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Alex Chilton dies at 59
March 17, 2010 6:46 PM   Subscribe

Memphis music legend Alex Chilton dead at 59 Deep-voiced 60s boy singer and leader of "one of the most mythic and influential cult acts in all of rock and roll." Alex Chilton died today at age 59. Cause of death believed to be a heart attack.
posted by mediareport (193 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by DaddyNewt at 6:48 PM on March 17, 2010


* <--- a big star
posted by joe lisboa at 6:50 PM on March 17, 2010 [8 favorites]


*
posted by tealsocks at 6:51 PM on March 17, 2010


That hurts.

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posted by argybarg at 6:52 PM on March 17, 2010


The first beer I had, sitting in a bar in Toledo, Ohio, was sipped with "The Letter" playing on the Jukebox... Too many pieces of my youth passing over the bridge...

.
posted by HuronBob at 6:54 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


An homage to Alex Chilton:

If he was from Venus, would he feed us with a spoon?
If he was from Mars, wouldn't that be cool?
Standing right on campus, would he stamp us in a file?
Hangin' down in Memphis all the while.

Children by the million sing for Alex Chilton when he comes 'round
They sing "I'm in love. What's that song?
I'm in love with that song."

Cerebral rape and pillage in a village of his choice.
Invisible man who can sing in a visible voice.
Feeling like a hundred bucks, exchanging good lucks face to face.
Checkin' his stash by the trash at St. Mark's place.

I never travel far, without a little Big Star

Runnin' 'round the house, Mickey Mouse and the Tarot cards.
Falling asleep with a flop pop video on.
If he was from Venus, would he meet us on the moon?
If he died in Memphis, then that'd be cool, babe.

- "Alex Chilton," The Replacements
posted by prinado at 6:55 PM on March 17, 2010 [21 favorites]


This is shitty news.
posted by gordie at 6:55 PM on March 17, 2010


Classic voice, listen to The Letter by The Box Tops and you'll realize you've heard this guy.
posted by Huck500 at 6:56 PM on March 17, 2010


It never came out as a single or got any radio play, but "Thirteen" is one of rock's most beautiful celebrations of adolescence.[Rolling Stone top 500 songs of all time]

The harmonies sound like the lead sheets are upside down and backwards, the guitar solos sound like screwball readymade pastiches, and the lyrics sound like love is strange, though maybe that's just the context. Can an album be catchy and twisted at the same time?
posted by mediareport at 6:57 PM on March 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


The two best!
posted by HuronBob at 6:57 PM on March 17, 2010


Well, I guess he and Mark Linkous and Vic Chesnutt can get on with that awesome supergroup now.
posted by mykescipark at 7:01 PM on March 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


.
posted by chrchr at 7:02 PM on March 17, 2010


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posted by Joey Michaels at 7:03 PM on March 17, 2010


*

this just sux.

all the ladies and gentlemen are crying tonight, my friends . . .
posted by deejay jaydee at 7:03 PM on March 17, 2010


. very sad, loved him.
posted by feste at 7:04 PM on March 17, 2010


Damn, this is depressing.
posted by blucevalo at 7:04 PM on March 17, 2010



posted by lalex at 7:05 PM on March 17, 2010 [10 favorites]


There are no words that can express what this man's music has meant to me.

*
posted by HSWilson at 7:05 PM on March 17, 2010


And another .

Man, Sister Lovers always tears my heart out. Thank you, Mr. Chilton, for everything you created and everything that was created in response to you.
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:06 PM on March 17, 2010


Crap. Thirteen is one of my favorite songs ever.
posted by maxwelton at 7:06 PM on March 17, 2010


From the second link: "Alex Chilton's voice had more Memphis grit than was considered entirely proper for a white gentleman."

Thank god.
posted by Roman Graves at 7:06 PM on March 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


.

We share the same surname. This saddens me.
posted by bjork24 at 7:07 PM on March 17, 2010



posted by Dr-Baa at 7:08 PM on March 17, 2010


Alex Chilton, 1975-1981, when he produced The Cramps and made a lot of ruckus in the studio.
posted by sleepy pete at 7:08 PM on March 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


2010: still sucking
posted by jokeefe at 7:08 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 7:09 PM on March 17, 2010


Great article at Crawdaddy.com about the post-Big Star years 1975-1981, when Chilton recorded the Like Flies on Sherbert stuff, worked with Tav Falco, bonded with the Cramps over obscure rockabilly and produced their first recordings.
posted by mediareport at 7:09 PM on March 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


so very sad.
posted by pinky at 7:10 PM on March 17, 2010


He was El Goodo.
posted by unSane at 7:10 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


*
posted by spilon at 7:10 PM on March 17, 2010


2010 has been really horrible so far. Please, no more shocking deaths- my heart can't take much more.
posted by Dr-Baa at 7:11 PM on March 17, 2010


I spent a summer listening to #1 Record and Radio City twice a day, every day. What a fantastic man. (And Holocaust might be the saddest song ever written.)
posted by punchdrunkhistory at 7:12 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


.
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:13 PM on March 17, 2010


Damn. When I was in college Alex Chilton was namechecked by many of the bands my friends and I dug (REM, dBs, Replacements) - so being the contrarian that I was, I turned on him. I complained that he was overrated and that his track record had far more misses than hits. But I did acknowledge that when he hit, he was fucking incredible. As time went on I realized that he hit a lot more often than I had originally given him credit for.

