Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Big Star "You Can't Have Me"

Did you go back and listen to "Thriller" for the first time in years, when Michael Jackson died?

Losing an artist often spurs you on, to go back and remember why you liked them, long ago. And sometimes there's a nice little surprise in that reminder.

When Alex Chilton died last week, I wrote about it here, and mentioned "You Can't Have Me" in the post, then realized it had been a while since I last listened to the album "Third/Sister Lovers." If I were going to listen to Big Star, I'd more likely put on one (or both) of the first 2 records, which are loaded with Power Pop classics.

"Third/Sister Lovers" is a more challenging record. I read this great book called "It Came From Memphis" which had a whole chapter devoted to Chilton. And I remember that the making of this album was difficult---the label was going bankrupt, Chilton was becoming increasingly challenging toward his producer Jim Dickenson, and many of the songs live on the dark side. And when I'd want a little Big Star happiness, I didn't necessarily want to be challenged, so I'd skip the final record.

But the day after Chilton died, I was on the Steamship, and thought I'd listen to the record on my ride. So rewarding.

Of course, there are plenty of bright spots that I remembered, like the shimmering Christmas song "Jesus Christ" and the affirming "Thank You Friends." And there were wonderful, complex moments that I hadn't thought about in a while, like the beautiful "Take Care" and the buoyant "O Dana."

But the real treat was hearing "You Can't Have Me" for the first time in years, and really being swept up in the defiance of Chilton's vocals, the swirling, chaotic Dickenson production with horns and backing vocals and piano and harmonica, and especially, especially, Jody Stephens wild, passionate drum fills.

A joyful noise that made me want to go listen to ALL my albums, to rediscover all those gems that I've let slip away.

(skip forward to about 2:40 for "You Can't Have Me")

Hear clips from all the songs mentioned in this post:

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