Big Star: #1 Record
“#1 Record” is a fantastic debut by anyone’s standards, and the only Big Star album to be a true collaboration between the original creative forces of Chris Bell and Alex Chilton. As I hinted earlier, this was not just ‘70s power pop. The music was ahead of its time, and practically made the blueprint for the indie / alternative bands that were yet to come.
“Feel” opens the album as the proper ‘70s rocker, with fuzzy guitar, screaming vocals, and rock ‘n roll sax. The difference is in the refrain. There is a certain haunting quality, and some Beatle-esque backing harmonies. You can also tell right off the bat that this is one tight band.
“The Ballad of El Godo” is much like other ballads of the time, but is lyrically superior. The vocal style also is also unusual for something like this. Most of the time, these affairs were pretty sugary. Here the singing carries a certain amount of personal pain.
If you have seen “That ‘70s Show,” you have heard a version of “In the Street.” That version was altered to sound something more like Kiss, and misses the subtlety of Big Star. Once you hear it, the original will become your favorite.
“Thirteen” could very well be one of the most beautiful songs ever recorded. It is a poignant exposition of teenage love, scored simply, but intricately played. This was also used in the final episode of “That ’70s Show” (brilliantly I might add), and the producers wisely chose to use the track as is.
“Don’t Lie to Me” is a straight up, balls out rocker. As if to say, “Yes indeed, we do rock.”
“The India Song” is a surprising folkie interlude. This time as if to say, “Oh, and we are also diverse.” The talent and versatility of Big Star just never ceases to amaze me.
“My Life Is Right” is more of a standard heavy rock ballad, but remains unique enough in the band’s capable hands.
“Give Me Another Chance” goes to beautiful land again. This one reminds me of Harry Nilsson.
“Try Again” returns to the personal pain aspect of “The Ballad of El Godo,” only this time it is fully tapped. The haunting country twang of the guitar is almost eerie, and highly effective.
“Watch the Sunrise” is the most positive thing on the album (and possibly of the entire ’70s output). The energetic acoustic guitar strumming gives it a really fresh and clean feeling. The lyrics are intelligent, and very uplifting. You can’t help but smile when listening.
“St 100/6” was an odd choice for an album closer. The song has a dark tone, doesn’t last long, and could be interpreted a few different ways (bonus points for art here).
This has become one of my favorite albums. Had it gotten proper distribution, “#1 Record” would be talked about alongside other ‘70s classics like “Ziggy Stardust,” “Toys In the Attic,” and “Dark Side of the Moon.” Just get it. Don’t even think about it, just find it and buy it now.
Alex Chilton – guitar, vocals
Chris Bell – guitar, vocals
Andy Hummel – bass, vocals
Jody Stephens – drums