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on March 24, 2014
Short form: if you are interested in Alex Chilton or Big Star to any degree, this book is a must read. An incredibly well-researched and superbly written biography of a really complex, interesting man and his music.

Longer form: I know at least a bit about the subject matter. I'm the author of the 33 1/3 book Big Star's Radio City. I started out in the mid 70s as a Big Star / Chilton fan. Eventually met Alex in '1979, played some shows with him and stayed in touch over the decades. I spent two years doing research and interviews for the 33 1/3 book and even before doing that, had read pretty much every article written about him. I also provided material for the Nothing Can Hurt Me film. (I didn't know Holly when she started the book but gladly provided her with all of my research materials, notably Alex's last extended interview.) So before I got to read the book, I was thinking that I'd probably be pretty familiar most of the details. Well, as Lou Reed once observed, "Just goes to show how wrong you can be."

Even if you're the biggest Alex Chilton fan on the planet, you'll be amazed at how much new material (much of it from previously unexplored sources) Holly has uncovered and how many new details and insights she adds to the parts of Alex's story that you think you know all about. Start reading and you'll immediately know that you're in the hands of serious major league biographer. One paragraph in I realized that I wasn't going to be skipping past a single sentence.

Most rock /music biographies read like an extended magazine feature and don't bring anything really new to the table. Way too many are just cobbled together from already existing material that's repeated over and over as gospel truth without any reexamination (it takes a lot more work to do real research). A Man Called Destruction reads like Peter Guralnick's bios of Elvis and Sam Cooke or the Gary Giddins bio of Bing Crosby. It's on that level and that's about the highest praise I could give a book in this genre. If you're not totally familiar with Alex's work, the book will make you want to explore it all. If you've heard it all, you'll hear it in a new way. I'd write more but it's time for you to stop reading this and start reading A Man Called Destruction.
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on March 22, 2014
Despite the Dawn Eden quote, this is an exemplary bio of a difficult man... Spent the last two nights with forty years of his music playing in the background as I filled in all the holes left in the other books covering the same subject matter
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on April 9, 2014
I basically devoured this in one sitting. Chilton was the ultimate enigma, or at least that's how I explain my interest. The author has done a fine job piecing the story together around infrequent but engaging interviews Chilton gave over the years. The Cub Koda Goldmine interview must have been a great read because Chilton didn't pull many punches. Bruce Eaton got more in his concentration on Big Star's Radio City (my favorite), although Chilton seemed dismissive about his masterpiece. Chilton was enormously talented as a songwriter, singer, and guitar player and his best work was decades paying him any recompense while he sank into a dissolute life, presumably embittered by the evaporation of his best work due to the malfeasance of Stax Records management and a corporate shakeup at CBS. There was also an appalling family tragedy and the imponderable effects of the leap from psych ward to chart-topper at sixteen years old. In the end Chilton escaped the dissolute life by going all the way down to dishwasher while consulting the saner writings of Wilhelm Reich (even though he quit high school to be a pop singer). The later music seems to have been beyond ironic, meaningful to the singer and incomprehensible to the audience. Once belated recognition was available he seemed to disdain it. I expect any listener deeply affected by Chilton's songs and performances will find this hard to put down.
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on April 6, 2014
Holly George-Warren has done it. She has written the perfect biography of Alex Chilton. Any person who has been touched by his artistry yet sometimes confused by Chilton's mercurial persona will leave this book with the most thorough understanding of this talented and troubled icon / iconoclast. George-Warren approaches her subject with an enormous amount of affection and respect but never shies away from Chilton's troubled and troubling personal behaviors. Read Bruce Eaton's Radio City book to understand Big Star's magical studio work. Watch the Nothing Can Hurt Me documentary to see the visual representations of Big Star and Alex Chilton. Read A Man Called Destruction to understand the real Alex Chilton.
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on May 9, 2014
I enjoyed this book very much although I thought the author gave very short shrift to the last 20 years of Chilton's life, less than 20 pages in a book exceeding 300 pages. The fact that he did finally experience marital happiness and solid commercial success comes too late in the narrative and ends too quickly. Otherwise, the book describes well Chilton's childhood, Box Tops years, Big Star and subsequent 70's and 80's solo career. Chilton was a very talented musician who really needed but never got adequate management. Then again, he just may have been unmanageable! The author captures well Chilton's personality, his strengths and failings. I am a huge Big Star fan, and my wife and oldest son were privileged to see him perform with his trio for several hours one night in January 2000. He could really play guitar. He also enjoyed interaction with the club crowd so we were able to speak with him some. Such a shame and a loss that he is no longer here.
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on November 8, 2014
Interesting book. It was heavy on the 'music' side and a little light on the 'life' part. I had wondered how a kid who was only 16 when he had a hit record dealt with fame, life, etc. and all that goes along with it. I think this book answered a lot of my questions and still left many others.