Even when he wasn't hitting them out of the park, he was always interesting. He made being a music fan more fun. I don't think I ever skipped reading an Alex Chilton interview or article, even during the years I didn't think he was making good records. Now I really regret not seeing him live when I had the chance because I had some arbitrary chip on my shoulder against him way back when. He really was a rock original.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 7:13 PM on March 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


*
posted by donovan at 7:13 PM on March 17, 2010


This is terrible.
posted by dhammond at 7:16 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ah, man.
posted by R. Mutt at 7:16 PM on March 17, 2010


Sad day.


posted by furiousthought at 7:17 PM on March 17, 2010


I remember laughing the first time I heard Counting Crows sing "Mr. Jones." I thought "We're gonna be big stars" was "We're gonna be Big Star." You wish, Adam Duritz.

Alex Chilton could do aching beauty like no one else. Brian Wilson talked of "teenage symphonies to God," but Alex Chilton actually delivered them.

.
posted by dw at 7:17 PM on March 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


There are no words that can express what this man's music has meant to me.

Amen. He saved my sanity and probably my life.
posted by mediareport at 7:18 PM on March 17, 2010


*cries*
posted by mediareport at 7:19 PM on March 17, 2010


He and Lux are somewhere singing Songs The Lord Taught Us.

I saw Chilton several times performing solo in tiny bars. It was during his lost years and he was usually drunk, often belligerent, and every now and then perfectly sublime. People would come and go and laugh and yell and not have any idea who he was. It was sad. He was great. After the show he'd hang out and drink and he seemed to genuinely appreciate the attention. He bought me a shot of whiskey once after I got him high in the parking lot.

This news hit me like a freight train. I don't cry much, especially about "celebrity" deaths. But this made me shed a tear. For him, for myself, for losing a part of what made me who I am. Thanks, Alex. For everything.

.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:19 PM on March 17, 2010 [28 favorites]


.

I got into Big Star via the This Mortal Coil covers on 4AD and never looked back. Thank you for everything Alex.
posted by arcticseal at 7:23 PM on March 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


*
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 7:23 PM on March 17, 2010


I loved him. I was sure we'd get married some day. When I was in college I would see him play on the Strip in Tuscaloosa, and dance my ass off to "No Sex".
posted by Evangeline at 7:24 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Very bad week for cult rockers. RIP.
posted by anazgnos at 7:24 PM on March 17, 2010


Heartbreaking - "Sisters Lovers" was a big comfort to me at a time when I really needed one.
.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:26 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


.

I also found out today that one of my favorite porn actresses (though prolly not up your alley) died in February. RIP Jenny Joyce!
posted by symbioid at 7:27 PM on March 17, 2010


. Damn. This sucks. Death at 59 is not fair at all.
posted by octothorpe at 7:27 PM on March 17, 2010


What?! Oh, no.


.
posted by desuetude at 7:30 PM on March 17, 2010


*
posted by radiosilents at 7:31 PM on March 17, 2010


Fuck.

I met him a couple of times; my friend Jason was good friends with him (he was a Big Star obsessive), and he produced a couple of records for Jason's band. He was one of those larger than life types who demanded a proper night out. Alex really loved Glasgow, and was always flattered that bands from here held him in such high regard (Teenage Fanclub in particular were always singing his praises whenever they could).

I remember seeing him play live at the Cathouse in Glasgow – Jason's band, V-Twin, backed him – and bumping into George Wendt in the crowd at the gig. George, as far as I knew, was just Norm from Cheers; I was totally shocked to discover that not only did he have awesome taste in music (he was a big Hüsker Dü fan and also friends with Bob Mould), but he was also a total sweetheart. One of the best things I've ever done in my life is share a bottle of whisky with Alex and George, and the rest of my friends who were there.

RIP.
posted by Len at 7:31 PM on March 17, 2010 [11 favorites]


God dammit.

Like Paul, I never travel far without a little Big Star.
posted by entropicamericana at 7:33 PM on March 17, 2010



posted by entropicamericana at 7:35 PM on March 17, 2010


This has been a terrible year for Memphis music. He was supposed to play with Big Star at South by Southwest tomorrow night. Hell, I had tickets to see them at the Levitt Shell in May.

The Ballad of El Goodo is probably my favorite Big Star song. And I probably played September Gurls 1,000 times in cover bands over the years. You pretty much have to in this town.

*
posted by vibrotronica at 7:35 PM on March 17, 2010



posted by whatideserve at 7:37 PM on March 17, 2010


He didn't die in Memphis! How uncool.

I love "Alex Chilton" by the Replacements, but I could never stand Big Star. Still, RIP.
posted by Eideteker at 7:40 PM on March 17, 2010


Heartbreaking.
posted by item at 7:42 PM on March 17, 2010


He didn't die in Memphis! How uncool.

He even dies in a way that defies expectations. Alex never took the easy route.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 7:43 PM on March 17, 2010




What a bummer. #1 Record is one of the albums that helped me get through this long, terrible winter.
posted by TrialByMedia at 7:43 PM on March 17, 2010


Thank You Friends
posted by vibrotronica at 7:52 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Rock On
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 7:53 PM on March 17, 2010


♪ + ★
posted by Smart Dalek at 7:58 PM on March 17, 2010


wish we had
a joint so bad


The dishes are done and I'm still crying. Goddam, #1 Record is an amazing piece of rock history.
posted by mediareport at 8:03 PM on March 17, 2010


Jesus...I'm gut-punched. I leaned on that CD reissue of the first two Big Star records a whole fucking lot in the last year. It was a rough year and his ability to blend beauty, sadness and sublime optimism was so needed and appreciated.

