“I Will Always Love You” – Alex Chilton


In celebration of Holly George Warren’s mammoth (and from what I’ve read so far, pretty damn excellent) biography of Alex Chilton “A Man Called Destruction,” this is Chilton’s notorious drugged-out cover of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” from a 1975 live on-air performance for WLYX-FM in Memphis. Chilton ad-libs he took his last 35 mg of valium before coming on the air and this seems to be no fictitious boast given Chilton’s downward spiral at the time. Still, there are moments of brilliance here.

“TV Set” – The Cramps


More early Halloween greetings. This time from The Cramps … from their 1980 album “Songs the Lord Taught Us.” I will say that if the Lord you’re listening to is suggesting the actions in this song, you should probably seek out another Lord. Key lyrics: “I could give you a million hugs / You look so good all covered up in bugs” Produced by the legendary Alex Chilton.

“Thirteen” – Big Star


A sweet acoustic ballad that beautifully conveys the experience of love when you’re in middle school, you don’t have a license to drive, and your big social events with your significant other are walking each other home from school and going to the middle school dance. I don’t know how much of that has survived in these increasingly jaded times, but I feel sorry for anyone who leapfrogs over a stage like this.

This is an alternate version of the song that wound up on Big Star’s “#1 Record.” There’s some very nice and (I’m sure) extremely rare footage of Big Star in this clip. I know “Radio City” is the critic’s favorite in Big Star’s oeuvre, but I have to say I love “#1 Record” more. The song was recently heard on “That 70s Show” when it underscored the romance between Eric and Jackie.

“Alex Chilton” – The Replacements

The Replacements’ loving tribute to power pop pioneer Alex Chilton.  Chilton had many hits as a teenager as a member of the Box Tops and was later a pivotal member of Big Star, one of the best bands of the early 1970s.

Many alt-rock legends loved Chilton.  My favorite story involves the Butthole Surfers.  From Michael Azerrad’s wonderful history of American 1980s alt-rock, “Our Band Could Be Your Life,” Azerrad related that one night, Surfers lead singer Gibby Haynes was having one of his usual, violent, acid-drenched freakouts backstage at a gig in Holland.  Allegedly, Haynes was completely naked and having multiple altercations with the security of the gig, to the point where 10 people had to hold him down.  As Haynes was freaking out back stage, a man asked if he could borrow a guitar.  Haynes lit into him, yelling “BORROW A GUITAR??!! WELL, WHO THE F–K ARE YOU??!!” itching for an fight.  The man calmly said “I’m Alex Chilton.”  Haynes immediately calmed down, opened all the guitar cases one by one, and said “Take anything you want.”  That, my friends, is what we call the power of ethos.

“Try Again” – Big Star


A lovely ballad from the early 1970s that blows Bread and other similar artists from the period out of the water. It boggles the mind why Big Star wasn’t one of the biggest bands of the era. Nearly every one of the songs from their first two albums could have been a Top 10 hit. The failure to break it big probably explains why their 3rd album (albeit great) is one of the most depressing, despairing things ever recorded.