Parts of the book were tedious to read because of my lack of awareness of Big Star and the other music endeavors of Alex. I have since caught myself up on his music and wow...what a talent he was!

This book is really hard for me to critique. It's not one of those books that will leave you with a happy ending. It's just not there. Alex was brilliant in his own way and yet very troubled and I think that part is well documented here.

I did notice that the book mentioned the Box Top's visit to the Mike Douglas show and that "Carol Channing" was interviewing them. It wasn't Carol Channing, it was Virginia Graham who was the Joan Rivers of her era.

I will do a lot more listening to the music of Big Star and Alex specifically then go back and read the book again.
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on April 3, 2014
I enjoyed this book because it covered Alex Chilton who has written and sang some of my favorite rock songs. I don't think anyone had considered a book on Alex Chilton before because the small body of what most people would consider his best work took place before he was even 24 years old. In his later years, he didn't write as many songs, and also didn't do much revisiting of the genres that made him popular to begin with like many artists do. In fact, Alex Chilton seemed to have a desire to hide out and not be famous in the latter half of his life. Artistically, it seems as though his purpose of the last 35 or so years of his musical career was to remind people of an eclectic range of oldies by doing cover versions of them.

Through interviews with Chilton who was allegedly reluctant to be interviewed most times, and interviews with friends and associates, Holly George-Warren puts together a fairly complete seeming portrait of a complex person.
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on April 16, 2014
I'm not the best reviewer in the world, but here it goes!

Been an Alex Chilton fan for over 20 years, never thought there'd be a comprehensive biography written about the man. Holly George-Warren does a great job with this, she resists the temptation to over editorialize the material, or get overly sentimental or dramatic, like a lesser writer would.

After reading the book I don't feel like I 'know' the man any better, which is fine. It seems Chilton wanted it that way, it's all there in his music. I took my time reading the book, and listened to a lot of Big Star and his solo stuff with new ears and appreciation while doing so. This book is worth it just for that.

What seems to be made clear is that Chilton wasn't some kind of total screw up, he wasn't his worst enemy. He put great effort into his music, and when it was rejected, he didn't pander, he just kind of gently put up his middle finger and moved on.

As another reviewer mentioned, I wish there was more information on his last years, but if the information's not there, it's not there. There's plenty of detail on other phases of his life and career.

I hope Alex had fun and some fulfillment or satisfaction throughout some of the crazy and unfair things that happened in his life, because he certainly inspired and gave joy to many with his music.

I highly recommend this book for any fan of any aspect of his career, Holly George-Warren has done a beautiful job.
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on May 28, 2014
I am a big fan of Alex Chilton, have all his records from every stage of his career, and I enjoyed this book very much. It gives you a lot of great background of where he came from, what he went through, and the real life of musicians, as opposed to the "Oh, he must be famous and rich"idea, which you learn was not true at all. If I had one complaint about the book I would say that it ends rather abruptly, as if the writer had a time limit to get the publisher. It could have also used a brief afterword about his ongoing legacy in popular music, and the current status of his fellow band-mates. But I'm grateful to have any detailed book about him, and grateful for the many great records he produced that still sound as fresh and beautiful today as they did when they were recorded.
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on May 20, 2014
It was interesting to read this, living here in Memphis for so many years.

All of the stories check out and are incredibly accurate. In fact, I never thought I would be reading about the forgotten grocery order and the screwdriver stabbed guitar (which is alive and well).

I have recommended this book to all of the Chilton fans that I know, and there are plenty. Good job!
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