Dammit. The one upside? We STILL HAVE Thirteen, and El Goodo, and yes, even the India Song, despite losing Alex. Thank whomever you wish for that.
posted by Richat at 8:06 PM on March 17, 2010


Brilliant talent.

A friend of mine was in touch with him during the Katrina floods, while he was in his attic with a candle and a slowly dying cell phone.

I'm so sorry he went already.
posted by Riverine at 8:07 PM on March 17, 2010


.

#1 Record and Radio City are immensely important to me. I always thought I'd get to see him play.
posted by DeWalt_Russ at 8:13 PM on March 17, 2010


.
posted by umbú at 8:15 PM on March 17, 2010


Christ, you can have 2010 back. I don't want it.
posted by belvidere at 8:22 PM on March 17, 2010


neon rainbow
posted by pyramid termite at 8:28 PM on March 17, 2010


.
posted by Spatch at 8:30 PM on March 17, 2010



posted by mneekadon at 8:30 PM on March 17, 2010


Goddamnit.

.
posted by equalpants at 8:32 PM on March 17, 2010


This is sad. I'm just thankful he was able to leave behind so much.

.
posted by Sailormom at 8:33 PM on March 17, 2010


Oh dear.

...
posted by Palindromedary at 8:35 PM on March 17, 2010


What horrible, shocking news. RIP you soulful genius.

*
posted by mia_farrow at 8:41 PM on March 17, 2010


*

I'd bust out my Big Star vinyl, only I don't have a record player set up any more. The cds will have to do.
posted by gingerbeer at 8:43 PM on March 17, 2010


neon rainbow

Great song, but: Sweet Cream Ladies, Forward March.
posted by mediareport at 8:46 PM on March 17, 2010


*
posted by mike3k at 8:49 PM on March 17, 2010




Damn. I was just thinking about "Big Black Car" this afternoon. R.I.P. kind sir.
posted by porn in the woods at 8:50 PM on March 17, 2010



posted by lapolla at 8:55 PM on March 17, 2010


no crap sad sad sad no no no


posted by erebora at 9:03 PM on March 17, 2010


.
posted by sirvesa at 9:08 PM on March 17, 2010


RIP, Alex.

/still in love
/with that song...
posted by Rangeboy at 9:17 PM on March 17, 2010



posted by FrauMaschine at 9:19 PM on March 17, 2010


goddammit
posted by hackly_fracture at 9:26 PM on March 17, 2010


.

Get me a ticket for an aeroplane

Ain't got time to take a fast train
posted by Ironmouth at 9:27 PM on March 17, 2010


Always been a fan--to the extent there have been periods where I had to take a Big Star time out due to too much--It was my high school English teacher that turned me on.

FWIW, I've crossed paths in recording/session circles with the writer of "The Letter", Wayne Carson several times.
posted by sourwookie at 9:33 PM on March 17, 2010



posted by hellbient at 9:34 PM on March 17, 2010



posted by susanbeeswax at 9:46 PM on March 17, 2010


fuuuuuuuuuuuuuck
posted by decagon at 10:03 PM on March 17, 2010


Holy fuck you say!

. hell yes .

and damn too.

damn damn damn

>.<
posted by humannaire at 10:21 PM on March 17, 2010


oh no
.
posted by chaff at 10:23 PM on March 17, 2010


Cry like a baby, Mefi...
posted by bonefish at 10:26 PM on March 17, 2010


.
posted by arto at 10:27 PM on March 17, 2010


Oh fuck, no. Really? Shit.
posted by chococat at 10:37 PM on March 17, 2010


.

dammit
posted by mwhybark at 10:41 PM on March 17, 2010


.

American Idol - the real thing.
posted by Edward L at 10:45 PM on March 17, 2010




sitting in the back of a car
music so loud can't tell a thing
thinkin bout what to say
and i can't find the lines
posted by Kinbote at 10:59 PM on March 17, 2010


Children by the million sing for Alex Chilton when he comes 'round
They sing "I'm in love. What's that song?
I'm in love with that song."


The man's already immortal, yet still I feel a sadness.


.
posted by philip-random at 11:05 PM on March 17, 2010


Loved him; Big Star records have been such a constant soundtrack for my adult life. What an excellent songwriter (and kind & funny when I got to interview him years ago). I'm glad he got to witness the surge of younger people who loved his music in the past two decades -- I hope on some level he knew his work wouldn't fade into obscurity.

.
posted by lisa g at 11:06 PM on March 17, 2010



posted by bigschmoove at 11:09 PM on March 17, 2010


Had tix to see Big Star in the Fall, and didn't go because I was feeling beat and too low and I guess it just goes to show you. There was a great thread on Mefi with all this lost footage that had been recovered and shit, a LOT of people here are going to be hurting over this..

dammit;


posted by Skygazer at 11:12 PM on March 17, 2010


One of the happiest, warm and ebullient threads , I've ever experienced on Metafilter, from an FPP last summer, (Thanks to Mefi Vronsky).
posted by Skygazer at 11:25 PM on March 17, 2010


Thanks skygazer.
posted by mwhybark at 11:27 PM on March 17, 2010


also: memewit if and when you check in here, can you fill us in on your hanging tale from last thread?
posted by mwhybark at 11:32 PM on March 17, 2010



posted by ouke at 11:56 PM on March 17, 2010


There's a systolic-diastolic disfunctional arrhythmic magical blood pump of American tragedy that happens between Memphis and New Orleans that more or less follow the erratic geomorphology of the Mississippi River: an accidental/intentional artery of genius and death: a waterfall of born too late flowing freely towards its denouement from the frontiers of Minnesota to a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, struggling against mudresistance toward an Atchafalaya to no avail.

