What’s Going Ahn (Chilton/Hummel)
‘What’s Going Ahn’ predated the formal Radio City sessions
and, in all likelihood, the Rock Writer’s Convention itself. It’s
commonly—and mistakenly—believed as having originated
in the informal late-night recording sessions at Ardent due to
the participation of Richard Rosebrough. But, as is often the
case with Big Star, the truth is different from the legend.
Richard Rosebrough: ‘What’s Going Ahn’ was a formal
session that John Fry engineered. John Fry did not engineer
too many live sessions so it was a blessed event. We cut that
in the A Studio at Ardent. There were some other folks that
was there. Danny Jones may have been a part of that. It
probably predated Rock Writers Convention.
Alex Chilton: ‘What’s Going Ahn’ was recorded before
all the rest of it. Perhaps. I was learning about the studio in
those days and could come in on off hours and do things.
I did a session for ‘What’s Going Ahn’, thinking that it
might be a solo record or something. But that later just got
absorbed [into Radio City]. ‘What’s Going Ahn’ was a John
Fry session with Richard and I and the bass player Danny.
It was a formal recording session . . . all three of us simulta-
neously I think. It might have been Tommy Cathay playing
Although there’s no track sheet to give additional clues to
the recording, the acoustic demo once again demonstrates
that Chilton arrived at the formal session with the arrange-
ment for the track virtually complete. By adjusting the bal-
ance control on a decent playback system you can highlight
the acoustic guitar track in one channel and get a pretty
good of how the acoustic demo sounds.
Richard Rosebrough: I didn’t hear that song a whole
lot before we recorded but there Alex was very structured
and very tame and sweet and lovable and persistent and on
top of things. It always came out of his soul whether he was
in a controlled state or in chaos. Back in the very early days,
Alex not nearly as chaotic as he became. He was persistent
and deliberate and expressive. He would work on something
over and over until he got it right. And if it wasn’t going
right he’d say, “This isn’t happening. Let’s forget this.”
Although Chilton is quite dismissive of Radio City’s lyrics,
he did give them at least some ongoing thought, changing
the first line of the second verse from “I’ve forgot every-
thing” on the acoustic demo to “I’ve forsaked everyone.”
Andy Hummel: If I recall, this is a song written in one
of those songwriting sessions at Alex’s. We hung out at
Alex’s in his bedroom and listened to LPs on that cool little
KLH stereo of his frequently there for a while. I don’t think
it would be possible to say I wrote a particular thing or Alex
wrote a particular thing. The song was basically his idea.
I just helped by throwing out the occasional chord turn,
lyric, whatever. I think I took ten-percent writer credit or
something like that. It’s his song.