Some of you who have carried over from our humble origins as a Yahoo Groups list have been through this difficult decision-making process. I apologize in advance for putting you through this, but just as likely you will be thanking me in advance for giving you a chance to reconsider your original opinions, especially if they differed from the basic case I made back then and plan on making again today.
To me, the highs of Radio City are as high as Big Star could get, but I find the sloppy playing and lack of focus a drag compared with the pop perfection of #1 Record. Although I usually rail against jangly power pop with tight many harmonies (see The Byrds), I find the unified team effort of #1 Record to be just what the doctor ordered! The album’s got most of the band’s biggest “hits,” it’s concise, it was a legendary flop… The whole failure myth plays a big role in Big Star’s discovery in the ’80s and beyond. The fact that their first album flopped is all the more resonant considering how much effort the original quartet put into crafting it. What’s not to prefer?
I’ve got some thoughts about the more-often stated (at least in the Halls of Rock) preference for Radio Ctiy that I’d like to share. Before I do that, I went back to a post on the old “Chess” version of Rock Town Hall, from November 2005. I can’t remember all the details, but we must have already been entering the #1 Record vs Radio City Wars when I posted something called Gut Check: Radio City, in which I “showed my hand” by reviewing the album on a track-by-track basis. It was pretty heavy stuff, and a week’s worth of debate followed. I’ll apologize in advance to those who have already been through this harsh look at the album’s songs and who dread confronting this analysis once more, but here goes:
Yes, it is about the music. I’m not a visual person. I just double-checked, and Back of a Car is still the greatest.
I love you both, but each in different ways.
I chose Radio City in the poll because I have probably listened to it more: tougher guitar sounds, that blend between live performance and smart production that i always look for, and an overall looseness are probably the reason why.
but in all honesty, both “take turns being my hands down best.”
your theory about the imagery is interesting, mod. but i wanna see primary sources and footnotes. and i wanna see you support your argument more thoroughly.
Sat, I’m sorry I wasn’t able to find that side 3/4 sleeve shot in jpg form on the Web. Someone has it up on their Flicker site, but I couldn’t figure out how to capture the image for our own purposes. I could just pull out my own copy and scan the image, but I hate scanning. Anyhow, if you could have seen that shot – and I know you know what shot I’m talking about – in the middle of my Exile theory – you would have had all the sources you need. Maybe today I’ll get time to scan that shot in and work toward my ultimate goal of actually creating a life-size cardboard cutout for use in our studio. Why should Andyr, Chickenfrank, and I just imagine that we’re partying with Keef and Mick while laying down backing tracks when we could actually be partying with their cardboard cutouts selves?
You know me, Mod: given my day job, I love the idea that the images themselves are a powerful form of evidence!
speaking of images and evidence, the x-rays apparently show a season-ending torn labrum. ugh….
I bought the Stax two-fer reissue of this back in my college days when it was cool to discover bands like Big Star. In all truth, this was back in the days when we ran scams on the record clubs and got all sorts of music shipped to our P.O. boxes (1. We were at a rural Delta college and 2. If those record clubs wanted to ship music to Obi-Wan Kenobi and Optimus Prime, then that’s business; we just dug getting lots of CDs at one time.). It was always a thrill when when those yellow slips saying that we had a package was waiting in our humble student boxes. One day, my future bandmate, and lifelong Memphian received that two-fer. I asked what it was and he explained a little of the famed Big Star myth. We proceeded to the dorm to put on this mystery disc. The rest is history.
Those albums are both excellent and go together in my mind. It’s difficult for me to separate them. Years later, when Ryko reissued that Chris Bell solo thing, I bought it and poured over the music. Then I got that Ardent copy of Alex Chilton in 1970 (post Box Tops/pre Big Star). Of course, I knew the Third album well by that point too. Listening to those albums added a certain perspective to the differences between #1 Record/Radio City. I realized that Chris Bell was the sheen and gloss to Chilton’s sloppiness and haphazardness. I know that too easy an assessment (John wrote the rockers and Paul wrote the ballads.), but there is no doubt that their musical approaches were as different as can be.
That’s a long way of saying that I prefer the sloppiness. #1 Record is just about perfect in every way. The songs are great, the production is sublime, and it’s tight tight tight. But it’s the loosey goosey slop that gives Radio City it’s appeal for me.
