This week's Classic Album Spotlight is of a literal double album, Big Star's legendary power pop masterpeices #1 Record / Radio City
#1 Record (1972) / Radio City (1974)
So, following from last week, this isn’t really a classic record, per se, but bear with me! Ever since a reissue in 1992, the only way to get these records was all crammed together like this, so for the musicians influenced by them today, this is probably how they heard them.
Big Star were the Memphis Beatles, led by the McCartney/Lennon of former teen-pop-star Alex Chilton and college-introvert Chris Bell. They released two near-perfect power pop records in the early ‘70s distributed by Stax, of all labels, got rave reviews, and sold virtually no records. They also called themselves Big Star, and their albums #1 Record and Radio City, so they obviously had a handle on irony before it was cool.
What followed was some of the most beautiful power pop ever created, dripping with teenage angst, Beatles harmonies, jangling guitars, and basically everything alternative rock would come to be about a decade later. R.E.M. claimed they could never craft a record as perfect as one of Big Star’s, the Replacements gave homage in their most famous song “Alex Chilton”, and one of Katy Perry’s handlers apparently paid tribute by titling a song “California Gurls”. Big Star has reach.
Band members: Alex Chilton (vocals/guitar/piano)
Chris Bell (#1 Record Only) (guitar/vocals)
Jody Stephens (drums/vocals)
Andy Hummel (bass/vocals)
Origin: 1971, Memphis, TN
Genre(s): Power Pop
Influenced: The Replacements, R.E.M., Primal Scream, Matthew Sweet, Wilco, and generally most subsequent alternative rock and power pop
Recommended tracks: 1-2. The Ballad of El Goodo, 1-4. Thirteen, 1-7. When My Baby’s Beside Me, 2-5. You Get What You Deserve, 2-7. Back of a Car, 2-10. September Gurls