Big Star

Big Star

▪ American rock group
      American band that during its brief existence in the early 1970s helped define power pop, a style in which bright melodies and tunefully boyish vocals are propelled by urgent rhythms. The members were Alex Chilton (b. Dec. 28, 1950, Memphis, Tenn., U.S.), Chris Bell (b. Jan. 12, 1951, Memphis—d. Dec. 27, 1978, Memphis), Andy Hummel (b. Jan. 26, 1951, Memphis), and Jody Stephens (b. Oct. 4, 1952, Memphis).

      Founded in Memphis, Big Star was the proverbial “band ahead of its time”; its records sold poorly but were championed by a subsequent generation of rockers such as the Replacements (Replacements, the), R.E.M., the Bangles, the Posies, and Teenage Fanclub. Chilton had tasted pop success as the teenage lead singer of the Box Tops, a blue-eyed soul group also from Memphis. He and fellow singer-songwriter Bell brought an unusual depth to the three-minute pop song on Big Star's 1972 debut album, #1 Record. The follow-up, Radio City (1974), recorded after Bell left the group, was a more stripped-down but equally brilliant release and produced the cult hit “September Gurls.” Chilton recorded the group's dark, disturbing finale, Third (also known as Sister Lovers), essentially as a solo album that was not released until 1978. By then Chilton had begun a solo career that would cement his reputation as one of rock's most mercurial talents. Bell, who was killed in a car accident in 1978, had a similar mystique; his post-Big Star solo recordings finally surfaced in 1992 to critical acclaim.

Greg Kot

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Universalium. 2010.

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