Plus, I have fantasies about that cover shot. That’s the record cover I dream about at night.
PS–I have never seen that shot of the band that opens the post. Where did it come from?
Re: Radio City’s cover — I always thought, “man, that blonde dude must have gotten laid a LOT.” The flowing golden tresses, girly-man beauty and the totally happening patchwork suede jacket must have been a powerful girlie intoxicant.
In the great RC vs. 1st debate, I think I’ve switched sides. I used to be a RC man, all the way, but lately I’ve preferred the tight, meticulously Kentonite appeal of 1st. “Ballad Of El Goodo” is almost reason enough to prefer 1st on its own. I’ll probably switch again soon enough. The Big Star LP that I *know* is their suckiest (hands down!) is “Third.” It’s got its moments — in fact, it’s pretty okay — but really, it’s one of those albums that gets cut a lot of slack for back-story reasons. When you read a review of a record and it goes out of its way to name the artist’s girlfriend *simply because she was getting high with the artist in the studio while the album was being made*, you know somebody’s lost sight of the music.
I don’t know where that shot of the band at the neat coffee table first appeared, TB. I stumbled across it on the Web and thought it was appropriate to show the band at its nerdy, pre-Keef and Mick at their messy table beginnings.
Hrrundi, I raise my brandy snifter in your direction!
It’s a great picture, Mod. Thanks!
I’ve got that Big Star biography that came out a few years ago. It’s not a bad read. It reads more like a college research paper, but it’s got some interesting tidbits and some insight into what Big Star came from and where they went. One of the things it mentions is a film of them in the studio recording #1 Record. How I long to see this footage. Chris Bell only exists for me in photos. I would love to see life in him. To see him playing, singing, and recording. Maybe I have played this thing up in my head, but someone somehwere needs to release this stuff. I would give my left eye to see the real, breathing Chris Bell. He’s my own Robert Johnson.
Latelydavidband: I feel honored and extremely pleased to be the first person to point you in the direction of THIS:
Your friend in rock,
Hrrundi V. Bakshi
Please note: I do not want your left eye.
come on hvb, we all know that coming into possession latelydavid’s left eye was your true motive.
So far I find it curious – but not unexpected – that the offlist support I’ve received for my thoughts on #1 Record are not reflected in the poll results. I’m confident the tide will change!
My offlist supporters are wondering why the Mod is such an arpeggiophobe.
Most likely, BigSteve, my offlist sympathizers would tell you that it’s because I can’t play that shit!
Left eye is in the mail. As much time as I spend on the YouTube I should have disvovered this before now. All I can say now is this: “Wow.”
I can’t explain why Chris Bell is so elusive to me, but it does mean something to me to see this.
Thanks you thank you thank you!
That this is even a discussion really surprises me. Is it conventional wisdom that Radio City is superior to #1?
#1 has always been beginning to end an almost perfect album for me.
Radio City is a let down in comparison. It starts off so strong with O My Soul but I feel like it takes years to get to You Get What You Deserve and thank goodness that Back Of A Car comes along otherwise I’d be solid gone after Mod Lang. In fact I am gone after September Gurls. Looking at my iTunes play count I rarely play the final two songs.
I don’t like to skip tracks on albums (my cross to bear) so Radio City is a challenge for me.
Truth be told, I may never have given it a fair shot. Upon initial listen it so paled to #1 that I never really gave it a second chance. Seeing that so many of you not only consider it as good but better than #1 leads me to want to try again.
I love both these records, but finally I have to come down on the side of Radio City. #1 (at least the first side) is a more polished power pop record with great songs and goes down well. Radio City is knottier, more off-kilter, both more driven and looser simultaneously, with a heavier sound and chunkier textures. It’s a more difficult record, while at the same time full of memorable, though odd, songs. It’s just a riskier record–and there’s no doubting its clunkiness. #1, moody though it is, is just a little more soft pop, and one can transition from it to Cat Stevens without all that much difficulty. #1 is maybe the best record of its power pop kind, but Radio City is more unique.