I met Alex in '06, right after Katrina, just introduced by a friend at a bar, when the town was still empty and it was quiet enough to talk. Drank a few beers with him. He could tell a story. Nice as hell, like a regular guy, and it was tough maintaining that regular conversational pace knowing in the back of your head he was a goddamn songwriting genius.

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.


That was music. Hey, watch this you clever American song writers. Watch how easy this is:

"I'm in love with a girl. Finest girl in the world. Think about her all the time. I didn't know I could feel this way."

We only have two things to sing about: love and loss. I'd sacrifice the whole fucked up nature of things if the alternative was losing that verse. RIP, Alex.

.
posted by gordie at 12:14 AM on March 18, 2010 [9 favorites]


geez, I feel like I've been punched in the gut. Thanks for everything, Alex.

.
posted by Tacodog at 12:17 AM on March 18, 2010


.

59 is an amazingly young age to be to have been both a 60s and 70s pop legend.

September Gurls was always my favourite - a perfect pop song.
posted by rongorongo at 12:33 AM on March 18, 2010


Man, I'm just gutted by this. Big Star and solo Alex were pretty important in my life.
I was lucky enough to see him solo at the El Mocambo in the mid-90's. He was kind of crusty but brilliant. I still can't believe it.
Here's my dot.
posted by chococat at 12:46 AM on March 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


.
posted by raysmj at 12:51 AM on March 18, 2010


Alex Chilton on 120 Minutes (1985)
posted by philip-random at 12:53 AM on March 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


ROCK BAND
posted by philip-random at 12:56 AM on March 18, 2010


A gut punch indeed. I just got back on my computer after being out all night (work, etc. not St. Patrick's day revelry) and the first thing I saw was the subject line "[Dear23] NP: Alex Chilton RIP" on an email from the Posies mailing list. Now I'm listening to Big Star and every note hurts.

(Jon and Ken from the Posies were members of the latter-day version of Big Star.)
posted by litlnemo at 1:25 AM on March 18, 2010


chococat: "Here's my dot."

Nice.

My old pals James and April Combs posted a cover of Nighttime this evening which is sticking deeply with me tonight; I can't stop listening to it.
posted by mwhybark at 1:35 AM on March 18, 2010


Ah fuck.

Man I love Thirteen. That was great chococat. Guess I'm falling asleep to #1 Record.
posted by eyeballkid at 1:47 AM on March 18, 2010


Very sad about Chilton's death--but glad to learn that the former Arson Gardeners have a new project.

.
posted by doubtfulpalace at 1:54 AM on March 18, 2010


.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:12 AM on March 18, 2010


Had tix to see Big Star in the Fall, and didn't go because I was feeling beat and too low and I guess it just goes to show you.

Without wishing to make light of your feelings in any way, Big Star live were a pretty damn good antidote to feeling beat and low. I was lucky enough to see them twice in the last year and they were really something quite special.

RIP Alex, and thank you.
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:16 AM on March 18, 2010


so sad. lately i was really obssesed with big star. daisy glaze on repeat, etc.

fuck, why so sad!
posted by valdesm at 2:58 AM on March 18, 2010


God damn.

Guy moved the world.
posted by From Bklyn at 3:06 AM on March 18, 2010


Oh no.

.
posted by daveje at 3:08 AM on March 18, 2010


.
posted by El Brendano at 3:15 AM on March 18, 2010


Bah. I don't know what else to say. This sucks.
posted by cropshy at 3:22 AM on March 18, 2010


.
posted by chillmost at 3:45 AM on March 18, 2010


I saw him at the Point in Atlanta, touring in support of "High Priest", I think. It was a great show, except for the college kid smoking a cigar, yelling for "The Letter" every chance he got.

Alex finally got fed up with him and said, "This isn't a fucking oldies show."

During the encore he started taking requests. College Boy yelled for "The Letter" again and Alex ignored him. Robert and I were pressed up against the stage and I asked for "Turn Your Money Green". Alex looked at me and said "I'll play that," and they did.

When we asked for, I think, "Guantanamerika", Alex said "I'll play that."

When he finished, he looked at us.

"I Want To Hold Your Hand".

"What key?"

"G."

He turned to the bass player, who shrugged and nodded.

After that song, Alex looked straight at us. We shrugged and said, somewhat ashamed, "The Letter".

"I'll play that." And they did.


posted by donpardo at 4:19 AM on March 18, 2010 [34 favorites]


"The Ballad Of El Goodo" came as close as anything to literally saving my life during my dark early twenties. I'm so grateful for Alex Chilton's music and the music he inspired.
posted by padraigin at 4:41 AM on March 18, 2010


.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:48 AM on March 18, 2010


Oh, oh shit! I was actually happy this morning, despite a load of a day ahead. Now I'm sad. Alex Chilton has always been, for me, one of those mysteries of nature. For some reason his music always seemed out of time, and something that we were only mistakenly let in on. Big Star, in particular, is so good that it feels uncanny to me to listen to #1 Record.

