Alex Chilton Berkeley Square, Berkeley, California, November 1985
I knew Alex Chilton had been the lead singer of The Boxtops and I knew one song, “The Letter” from my “Stardust” original movie soundtrack album. A great album by the way and is how I first heard Hendrix. KALX used to play “September Gurls” by his next band, Big Star, all the time. More recently he’d produced the first Cramps and Panther Burns albums, which I loved. He was indie underground Legend. Alan McGee, who set up Creation records and signed Oasis, apparently made all his signings listen to Big Star. They were like the Velvet Underground – no audience first time around, but became cult. At this stage, though, Big Star were a distant memory and Chilton had all but retired from music. So, a rare sighting of a Legend. Big Star reformed in the early 90s for a tour and finally got some kudos and dosh.
He was short, kinda straight looking and played great guitar. There was no ego or rock God posturing. Normal guy. He played “Slut” by Todd Rungren, loads of old soul and RnB covers, one about AIDS (“fuck me and die”), no “The Letter” but did do “September Gurls”, the opening riff getting a big cheer. All very casual and almost throw-away. He made it look easy. The only song I recognised, when I finally heard more Big Star, was a version of “Big, Black Car”. Totally Cool. Made you want to keep it to yourself but at the same time wanting more people to know about this great thing.
Alex died suddenly on St Patrick's Day, 2010 aged 59.