Thursday, July 16, 2009

ROCK CITY 2009.  Any serious Big Star fan knows about Rock City, the pre-Big Star "band" that included Thomas Dean Eubanks on bass as well as Chris Bell, Terry Manning, and Jody Stephens.  But was it really a band that morphed into Big Star (on the first Rock City album that was finally released a few years back on Manning's Lucky Seven Label there are even a few Bell songs that ended up on #1 Record) or something else entirely?  In the liner notes to the recently released second Rock City album "Who Can Find The Dreamer?", Eubanks aims to set the record straight.  Like any successful enterprise, musical or otherwise, there are people who will try to horn their way into the picture or claim credit after the fact.  Big Star is no different.  One undercurrent I picked up in my interviews for the book was a fair amount of exasperation with various individuals who over the years have trumped up their association with Big Star or their importance to the band.  That's why in the book I only interviewed the people who were actually "in the room."  I don't want to steal Eubank's thunder but he's very clear on what Rock City really was: a solo studio project based around his material that Chris Bell brought into Ardent and engineered to get the hands-on experience.  Jody was there because he was a friend and a great drummer.  Because it was an informal project and there was a shortage of material, Chris added a few songs (as well as a tune by guitarist Jeff Smith).  Terry Manning liked what he heard and pitched in.  This was in the all-hands-on-deck spirit that characterized Ardent during this time.  There was no label interest in the demoes, Chris went on to Big Star, and the material languished in a tape box marked (by Chris Bell) "Rock City".  As Andy Hummel explains in my book, adding "city" after something was a really common expression of the day.  Thus if you had a record you thought was radio friendly, you might indeed call it Radio City.  Eventually the demand for any material with a Bell / Big Star connection brought the material to the light of day, but according to Eubanks, in a somewhat skewed light.  As he concludes in the liner notes..."No on else should attempt to take credit for Big Star save these five individuals [the four band members and John Fry]."

Next installment: the newly-released Rock City album.  

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