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When lead singer / songwriter for Big Star, Alex Chilton died from a heart attack in 2010, there was renewed interest in the band and a rediscovery of this, their debut album. At the time of its release, #1 Record was widely acclaimed, but not very widely purchased – supposedly selling only 10,000 copies in the year of release.
Big Star’s remarkable debut LP contains an abundance of well-written and deftly produced (John Fry) rock songs which probably should have turned Big Star into big stars. Mostly co-written by Chilton and fellow founding member of the band, Chris Bell, the songs on #1 Record all benefit from the interplay of Chilton’s rock star raw talent and Bell’s penchant for more Pop sounds.
Most listeners today will know the teenage rebellion anthem In The Street from the hit television sitcom That 70s Show (where reference to wanting ‘a joint so bad’ was written out with an ad lib of ‘We’re all alright!’). The similarly themed Thirteen is also better known in other versions by Wilco, Elliot Smith and Evan Dando.
The heavier, noisier leanings of Chilton are on full display in Don’t Lie To Me and When My Baby’s Beside Me where fuzzy guitar riffs dominate, while Bell’s preference for sweet vocal crooners with acoustic sparkle is beautifully brought to the forefront in Give Me Another Chance sung by Chilton.
Arguably, the stand out track in this exceptional set is The Ballad Of El Goodo, written by Chilton alone before the pair formed Big Star (legend says thanks to a Beatles concert in their hometown of Memphis, Tennessee). The song’s simple chorus refrain (‘Ain’t no one going to turn me around’) swims over a sea of guitars that jangle like crystal bells; carried along by seraphic harmonies and Chilton’s artless, honest voice.
Big Star almost completely disbanded after #1 Record, with only two members (Chilton and Jody Stephens) remaining for the recording of Third/Sister Lovers. Before that third album was released, Big Star were no more. Chris Bell died in 1978 after losing control of his car and running off the road into a post. The band returned to touring in an altered form in 1993 and released In Space in 2005.
Verdict: Approved | Remaining: 116,853mb
This album is almost despairingly underrated and unknown. As a debut record from 1972, it still sounds hip and eternally listenable. #1 Record is power pop at its joyful best – aware, rebellious, singable and enduring. Please, buy this record; then buy it for someone else and tell them to do the same.