In 1971, Alex Chilton, formerly the singer with the Box Tops, joined his friend Chris Bell in a new band Bell called Big Star. Bell was serious about wanting to be a pop success. He titled their first album, No.1 Record, and he was convinced that prediction would come to pass. It didn’t. The album sold fifteen thousand copies—in those days that was considered a flop. But like The Velvet Underground’s first album—about which Brian Eno reportedly observed, “Their first album may only have sold 30,000 copies, but everyone who bought a copy went on to form a band”—the Big Star album was hugely influential. In a new documentary on the band, Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me (showing in Barking Legs Theatre on Dodds Avenue on Saturday August 10th at 8:30), REM, Flaming Lips, Matthew Sweet and Teenage Fanclub, as well as Cheap Trick acknowledge the band’s influence on their work.
Singer Paul Westerberg, leader of The Replacements, even wrote and recorded a song about Alex Chilton because he too felt the band had never received their due. In part, as Westerberg noted, because of Chilton’s attitude. “He doesn’t need our help, doesn’t want our help, but, damn it, he’s going to get it whether he wants it or not.” Chilton’s ambivalence about success so frustrated Bell that he left the band after their first record. The band ultimately released three critically acclaimed, but commercially unsuccessful, albums before breaking up in 1977. And that may have been the end of the story but for the two filmmakers, Drew De Nicola and Olivia Mori, who, like Westerberg, were determined to celebrate Chilton and the band. Their efforts have paid off. The documentary has received very enthusiastic reviews, and the band’s music is reaching a wider audience than ever before.
More information on Saturday’s showing of the film is available from the Mes En Scene Facebook page -- https://www.facebook.com/MESFilmClub.
The New Yorker’s review of the film can be found here -- www.newyorker.com/online/.../big-stars-big-documentary.html