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#1 Record Radio City (Bonus Track Version)

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Editors’ Notes

Though commercial failures in their day, Big Star’s #1 Record and Radio City are now recognized as brilliant examples of early power pop. Taken together, they document the brief but productive alliance of band co-founders Alex Chilton and Chris Bell. On #1 Record, Chilton’s darker instincts are tempered by Bell’s unaffected sweetness, resulting in luminous tracks like “The Ballad of el Goodo,” “Thirteen” and “Watch the Sunrise.” Bell’s minimal involvement in Radio City makes the band’s second album a much edgier affair. Chilton moves away from the wistful romanticism of the first release towards the angst-ridden stance of his later solo work. “You Get What You Deserve” and “Life Is White” are spiky, tormented tunes, while “Daisy Glaze” achieves a vaguely disquieting delicacy. “September Gurls,” Radio City’s best-known tune, is a yearning love song with a heat-tugging hook. In hindsight, it seems amazing that Big Star’s first two albums didn’t yield a string of hits. Nearly 40 years on, they endure for their bruised innocence and irresistible charm.

Customer Reviews

RIP Alex Chilton

Thanks for the great music and influence Alex!

Most underrated band of the 70s

Big Star's '#1 Record' is one of my favorite albums. It's the next logical step from the music of The Beatles and The Byrds, on a similar wavelength to what Todd Rundgren, Badfinger and Raspberries were doing at the time, except possibly a bit edgier. If you're a fan of any of those bands, you'll enjoy this record immensely.

It opens up with barn-burner "Feel", which in my opinion should be on a top 5 list of best album openers ever. "The Ballad of El Goodo" is a nice ballad about holding your own in this crazy world. Then we're treated to the two all-too-familiar songs "In The Street" (covered by Ben Vaughn and later Cheap Trick as the theme to "That 70's Show", except without the "We're all alright" chant) and their most popular tune "Thirteen" (also featured in a few episodes of "That 70's Show"). "Don't Lie To Me" brings in a touch of the blues, and "The India Song" (written and sung by bassist Andy Hummel) brings in psychedelic pop (complete with exotic percussion and Mellotron flute ala Strawberry Fields). Side 2 opens up with a rocker ("When My Baby's Beside Me") & a ballad ("My Life is Right"), and then the rest of side 2 switches gears to acoustic mode (taking a cue from Bob Dylan's "Bringin' It All Back Home" perhaps?...). "Give Me Another Chance" is probably the saddest song on the record (courtesy of those classic Mellotron strings), and "Try Again" is Big Star's 'Ringo Moment' with a vocal by drummer Jody Stephens. Followed by what could only be called the 'Prettiest' (for lack of a better word) song on the album, "Watch The Sunrise". In closing, we've got "ST 100/6", which features all 4 members contributing to some very dark harmonies. I don't really know what that title means (I don't think anybody does, besides Alex Chilton), but it seems to me that Big Star was also experimenting with the then new idea of a hidden track, a la "Her Majesty".

"Radio City", however, is a bit of a hodge-podge, compared to "#1 Record", mainly due to the inner turmoil caused by the departure of Chris Bell. That being said, it's still better than 95% of today's music. A couple of songs really stand out though, like "Oh My Soul", "September Gurls", "Back of a Car", & "Daisy Glaze". So, no matter what, I'd say buy the whole set anyway. In my opinion, it's some of the best rock & roll ever made, and $10 for the equivalent 2 albums, you're definitely getting much more than your money's worth.

Chris Bell, unfortunately passed away in 1978. Luckily we have a posthumous collection of his solo recordings called "I Am The Cosmos". I urge everybody to purchase that set as well, as a companion to this set. Seeing as how Alex Chilton, Jody Stephens, and Andy Hummel helped out on various tracks on that collection, it offers a glimpse of what Big Star might've accomplished had Chris stayed with the band.

UPDATE: Since writing this review Alex Chilton & Andy Hummel have also sadly passed away. Once again, I urge everybody to honor the memory of Chris, Alex, and Andy and give this music a well deserved listen.

I love these pop rock songs!!!

Each of these songs have a great pop sensibility. I enjoy the trip-hop romantic lyrics and the melodies are very beautiful. I hate to compare the music to other artists, but many of these songs remind me of George Harrison's solo work -- albeit without so much spirituality. It's amazing that I am first listening to Big Star for the first time here in the year 2009!?! This album has plenty of songs, and this is a good price for so many songs.


Formed: 1971 in Memphis, TN

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

The quintessential American power pop band, Big Star remains one of the most mythic and influential cult acts in all of rock & roll. Originally led by the singing and songwriting duo of Alex Chilton and Chris Bell, the Memphis-based group fused the strongest elements of the British Invasion era -- the melodic invention of the Beatles, the whiplash guitars of the Who, and the radiant harmonies of the Byrds -- into a ramshackle but poignantly beautiful sound which recaptured the spirit of pop's past...
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