posted on April 4, 2015 at 10:23 am
nobody home

nobody home

in 1974 i was probably the worst singer in the worst band in the world

i mean the players could all play and were pretty good in their own way

but the band itself was a horrible mish mash of my stupid derivative ideas

i hated the fucking band and i’m not surprised that most other people did too

i take full responsibility for the ham fisted boogie glam dribble that emanated from us

i wrote all the “songs” so i cannot shift any blame elsewhere

i refuse to

it was my paucity of imagination

it was my lack of any originality whatsoever

and all the players “chops” werent altering the fact that we were simply awful

so no i didnt pop fully formed into this universe

with snaky basslines and ambiguous lyrics

in fact about the only thing i had going for me was my voracious reading of pop mags

thats right

i read them from cover to stupid cover every last word every last tiny blurred photo

i, the worst singer in the worst band, studied all this meaningless ephemera like a hawk

i had fallen out by now with my one true friend paul culnane

he was the only other person i knew in canberra in 1974

who could read between the lines of the rock journalists of the time

guys like dave di martino (who i was interviewed by at SXSW this very year)

guys like nick kent and lester bangs and sometimes patti smith herself

they all wrote in these various rags and i collected and read them all

that fact right there somehow made me different from all the other 2 bit bass guitarists

and teenage songwriters and would be rock stars…

kent and di martino and all the rest were always writing about this bunch of bands

and some of the bands they wrote about intrigued me no end

even though i had not heard one fucking note

or heard one fucking word

i knew that this music i would love

not because some  critic told me to

but because of some ideal i began to imagine

an ideal of the perfect guitar band

that would somehow conjure up

all i ever wanted to see which was invisible to me 

i had read a lot about a band called Big Star

although their records were not possible to find

at least not for me

they were in fact so obscure as to have flown under even my friend pauls radar

who was such a big raspberries and badfinger fan… i mean an absolute expert

still Big Star had somehow not piqued his interest when i “split” up with him

though obviously later on he must have discovered them i suppose

anyway sometime in early 1974 my band came to sydney to , ahem, fulfil one weeks engagement

and , ahem, produce a demonstration  recording in a fully equipped studio in syd-a-knee

readers of my fabulously amusing memoirs can keep reading on as a little adjunct

because here again we run into a show-band called Chalice believe it or not

after having escaped the dills in Saga who wanted to ham it up with routines

i had formed my own dissolute pack of glam gunslingers

and our first fucking gig in the big smoke guv’nor is opening

for the king of all the show bands that ever was

at least in australia

Chalice!!!!

although everyone of em seemed to be English

which seemed to mean that they sung in tune more properly and stuff

than their laconic colonial cousins perhaps

so every night the lucky punters at Chequers nightclub on goulburn st

(oh enthusiastic ones make a pilgrimage there now ; it still exists

maybe its a fucking hand-job parlour now or something i think)

you went down some stairs and there was Baby Grande and then starring Chalice

of course the much younger boys in BG stood around watching Chalice each night

the big tough looking blond singer with a northern accent

he could have been a frightening rugby player coming at ya

the other guys

all with long immaculately blowdried hair dos

like bridesmaids at a wedding would have

the whole band in their identical tailored suits

on a level of perfectly rendered cover versions

with some cheeky humour and very professional playing

they were the reigning show band group par excellence 

on the nick kent and lester bangs level it was pure merde

none of this has anything to do with anything really

there were 2 bands doing some kind of rock n roll

one a hamfisted glam boogie band

the other a bunch of conservative pros

this was not the stuff i was reading about

gee baby grande stayed at the Squire Inn now defunct in bondi junction

i got a shag cut and i fell in love with the hairdresser who was suddenly my girlfriend

i mean i was 20 and she was probably 17

there was a swimming pool and everyfink

Peter Koppes was there in the band

he was 19 and had a t shirt that said FUCK only it was written like the ford logo

i’m sure we was living it up…why wouldn’t you?

one day i’m wandering along in oxford st bondi junction before it was closed off

they turned it into a mall thingy but once it was street all the way

i wandered up a dark cool stairway up into some ultra cool record shop

and after looking through the records for a while i found it

i had forgotten i was even looking for it

i had given up hope of ever finding it but there it was

a record by Big Star

it was called Radio City

it was their second record

when i got back to canberra

i discovered that i adored radio city much more than i could have ever thought

much much much more

i still cannot understand how they got it to sound that way

how the fuck were they conjuring up these feelings ?

superficially one could compare Big Star to the raspberries and badfinger

it was total anglophile 1965/66 rock

like a perpetual mash up of all the best bits of Help and the Who

oh but Big Star had so far transcended the other 2 as good as they were

and as much as i like them to this very day

but Big Star, this alex chilton guy

it started at this basic beatle aesthetic

and there

where the beatles had all but abandoned this sound

and were really never to ever come back to it

and there where the raspberries and badfinger imagined songs

just like the beatles might have done but never did

at this very point this guy in memphis tennessee

i didnt even fucking know where that was on a map or what it meant or anything

no more than the raspberries coming from cleveland

now i can dig that kind of information

then memphis cleveland birmingham liverpool

what the fuck did i know ?

