Since September 2010, this blog has recorded the journey of this middle-aged man as I attempt to listen to all the music in my CD collection. CDs revisited in their entirety from start to finish - no skipping tracks, no shuffle. CDs only - no vinyl, no tapes, no downloads. And just as CD technology (and the album format itself) becomes obsolete. I'm no music critic, just a music junkie with too much time on my hands.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Big Star - #1 Record/Radio City (1972/1974)

Big Star was a short-lived power pop group that hailed from Memphis in the early '70s.  They never had any great chart success and, quite frankly, I had never heard of the group until the late 90's.  That's when I noticed that many groups to which I listened were listing Big Star as an influence.  Then it was one of those situations where, once you know a name, you become aware of its appearance everywhere.  So I picked up this two-fer CD to see what the fuss was all about.  Admittedly, I didn't get it at first, but upon repeated listenings I finally began to hear what everybody was talking about.  The group didn't receive proper marketing support, leading to one of the biggest "what if" questions in rock n roll history.

#1 Record was the band's debut album and the songwriting duties were handled by Alex Chilton and Chris Bell and there's a definite complimentary difference between the two.  I'd compare the two to Lennon & McCartney, but that's been done to death.  Bell's songs rock harder than those of Chilton, but both were good songwriters and harmonizers.  I listen to it and think, "Ah, so that's were R.E.M. lifted that."  As Allmusic states: "The problem with coming in late on an artwork lauded as 'influential' is that you've probably encountered the work it influenced first, so its truly innovative qualities are lost." Ah, well.  It's not like I could have appreciated this music when I was 5 years old. So the alternative scene of the eighties pinched much of their sound from groups like Big Star, just as Big Star pinched much of their sound from the British Invasion of the sixties - so what?

Bell left the group after #1 Record, so Chilton is the clear leader of the Radio City album.  The most obvious differences are Bell's vocal harmonies, but I also notice that this album doesn't sound as good as #1 Record, so I have to conclude that Bell was very involved in the production/engineering of that first record.

I understand there's a recent documentary on the band.  I'll need to check that out.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: Neither album charted

#1 Record: The review from the September 9, 1972 issue of Billboard magazine puts it best:
To that, I'll add that I think the hidden gem on #1 Record is The India Song.

Radio City: Overall, this is a weaker album, but there are a few choice cuts: O My Soul, Back Of A Car, and September Gurls.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None


  1. Been waiting for this one.

    "Thirteen" is my jam but both albums for me are unskippable. Shuffleable? Sure. Skippable? Not on your life.

    The doc is really good if prone to tangents and ultimately sad but highly recommended nonetheless. Got an afternoon or evening to kill? Pair Nothing Can Hurt Me with Muscle Shoals and some ribs.

  2. Gotta mention "In the Street" was covered and used as the theme song to That 70s Show.