Tuesday, March 3, 2009

One, Two, Three...Four!


Welcome everyone to the inaugural post for my forthcoming book on Big Star's epic Radio City album for the 33 1/3 series.  To everyone waiting for the book, the latest news is that it should ship in mid-April.  Thanks for your patience.  In the meantime, feel free to send me your questions.  [The background to the heading above is the hand drawn artwork on the master tape box for the album.  On the back it reads "Those Dee-lightful Big Stars are at it again!"]

Over the months ahead I'm going to be posting a lot of additional material that didn't make the book for reasons of space.  I was fortunate to have the complete cooperation of everyone who was "in the room" for the making of Radio City, including Alex Chilton, Andy Hummel, Jody Stephens, Richard Rosebrough, and Ardent founder and genius engineer John Fry.  My objective was to let them tell the story of the record itself – what's actually in the grooves and how it got there – and not all the surrounding myths, conjectures, skewed half-truths, and outright slander that have been repeated over and over until accepted as fact.  With the exception of David Bell speaking for Chris Bell, the interviews were confined to actual hands-on participants.  A lot of stories and anecdotes from my personal experiences that would otherwise gone into the book were left on the cutting room floor to make way for the words of the architects of Radio City.  

I'll start you off with this amusing tidbit.  In 1981 I moved from Buffalo to NYC and worked with the late Ruth Polsky to set up Alex's notorious tour that October (after which he left the public spotlight for a few years).  Word started to get out among the NYC power pop aficionados and one night I got a phone call from Will Rigby, drummer of the dBs, who seemed quite intent on figuring out just who this guy from Buffalo with the Chilton connection was.  It was more of an interrogation than a conversation.  A little bit later my doorbell rang and Will was standing there with fellow dB Peter Holsapple in tow.  They came up to my apartment and immediately started sifting through my record collection (a more direct way of judging my musical character perhaps).  Out came a copy of Skip Spence's Oar, which neither of them had ever heard.  The turntable was fired up and side one hit the platter.  We chatted away until the last song started playing and then they started to freak out a bit.  The song 'War In Peace' was believed to be the heretofore unheard and unacknowledged inspiration for all of Radio City: the sound, the skewed arrangements, the loose but tight groove.  They must have played it a half dozen times and somewhere in there it occurred to me that I had so many levels of the rock cult artist thing going on – half of the dBs listening to Skip Spence and connecting him to Big Star - in that little living room that all that was needed was a telemarketing call from Roky Erickson and some spontaneous combustion might have occured.  Even at the time I thought it was pretty amusing.  Over the years some listeners have connected Moby Grape / Skip Spence to Big Star and I think you can hear some similarities.  But that doesn't mean that there was an actual connection.  Andy Hummel told me that he's also heard those references over the years but that Grape / Spence were not on the band's radar at any point...



3 comments:

hickcity said...

OK, tell us more.

Larry said...

My favorite album ever! (and I love the 33 1/3 series). Can't hardly wait for the book.

prettygoeswithpretty said...

Love this post and am really looking forward to the book. Your Rigby anecdote is all the more entertaining in context of this post he wrote last year about seeking out Chilton and Bell--about three years prior to finding you. This guy really seemed to think Big Star was HIS band.