Thursday, March 18, 2010

Alex Chilton - Part One

I want to write something about Alex Chilton, but I need some time to process the fact that he's gone.  A couple of quick things for now.

If there's somebody you want to see play, and they come to your town, get off your ass and go.  Don't wait until "next time".  I skipped Big Star's recent Brooklyn show, and now there won't ever be another one.

I did get to see Alex play with his trio a few times, and one memory stands out:

One annoying aspect of seeing Chilton live is that people were constantly yelling for Big Star songs.  He would play a couple in a typical set, and as great as they were to hear, it was clear that his heart was really in the wild mix of covers he played, from obscure r'n'b to jazz standards to Italian rock'n'roll to Michael Jackson. 

One night, somewhere in the middle of what was probably the best Chilton performance I ever saw, he was between songs and all the usual requests were being shouted out.  With perfect timing and impressive volume, one of my friends shouted "PLAY WHAT YOU WANT!" from the back of the club where we were standing.  Chilton heard it, smiled slightly, acknowledged the non-request with a "yeah!" or "right on!", and proceeded to, in fact, play what he wanted.  I don't remember what song it was, but I remember feeling good that he got the message, that some of us in the crowd were happy to let him drive the bus, to accept him on his own terms.

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