To make my point in an exaggerated way, it’s like the difference between the Byrds and Captain Beefheart. One has a few beautiful classics that go down easy while the other is unsettling. #1 is more playable on more occasions, and that’s a strong positive. But Radio City pushes farther and deeper.
Both records are fucking great though.
This is my thing, concerning the mess of Radio City (and the even larger mess of Third). I like Third alot. That record scares the crap out of me. It’s the sound of a band falling apart. The off tempos. The stop-starts. It’s rough to say the least. #1 Record is perfect in about every way. I don’t see how anyone in the world could ever have a problem with that work. It’s about as solid as it gets.
I honestly can’t tell you my I prefer Radio City other than it’s general sloppiness. I’m not particularly drawn to sloppiness, I just like it in my Big Star.
If Radio City’s cover is what I dream about, then Third is what my nightmares are.
Nice points, Mwall, and bravo to you for not only steering relatively clear of the cardboard cutout mythology but also coming off as sincere in your appreciation of the “difficult” experience of listening to Radio City. For me, I don’t always hear that album’s rough edges in terms of the “artistic” (ie, designed) rough edges of Captain Beefheart’s music. It’s more like the chaos of Mott the Hoople’s Brain Capers to my ears. Sometimes it helps the songs get to a new level, but sometimes the songs can’t help themselves. For my ears, the third album makes better use of the chaos. Regardless, these are two strong albums, and I’m glad we agree on that.
Mod, for me, I think it’s about the relation between design and chaos. I’ve always felt that the best rock and rock has to risk chaos while finally having enough design to hold together. #1 is a little too controlled/pre-determined for me. i say that only in comparison; on its own I have no problem loving it.
I don’t quite agree that artistic=designed. For me the height of the artistic combines design with the risk of the moment. Some music has a lot of craft and some has a lot of edge, but the most brilliant moments have both craft and edge.
Oddly enough maybe, I never compare Third to either #1 or Radio City. It seems like the music of a completely different band, frankly (which it kind of is, yes?), every bit as much as the first two Big Star albums don’t sound like the Box Tops.
I wonder sometimes if the reason I don’t give a shit about rock and roll mythology is that I’m not a musician and never dreamed of being one.
Radio City rocks harder. #1 has all of that pretty acoustic stuff. On Radio City the prettiness gets a layer of crud on top of it that doesn’t quite obscure it. This is just more in line with what generally works for me artistically.
Isn’t it a weird situation that almost all the people who have heard this music now acquired the two albums as a twofer? Imagine if Teenage Head and Shake Some Action were only available as a twofer. It’s just an odd way to experience the evolution of a band.
I’m pretty sure I acquired Like Flies On Sherbet before I ever heard Third, because it went in and out of print in the LP era. It made more sense to me because I knew that Chilton could be even more messy than Third, but to me Third is not in the same league as the first two. I do like that 1970 album though.
Here are my main problems with #1 Record
1) Chris Bell’s rawk voice wears on me after a while.
2) “My Life is Right,” “Give Me Another Chance” and “Try Again” drag the album waaayyy down. 128 strings and a lot of syrup. Zzzz.
Regarding Mr. Mod’s latest Radio City lament:
1) Don’t many if not most people own the two-fer CD with really bland, almost generic cover art? I find Mr. Mod’s efforts to tie Radio City to his points about Exile a bit much. Anyway, I thought the Radio City cover was the William Eggelston picture of the red ceiling. Maybe it should’ve been a picture of the band wearing lab coats, designing bass lines using Venn diagrams.
2) As I said on the old list, Mr. Mod’s analysis makes next to no mention of the vocals. For all his talk about arpeggios, you’d think this was a John Fahey album.
And now, everyone singing the praises of #1 Record‘s craft and acting like the follow-up is a mess. Just because the album features fewer overdubs and Jody Stephens is allowed to stretch out a bit doesn’t mean the band threw the dearly beloved traits of order, hierarchy, and discipline totally out the window. They just didn’t let those traits overpower things. They let a little spontenaity into the room. That’s not a rock crime yet, is it?
