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RIP Alex Chilton

March 18, 2010

My good friend and Memphis native, Wes Massey, turned me on to Alex Chilton at some point not so long after college and for that, I will always be grateful. For whatever reason — probably because it was what I heard first — I’m more of a fan of his wonderfully idiosyncratic yet oddly polished mid-to-late eighties solo recordings than his more popular work with Big Star, though that’s pretty great too. So, I’m returning briefly to FtY to celebrate a few moments with a first-rate musician and singer-songwriter who has left us much too soon.

No one could cover semi-obscure soul classics with the same shameless panache as Chilton. While everyone else in the eighties was tarting everything up to the point of absurdity, he was keeping it simple and using a sharp-as-a-tack horn section that was integral to the sound, not window-dressing. Great stuff. Here’s “un étrange clip français” indeed in which said shamelessness in the art of lip-synching-your-single for TV is on display.

Speaking of the eighties, this should have been a huge, huge novelty hit in a slightly better world. Note that its message is diametrically opposed to the song above.

Most of my favorite Chilton tunes, both originals and ingenious covers, don’t appear to be available online in any embeddable way, so I’ll have to conclude with this interesting and ironic portion of an MTV 120 minutes profile from 1985. It is what it is and includes a beautiful version of the song Alex Chilton could never escape.

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