It gets so hard at times like now to hold on....
posted by OmieWise at 4:48 AM on March 18, 2010


My dad was a member of The DeVilles, which was the band that eventually became the Box Tops when Alex Chilton joined, and he played on their first record (The Letter/Neon Rainbow). He probably hasn't spoken to Alex in 30 years, but he just called me after reading the front page of the paper (we live in Austin), and it sounded like he was about to cry. Probably more because it made him think about his own mortality than because he mourns Alex, but some of that as well I'm sure. As I told him, though, Alex Chilton took very poor care of his health for a lot of years, and my dad did the opposite.

I'm a huge Alex Chilton fan regardless of my connection to him through my dad. I named myself on here after a Big Star song ("September Gurls" - "December boy's got it bad"). This isn't just some celebrity that died to me - it's like I lost a distant member of my family.
posted by DecemberBoy at 4:51 AM on March 18, 2010 [13 favorites]


Alex Chilton's voice had more Memphis grit than was considered entirely proper for a white gentleman.

I asked my dad about this - why he sounded so different on the Box Tops stuff than he did on the later Big Star stuff. His answer: the producer made him sing like that, and on the Big Star records he's singing in his actual voice.
posted by DecemberBoy at 4:55 AM on March 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


I would give up every rock and roll lyric ever written for these two lines of thirteen: "why dont you tell yr dad to get off yr back/why don't you tell him what we said about painted black" except it wouldn't have worked because it required us to feel the stones, profoundly, like a baptist feels the bible.

Chilton for me, from the boxtops onward, about the history of rock and roll--not in a clever, intertextuality, or a postmodernism, or studio tricks, but in the gut, in the immersive and beautiful idea that popular music had become a lingua franca. the language that we use to fall in love, and to grieve, and to be born, and to eventually die--he had the desire to fuck that is essential to rock, he never wasn't the one eyed cat peeking in the seafood store, but also had all of these emotions that seemed so complicated, and adult.

Chilton aside from reminding me of a brace of 70s singer-songwriters who did the same thing also reminds me of a bunch of country guys. People like Townes Van Zandt Nick Lowe or Warren Zevon or Willie Nelson or Loudon Wainwright...but he was unique, maybe because of his earnestness, or maybe because he knew Memphis so well.

Willie might be the odd man out there--but listen to some of the songs on the Atlantic sessions. Willie knew how to write, and the first thing that I went to yesterday, after hearing Chilton died, was Sad Songs and Waltzes, because it is such a clever song, and a heart breaking song, and a song that knows how geography can break yr heart as efficiently and as ruthlessly as any lover. It's a Chilton song.

I heard LCD Soundsystem's New York I Love You after that, and the same reason, the same feeling...it means something that someone can work as a bridge b/w those two seemingly disparate but not very seperate feelings.
posted by PinkMoose at 5:30 AM on March 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


.
posted by Legomancer at 5:30 AM on March 18, 2010


A little levity: Chilton covers Danny Pearson's "What's Your Sign, Girl".



Stop dying, musicians I adore and respect. If you didn't think I was serious after Vic and Linkous, I'm hella serious now. Cut that shit out.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:32 AM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


The first 30 seconds of "Back Of A Car" give me goosebumps every single time. Goodbye, sir.
posted by mintcake! at 5:35 AM on March 18, 2010


Well, shit.

I discovered Big Star totally by accident. I happened to actually live behind a Big Star grocery store growing up, and when I discovered this band with the same name, I figured it was worth a listen. And so I came to own #1 Record.

I had recently sent a fell-better-soon mix to one of my distant friends and included "I'm in Love With a Girl" as the final song with this note: Sometimes it's the simple, poppy crap that really matters. Alex Chilton knew that more than anyone, before or since.

I've got one playlist on my iPod called "Do You Wanna Dance?" It's all Big Star tunes and is one of my three or four go-to playlists for the morning commute, I was just listening to it today and thinking I should go back and listen to all those albums one more time. And so, now I will. I didn't know much of his later work, but now I think I'll take the time to absorb those also.

DecemberBoy, I always recognized your namesake, but didn't realize your connection to the man himself, best wishes, man.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 5:38 AM on March 18, 2010


First heard Big Star on a mix tape when I was 18 in 1987 and never stopped listening to them. Finally saw the current version of Big Star last fall at Brooklyn Masonic. Alex Chilton seemed to be having a good time -- I had heard stories about him being cantankerous on stage during his solo days. It was a great show.
I was thinking about how each segment of my life has a music that characterizes it, after Vic Chesnutt died. Vic's music really saved me when I moved to NY from the south in 96 and someone gave me a cassette of West of Rome. Big Star was the music of my peripatetic late teens/early 20s and was a perfect mix for the time of hopeful, ascendant and prematurely bitter.

It's hard to let go of these people. I feel like we need them around. I hope they had some idea of what they gave.
posted by secretary bird at 5:50 AM on March 18, 2010



posted by ghharr at 6:03 AM on March 18, 2010


I really wish I had more Big Star readily available on my iPod, because the stuff that's on there right now ("Big Black Car," "Blue Moon") is just devastating.