Since I initially wrote this, I see mwall has echoed my viewpoint. I agree strongly with this…
I wasn’t saying necessarily that artistic=designed; I know what you’re saying and agree that that’s just as valid a way to get there. What I meant was that Beefheart’s music is ARRANGED to sound that way. Geo will know better, but I don’t think the musicians had a lot of freedom to “take chances.” I think the “chances” were inherent in the compositions and arrangements. Yes, Radio City works and sometimes doesn’t work, in my opinion, based on the in-the-moment chances taken by the band members. When it works it can work great. What bugs me is that some of the songs seem so underwritten and underarranged that too much is dependent on their musicianship, and for me, the 12th time the drummer does his big, sloppy signature fill I’m preparing to lift the needle to the next song on the album that benefits from that fill.
Like I said in my intro, I usually don’t like the super-controlled power pop that is the first Big Star album unless it’s done perfectly and the songs are delivered with some humanity. To me, that album hits on all marks. A song like “In the Street,” which is so right in terms of the “objectives of rock ‘n roll” that I go on about whenever discussing The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction,” is a perfect example of how to make an airtight arrangement nevertheless breathe for the listener. I’m right there with those guys, wishing to be in on that desired joint! I don’t need to work through the medium of the cardboard cutout Keef and Mick. I don’t need to imagine how much better one of Radio City’s sketchy songs might have been had they slept on it for a night.
I must say that for all your hard work at establishing a healthy dialog over this difficult issue, your ending copout about not giving a shit was disappointing. You give as much a shit as anyone. Just because you don’t desire to throw your arm around Kardboard Keef doesn’t mean you don’t.
Let me add that we’ve been through the issue a couple times before, and I recognize that there’s little evidence of, say, Mr. Mod and I reversing our opinions. In many ways, it’s easiest to say that I think #1 Record has too many weak songs, and he feels the same about Radio City, rather than get into lab coat accusations, as I just did. Perhaps it’s to this little guitar band’s credit that they elicit such strong, sometimes divergent opinions.
I will grant you, Oats, that “Try Again” and “Give Me Another Chance” are 128-string turds, but “My Life Is Right” is fine. I bet your boy Alexmagic would back me up on that track. It’s a song George Harrison would have given his left chakra to write.
You want to talk about singing? Do you really find an entire album’s worth of Alex Chilton’s slurred whine to be preferable to the occasional changes of pace that Bell brought to the table – not to mention Chilton reigning his own vocal excesses on the first album? I don’t, and it’s not like Chilton is some fantastic lyricist on Radio City. We haven’t talked about lyrics either, but although the best songs on Radio City are fantastic, does anyone follow the lyrics? I can’t tell what Chilton’s slurring about. On the first album there are plenty of couplets and sentiments that serve the utilitarian purposes of supporting “youth culture,” if nothing else. I don’t know, I’m no poet, but Radio City’s lyrics sound like a jumble of fucked up “girl trouble” stuff to me. In contrast, I can handle some of Bell’s Harrison-lite platitudes.
I just saw your healing note after hitting SEND, Oats. Don’t worry, man. I love you and I fully respect your point of view. We’re a band of brothers ourselves. I knew reopening this discussion would be painful for some of us, but think about what it may mean for newcomers to our way of respectfully beating on our set points of view. I’m sure TB, for instance, would tell us it’s refreshing to be part of such a committed, sick group of music lovers!
I’d be glad to entertain your discussion/accusation about rock star mythology, Mod, maybe in another thread or another way. Not sure I understand what you’re saying or if you understand what I said. I like rock star mood and swagger in the music and on stage, no doubt, but as a guy who’s maybe read no more than 4 or 5 rock bios in his whole life, I can genuinely say that I’m not all that fascinated with the behind-the-scenes lives of rock stars. Not that I haven’t had my moments, I suppose.
Mwall, all I was saying was that you seemed to be throwing up your hands at the end of a fine post. That’s all. I do think there’s some merit in my theory about “Loser Rock” atmosphere that pervades Radio City and may make it preferable to some who are a little uncomfortable or unsatisfied with the “Winner Rock” atmosphere that fueled #1 Record. At another time I will try to expand on my thoughts regarding the power of Kardboard Keef and Mick, including the posting of a hi-res file of the backing vocal shot that, when printed at 600%, can be mounted on posterboard and leaned against a wall in the home recording studios of any number of Townspeople.
