Alex Chilton, only 59 years old, passed away in New Orleans yesterday. This has stirred a poignant sadness in me, as often happens when musician I enjoy fades from this life, especially when it seems a bit too soon. Kind of a pang and a wince when you see that headline.
Alex Chilton Dead at 59.
I fully admit I only discovered his music through other sources. This Mortal Coil did two incredible covers on the It’ll End In Tears album, “Kangaroo” and “Holocaust”, and they were so profoundly moving, so sad and deep, it was clear that, beyong the gorgeously atmospheric production and the incredible voices of Gordon Sharp and Dominic Appleton, there was an astonishly good songwriter at work there.
Still, I rarely traveled to times as ancient as 1978 in search of my music so it wasn’t really until I heard the Replacement’s “Alex Chilton” that I decided I needed to hear the originals. I went out and hunted down Big Star’s Third/Sister Lovers on vinyl at a used record store and brought it home to my old turntable.
Looking back now, I realize that scratchy vinyl was the only way to listen to a work like that. Those beautiful, almost fragile sounding tunes came sneaking out of the speakers amidst the crackle like the echoes of a hunrdred lonely, angst filled nights. Each note, each word distinct and emotive, powerful without overpowering. A masterpiece for sure.
Those who refer to him as a “cult icon” provide an unfair stereotype I think. It’s just a lazy description for someone who influenced a lot of others with his talent and never received the popular attention that, perhaps, his work deserved. Then again, popular attention is pretty overrated in the world we live in.
He was the songwriter’s songwriter, I think. The people who matter certainly know who he was. Hopefully, that was enough.
Say hello to the Venusians for us, Alex. And rest well.