As much of a cliche as "heaven has an awesome band" may be, I can't help but imagine Alex reuniting with Chris Bell somewhere.
posted by anthom at 6:07 AM on March 18, 2010


kexp is currently playing all Alex Chilton songs.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:13 AM on March 18, 2010


Part of my dad's post on Facebook: "I remember like yesterday the first time we auditioned him to be the new lead singer in our band in Memphis that became The Box Tops ... he was too young to drive so I picked him up at his house in my mom's car for his audition."
posted by DecemberBoy at 6:14 AM on March 18, 2010 [6 favorites]


Nothing can hurt me
Nothing can touch me
Why should I care?
Driving's a gas
It ain't gonna last.

posted by porn in the woods at 6:19 AM on March 18, 2010


GRAR
posted by ersatz at 6:26 AM on March 18, 2010


.
posted by willpie at 6:52 AM on March 18, 2010


I didn't discover Big Star until I was in my twenties (back in the early nineties), but when I did, they stayed on constant rotation for me. I remember playing acoustic guitar and singing "I'm In Love With a Girl" to someone I was dating and thinking, "Yep, this pretty much sums it up."

I also remember being embarrassed to belatedly realize that the Bangles song "September Gurls" was a cover, and thinking how much it made sense that that was always my favorite song of theirs.

.
posted by freecellwizard at 6:55 AM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Take care not to hurt yourself
Beware of the need for help
You might need too much
And people are such
Take care, please, take care

Some people read idea books
And some people have pretty looks
But if your eyes are wide
And all words aside
Take care, please, take care

This sounds a bit like goodbye
In a way it is I guess
As I leave your side
I've taken the air
Take care, please, take care
Take care, please, take care
posted by Dr-Baa at 7:22 AM on March 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Awful news.

Such a great songwriter.
posted by JBennett at 7:53 AM on March 18, 2010


DecemberBoy, more stories!
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:53 AM on March 18, 2010



posted by smich at 8:01 AM on March 18, 2010


*
posted by Ber at 8:03 AM on March 18, 2010


Most of what my dad's told me about Alex Chilton revolved around how high he got all the time. I don't want to say my dad had a low opinion of him, but he sort of looked at him as everything he avoided becoming (addiction, instability, etc.) by getting out of the music business in his early 20s. I'll ask him if he has a particularly cool story about Alex.
posted by DecemberBoy at 8:13 AM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Tennessean didn't do much with him. At least the Memphis Commercial Appeal has a nice prominent remembrance at the top of its website this morning. Rest in peace.
posted by blucevalo at 8:14 AM on March 18, 2010


I just found out. No wonder I felt like shit yestarday. How fucking sad!
posted by elmono at 8:58 AM on March 18, 2010


Chilton & Teenage Fanclub, live in Glasgow, '96.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:58 AM on March 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


from offbeat magazine:
For years, I’ve thought that he was perhaps the perfect example of what the music business can make you. He’s best known for music he made at 16 as the hired voice of the Box Tops, a band that used little of his writing. With Big Star, he made remarkable music, but ... got very poor distribution. He made records he wanted people to hear and no one heard them. After that, he made music that always had “fuck this business” as a subtext.
.
posted by msconduct at 9:06 AM on March 18, 2010


Teenage Fanclub & Alex Chilton - Patti Girl
NME 7"
1993
posted by elmono at 9:11 AM on March 18, 2010 [2 favorites]



posted by Sys Rq at 9:25 AM on March 18, 2010


Oh my fucking god, I can barely breathe since seeing this on the front page a few minutes ago. I can't even bring myself to RTFA yet. What a dreadful, shocking loss: "all the instruments we have agree, the day of his death was a dark, cold day."
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:35 AM on March 18, 2010


Congressman Steve Cohen memorializes Chilton.
posted by vibrotronica at 9:40 AM on March 18, 2010 [3 favorites]



posted by andrewraff at 9:57 AM on March 18, 2010


We are the cosmos.

*
posted by jonp72 at 10:21 AM on March 18, 2010


Wow! I never made the connection that he was lead on the Box Tops as well as Big Star!

Gimme a ticket for an aero-plane
Ain't got time for a fast train
Lonely days are gone! I'm-a goin' home!
My baby, she wrote me a letter.

Yeah, she wrote me a letter,
told me she couldn't live without me no more.
Listen mister can't you see I got to get back
to my baby once-a more!

Anyways, yeah!

I don't care how much money I gotta spend
I got to get back to my baby once again
Lonely days are gone! I'm-a goin' home!
My baby, she wrote me a letter.
Yeah, my baby, she wrote me a letter.


I won't mind having this one stuck in my head today.
posted by jabberjaw at 10:57 AM on March 18, 2010


.
posted by MarshallPoe at 11:06 AM on March 18, 2010


An excerpt about the Butthole Surfers from Our Band Could Be Your Life:
Haynes then made a successful run for the dressing room and slammed the door behind him. Kramer could hear Leary and Haynes screaming at each other inside, and when he finally worked up the courage to open the door, he found the two of them smashing guitars, bottle and chairs in what Kramer calls “the most potent example of bad behavior I have ever seen. To this day, more than fifteen years later, I have no more vivid memory of the effect a life in music can have on a human being.”

Moments later a man entered the dressing room and asked if he could borrow a guitar. “BORROW A GUITAR??!!! WELL, WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU???!!! Haynes screamed, eyes flashing in delerious anticpation of forthcoming violence. But the man was totally unfazed.

“I’m Alex Chilton,” the man answered calmly.

Haynes was flabbergasted. After a long pause, he methodically opened the remaining guitar cases one by one and guestured at them as if to say, “Take anything you want.”
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 11:38 AM on March 18, 2010 [12 favorites]


Huh. What an incredible education everything always is here on the blue. Surprised that anyone remembered that song, The Letter, from way back when, when I was 13, I clicked on the link memorializing the lead singer. Yeah, that was a cool little song back then, a skinny white kid who sounded well endowed, like that Rick-rolled guy, Astley. So what was the fuss about this one hit wonder?

