This documentary film by Drew DeNicola tells the story of a little known but influential rock band from the ’70s. If you are a fan of The Jesus and Mary Chain, REM, or The Replacements then you’ve probably heard of these guys or at least would recognize the influence. The primary force in the band was Alex Chilton, singer of the ’60s hit “The Letter.” He wrote most of the songs with lead guitar player Chris Bell. Responsible for the engineering of the pretentiously titled “#1 Album” Bell dropped out of the band after the record failed to go #1 or even close. After destroying the master tapes the rest of his life was a downward slide of drugs, depression, and religion. He died in 1978 in a car crash.
Chilton likewise was a madman and abandoned the project that he would be best known for. Big Star only made three albums with the third one not even getting published until years after it was recorded. The documentary goes to great lengths show how bad marketing and an ahead of it’s time sound kept the music from gaining popularity. Well that’s life isn’t it? No one is owed anything no matter how talented. Vincent Van Gogh sold one painting while he was alive.
This doc is very well done and engaging but because the lifespan of Big Star was so short it lacks gravitas. Chilton would go on experiment with the punk sound and became a producer for The Cramps and other lesser known bands. Even though he said he hated Big Star he saw where the money was finally and reformed them in ’90s to capitalize on the Nirvana trend. He died in 2010. It’s not a great film, but it is very good and recommended for fans of indie/alternative music.
3 Big Stars Outta 5