Radio City all the way. By comparison (especially pronounced on my two-fer copy), #1 Record seems lightweight. When I play it, I always feel like there’s something missing, and then when RC starts up, I realize what that is–the songs connect more with me.
It’s hard for me to really care about “Thirteen” or “In the Street.” Even “El Goodo” seems a bit too precious at times.
Whereas, it just seems like the raw emotions come pouring out of RC: “September Gurls” always really clobbers me.
And I really like Third. For me it’s like Goat’s Head Soup, a record that people like to argue is overrated on the basis of its backstory. But both Third and GHS have a real sense of atmosphere, like the songs are coming out of some messed-up, dark, subconscious realm. I dig records like that.
We’re a band of brothers ourselves.
It’s comments like these that make me long for more female voices on RTH. I mean, it’s cool to be all macho rock sports team smoke pot with the guys and all, but the complete write-off of Daisy Glaze, a heartbreaking and uplifting ode to disappearance of self and actual psychic oblivion (as opposed to the Year of the Cat version), in which music and lyric are in poignant, artful sync, makes one suspect that Mr. Mod has pretty much abandoned any claims to a feminine side.
Oh, I dig, Mod and Dr. John. We’re talking AURA here. The aura of the album.
Actually I think all three albums have an aura of psychic oblivion (thanks, TVox) about them. #1 does it wholly through tone and mood; the later ones let it into the structure. But all three are definitely about getting lost and (sometimes and barely) recovering, if only for a bit.
Come on, Tvox, I’m one of the most emotionally comfortable Townspeople around here, if that’s what you’re getting at by a perceived lack of “feminine” side. What the heck are you getting at? I’m also one of the most fashion-obsessed among us, a good cook, and a bit of a chatty cathy, if those are among the stereotypes you’re referring to my lacking. Just because I don’t like a song doesn’t mean I’m not in touch with some “feminine” side. My wife, who’s undoubtedly feminine, can’t stand Big Star for the same reason she can’t stand The dB’s: she thinks they “sing like pussies.” Go figure!
Try Again and Give Me Another Chance are awesome, hand down.
I have a tangential question. I have the #1/Radio City CD twofer but when I loaded it into iTunes “Big Star” doesn’t show up in my artist list. I can only find it if I go to “Compilations”.
Some of “Best Ofs” do the same thing, but not all.
Anyone got a solution to this? Or at least sympathize with me?
Sorry to interrupt.
The matter of Radio City‘s lyrics, as per Mr. Mod and Trolleyvox’s comments is worth examining.
The new 33 1/3 book on Radio City finally gets Chilton to elaborate a bit on his rather dim views of Big Star’s music. It seems he finds that the lyrics were written as an afterthought, and they don’t really mean anything. They’re not very linear. His taste in lyrics runs more towards the kinds of songs he plays now, all those R&B and torch songs.
Of course, I think the Radio City lyrics are great. They convey the fucked-up emotions with a little ambiguity and whatnot.
When i first saw this thread, i thought that this is one of the handful of RTH “mother of all battles” type threads that are floating around out there in the ether (the byrds and the mc5 discussions come to mind as well).
it’s been a joyful read.
sammy, it goes into the “compilations” folder because the release you put in your iTunes was, as you say, a two-fer. iTunes reads it that way.
try this: manually make two folders named after each album and drag the songs into their proper album folder. then delete the ‘two-fer’ folder that has all the songs in one release. i got into the habit of doing this because i like to store my mp3s on an external hard drive, sorted MY WAY, not the way iTunes dictates. And now, when I decide to take a previously “comp’d” album off my external, and put it back in iTunes, iTunes reads it the way I’VE sorted it. best of luck!
Between this discussion and seeing that footage, I’m trekking to the storga eunit to grab all the Big Star I got and give it a good, cranking listen tonight.
