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Alex Chilton

In a business that reinvents itself at every turn, Alex Chilton thrived for four decades with a three-fold career -- his early recordings with the Box Tops, the albums he did with Big Star in the mid-'70s and after the group re-formed with a new lineup in 1993, and the spate of cool but chaotic solo albums he recorded beginning in the late '70s. To some, he was a classic hitmaker from the '60s. To others, he was a genius British-style pop musician and songwriter. To yet another audience, he was a doomed and despairing artist who spent several years battling the bottle and delivering anarchistic records and performances while thumbing his nose at all pretenses of stardom, a quirky iconoclast whose influence spawned the likes of the Replacements and Teenage Fanclub.

For a guy who grew up in and around Memphis, there wasn't anything remotely Southern about Alex Chilton. Although fully aware of his surroundings, and in tune spiritually with its most lunatic fringe aspects, Chilton's South had more to do with genteel Southern intellectualism than rednecks. Chilton started playing music in local high school combos, alternating between bass and rhythm guitar with a stray vocal thrown in, finally working himself up to professional status with a group called the DeVilles. After acquiring a manager with recording connections tied to Memphis hitmakers Chips Moman and Dan Penn, Alex and the group -- newly renamed the Box Tops -- recorded "The Letter," a record that sounded white enough to go to number one on the pop charts and yet black enough to track on R&B stations, too. Chilton was still in his teens, but wad already armed with a strong conception of how pop and R&B vocals should be handled. With the hand of vocal coach Dan Penn firmly in place, the hits kept coming, with "Cry Like a Baby," "Soul Deep," and "Sweet Cream Ladies" all showing visible chart action. The Box Tops were stars by AM radio singles standards, but tours in general opened Chilton's eyes to the world and what it had to offer. And what that world seemed to offer Chilton was a lot more artistic freedom than he had as nominal leader of the Box Tops.

After a few errant solo sessions, Chilton found himself in Big Star with singer/guitarist Chris Bell. Their blend of ethereal harmonies, quirky lyrics, and Beatlesque song structures appeared to be radio-friendly, but distribution by their label, Ardent Records, spelled disaster. Bell left the band, and the label faltered. Chilton went into the studio with producer Jim Dickinson and attempted to put together the third Big Star album. These sessions, now known as Sister Lovers, are legendary in some quarters. Much has been read into this recording, primarily the myth that Chilton became a pop artist who, in the face of critical success but commercial apathy, suddenly rebelled against the system and became a "doomed artist on a collision course to Hell." Chilton himself dismissed all such romantic notions: "I think that to say that it's a fairly druggy sort of album that is the work of a confused person trying to find himself or find his creative direction is a fair statement about the thing."

Around 1976, Chilton started producing a wild cross section of solo outings for various foreign and American independent labels, all featuring his love for obscure material, barbed-wire guitar playing, howling feedback, and bands that sounded barely familiar with the material. As he plugged into the bohemian punk rock scene of New York City, Chilton's anarchic approach and attitude fit the scene like a glove. In addition to his gigging and performing schedule, Chilton also produced the debut session by the Cramps, helping to land their deal with I.R.S. Records. He was becoming legendary enough to end up having a song by the Replacements named after him. Through the late '80s into the early '90s, he split his time between recording, gigging overseas plugging his latest release, and playing oldies shows in the U.S., reprising his old Box Tops hits. In the early '90s, Chilton -- relocated to New Orleans, his demons behind him -- began releasing a series of excellent solo albums on the newly revived Ardent label and even participated in a couple of reunions (of both Big Star and the Box Tops). A studio album from Big Star appeared in 2005, although it included only Jody Stephens from the original lineup. The band also played high-profile gigs in England and America, while in 2009, Rhino issued a definitive box set, Keep an Eye on the Sky. One year later, however, on the eve of 2010's SxSW festival, Chilton died in New Orleans of heart failure. ~ Cub Koda
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Electricity By Candlelight / NYC 2/13/97

