Saturday, June 2, 2012
Big Star #1 Record
#1 Record/Radio City
#1 Record is the debut album by the American power pop group Big Star. It was released in 1972 by Memphis-based Ardent Records. Though many critics praised the album's elegant vocal harmonies and refined songcraft (frequently drawing comparisons to the British Invasion groups of the 1960s, including The Beatles, The Kinks and The Who), #1 Record suffered from poor distribution and sold fewer than 10,000 copies. However, like Big Star's follow-up albums Radio City and Third/Sister Lovers, #1 Record has more recently attracted wider attention, and in 2003 it was ranked number 438 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. Rolling Stone magazine also ranked the song "Thirteen" as number 396 on its 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
The singles released from the album were "When My Baby's Beside Me" and "Don't Lie to Me". The B-side of the former included a version of "In the Street" which until 2005 was only available on the single. It is now included on the 20 Greats from the Golden Decade of Power Pop compilation CD and the 2009 reissue of #1 Record/Radio City.
#1 Record is the only Big Star album on which group founder Chris Bell is officially credited as a member, though he did make some contributions to its follow-up, 1974's Radio City. Bell had a major hand in the record through both songwriting, vocals, and guitar work.
In 1992, Fantasy Records released #1 Record and Radio City together on a single compact disc with alternate versions of "In the Street" and "O My Soul" as bonus tracks.
A version of "In the Street" by Ben Vaughn was used as the theme song of That '70s Show, which was changed to a version by Cheap Trick (titled "That 70s Song") after the first season. "Thirteen" has also been used in several episodes of That 70's Show.
Eight years earlier in 1964, when their home town of Memphis, Tennessee became a tour stop for The Beatles, primary songwriters Alex Chilton and Chris Bell were thirteen years old. Heavily influenced by the UK band, the pair—Bell in particular—wanted to model their songwriting on the Lennon–McCartney partnership, with the result that they credited as many songs as possible on Big Star's debut album to "Bell/Chilton". In practice, they developed material incrementally in the studio, each making changes to the other's recordings. Drummer Jody Stephens recalled, "Alex would come in and put down something rough and edgy and Chris would come in and add some sweet-sounding background vocals to it." The pair also each contributed songs individually composed before Big Star was formed, Bell bringing "Feel", "Try Again" and "My Life Is Right", and Chilton, "Thirteen", "The Ballad of El Goodo", "In the Street" and "Watch the Sunrise".
On its release in June 1972, #1 Record immediately received widespread acclaim, and continued to do so for six months, although an inability by Stax Records to make the album available in stores meant it sold fewer than 10,000 copies. Record World called it "one of the best albums of the year", and Billboard commented, "Every cut could be a single". In a lengthy and positive review, Rolling Stone critic Bud Scoppa felt that while the music wasn't new, using "well-defined forms" such as those explored by the Byrds, Moby Grape, and had a Beatles influence, it was "exceptionally good", and compared well with those producing similar music such as Badfinger, the Raspberries and Todd Rundgren. Cashbox described it as one where "everything falls together as a total sound" and one which "should go to the top". The River City Review's reaction to the album was to state that "Big Star will be around for many moons"
All songs by Chris Bell and Alex Chilton, except where noted.
1. "Feel" – 3:34
2. "The Ballad of El Goodo" – 4:21
3. "In the Street" – 2:55
4. "Thirteen" – 2:34
5. "Don't Lie to Me" – 3:07
6. "The India Song" (Andy Hummell) – 2:20
7. "When My Baby's Beside Me" – 3:22
8. "My Life Is Right" (Bell, Eubanks) – 3:07
9. "Give Me Another Chance" – 3:26
10. "Try Again" – 3:31
11. "Watch the Sunrise" – 3:45
12. "ST 100/6" – 1:01
* Chris Bell – guitar, vocals
* Alex Chilton – guitar, vocals
* Andy Hummel – bass guitar
* Jody Stephens – drums
* Terry Manning – electric piano