I remember recommending that Big Star twofer to Town Hall lurker MickAvory back when it was some sort of secret. I had decided that if he put the record on, he might get a little confused by “Feel” but be totally hooked by the time “Goodo” finished. I love both of those track. I also love “Thirteen” (been known to play it a few of my own shows) like a little boy should. The chorus to “My Life Is Right” (the way Bell sings, “You give me light, you are my daaaaaaaay…”) kills me each and every time I hear it. The shimmering 12-string goodness of “Watch The Sunrise”. The only weak leak on that record may be “India Song”, which I am surprised that no one has mentioned yet. I could go on and on about that first record. If I, myself, could make one half as good…
Then there’s the wallop of “O My Soul”. I get off on that scratching guitar in the intros. “Back Of A Car” is about as perfect a power pop song that can be. “September Gurls” is what it is. To me, it defines a genre. But all of that is leveled with this goofy approach to the proceedings that add alayer of mystique to the band. It is haunted by the presence of Chris Bell. That presence is completely gone by the time Third comes around. Even though he was still alive, these records are going after something more alusive while the first one presents itself as pop incarnate. The first record knows what it’s trying to do, while the next two document it crumbling apart. And no matter how many times I have heard it, I thrill at the notion of hoping that they keep it together. Surely, this is music that keeps its listener on the edge of their seat.
The third one is just harrowing for me. Like Flies on Sherbert is just madness (I like that one wuite well, too).
This is a healthy discussion as I see it and am overjoyed to be a part of it.
PS–I remember the joy of seeing the reunion Big Star for the first time. My bandmate and I just have this elated look of joy. There’s a bottleg DVD of this performance (in Oxford, MS) and you can see both of us having this Moment. After the show, we nervously approached Mr. Chilton for a handshake. He graciously signed our copies of Third and I talked with him for a few minutes about a recording he did for a Beach Boys compilation. He gave a cool as cucumbers answer and we moved on to Mr. Stephens. I can’t remember what all we talked about but he was certainly more approachable and friendly than Chilton was. I know we talked for a while about Ardent (where he still works) and recording in general. At the end of our discussion he held out the set list that was taped next to his drums and if me if I wanted it. Very cool guy. Anyway, that was our equal to meeting Paul and Ringo…
There’s a checkbox you can deselect in iTunes re: compilations. If the only thing you have from an artist comes from a ‘compilation’ disc, the name won’t show up under Artists.
Next time you have iTunes open and the ipod hooked up, highlight all the tracks from the twofer disc, right click and go into…I think it’s General Info. In one of the tabs, you’ll see box that will have a check in it for Compilations. Uncheck that, and Big Star should show up in the Artists lists after you sync the ipod up.
Whenever I’m moving something from a greatest hits or compilation disc kind of thing, I got into the habit of checking first whether it’s checked off as a compilation before I upload the discs into iTunes. If so, I uncheck it, then upload it. This will get iTunes to read it that way from here on out, as saturn says.
I thought about this a bit over lunch, and perhaps feminine side is not quite right, though I’ll stick to my boys club analysis. I will try to revise: Discomfort with emotional nakedness? Or perhaps deep sadness? Not just lyrically, but as communicated through the music. I’m sure we can agree and appreciate the somehow sad parts of A Day in the Life (the Lennon parts), but they’re a bit at an emotional remove. There is nothing removed about the narcotic pace of the the beginning of Daisy Glaze, nor when Chilton sings “nullify my life”. I’m not explaining myself very well here. It’s like the perfect lack of confidence (if there can be such a thing), expressed with a gorgeous, heartbreaking clarity.
The really weird thing for me about Chilton is the fact that Big Star was just a small stop on his long musical journey. He went from The Box Tops to Big Star. Big Star means so much to so many people, but it’s one small facet to this man’s career. Like a little detour. The fact that he seems so indifferent to it all makes it even stranger. Those times must have been very difficult for him. It’s almst as though he has blocked it all. I haven’t seen the reunited Box Tops (who I also like alot), but I know his role in Big Star is not one of leader or big star. He is present and seems content to be in that moment. And he seems to enjoy making music with the other three. But he also seems like he could just as easily be playing “Volare” in some coffeehouse somewhere.
thanks for the advice guys. Alex I looked there before but found it this time. under “options” (when multiple tracks are selected) there is a check box that I had to check called “Part of a compilation” then I had to select “no” from the drop down.
Sweet. Thanks. I’ve got all this stuff in there that I forget about when browsing my artist list.
I’ve got you, Tvox, and sorry if I overreacted. I’ll try listening to the song again. My problem with it has been that I simply can’t sink my teeth into it musically. I can assure you I’m very in tune with my generally depressed nature and have plenty of musical moments that help me tap into it. That song just leaves me scratching my head.
