Alex Chilton Tribute Roundup: The Rockers, The Critics, The Congressmen
With apologies to our own Rob Trucks, you ain't gettin' more surreal in terms of Alex Chilton tributes today than the above brief speech from Steve Cohen -- make that Congressman Steve Cohen, D-Tennessee. He quotes from "The Letter" and everything. Very sweet, very bizarre. But of course he's not the only one to try his hand at a eulogy today.
Firestarting roots-rocker Chuck Prophet offers a raw, impassioned missive on Chilton's nonchalant rebellion:
He's from another era, an entirely different time. He just wants to sing "Boogie Shoes" or "Goldfinger". He defies categorization entirely. ENTIRELY. Isn't that rock and roll? What rock and roll was and should be all about? And the critics; they have panned and adored his work, in some twisted and perverse circular motion. They got their feelings hurt when Big Star didn't become the next Badfinger, and went on to call Big Star's third record, "Sister Lover's", shit when it was released and brilliant today. Through it all Alex has remained. Stax was torn down, Elvis is dead, Paul McCartney started "Wings" for god sakes. But Alex is naming records "Loose Shoes and Tight Pussy", playing his guitar for whoever shows up, and doing exactly as he pleases.
Rolling Stone's Rob Sheffield nicely mixes the critical and the personal:
Note: I didn't witness that show in Roanoke. I heard about it from a Virginia girl I met in a bar, when the bartender put on Radio City. We both recognized the album, so we traded stories about Chilton shows we'd seen. A couple years later, we played Big Star's "Thirteen" as the first dance at our wedding. Thank you for everything, Alex Chilton. You will always be the blue moon in the dark.
Lots of surly/aloof/mysterious/ultimately awesome AC anecdotes making the rounds today; the best actually involves the Butthole Surfers. From a memorable tale recounted in Michael Azerrad's '80s-indie history book Our Band Could Be Your Life:
[After much drunken debauchery]
Haynes then made a successful run for the dressing room and slammed the door behind him. Kramer could hear Leary and Haynes screaming at each other inside, and when he finally worked up the courage to open the door, he found the two of them smashing guitars, bottle and chairs in what Kramer calls "the most potent example of bad behavior I have ever seen. To this day, more than fifteen years later, I have no more vivid memory of the effect a life in music can have on a human being."
Moments later a man entered the dressing room and asked if he could borrow a guitar. "BORROW A GUITAR??!!! WELL, WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU???!!! Haynes screamed, eyes flashing in delirious anticipation of forthcoming violence. But the man was totally unfazed.
"I'm Alex Chilton," the man answered calmly.
Haynes was flabbergasted. After a long pause, he methodically opened the remaining guitar cases one by one and gestured at them as if to say, "Take anything you want."
This anecdote was not mentioned on the House floor. Probably for the best.