Happy Birthday: Alex Chilton

Wednesday, December 28, 2016
Happy Birthday: Alex Chilton

The late Alex Chilton was born on this day in 1940, and he lived a life that found him enjoying pop chart success as a member of the Box Tops, struggling with cult success as a member of Big Star, and pretty much just playing whatever the hell he wanted to play as a solo artist. For our part, we’re going to focus in on his achievements with Big Star, celebrating his career by spotlighting six Big Star covers. Some are poppy, others are quirky, but all of them are delivered with the greatest love and respect.

1. The Searchers, “September Gurls” – After finding considerable success in the ‘60s with such singles as “Sweets for My Sweet” and “Needles and Pins,” The Searchers struggled somewhat in the ‘70s. By the end of the decade, they decided to see if they could win any points with the kids by covering songs by some of the hipper artists of the day, turning in versions of tracks by The Records (“Hearts in Her Eyes”), Nick Lowe (“Switchboard Susan”), and – you guessed it – Big Star, too. The end result didn’t really do anything to boost The Searchers’ sales figures, but it definitely raised their street cred.

2. Rainy Day, “Holocaust” – An all-star Paisley Underground band featuring members of The Bangles, The Dream Syndicate, and The Three O’Clock? What’s not to like?

3. This Mortal Coil, “Kangaroo” – Maybe the most shocking thing about this song is that the band recorded a video for it, because you really just don’t tend to think of a dour bunch of folks like This Mortal Coil doing something as mainstream as making a video. The end result certainly looks just as ‘80s as you’d expect them, but the fact that it exists at all is pretty cool in and of itself.

4. Tommy Keene, “Hey! Little Child” – Released as a B-side of his first single, “Places That Are Gone,” this track cemented the sonic similarities between Keene and Big Star right off the bat.

5. Game Theory, “You Can’t Have Me” – Given Scott Miller’s proven skill as a songwriter, it’s mildly surprising that Game Theory took the time to cover someone else’s song, but given the musical sensibilities of the band, they couldn’t have picked a better person’s work to tackle.

6. Evan Dando, “Thirteen” – Dando has been an avowed Big Star fan from the get-go – perhaps you remember his version of “The Ballad of El Goodo” on the soundtrack to Empire Records, but this is a particularly lovely rendition.