As for the boys club aspect of RTH, I’ll say it again: anyone’s welcome. Women are welcome. We talk music here and if anyone feels saddled by the hearty, bullshitting, backslapping tone that’s initiated by your Moderator and others, I’m sorry about that. I use caps and lower case letters, as appropriate. When I refer to a “band of brothers” scenario in the body of a post and then refer back to it in a response to a comment, please take it in context. If it’s more than that, that’s just the way I am. I welcome all and encourage all to be themselves and express themselves however they see fit. I enjoy the “man’s man” aspect of my personality and won’t pretend to be anyone but myself. However, I hope I’m not forcing myself on anyone or expecting anyone to act like me.
Great comments, Tvox. In “Daisy Glaze” it seems to me that the person is not in Psychic Oblivion. Rather, it’s this condition that he craves.
For some reason, it reminds me of the opening lines of “Ode to a Nightingale:”
MY heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk…
Yet another stab at it, probably to the detriment of my point: There are certain people who dig what I will call the romance of sadness, and its subset, the romance of disintegration. It’s why some folks find Big Star’s Third aka Sister Lovers so satisfying. Others may cringe around such drama and display and gravitate to more orderly or more uplifting delivery systems like #1 Record. I find the blend of the two most satisfying, though I can at times appreciate the extremes.
Which is not to say that I don’t appreciate art with a cooler emotional response, say, Stereolab, for instance. But I do think that certain listeners gravitate toward music which trades in a more sardonic, detached, “cerebral”, often “Kentonite”, less drama-filled stance. Television, Pere Ubu, Beefheart, Elvis Costello, XTC. Not that #1 record is detached. It’s full of great teenage yearning/momentum. But it ain’t Chilton on Nightime or Kangaroo.
In the youtube video, Chris Bell is the one playing the strat with the little clipped mustache? If so, the later photos I’ve seen of him don’t look anything like this. He went through a lot of rough changes after he left the band supposedly. I assume you guys have read the infamous Will Rigby blog post about going to Memphis to meet Big Star members and finding Bell working in a restaurant? Bad times.
Tvox, for your next assignment please explain why I prefer Third to Radio City. It’s funny how your characterization of “certain listeners'” tastes mirror a key segment of my own:) I know what you’re saying, but “romance of disintegration” or not, if it don’t swing it don’t mean a thing – for me, at least. Why bother listening to music at all? Obviously, you must also like the SONG “Daisy Glaze,” otherwise artists could dupe you into buying their records based solely on them expressing this mood you appreciate. You do like the music in that song, right? That’s cool. I never have. I don’t characterize you as lacking in any emotional faculties because you do, do I?
Despite my obviously being a bit bugged, I’m not trying to lash out at you personally. I simply get a little sick of the belief that one style of music’s emotional content inherently packs more of a wallop than another style. I’ve always felt that the depth and vibrancy of emotion expressed is what matters most. If “When My Baby’s Beside Me” wasn’t delivered as well as I feel it’s delivered, for instance, I would probably hate that song. As it is, the song works for me as a vibrant expression of a certain, narrow, ephemeral, significant feeling that I hope we’ve all had on occasion. On the other hand, if some song purports to express something DEEP that I’m not feeling owing to the performance and/or structure of the song, please don’t think less of me for not getting it. We all need to be shown, not told. I don’t doubt that “Daisy Glaze” speaks to anyone, but it doesn’t speak to me. That doesn’t mean I’m incapable of feeling what that song is trying to express if it had been expressed in a way that suited my musical tastes.
All that said, can I be accused of being unfair in tying anyone’s preference for Radio City into my convoluted notion of the Kardboard Keef and Mick? CERTAINLY! That’s how I roll. I sincerely appreciate being chafed from this discussion, and I’m sure I’ll be more readily exposed to some of the charms of this album that I hadn’t been exposed to previously. Again, I already like this album just fine as it is. I’d love to LOVE it, and that’s part of why I’m willing to be a bit of a dick and then get my come-uppance. I hope points of view expressed contrary to your own that may have rubbed you the wrong way have a similar long-term benefit. No joke. I’ll shut up now and look forward to revisiting the album tomorrow!
by the way, how to people feel about the re-mastered version now available?
i don’t want to get into one of the *other* rth “mother of all battles” threads (you know…the one regarding re-mastering, and whether or not it’s preferable / important to be able to hear the acoustic guitar on “satisfactio”).