Wow. So he wasn't a one hit wonder guy at all but an utterly dedicated musician/singer/song writer, who worked for decades. What a neat surprise. Reading that excellent Crawdaddy article mediareport linked was a journey through rock ' roll/punk rock history. This thread has been Time Machine travel.

Alex Chilton Live In London l Alex Chilton -- Like Flies On Sherbert l here playing just a couple of years ago, still passionate, Femme Fatale l His Thirteen is brilliant. And what a great redition by chococat.

What beautiful grieving in this thread, the meaningful memories and love. My condolences to you, who remember him tenderly, to his wife, Laura and son, Timothy.

Interesting that Alex Chilton's dad was a jazz musician and Alex gradually transitioned from rockabilly mayhem to jazz in his later years.

It's humbling to learn now about a generation's taste in music I didn't know (I was living out of America from 1970 to the end of 1985 - 6 of those years with no electricity and little access to knowledge about the West).

Alex Chilton said he felt felt freer in New Orleans than Memphis. That seems cause to be glad for him he died there. Here he's talking about it standing in a cemetery in New Orleans, a mile or so from where he lived. It sure sounds like he suffered from BPD, his intense emotional volatility, ongoing addiction issues, intense approach-avoidance issues, his intense love of creation-destruction, manipulativeness. All things considered it was probably right for him to die at 59, rather than heading into Old Age. Considering his deep attraction to outrage as a performance expression in the punk years, a heart attack sounds like what he would have wanted for himself in his punk years, in every sense of that phrase, heart attack. Not sure resting in peace is right for him, but maybe it is.
Some Dylan Thomas for Alex Chilton.


DO NOT GO GENTLE INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

posted by nickyskye at 12:37 PM on March 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


.
posted by Cosine at 12:45 PM on March 18, 2010


The past few years have been freaking awful in a creepy "the end of an era" way obit-wise, but for reasons I can't quite articulate even to myself this is the first obit that viscerally made me blue in an immediate "I need a hug" way. I guess maybe because the soft spot in my heart for Chilton was already so big because of the strange alchemical blend of gorgeously weird pop and sad, sad personal life (washing dishes in the city, where most people don't even recognize you, ugh). Something about it was so endearing in a sorrowful way. When I came home last night from my friends' and got the news I cried which isn't something I ever do immediately upon such news, whether famous people or even family. It was really weird and yeah, I don't quite understand it, at least not in verbal terms. I see with all these "punch in the gut" responses I'm not alone. Ugh, I still need a hug.
posted by ifjuly at 1:16 PM on March 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


I saw Alex solo a handful of times over the years -- he was always mercurial, wonderfully so; capable of moments of shimmering greatness even at his most cantankerous. As others have noted, his cranky sense of humor was something to behold, too: once, when I saw him in London around 1989, someone toward the back of the audience kept drunkenly bellowing for “Cry Like a Baby.” Alex ignored him, his attitude getting sourer and sourer as the show progressed. Finally, he’d had enough: “you can shut up right now ‘cause I ain’t gonna play Cry Like a Fucking Baby. Asshole.” After a beat, in the silence that followed, one brave soul near the stage piped up: “so ‘Mi Sento Felice’ is right out, then, is it?” Suppressing a grin, Alex wordlessly went straight into “Cry Like a Baby”… in bad Italian.

A few years later, I was in grad school in Iowa City and wanted to road trip down to Missouri for that first reunion show in Columbia, but logistics conspired against me, so I seized the chance when they played in Chicago on their first full tour. For reasons that escape me now, no one I knew was available to go with me, so I decided to make the 4-hour trek on my own. Any awkwardness I initially felt for being alone -- the first time I'd ever gone to a concert by myself -- was pretty quickly dispelled while in line outside, when I struck up conversations with the people around me, who were just as over-the-moon excited as I was.

It turned out to be one of the single finest musical experiences of my life: there is no other word than sublime. Toward the end of the night, about halfway through “The Ballad of El Goodo,” I saw that the guy next to me had begun to cry. We had chatted before the show over beers, and I learned that he had driven from Michigan, bringing his 12-year-old son with him for his very first concert. Just as Alex sang “and there ain’t no one going to turn me round,” my concert pal turned to me, and did that half-laugh/half-sob you do when you’re caught crying and you know it’s silly in one way, but in another it’s totally not. “Did you ever think you’d live to see this day?” he said.

I saw Big Star another few times in the ‘90s after that, and I never got over the thrill of seeing them -- the thrill not just for my own sake, but for all the other music fanboys and fangirls who, indeed, never thought we’d live to see the day.

So thank you, Alex: for every song, for every chord, for every note of your whole crazy career. I hope more than anything that you went out of this world knowing that you were well and truly treasured.
posted by scody at 1:53 PM on March 18, 2010 [8 favorites]


Long time lurker, finally convinced to register because of this thread and the sad news.

I discovered Big Star and Alex in the early nineties when the three albums were re-issued. At the time I identified with the frustration and despair in the songs hugely, and the music became my personal soundtrack in a way.

Alex toured this part of the world, in the mid/late 90's. It was hilarious to see him confuse a small club full of indie types expecting to see Big Star come to life, and instead getting something quite different.


posted by benjimouse at 1:56 PM on March 18, 2010


.
posted by languagehat at 2:10 PM on March 18, 2010


.
posted by thivaia at 2:36 PM on March 18, 2010



posted by tip120 at 3:36 PM on March 18, 2010



also: memewit if and when you check in here, can you fill us in on your hanging tale from last thread?

