Friday, June 20, 2008

big star: radio city

memphis calling...

Those of you out there familiar with my guest posts on Art Decade will be aware of my affection for Big Star. And those of you with a similar fondness for anything to do with Alex Chilton will know their second album, Radio City like the back of your hand.

At the time of its release the question on everybody's lips was how the ex Box Tops front man would cope with the loss of co-writer and guitarist, Chris Bell, struggling with depression and uncertainty as to his place within the group. Rumours of a budding solo career were the subject of much speculation.

The hive prognosis was suitably dire. The honey might drip, but surely would never set.

Recorded - as was #1 Record - at Ardent Studios in Memphis, Radio City proved just how much the fractured Chilton could keep it together. The sound is often fragile certainly, precariously "up there" as a tightrope walker on a unicycle, but the jangling heady vibe recalls the best of Saturday nights with only a foretaste of the looming morning come down narrowly hinted at. It's there - a cautious sense of impending dread - but it informs as much as warns.

Fuck tomorrow, let's just fuck.

Bell's spectral presence can still be felt as a folk minstrel Banquo at Macbeth's banquet, not least because Chilton and the remaining members of the band refuse to give up the ghost, and it's precisely that ambiguity which immediately warms the listener to Radio City.

"I'm In Love With A Girl" sounds unmistakably as if it's been written with Bell in mind.

ardent, memphis limited pressing.

Ultimately, it's not a chronicle of heroin addiction ; it's a stubborn refusal to let go of a good friend.

BIG STAR: LIFE IS WHITE from "Radio City" LP (Ardent/Stax) 1974 (US)

BIG STAR: I'M IN LOVE WITH A GIRL from "Radio City" LP (Ardent/Stax) 1974 (US)



davyh said...

Great band, great songs - it would have been Teenage Fanclub that turned me on to them originally I guess...generous in their Chilton name-dropping. And This Mortal Coil also took up the Bell links...

Happy Friday Glasgow x

ib said...

Yeah... Teenage Fanclub were huge Chilton fanatics, one of the best bands to have ever come out of Glasgow, Davy H, and there's not that many...

Thanks for the comment, man. Have a good weekend!

Your driver said...

Many, many bands that I love, Teenage Fanclub fer instance, point to Big Star as an influence. I can't hear it. I just don't like Big Star. I've tried really I have. Sounds like everything awful about the '70's. I know I'm in the minority on this one, I tried man, I downloaded 'em and listened to them and I don't hear anything I could listen to twice.

ib said...

Hey, Jon, it's cool. You don't have to like it just because you can't get behind other people's high regard.

I felt a lot like that, myself, when people with similar tastes to mine raved on about R.E.M. ; I just couldn't hear it, especially from Orange Crush on when they began to come on like stadium fillers.

All I could hear was the sound of cash registers ringing.

I only changed my opinion slightly after a friend played me "Voice Of Harold", the b-side to a 1987 single which I didn't hear until three years after its original release.

Brushback said...

"Radio City": the greatest record of all time.

ib said...

I will not argue with that accolade, Brushback.

Thanks for supporting this post.