However, i think it’s a pertinent question where these albums are concerned, especially since:
a., they both sound pretty different than their original incarnations to me…
b., they sounded pretty immaculate (even the sloppy one) the first time around.
c. i’m curious to know if any of you who own the remastered digi-versions feel that the re-mastering works with or against the original aesthetics of each album and if it changed your preference for either.
I think it’s pretty amazing that these two albums can generate so much conversation these days. Almost no one ever bought them or played them, and almost everyone that listens to Big Star came upon them after they were long gone.
Mod, what’s wrong with songs about “girl trouble?” I think all the best rock songs are about girls, drinking or something to do with cars (driving them fast, crashing them and making out in them). I don’t mind songs that are more comlex, but the best ones are susually the simple ones with a more universal appeal, if you ask me.
I like Radio City more than #1 Record because it’s sloppier and it has Back of a Car, September Gurls and I’m in Love With a Girl on it. The first one has plenty of catchy, fun stuff on it but I always think it would sound better live. I’m glad they’re pretty much universally loved, though, because they should be.
Oh yeah, I love Daisy Glaze, too!
Hey, Good Doctor:
Psychic Oblivion and craving Psychic Oblivion are literally the same, in my book. It’s about where you want to be as a way of ignoring you are. It’s about wanting out of life but only if you can do it in the proper mood.
Of course, the better songs, like Daisy Glaze, acknowledge the tension and difference between where you are and what you want, and that’s what makes the song a better exploration of the phenomena than the usual Desert + Horse with No Name fantasies.
2K asks, “Mod, what’s wrong with songs about ‘girl trouble?'”
I’m cool with songs about girl trouble when the lyrics actually say something about the trouble other than one of two things: 1) cowardly revenge fantasies that are unaware that they are cowardly revenge fantasies and 2) mumbling, malcontented nonsense that, if nothing else, has the good sense to avoid falling into unself-conscious revenge fantasies.
The unself-consciously cowardly revenge fantasies I speak of are best typified in so many garage rock songs. I’m cool with one “I’m gonna get you, girl!” every now and then if the song is rocking, but to me few can pull off these songs with the self-conscious style of The Rolling Stones. Those guys can cross all kinds of lines with a combination of menace and tongue-in-cheek humor. I LOVE “Under My Thumb,” “Stupid Girl,” and the like. There’s a joy and sense of humor behind all the nasty stuff.
On Radio City I have no idea what Chilton is going on about most of the time, but I sense he’s doing the muttering malcontent routine. I try to get what he’s singing about and end up thinking, Be a man, Chilton. Take a stand. Make something out of these mxed feelings. Entertain me with your words in some way, if nothing else! Some of you probably are too mature to think such things, but I’ve always suspected what Chilton reportedly said about his own lyrics, that they were lazy afterthoughts. If you can read so much more into them, more power to you. One day I hope to get more out of those lyrics. I mean “September Gurls” is an absolute masterpiece thanks to its structure and delivery, but I can barely make out a single thing that Chilton is singing. Without looking up the lyrics, does anyone really know what he’s singing? And is he so much singing words that stand on their own or is he delivering them in a way that emotionally hits home? I’ve always figured it’s the latter and to me that’s one of the great things about rock ‘n roll. Those Tin Pan Alley songwriters had to work their asses off to craft their lyrics. Rock ‘n roll can be such a great delivery device for otherwise ordinary lyrics.
Anyhow, ideally, I like lyrics that express something on their own or that otherwise entertain me. Those “you done me wrong, baby” lyrics get old fast if not delivered with just the right mix of swagger and style. I’ve never really felt that way about anyone who’s broken my heart.
Great article I found on the recording of the first two albums: http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/apr06/articles/classictracks_0406.htm
Moddie, a serious question: how do you feel about “Run For Your Life”?
Hrrundi, a serious answer can be found here:
I hate that song, and for what it’s worth John would admit that he hated it for the same reasons.