RIP Alex Chilton: His Importance To My Life

by Dakin Hardwick on March 19, 2010

Well, as you know, we are currently in the thick of all things SXSW related. It was a bit shocking to find out that the lead singer of one of the acts that I was excited to see had passed away on the first day of the festival. Alex Chilton, of Big Star was a highly influential musician that has played a very big role in my musical growth through the years.

Long ago, as a little high school student, I was primarily a fan of the punk rock. But I had a bit of an adoration for power pop as well, which really wasn’t cool at the time. REM were one of the first bands that I had ever obsessed over, and slightly later came Counting Crowes and Paul Westerberg. (I hadn’t heard the Replacements until my mid 20’s)

My first experience with this band and this man came when I saw Counting Crowes on Saturday Night Live. This was long before they became SNL. They played Mr. Jones, which was my secret favorite song at the time. I noticed that they changed the lyrics, which was strange to me. Instead of wanting to be Bob Dylan, Adam Duritz proclaimed his wish to become Alex Chilton. My first thought was, “Who?”

I did some research and learned a bit about who this guy was, which was interesting, but since this was the mid-90’s, it wasn’t so easy to sample the music.

So I let it go. I did later learn that the theme to That 70’s Show was written by him, which was a song that I had always enjoyed. But I never really worked harder at finding out who what this guy sounded like.

Flash forward about ten years or so…

I shared a commute with a neighbor who was also a friend. We talked about music on the bus together, and it was fun. It made the doldrums of commuting a bit nicer.  One day, he brought up the fact that he was listening to a lot of Big Star. I had to fess up. I knew a lot about them, but I had never actually heard a note. So, he did what anyone would do in a situation like that. He burned me a copy of their first two records, #1 Record and Radio City.

Alas, I thought it was very good. A lot has been written about these albums, so I won’t bore you with another glowing review. But, the next day, on our trip home, we found ourselves talking about it in great detail. The commute was about 90 minutes, and for about 60 of it, we shared our bus with a stranger that was listening.

He asked me before I got off the bus, “What do I write for?”

I said that I don’t write. He told me that I sounded like¬† music journalist when I talk. I had never considered the prospect of writing about music before that moment.

About a year later, Spinning Platters was born. Thanks to a talented man forcing me to talk obsessively about his craft.

Since this is about music, you should hear some. I think that “Thirteen” might be one of the most beautiful songs ever written. Give it a listen:

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