Monday, July 20, 2009

Star-struck

After reading Bruce Eaton's 33 1/3 book on Big Star's Radio City this weekend, I wondered if a Big Star-like cult band could ever happen again. Eaton couldn't write the book without mentioning his connection to the Big Star story - playing with Chilton years later - and the personal connection to Big Star seems like an essential part of their story. The liner notes for the upcoming Rhino box, Keep an Eye on the Sky, include a section on the touchstone the band became partially due to the scarcity of their albums, which meant finding one used was always a jackpot moment. When you finally got your own copy and heard it, you were already inclined to listen generously because you'd worked so hard. Third became an even greater source of fascination for me once I discovered that it was unstable. When I found a cassette copy of the album, it had a different song sequence than the vinyl, and Rykodisc's reissue of it as Sister Lovers resequenced it radically.

Because the band itself had a shimmering blink-and-you-missed-it quality - did it ever actually exist? - it's readymade for a cult, but could a Big Star exist today? Is it possible for anything semi-pop to be truly rare? I think of the role Piracy Funds Terrorism played in establishing M.I.A.'s name and suppose it must be possible on some level, but I find it hard to imagine.

1 comment:

Bruce Eaton said...

Thanks for the mention of the book Alex. My initial thought is that it'd be pretty near impossible to have a Big Star-like cult band today. One main reason is that with technology / internet etc. everyone has the means to scour the universe and because what hits the mainstream is largely so uninteresting (unlike the early 70s when a lot of the big bands were great bands), music fans can dive into every little nook and cranny to find something of relative merit. Thus modest little combos like the Fleet Foxes or Grizzly Bear get blown up to big league status (cover of Mojo etc.) almost overnight, bypassing extended cult status. A band as good as Big Star (or, say, Little Feat, an early 70s cult band who stuck together long enough to get some pay-off) that had official releases and weren't just hiding out in their basement would be found out quickly and word would spread rapidly. Heck, they might even sell some records... Bruce Eaton