Big Star The Grand, Clapham, London, August 1993
(I wrote this before Chilton's sad death, 2010. RIP)
Alex Chilton had been a teenage star in the 60s with the Box Tops. Big Star followed who were the ultimate cult band. They never played Europe and hardly played in the US. Bad management, bad drugs, bad luck. Ahead of their time. I’d seen him solo in Berkeley and had since bought all 3 Big Star albums and knew them inside out.
And suddenly he announced a tour with the original drummer and back up from the Posies. Unbelievable! And it was just down the road from where I was living.
Large group of us went. They concentrated on the first two poppier albums, not the bleak third. Have you ever heard “Holocaust”? Music for the end of the World. Alex had a big semi-acoustic and made it look easy. He’s not sold on the myth and even spent 2 years working in a New Orleans kitchen. He didn’t care. But he played the songs as if they were fresh. Chiming riffs and licks. “September Gurls” was magic. “Back of a Car”, “Baby Beside Me”, “Way Out West”, “I’m in Love with a Girl”, “You Get What You Deserve”. Song after song, all of them bigger and better live. The crowd were screaming approval and Alex seemed to enjoy it, though he commented that he couldn’t believe we wanted to hear this “old shit”. He came back for one last encore 10 minutes after the house lights went up and the venue was half full. Michael Jackson had just been done for kiddy-fiddling (the first time) and he dedicated “Thirteen” to him. One of my Top Ten gigs, easy.