1. Last Bouquet (Live)

2. Step Right This Way (Live)

3. Let's Get Lost (Live)

4. D-I-V-O-R-C-E (Live)

5. Raining In My Heart (Live)

6. Lovesick Blues (Live)

7. Girl From Ipanema (Live)

8. My Baby Just Cares For Me (Live)

9. Motel Blues (Live)

10. Someone To Watch Over Me (Live)

11. Footprints In The Snow (Live)

12. A Case Of You (Live)

13. Wouldn't It Be Nice (Live)

14. Surfer Girl (Live)

15. Solar System (Live)

16. I Walk The Line (Live)

17. If I Had A Hammer (Live)

18. You Can Bet Your Heart On Me (Live)

x

Track List: Free Again: The "1970" Sessions

1. Free Again (Original Mono Mix)

2. Come On Honey

3. Something Deep Inside

4. I Can Dig It

5. The Emi Song (Smile For Me)

6. All I Really Want Is Money

7. The Happy Song

8. Jumpin' Jack Flash

9. Every Day As We Grow Closer/Funky National

10. I Wish I Could Meet Elvis

11. Just To See You

12. All We Ever Got From Them Was Pain

13. Sugar, Sugar/I Got The Feelin'

14. Free Again (Stereo Remix With Alternate Vocal)

15. Every Day As We Grow Closer (Original Mono Mix)

16. Come On Honey (Original Mono Mix)

17. The Emi Song (Smile For Me) (Original Mono Mix)

18. All I Really Want Is Money (Demo)

19. If You Would Marry Me Babe (Demo)

20. It Isn't Always That Easy (Demo)

x

Track List: Cliches / Loose Shoes And Tight P**sy (Explicit)

