Top positive review
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The subtitle says it all
on August 29, 2005
Big Star. They could never escape their ironic name. Founded by Alex Chilton, Chris Bell, Andy Hummel and Jody Stephens, they appeared to be poised to take the rock world by storm in 1972. Critical acclaim and great songwriting didn't translate into sales when a lousy distribution deal with Stax went bad. Chris Bell (Chilton's songwriting partner and the second lead singer in the band) left after little more than a handful of gigs. The band solidered on with a second critically acclaimed album before becoming mired in drugs, alcohol and despair.
The most tragic story this side of Badfinger, Big Star never tasted the success of their storied British counterparts in the power-pop movement. Chilton who had been the lead singer in The Box Tops has never been able to escape the shadow of what might have been and was viewed as a has-been by the industry before he was 25. Bell came to an untimely end after surfacing from a dark time in his life where his bisexuality (or homosexuality depending upon who's telling the story)and uncertainty pushed him to depend on drugs to escape. He recorded a great album that didn't see a release until over a decade after his death.
Big Star may have never lived up to the hopeful title of their first album ("#1 Record")but they changed the face of rock music nonetheless. Author Rob Jovanovic does a terrific job of detailing their fall and the indifference of the industry that surrounded them. His book relies on new interviews with Stephens, Hummell and others (Although Chilton refused to be interviewed)to tell the story and give perspective on the band's failure to thrive. Featuring a detailed discography and copious notes, "Big Star: The Short Life, Painful Death and Unexpected Resurrection of the Kings of Power Pop" is as well written and researched as the great Badfinger biography "Without you".