Saturday, June 29, 2013

"Big Star: The Story of Rock's Forgotten Band" by Rob Jovanovic

In one word to describe the band Big Star: Iconic.   Like the Velvet Underground, Ziggy Stardust, and the early to mid Kinks, the work is faultless.  Big Star is part of that grouping due that they made music at a specific time in a special city that's Memphis.   To make such perfect noise in the Memphis landscape is quite remarkable.  Does that genius come through the Memphis tap water?  Sun Records, Stax, and then Big Star.

Rob Jovanovic did a great job with respect to research and capturing what makes Alex Chilton, Chris Bell, Andy Hummel and Jody Stephens' music so special.   The one sour note, and it is not the author's fault, that he didn't get to speak directly to Chilton, who without a doubt, is probably one of the most interesting figures in contemporary pop music.  Bruce Eaton's  book on Big Star's "Radio City" (part of the 33 1/3 series) is a much better book, due that he had actually had a relationship with Chilton, and Alex was willing to talk to him.  Through that book one finds out he was devoted to Civil War history,and was quite knowledgeable about Memphis and New Orleans history.  Plus he was totally devoted to the world of Zodiac signs - and had a long interesting relationship with the great photographer William Eggleston.

But by no means does that mean one should ignore Jovanovic's book.  Its a very good (and detailed book, especially the early years of The Box Tops) bio on a band that is endlessly fascinating.  So do get this beautifully produced edition (by the great Jaw Bone), as well as Eaton's book on "Radio City" and the masterpiece by Robert Gordon "It Came From Memphis."  The beauty of the Alex Chilton narrative is one gets a bigger picture of Memphis as well as American music.

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