syd-a-knee was the most exotic thing i had ever known

anyway at this starting point where the others leave off

big star took this idea even beyond where the beatles (had been bothered) taking it

anyway out of the sky into my lap

has dropped something so unbearably exquisite

to say radio city is a beautiful record

is an overwhelming understatement

enough has been written of it elsewhere

my accolades will add nothing and not help alex chilton one jot

his ideas were so incredible sophisticated and subtle

i found it hard to even try and rip off his style

because i didnt know how he was writing and producing this stuff

i am still in the middle of reading his excellent bio

by holly george-warren

(hey holly feel free to use any quotes on yer next print)

the book is full of people i know or knew

people like karin berg who was an interesting part of alexs life

she signed us and guided us thru warner brothers

the book is harrowing as you watch this guy you loved

because he made one of the best records ever

its harrowing to watch him hit the skids and lose his way

i guess he achieved some redemption

because i already looked at all the pictures

and there he is at some gigs just before the end of his life at 59

and he looks relatively normal and at peace with himself

but i look at those photos and i cant decide if thats good or bad

i havent even mentioned big stars next record called sister lovers

i cant right now

im tired of typing and this computer

when i finish the book i will return with some more of my conclusions

i suppose

or maybe i never will

thats the alex way of doing things i guess

 

13 Responses to “somebody i never actually knew”

  1. avatar
    always | 4 April 2015 at 1:25 pm #

    …I’m lying in a stream, I’m floating fine, receiving things, in my beautiful mind …

    My favorite, even still. I remember rainy summer days in the 70’s, hanging out listening to my best friend’s big brother’s albums. They took up an entire wall floor to ceiling. I was so in love with that guy (He played guitar and everything!) Been a guitar kinda girl ever since *sigh*

  2. etta
    etta | 4 April 2015 at 3:16 pm #

    Whadda hide –
    Milk white lectric letherette char
    … oh yes and regards to the rocks
    (Allniters) Mick H (ex Chequers )
    To the Tivoli
    (Gobes, Screaming Tribesmen and surely the Church)… St Stevens?
    The Capitol (The Clash and Iggy)
    The Phoenician Club (The Clouds)
    God knows who at the Lansdowne
    It was so loud, not to mention Vic Park (Angels, Dragon, The Sports)
    Not mention the Footbridge theatre
    (The Church again..)
    Then some fractured NY fairytale
    Dark ships in starlight…
    Meanwhile it’s drunken hostellers
    Singing rough lullabies
    Budding hippies with ukalele on
    Rooftop, flocks of fairies flitting
    To fey old opera house
    Where Angelina ballerina
    Sometimes lioness not mouse .
    How’s…?

  3. avatar
    andy | 4 April 2015 at 6:36 pm #

    so….not totally peerless then?
    I loved alex ‘n big star as much as you steve.
    thing is though, unlike Chilton and bolan you never lost your way…even when you thought you had.
    so I guess good as they were you’ve still got the edge on these guys because wer’e still feeling the love…big style!
    see you and your brilliant band soon.
    stay in love with real music forever kilbs!

  4. avatar
    Myrrhcenary | 5 April 2015 at 2:19 am #

    “ham fisted boogie glam dribble” – I love it! As if I don’t have enough to read I guess I will have to pick this up. I keep hearing about it. Big Star was a fantastic band weren’t they? I first heard of them through Paul Westerberg – “never travel far without a little Big Star” – good stuff indeed!

  5. avatar
    Steven Krut | 6 April 2015 at 2:05 am #

    At least you don’t have anything as embarrassing as “The Laughing Gnome” in your early output. All those early Bowie songs turn my stomach with their cloying bids for Anthony Newley-ish popularity. Talk about a horrible mish mash of my stupid derivative ideas! Bowie was hopeless until he fell under the VU’s spell. By contrast, I kind of like those BG songs you put on addendaone. But I don’t doubt your claim that BG was a horrible band overall. Derivative, yeah, that’s obvious. So maybe Big Star was to you what VU was to Bowie? I can see how Big Star would inspire you to start playing around with your influences instead of just imitating them.

  6. avatar
    veleska1970 | 6 April 2015 at 2:13 am #

    I love these trips down Memory Lane. Keep ’em coming.

  7. avatar
    mleonardtyson | 8 April 2015 at 2:38 pm #

    On a AC kick?Then ya gotta see the Big Star Rockumentary “Nothing Can Hurt Me” on the Utuba, a thousand words….

  8. avatar
    cetaceus1 | 21 May 2015 at 3:55 am #

    well my copy/paste didn’t work for some reason; but i love this. So masterful.


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