Tragic Music - Big Star Book Gives Great Bio About The Band

by frugalrvers

Rob Jovanovic wrote a book called "Big Star: The Short Life, Painful Death, and Unexpected Resurrection of the Kings of Power Pop." The title sums up the band so well...

Chris Bell, Andy Hummel, Jody Stephens, and Alex Chilton started the band Big Star in Memphis in 1971. Big Star was a band that was ahead of its time, making music that was innovative, fresh, exciting and ultimately unsuccessful in the marketplace.

To say they were ahead of their time is of course another way to say they were setting trends instead of following them. They made music that was built on a foundation of the British invasion style rock of their heroes, with a touch of soul and R&B, and the spice of jangly guitars and lots of harmony.

They have been claimed as an influence by REM among many others, and are considered the fathers of alternative rock and power pop. But their story is one of tragedy and pain...

Big Star Biography - Alex Chilton Chris Bell Hook Up

How Big Star Began

The Box Tops were an early success in the new blue-eyed soul genre, and from 1967 to 1970 Alex Chilton was their vocalist. His husky, unique singing can be heard on their most famous song, "The Letter."

After the Box Tops ended, Chilton started recording some demos, and he asked Chris Bell, whom he had known from the local music scene, to join him in a duo format.

Bell instead asked Chilton to join his own band called Icewater, which included Andy Hummel and Jody Stephens. Chilton brought several of his own songs to the band, which they renamed Big Star after a supermarket chain in Memphis.

Had You Heard Of The Band Big Star Before Now?

Chances Are Some Of Your Favorite Musicians Perform Their Songs!

Big Star #1 Record

By 1972 the group had written and recorded songs for their first record, appropriately if a little naively titled #1 Record - although the double meaning is clever too.

Big Star immediately became one of those bands that the rock critics love and write about enthusiastically, but nothing else seems to go right for. They were on the Memphis home-grown Stax label, which didn't have a lot of experience with a rock group, and the label failed to publicize and distribute the record as it should have done.

Big Star #1 Record/Radio City Remastered Double Album

CD or MP3s Of First Two Albums In One
#1 Record / Radio City
Only $16.69

Big Star Radio City

While they had been hopeful as any new band with a great record and a label should be, the letdown after the first album was devastating. Columbia Records took over the Stax label after their second album, Radio City, had already been recorded, and the band had essentially been cut in half, with Hummel and Bell leaving before the record was in the stores. Once again, ineffective publicity and distribution doomed the record to failure, even as the critics raved about it.

Trouble - Big Star Break Up And Chris Bell Death

Problems with their record companies and internal strife took a terrible toll on the band, and their lack of commercial success was a contributing factor to the turmoil. Bell and Hummel actually came to blows several times, and Bell was using drugs heavily as well. Both he and Hummel quit the band.

After leaving Big Star in 1972, Bell recorded a few demos with local musicians, and started working on his own music. He was able to get a record deal, and to promote his 2 solo albums, he traveled abroad and tried to build and make a living from a solo career. He was largely unsuccessful, and he returned to the states and to work at one of his father's restaurants in 1978.

Though the rest of Big Star called it quits in 1974, in 1978, the first 2 Big Star records saw re-release as a double record set in the UK. The band, then consisting of Chilton and Stephens and session players, had an unreleased album recorded in 1974 in the can called Third/Sister Lovers, which finally was made available after the first two albums came out again in the states.

It was shortly after this third record was released in 1978 that Chris Bell died in a car wreck, at the age of 27 - making him a member of the Forever 27 Club.

Big Star Third Sister Lovers Album And Big Star Tribute Music

Third / Sister Lovers
Only $74.99
Big Star Small World
Only $19.99
Tribute to Big Star
Only $22.00

Alex Chilton Death in 2010 Is End Of Big Star

Chilton and Stephens reformed Big Star in 1993 after their records became cult classics and acknowledged influences in the new alternative rock genre. They continued to record off and on, releasing an album titled “In Space.”

Chilton had an independent and largely underground solo recording career throughout this time in addition to his work with the reformed band. Unfortunately, Alex Chilton died in 2010 from heart problems and that was the official end of Big Star as well.

In the years since their original formation, both Big Star's recordings, Chilton's albums, and Bell's  small body of solo work have become legendary, sought after collector's items. The Rob Jovanivic book is praised as a wonderful, thorough tribute biography to this fantastic band - a must-read for any fan.

Other Music Articles We've Written

The Forever 27 Club is something no musicians want to belong to, or do they? Is there a 27 club jinx? Find out about the list of artists who died at twenty seven years of age here.
For Bob Marley, cause of death is just one area of his life that is surrounded by myths. Here are some facts about this remarkable musician's life as well as death.
One of the greatest tragedies in music history is the plane crash that took the lives of Ronnie Van Zant and the Gaines siblings, the early members of Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Hank Williams Sr death at the age of 29, one would think, would have ended his music as well. But sixty years after he died, people of all ages still know and love his songs.
Updated: 05/09/2018, frugalrvers
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?

Big Star Comments?

Only logged-in users are allowed to comment. Login

You might also like

Forever 27 - The Myths, The Music, The Mystery

The Forever 27 Club is something no musicians want to belong to, or do they? ...

Top Comedian Gone Too Soon - Mitch Hedberg CDs And MP3s

These Mitch Hedberg CDs and MP3s should be listened to by everyone. Mitch was...

Disclosure: This page generates income for authors based on affiliate relationships with our partners, including Amazon, Google and others.
Loading ...