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.
One of the best music books of the last 10-15 years is Michael Azerrad’s history of American alternative rock from 1981-1991, “Our Band Could Be Your Life.” Released in 2001 and available in digital format within the next day or so, “Life” is the college radio version of “Easy Riders, Raging Bulls” (Peter Biskind’s exhaustive and stellar look at Hollywood of the 1970s). Azerrad devotes each chapter to a different seminal band of the period (Mission of Burma, Butthole Surfers, The Minutemen, Sonic Youth, Black Flag, Big Black, Hüsker Dü, Fugazi, Minor Threat, Mudhoney, The Replacements, Beat Happening, and Dinosaur Jr.). Some of the stories you may know … others you won’t. But if you have any interest at all in rock history (especially alternative / progressive rock), “Life” is a must. The chapter on the Butthole Surfers by itself is worth the price of the entire book. Seriously, the chapter reads like Hunter S. Thompson smoking angel dust with Monty Python with chaos, insanity, humor, and violence ensuing like a motherf–ker!