#1 Record

Big Star

Ardent Records, 1972


REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck


As the years pass and music moves further down diverging paths, there is a tendency to forget just how we got to this point. One of the things I love about music is that constant evolution; nothing is created without having been influenced by what came before. Someone, or some band, might come along as the “big new thing,” but truth be told, we’ve seen it before. Madonna begets a Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson begets a Justin Timberlake or Usher, Tina Turner begets Beyoncé. And The Beatles...well, they begat everyone didn’t they?

It is interesting to put yourself in the shoes of those kids in the ‘60s, who were just starting to form bands, write songs, perform for crowds, all in an attempt to be just like The Beatles. That legendary band was their influence, their direction; whatever you want to label it as, The Beatles were my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 it. And by the time those kids had grown up, it was the 1970s.

Big Star certainly never reached a popularity of any particular note. The stories of this group are usually centered on critical acclaim with very few sales to back it up (#1 Record sold less than 10,000 copies upon its release in 1972).  The key members of the group were Alex Chilton (who admittedly had had some success with The Box Tops) and Chris Bell, a pair of kids who were lucky enough to see The Beatles roll through town during the ‘60s and decided they wanted that. Their first product, #1 Record, is a testament to how much they loved that music.

#1 Record is far from solely a love letter to John, Paul, George, and Ringo; the sounds of the previous decade are all over. What is “The India Song” but an attempt to add some Eastern inspiration à la The White Album? “When My Baby’s Beside Me” tears its opening straight from The Byrds playbook. The acoustically driven “Watch The Sunrise” certainly brings to mind Crosby Stills & Nash on their debut album, with some stellar harmonizing going on from Big Star.

The sentiment that Big Star expresses lyrically on this album directly cribs from the simpler lyrical content of the early ‘60s. These are not the most complex, soul-searching songs that have been written, but their adolescent exuberance is infectious. “In The Street” expresses that idea that Brian Wilson used to sing about: getting the car and driving around with friends. “Thirteen” is a stunning ballad that captures that wistfulness of being a teenager, that sense of worldliness that you haven’t earned yet but somehow still feel.

Complaining about rock’s lack of success on today’s charts certainly conjures up an image of an old man railing on about how the old days were so much better. But music isn’t any better than it was; it’s just different. With that being said, the pre-packaged, soulless quality behind today’s biggest artists is a discouraging trend that I am not a huge fan of. I won’t go so far as to say we need more bands to come along like Big Star, or that we need rock music to have a return to prominence. But it sure would be nice, wouldn’t it?

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2013 Jeff Clutterbuck and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Ardent Records, and is used for informational purposes only.