I discovered Big Star in 1985. If you’ve listened to me on the air talk about the band, you’ve heard me say that Big Star is the reason I do what I do today.
Of course there was The Who, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones – even Glen Campbell and Herb Alpert, but when I discovered Big Star, I felt like I had discovered MY music.
It may have been written 15 years earlier (Their debut “#1 Record” came out in 1972), but all I can say is that music suddenly made sense to me. Of course I went on to love bands like The Replacements, REM, The Flaming Lips & Belle and Sebastian, but I particularly love the fact that the band could be SO underground, yet SO influential to the current artists I loved. That made me adopt them as my own.
Watching a recent documentary on the band – Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me – it was exciting and emotional to discover that other giants to me – Lenny Kaye, Robyn Hitchcock — also felt the same way.
When I was in college in Chapel Hill, NC, Alex Chilton was on tour as a solo artist. I was hanging out with some friends when someone pulled up on a moped. Alex Chilton was on the back. Needless to say, I about fell over. We all had plans to see him, but ended up spending a bunch of time with him. I was a goner.
Some years later, I was moving to the West Coast and doing the cross-country drive. For a music fan like me, there was an obligatory stop in Memphis to see Graceland, but looming larger was to meet Jody Stephens, drummer for Big Star. We ate BBQ, walked on Beale Street, and I soaked in the legend that is Memphis – from Stax to Ardent to the blues.
A few weeks ago Jody Stephens was set to stop by KCRW to talk to me about the documentary – a great story about music and art and the challenges that come with being so far ahead of your time.
When a musician arrived with a stand up bass, I knew we were in for something special. Check out the performance here.
Jody is the final remaining member of a legendary band that put down the roots for so much music today.
The songs are timeless, the stories are poetic and I am so grateful to have discovered them all those years ago. They can be yours too.