Disc 1

1. My Baby Just Cares For Me

2. Time After Time

4. Gavotte

5. Save Your Love For Me

6. Let's Get Lost

7. Funny (But I Still Love You)

8. Frame For The Blues

9. The Christmas Song

10. There Will Never Be Another You

11. Somewhere Along The Way

12. What Was

Disc 2

1. I've Never Found A Girl

2. Lipstick Traces

3. Hook Me Up

5. If You's A Viper

7. April In Paris

8. There Will Never Be Another You

9. Single Again

10. You've Got A Booger Bear Under There

11. Shiny Stockings

12. Goodnight My Love

x

Track List: Live In Anvers

1. Intro

2. Ah Ti Ta Ti Ta Ta

3. Song Intro

4. In The Street (Live)

5. Song Intro

6. 634-5789

8. Il Ribelle

9. Song Intro

11. Shiny Stockings

12. Claim To Fame

14. Autumn In New York

16. It's Too Late To Turn Back Now

17. Concert Outro

x

Track List: Set

2. Lipstick Traces

3. Hook Me Up

7. April In Paris

8. There Will Never Be Another You

9. Single Again

10. You've Got A Booger Bear Under There

11. Shiny Stockings

12. Goodnight My Love

x

Track List: Like Flies On Sherbert (2) - Live In London 1982

Disc 1

1. Boogie Shoes

2. My Rival

3. Hey Little Girl

4. Hook Or Crook

5. I've Had It

6. Rock Hard

7. Girl After Girl

8. Waltz Across Texas

9. Alligator Man

10. Like Flies On Sherbert

Disc 2

1. Bangkok

2. Tramp

3. In The Street

4. Hey! Little Child

6. Rock Hard

7. Alligator Man

8. The Letter

9. Train Kept A Rollin'

11. My Rival

12. Stranded On A Dateless Night

13. September Gurls

x

Track List: A Man Called Destruction

1. Sick And Tired

2. Devil Girl

3. Lies

4. It's Your Funeral

5. What's Your Sign Girl

6. Il Ribelle

7. You Don't Have To Go

8. Boplexity

9. New Girl In School

10. You're Lookin' Good

11. Don't Know Anymore

12. Don't Stop

x

Track List: Feudalist Tarts + No Sex

2. Stuff

3. Baby

4. Thank You John

5. Lost My Job

6. Paradise

7. No Sex

8. Underclass

9. Wild Kingdom

x

Track List: High Priest + Black List

1. Take It Off

2. Let Me Get Close To You

3. Dalai Lama

4. Volare

5. Thing For You

6. Forbidden Love

7. Make A Little Love

8. Trouble Don't Last

9. Don't Be A Drag

10. Nobody's Fool

11. Come By Here

12. Raunchy

13. Junkyard

14. Lonely Weekends

15. Margie

16. Little Gto

17. Guantanamerika

18. Jailbait

19. Baby, Baby, Baby

21. I Will Turn Your Money Green

x

Track List: Black List

x

Track List: 19 Years: A Collection of Alex Chilton

1. Free Again

3. Kanga Roo

4. Nighttime

7. Bangkok

8. Can't Seem To Make You Mine

9. Like Flies on Sherbert

10. My Rival

11. Rock Hard

12. Lost My Job

14. No Sex

15. With a Girl Like You

16. Volare

17. Make a Little Love

18. Thing For You

19. Take It Off

x

Track List: Like Flies On Sherbert (Remaster With Bonus Tracks)

1. Baron Of Love, Part II (Remastered)

2. Girl After Girl (Remastered)

3. My Rival (Remastered)

4. No More The Moon Shines On Lorena (Remastered)

5. I've Had It (Remastered)

6. Rock Hard (Remastered)

7. Waltz Across Texas (Remastered)

8. Alligator Man (Remastered)

9. Hey! Little Child (Remastered)

10. Hook Or Crook (Remastered)

11. Like Flies On Sherbert (Remastered)

12. Boogie Shoes (Remastered)

13. Baby Doll (Remastered)

14. She's The One That's Got It (Remastered)

15. Dateless Night (Remastered)

x

Track List: Bach's Bottom

1. Take Me Home And Make Me Like It (#1)

2. (Every Time I) Close My Eyes (#1)

3. All Of The Time

4. Free Again (#1)

5. I'm So Tired (Parts 1 & 2)

6. Free Again (#2)

7. Jesus Christ

8. Singer Not The Song

9. Summertime Blues

10. Take Me Home And Make Me Like It (#2)

11. (Every Time I) Close My Eyes (#2)

12. Bangkok

13. Can't Seem To Make You Mine

14. Walking Dead

15. Take Me Home And Make Me Like It (#3)

Comments

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I had no idea what happened to Chilton after the Box Tops broke up. Then, after he died, I started hearing about Big Star. I gave it a listen and I was like meh...not very interesting, no wonder he didn't get airplay
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There are lots of rednecks in every state, north, south, east and west.
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i love this song
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pandora11366 4
Southern redneck is redundant.
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This album is f**kin great no s**t !
Report as inappropriate
The crack about Southern rednecks (and thus Chilton not really being Southern) is bigoted, and shouldn't be part of an objective music bio, I don't care how many hipsters frequent this site.
Report as inappropriate
GTO as good as if not better than the Beach Boys { that's sayin' somethin' }
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I love my memories of seeing ALEX LIVE in Memphis..alw a y s fun to dance to his music.
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I'm with Dean. For a guy who grew up in and around Memphis, there wasn't anything remotely Southern about Alex Chilton. Although fully aware of his surroundings , and in tune spiritually with its most lunatic fringe aspects, Chilton's South had more to do with genteel Southern intellectual i s m than rednecks. Equating the south with rednecks is an absurdly limited view.
Report as inappropriate
WORD
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A real fine career, but less fine a time to go. Godspeed, Alex.
Report as inappropriate
Alex will be missed - thanks for all the music.
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Great voice, great songs.
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so long alex,
thanks for all the songs.
Report as inappropriate
I always wondered why the Replacements had a song called Alex Chilton...
Report as inappropriate
"there isn't anything remotely Southern about Alex Chilton." ... "Alex Chilton's South has more to do with genteel Southern intellectual i s m s than rednecks." So, in order to be Southern, simply being Southern isn't enough. One must be a redneck to qualify by your definition, which is self-contrad i c t o r y .

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