In the early 1970s Alex Chilton and Chris Bell of Big Star were essentially laying down the template for what would become "power pop." Drawing on the British Invasion groups of the '60s, and Chilton's soul influences from his former band The Box Tops for their melodies and the harder edges of American rock and punk for their lyrics, Big Star created three of the greatest pop rock records in the history of music.
The critics took notice but the fans did not, and despite ambitious titles to their albums like their début #1 Record the masses failed to generate the expected sales. And the band that would influence groups from The Replacements to REM went largely unnoticed by all but the avant garde until the aforementioned bands themselves brought Big Star into the public consciousness with their citations of influence and constant praise.
Sadly, on March 17, 2010 Alex Chilton, lead guitarist and vocalist of the band, died in much the same way as he and his band existed; unfortunately and unfairly unnoticed. Acknowledged by the music community which always saw the genius in Chilton's compositional abilities, he died of a heart attack at age 59, and had garnered far less recognition than someone who contributes nothing to society or the cultural landscape like, say, Anna Nicole Smith. Which is an obvious and yet illustrative demonstration and commentary on the current state of the aptitude, pop cultural education, and appreciation of quality art amongst the general public.
But for fans of bands as varied as The Kinks, Beck, Brendan Benson, Wilco, and even Cheap Trick — who covered the Big Star song "In the Street" off of #1 Record from the second season of the sitcom "That 70s Show" and on — Big Star is an essential band. The combination of Alex Chilton and his talented songwriting partner and original band leader Chris Bell was a tumultuous concoction that created a rock/pop fusion sound that at times borders on near perfection.
And for fans of whatever power pop, modulated crap that record companies are currently trying to shove down the throats of teenagers these days, turn off the insubstantial radio music immediately and purchase, at the very least, #1 Record and Radio City. Big Star's third release — Third/Sister Lovers — is thematically different than the first two records, does not feature Chris Bell as part of the band, and is geared more for fans who already have an understanding of the intricacies of Alex Chilton's unique approach to music.