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A Man Called Destruction

The Life and Music of Alex Chilton, From Box Tops to Big Star to Backdoor Man

George-Warren, Holly

(Book - 2014)
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
A Man Called Destruction
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Alex Chilton's story is rags to riches in reverse, beginning with teenage rock stardom and heading downward. Following stints leading 60s sensation the Box Tops ("The Letter") and pioneering 70s popsters Big Star, Chilton became a dishwasher. Yet he rose again in the 80s as a solo artist, producer, and trendsetter, coinventing the indie-rock genre. By the 90s, acolytes from R.E.M. to Jeff Buckley embodied Chilton's legacy, ushering him back to the spotlight before his untimely death in 2010. In this career-spanning and revelatory biography, longtime Chilton acquaintance Holly George-Warren has interviewed more than 100 bandmates, friends, and family members to flesh out a man who presided over--and influenced--four decades of American musical history, rendered here with new perspective through the adventures of a true iconoclast.--From publisher description.
Publisher: New York :, Viking,, 2014
ISBN: 0670025631
9780670025633
Characteristics: x, 370 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, portraits ; 24 cm

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Nov 22, 2014
  • lukasevansherman rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

"And children by the million sing for Alex Chilton
When he comes 'round
They sing, 'I'm in love
What's that song?
Yeah, I'm in love, with that song.'"-The Replacements, "Alex Chilton"
A star in his teens with the Boxtops ("The Letter"), a member of a hugely influential, but unsuccessful band, a burn out in his mid-20s, and a reluctant cult figure and erratic performer until his death in 2010, Alex Chilton is one of the more complicated, idiosyncratic figures in modern music. His reputation largely rests on his three albums with Big Star (a band that Chris Bell founded and Chilton later joined), a cult band par excellence, whose power pop influenced a generation of indie/college rockers like R.E.M., the Replacements, Matthew Sweet, Teenage Fanclub, and too many others to count. Although he recorded solo albums (some of which are terrible), he never found the same kind of success he did with the Boxtops and as the title of this biography, which takes its name from one of his records, he had a stubborn streak and some self-destructive tendencies (drink, drugs, women, bad performances). This fuck all attitude also had an influence on indie rockers, especially his acolytes the Replacements, who were known to give shows completely wrecked. Anyone picking up this book will probably be somewhat familiar with Chilton and it is an absorbing, if not terribly well-written, book, which spotlights his talent and his flaws, but doesn't really make sense of his post-Big Star career. As his status increased among bands and critics, he seemed either unwilling or unable to capitalize on it and remained a beloved, but below the radar figure until his death at 59. Big Star fans will want to check out the documentary "Nothing Can Hurt Me" and the box set "Keep An Eye on the Sky." If you don't know Big Star, all three of their albums are beyond essential.

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