"I want to make an album of real genius, to sit alongside the Stones' 'Exile On Main Street', and Big Star's 'Third'" (Peter Buck, R.E.M. 1991)
The definitive biography of Big Star, the most influential band of the last 30 years.
Although Big Star were together for less than four years and had little commercial success, the influence of their three albums – #1 Record, Radio City and Third – are still felt today. Big Star bucked the musical trend of the Seventies. In an era of glam and prog rock they wrote catchy, radio friendly Power-pop tunes that remain influential today. Artists such as Primal Scream, R.E.M., the Bangles, the Posies, Teenage Fanclub, Jeff Buckley, Garbage, St. Etienne, Pavement and Travis regularly speak of the Big Star legacy.
After singing in 1960s boy-band The Box Tops, Alex Chilton joined up with Andy Hummel, Jody Stephens and Chris Bell to form Big Star in late 1970. Chilton and Bell quickly formed a Lennon-McCartney type partnership at the heart of band and began turning out tunes laced with the best pop sensibilities of the Beatles and Badfinger, the guitars of the Byrds and the harmonies of the Beach Boys. But creative tensions, haphazard distribution, and marketplace indifference sent the band into a series of splits, solo-projects and short-lived reunions that left them on the brink of oblivion. Thirty years later though, and most guitar bands in the world will admit a debt to Big Star and their three albums remain unqualified successes.
Drawing on interviews from surviving band members (including Andy Hummel's first interview for 30 years) and the major players at the Memphis based record label Ardent, Rob Jovanovic has written the definitive history of Big Star, the forgotten band.
‘Devotees of Big Star often bewail the band’s failiure to win popular acclaim, even though their influence has been carried forward in the work of REM, Primal Scream and Teenage Fanclub. A quick whizz through the Big Star story is enough to explain why this ill-fated outfit will always be filled under “damaged and enigmatic”. In between knocking out slices of harmony pop like September Gurls or Thirteen, they travelled to some bleak archipelagos of the soul in the some of the strangest recordings ever made in the name of pop.’ Adam Sweeting, Guardian
About the author
Rob Jovanovic is a regular contributor to ‘Mojo’, ‘Q’, ‘Uncut’ and ‘Record Collector’ and the author of two other books, ‘Beck!’ (2000) and ‘Adventures in Hi-fi: the Complete REM’ (2001).