Sigh. Not sure I can work it around the knot in my throat today. Plus, you're asking me to dredge adolescent details up through 30+ years of fog. What I DO recall more sharply is performing on stage as "The Disco Whip" (think psychobilly go-go dancer) with Alex's band and ducking as he alternated between attempting to unplug the synth player and brain the drummer. Or, years later, dodging a backstage beer bottle aimed at a sycophant that Alex had taken a sudden dislike to.

By the way, if you really want your heart to break today, hunt down "Cliches" - Alex's album of standards. Just him and a guitar. "Let's Get Lost" or "Time After Time."

And so Memphis loses one more king.
posted by memewit at 4:07 PM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


.
posted by klausness at 4:36 PM on March 18, 2010


This has been a tough couple of years. for the Box Tops. Thomas Boggs, second drummer for the Box Tops died a little short of two years ago. Big Star was scheduled to play a concert in Memphis' Levitt Shell in early May.
posted by grimjeer at 6:03 PM on March 18, 2010


Yeah, that 'and there ain't no-one gonna turn me round' phrase is one of the single greatest moments in rock'n'roll. The timing of the vocal against the chord progression, the chord progression itself, the melody. Nothing Elvis or the Beatles did came close.
posted by unSane at 8:13 PM on March 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Combustible Edison Lighthouse: "'I’m Alex Chilton,' the man answered calmly."

Awesome story. I have heard countless tales of Chilton's own generosity with time and gear as well.
posted by mwhybark at 11:12 AM on March 19, 2010


Thomas Boggs, second drummer for the Box Tops died a little short of two years ago. Big Star was scheduled to play a concert in Memphis' Levitt Shell in early May.

Oh Jesus, I'm almost positive my dad knew him too. At least it sounds like a name I've heard him say when he talked about music, but the drummer for the Box Tops when he was a member was Danny Smythe.
posted by DecemberBoy at 11:52 AM on March 19, 2010


The scheduled Big Star show at Antone's tomorrow is still taking place as a tribute. If you're in town for SXSW or live here and have a wristband/badge, you should really go. If you see a dude with bright red hair and glasses with an older dude that looks like him, that's me and my dad, come say hi.
posted by DecemberBoy at 12:26 PM on March 19, 2010


FWIW DecemberBoy I was walking around singing 'September Gurls' but with your handle all day today.
posted by mwhybark at 5:53 PM on March 19, 2010


Just when you're thinking it's safe to put the Kleenex away...

Paul Westerberg shows up with bacon and Seagram* on the Op-ed page of the New York Times.




...makes a lousy dinner.
posted by Skygazer at 4:07 PM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


FWIW DecemberBoy I was walking around singing 'September Gurls' but with your handle all day today.

Um... but... It's right there in the chorus! (He's got it bad?)
posted by Sys Rq at 4:15 PM on March 20, 2010


Some nice rundowns of the panel discussion and tribute concert at SXSW on Sunday. The show at Antone's included performances by John Doe, Mike Mills, Chris Stamey, Evan Dando, Susan Cowsill, Sondre Lerche (among others) alongside Jody Stephens, Jon Auer, Ken Stringfellow, and Andy Hummel (who traveled from Lithuania to play with Big Star for the first time in about 35 years). Billboard's article also includes the full statement from Laura Chilton, which was read at the beginning of the show.

In hopes that the full show is eventually released on CD or DVD, here's a few clips (get the Kleenex back out): The Ballad of El Goodo and the last half of September Gurls. I loved you, well, never mind / I've been crying, all the time...
posted by scody at 1:35 PM on March 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


(d'oh, that should have been "on Saturday.")
posted by scody at 1:37 PM on March 21, 2010


Some more about the panel discussion, including an anecdote about the time Alex Chilton refused to buy Charles Manson a gallon of milk. You read that right.
posted by scody at 5:45 PM on March 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks scody!
posted by From Bklyn at 1:30 AM on March 22, 2010


... my last late-breaker is that Mr. Chilton's widow turns out to be an old friend. I had no idea they were married, although I did know they knew each other. I would be best described as slackjawed on hearing the news.
posted by mwhybark at 5:42 PM on March 22, 2010


Alex Chilton didn't seek medical attention because he had no health insurance
posted by theyexpectresults at 2:26 AM on April 10, 2010


Oh, god. Like I thought there could be anything more heartbreaking about his death...
posted by scody at 10:38 PM on April 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh, god. Like I thought there could be anything more heartbreaking about his death...

It's a very rough life, the musician's life. Including those relatively well known, like Chilton. Not nearly enough money in it.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:27 AM on April 11, 2010


The comments thread on the article linked by theyexpectresults are practically incomprehensible to me. "He chose to be a musician, so nobody owes him health care." "If he didn't want to have a heart attack, he shouldn't have done so much coke." "Fuck you, I got mine." And my favourite, "Universal health care isn't the answer." Because yes, it fucking is. You have publicly funded roads, schools, a military, utilities, blah blah. So why not health care? It is, or should be, a public service, paid for by taxes just like other public services, and running it without attempting to profit from it makes it cheaper, better, and raises the quality of life for everyone in the country. I just don't get how this isn't obvious.
posted by jokeefe at 12:06 PM on April 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


I just found about about Alex Chilton today. But I instantly recognized his sound because he influenced so many other musicians. Pitchfork has a great story and collection of videos on him.
posted by telstar at 9:54 PM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


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