Big StarMemphis Power Pop Pioneers By Stewart Mason
The ultimate power pop cult heroes.
Even more than the Velvet Underground, Big Star's non-existent commercial success has been overshadowed by the influence they've had on later generations of indie rockers. The Memphis natives' brand of eccentric, Anglophile pop, all jangling guitars and wistful melancholy, was completely out of step with the southern rock boogie trends of the early '70s. Even worse, they were signed to an obscure subsidiary of a struggling indie label (Stax Records), so their LPs were difficult to locate in stores. Add personality conflicts that occasionally led to intra-band fistfights and resulted in the original quartet losing founder Chris Bell after 1972's #1 Record and bassist Andy Hummel after 1974's Radio City, and it's almost a wonder they managed to release anything at all. However, those two albums -- as well as the uncompleted '74-'75 sessions by singer-songwriter Alex Chilton and drummer Jody Stephens released posthumously as Third/Sister Lovers -- directly inspired bands ranging from R.E.M. and the dB's to This Mortal Coil and Teenage Fanclub, and continue to find new waves of followers with each succeeding pop generation. Chilton and Stephens revived Big Star as a live act in the '90s, with the Posies' Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer as Bell and Hummel's stand-ins.
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