A Tribute to Big Star from a couple of North Carolina’s finest
You can put North Carolina’s powerpop pedigree up against any state’s. The talent and tradition is rich and songwriters from the Tar Heel state and surrounding area have recorded some classics of the genre. The Stamey/Hollsapple composition “Amplifier” is a requisite of any self-respecting powerpop fan, Don Dixon‘s Arrogance gave us “Black Death” and Mitch Easter’s contributions to REM’s sound are well documented.
What you may not have known is that North Carolina artists are also responsible for some great tribute efforts. The Dbs’ Chris Stamey is the driving force behind the latest Big Star tribute band, paying homage to one of the genre’s all time best and most commercially underacted.
Alex Chilton, Chris Bell & co. are more popular than ever thanks to the use of one of their songs on the sitcom “That 70’s show” and the powerpop artists who have kept the legend alive through the Big Star influenced songs they record. And then there’s the numerous cover versions that have been recorded over the years.
Name two catchier songs than “In the Street” and “September Gurls”. I dare ya.
The Big Star Revival
After Chris Bell left the band following the first Big Star LP, leaving Chilton and the others to pick up the pieces. Along with Chilton, Bell wrote a great deal of Big Star’s material from the first LP entitled #1 Record, so his departure was significant. Yet the remaining lineup wrote and recording Studio City and the third and final Big Star LP, Third (or Sister Lover, depending on who you ask). One can debate which is the proper titled but there is little argument that this 3rd LP would become one of the most influential and critically acclaimed albums of the genre.
In December of 2010 the entire album, with the original string and wind orchestrations, was performed live for the very first time. The original scores for the LP had long been missing but John Fry at Ardent, Big Star’s label, was able to provide Stamey with elements of the original multi-track tapes and the original composer of said arrangements, Carl Marsh, used these tapes to precisely recreate his arrangements.
The band consisted of NC powerpop elite that evening at Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, including Jody Stephens (Big Star), Mitch Easter (Let’s Active), Chris Stamey (the dB’s), and Mike Mills (REM).
Last week Stamey, Easter, & Co. took the show to NYC as part of Summerfest where the lineup for the evening included other powerpop luminaries such as Marshall Crenshaw, Ken Stringfellow (Posies), and Peter Yorn. They were in Chicago this weekend for another performance of Sister Lover. We don’t have any additional information on future dates but we’ll be sure to post the information when it becomes available.
Stop by next week for Chapter Two: Guitars in the Sky with Kernerville’s own Mitch Easter