Friday, April 30, 2010

BIG STAR ON FILM. I'm sure most of you Big Star fans caught this last night on the various related Big Star pages on Facebook. If not, click on the above link. This film is going to be a great tribute to Big Star and your funding support will help make it happen.

On a related note, I'm most likely going to go to Memphis for the May 15th concert. Just have to clear up some logistics with some commitments on this end. Will keep you all posted as I know many of you will be there. Would be great to see those I know and say hello to all of you I've met over the past year in cyberspace.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Lou Johnson:

This year I've spent some time exploring the world of music blogs that offer mp3s of rare or out of print albums that can't be readily found in stores or online. This is what I guess happens when you own pretty much every album you want to own and a few thousand bootlegs (through trading with fellow fans via bittorrent) on top of that and there's not a decent record store within driving distance of your house despite living in a metropolitan area: you go out digging through the rare and used bins online. I started out looking for LPs that I vaguely remembered from the late 60s / early 70s that had caught my interest back then but were soon passed over for better albums. The quantity of quality releases back then was so high that some albums that I thought weren't that good now sound darn near brilliant when compared to what's being released today. But, alas, the Illinois Speed Press and Cat Mother and the All Night Newsboys deserved their obscurity. On the other hand, the Mylon and Alvin Lee On The Road To Freedom album is really top notch, complete with a great George Harrison song with George adding his trademark slide and Ron Wood and Mick Fleetwood in the rhythm section. If someone wants to reissue the CD, I'll put my money down.

Two albums I (re)discovered have a Memphis connection and are definitely worth checking out.

The first is Lou Johnson's With You In My Mind – produced by Allen Toussaint and released by Stax in 1971. Never reissued and that is a shame because it's a great record. I'll leave it up to the posting blogger to fill you in but here's what you need to know: Toussaint himself rates it right at the top of his production work.

The second album is the debut by Sid Selvidge, a name known to all devotees of the 1970s Big Star / Chilton / Memphis scene. I once owned this record and it's good to hear it again (without having to fork over 50 bucks for a used LP). Sid has released three albums in the past decade and I highly recommend A Little Bit of Rain in particular. He's currently out on tour with Amy Speace. Check him out if he comes to your town.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Back from a trip to Chicago. One of the highlights was theWilliam Eggleston retrospective at the Art Institute. Just a fantastic experience to see so much of his work (including the covers photos for Radio City and Flies On Sherbert) in one place. The exhibit runs through the end of May and if you live anywhere near Chicago, you owe it to yourself to make the effort to get there.

Above is a link to a piece I did on request for the My Vinyl Review blog. I was at a little loss as to what to write – after the deluge of writing about Alex after his passing I sort of felt that there wasn't much left to say. Then I remembered this little mental puzzle I'd been working on when I started the book: what would have happened if Bob Dylan's career followed the same trajectory as Alex's rather than have early and ever-increasing commercial and critical success? What if Bob's teen rock band had some hits and his subsequent brilliant solo efforts languished in obscurity? What if by the time people discovered Dylan's brilliant work like Highway 61 and Blonde On Blonde he was more interested in playing off the cuff covers of the songs like those he played on his Theme Time Radio Hour? Well, you can't make all the pieces of the puzzle fit but it was fun to think about. Read the piece and let your mind wander...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Over the past few days I've been deluged with links to the various stories regarding Alex not seeking prompt medical treatment due to a lack of health insurance. I thought about it last night and decided that I wasn't going to comment on it any more – and that was before Lefsetz sent out his latest email.

I find this entire matter to be maddening on a lot of levels – recognizing of course that I fanned the sparks a bit by trying to rebut Lefsetz's skewed portrayal of Alex as a down-on-his-luck, washed-up rocker rather than an intelligent man who made his own decisions. I have some regrets about weighing in the way I did in the heat of the moment. But I was (and remain) dismayed by the skewed portrayal of Alex and Big Star that's been perpetuated for the past thirty years.

What makes this an even more emotionally charged issue for me is that over the past few years prior to this I've witnessed friends and family members refuse to accept personal responsibility for their own health and experience dire consequences as a result, even death. Some of these people actually have / did have superb health insurance and still won't / didn't go to doctors. Some don't / didn't have health insurance yet have plenty of money to spend on things that they deem more important. I've got a lot of strong opinions on the matter that have to do with spiritual issues, personal economic and health priorities, and political philosophy (individual vs, government responsibility). If we sat down to talk, you and I might agree or disagree. I just feel that it would be tasteless to have any further discussion at the present time – especially in a public forum or the the media – as to how all relates to Alex's passing.

Alex is no longer with us. We should be thankful for the time we shared with him and for the musical legacy he left behind, a permanent part of the history of music that we – and generations to follow – can experience. Like one of my friends who knew Alex better than I wrote to me "No matter what, we all loved him, didn't we?"

I'll be back at some point when I feel inspired to write about the music. In the meantime, continued prayers for Alex's family and the folks at Ardent.


Monday, April 5, 2010

My friend Sam Berger hipped me to this video: 40 minutes of Alex in the studio with Jim Dickinson and Sid Selvidge working on some tracks for Like Flies On Sherbert. I was quite fascinated by the segment where Alex is doing guitar overdubs for My Rival. I think when hearing the track that most people would imagine a recording studio packed with inebriated crazies just wailing out. But there's Alex, calmly listening to the basic tracks through the headphones and laying down those wild (and quite random-sounding) guitar parts. There's the co-existing analytical and spontaneous sides of Alex that Laura Chilton wrote about in action. I've just begun looking at all of Alex's work through that lens and am convinced that the tension and give and take between the two sides – which couldn't be duplicated consciously – is one of the key elements to what made Alex's music so indefinably captivating.