Last Sunday was a rainy old afternoon in Nashville and I may have been out a little too late honky tonkin’ the night before and I may have been feeling a little muddle-headed and I may or may not have consumed the best part of a tub of salted caramel ice cream for lunch. It was as good a time as any to head to the beautiful Belcourt Theatre and catch the Big Star documentary.
For those unfamiliar with Big Star, the group were a band from Memphis who made a handful of critically acclaimed, commercially unsuccessful records in the 1970s. Some time between 1973 and the 1990s, the band reached cult status and now music nerds everywhere sing their praises and get into passionate twitter discussions about their favourite tunes from the band’s key songwriters: Alex Chilton and Chris Bell. For the uninitiated/ aspiring nerds, here is a selection of golden, power-pop Big Star beauties:
Big Star – The Ballad Of El Goodo
Big Star – I’m In Love With A Girl
Big Star – Watch The Sunrise
For all my love and affection and geeking out over Big Star, I can’t remember when I first heard the band. They snuck up on me some time in the mid-2000s. When I formed my first band with Courtney Botfield towards the later end of that decade, we recorded a version of ‘Thirteen’, a song I never tire of. I’m still in love with this rhyme:
Won’t you tell me
What you’re thinking of?
Would you be
An outlaw for my love?
Here’s our take, circa 2009…
As much as I l have an enduring love for ‘Thirteen’, my current post-documentary jam is Chris Bell’s ‘I Am The Cosmos’. I have been listening to it almost non-stop since just before seeing the film and ever since. According to Nick Hornby’s Songbook, the novelist Dave Eggers believes that those who repeatedly listen to the one song over and over again are trying to get inside it, to understand it, to solve the mystery within it. I read that this morning between sips of tea and bites of a nice sharp Granny Smith, and thought – YES! – that’s exactly where I’m at with ‘Cosmos’ at the moment.
Chris Bell – I Am The Cosmos
Of course, I have done this kind of song infatuation before. Linda Ronstadt’s version of Elvis Costello’s ‘Alison’. David Bowie’s ‘Life On Mars’. Lucinda Williams’ ‘Ventura’. Bob Dylan’s ‘Sweetheart Like You’. The Band’s ‘It Makes No Difference’. Mazzy Star’s ‘Fade Into You’. But at this moment in time, I’m holding the hand inside ‘I Am The Cosmos’ as though I might never let it go.