Tuesday, April 14, 2009

As requested from some local fans, here's the excerpt from the book that describes Alex's arrival in Buffalo for our gig at McVan's in June 1979 up to the moment we hit the stage. A just unearthed photo of us sitting around talking with Alex that afternoon can be seen in an earlier post below.

When Alex arrived from Memphis the afternoon of our
show, he was affable and we immediately felt at ease. We
had a few matters to deal with—a proper rehearsal being at
the top of our list. Alex immediately nixed the idea, spell-
ing out a musical philosophy that went something like this.
Whenever you play something for the very first time, there’s
a chance that it will sound better than anything that could be rehearsed—and those highpoints are worth all the mistakes. In other words, Let’s go out, make some music, and see what hap-
pens. Alex was confident and articulate—he won us over
even though we really had no choice but to go along for the

We wiled away the time up to the show, sitting around

a friend’s apartment while Bill and Alex got deep into a
freewheeling conversation that the rest of us drifted in and
out of. Alex in the present proved to be a very interesting
guy—it never crossed my mind to ask him about his past.
I wouldn’t ask him a question about Big Star until nearly
three decades later.

McVan’s was a once swank, now dank nightclub that

in its heyday had hosted Art Tatum, Coleman Hawkins,
The Inkspots (with a young guitarist named Jimi), Frank
Sinatra, and Gypsy Rose Lee. In 1979 it was the place to go
in Buffalo if you wanted to hear punked-up garage rock in
rapidly decaying surroundings (beyond repair, the building
was torn down a few years later). We arrived in the middle
of the opening band’s set, noted that the place was packed
(I’d all but forgotten that I was also the promoter—having
put my own money up for the show) and headed straight
for the dimly lit, seemingly once luxurious dressing room.
You could almost see the ghosts. For about 20 minutes we
stood in a circle, guitars unplugged, Joe beating his sticks
on the arm of a musty velvet-covered club chair (had Jimi
once sat there?), running through the songs on the set list,
Alex quickly teaching us the chords to the few we hadn’t
been able to track down on record. As we got ready to go
on, Alex told Joe not to be afraid to “kick his ass” to keep
him from lagging behind the beat. With a sly smile, Joe
assured him that wouldn’t be a problem. Then, before
we had another moment to ponder the absurdity of play-
ing with Alex Chilton totally on the fly in front of friends
and spectators half-expecting us to crash (some even rel-
ishing the prospect), we heard Bill onstage revving up the
crowd—“Here he is, the mad man from Memphis . . . . Alex
Chilton!!”—and we headed out toward the lights.

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