many other titles in the 33 & 1/3 Series, IMO. It's original, too (not lots of stuff you've read before elsewhere), which is nice.

    Am I the only person who digs the IN SPACE CD?
     
  20. Paul K

    Paul K Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    Thank you for dropping by here!

    Firstly...does he like or dislike his Big Star work...he's been very prickly with reporters...do you suspect he was disheartened at the lack of success?

    Thank you for answering these questions...
     
  21. BobbyS

    BobbyS Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Powell OH USA
    I got my copy 2 days ago and have been digging it a lot. Very nice read Bruce! The track sheet for September Gurls is very cool. Only 2 guitar tracks! My pal Mitch Easter has a Vox mando guitar and it is truly the secret for achieving the correct sound. I've known Alex for decades and was aware of his Mississippi roots. When his father died they even printed his obit in the local Jackson MS paper.

    Bobby Sutliff
     
  22. bowling-name

    bowling-name Active Member

    Location:
    North Hollywood
    Hi Bruce, welcome to the forum! I'm very much looking forward to this book. I saw on your blog that it will be coming out as an audio-book as well. I normally don't listen to audio-books, but it makes sense to do this series as such (though I'm guessing I will have to mix in tracks from the album myself? ;)). I'll reserve most of my questions until after I've read the book, but I am curious: How much lee-way were you given regarding the focus of the book?

    I'm interested in personal details, but also technical details (e.g. how certain sounds were achieved in the studio), as well the author's take on why the record is important - not easy to squeeze all these things into a single slim volume...
     
  23. bowling-name

    bowling-name Active Member

    Location:
    North Hollywood
    This is cool, I can get a similar sound with a Fender Strat through a Vox AC-15, but two tracks of it never sounded exactly right...
     
  24. mark f.

    mark f. Forum Resident

    Hi Bruce -glad you made it. It was actually me who mentioned the forum. Steve is the host.

    Does Alex talk about his relationship with Chris Bell at all?
     
  25. bruceeaton

    bruceeaton New Member

    Location:
    Buffalo, NY, USA
    Sorry Mark about the mix-up. Hadn't had the morning coffee yet. Thanks to everyone for the comments.

    To answer a few questions. You're given a lot of leeway with 33 1//3 books in the proposal process. You have to pitch Continuum on how you see the book (and why you're the one to write it). Once they accept, you more or less stick to your proposal but also work with David Barker the editor in shaping it as you go along. In my case, once Alex agreed to participate, I dropped a bunch of material about my experience (although retained all the main points I wanted to make). A few of those stories will go up on the blog. I wasn't the only writer who wanted to take on Big Star – but I was the only one who had called Alex up at his parents house, offered him $300 and a plane ticket to come up to Buffalo and do a gig with my band backing him up and found myself onstage singing the chorus on September Gurls a few weeks later. Quite the tale.

    Alex did indeed talk a bit about Chris. He felt that they worked very well together in the studio (David Bell confirmed that Chris felt the same way) and really enjoyed making #1 Record. Fond memories. But Alex also relates that Chris was a somewhat mysterious and private person and that he never quite knew what was on his mind or what his agenda was. Interestingly, David Bell also related that Chris thought Radio City was a great record, despite not being in the band and some residual jealousy about Alex being featured in the reviews of #1 (although he understood on a rational basis why writers would focus on Alex). But, yes, lots of commentary on Chris in the book (including the fact that he once proposed rerecording #1 with a replacement for Alex!). Also a never before seen photo of Alex and Chris in the studio.

    Alex prefers #1 Record to Radio City although he really likes the song structures on RC. It's the lyrics that he really doesn't care for. They were musicians first and wrote lyrics because they had to more or less. The lyrics were sometimes done by committee.

    As far as equipment and recording...I tried to get an accurate rundown on the guitars, amps (and of course Jody's magnificent Ludwig drums) and keyboards used. John Fry shares the details few mics likely used, how he miced the amps, what reverb and compression units he used etc. It was a simple set up but he was very precise about getting the (glorious) sound he was after. It took hours to set up but once they were ready, the basic tracks were done in no more than three (count 'em) takes. He considers Big Star to be self-produced with his role being engineer and mixer.

    As far as why I think the record is important? Well certainly because of the influence. But to me (and many of you) it's just a recording that never wears out its welcome, always sounds good, and always reveals new details. After spending 18 months poring over it track by track and breaking it down, it still sounds fresh. I still hear new things. And despite Alex dismissing the lyrics, he agreed that overall the album really captures some of the vibe of being between high school and full-blown adulthood. When you still have one foot in the innocence of high school and one foot in the rather uncertain real world.

    As I was trying to come up with an ending for the book, it occurred to me that it is perhaps the last great record of the 60s – a record made in an environment where the 1970s hadn't really taken hold yet (although some members of the band were fond of Led Zeppelin, Alex says that LZ was the exact specific point where he realized he was no longer interested in new rock music).

    More to come! Bruce
     
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