Tag Archive | The Replacements

Recommended Viewing: Big Star, Nothing Can Hurt Me

Big Star Barn By Carole Manning
Big Star: L to R Alex Chilton, Jody Stephens, Chris Bell (Seated) and Andy Hummel (Photographed By the Late Carole Manning)

Perhaps you are unfamiliar with musician Alex Chilton, but if you’ve heard The Replacements’ song by that same name, then you at least know that children by the millions sing for him and are in love with his songs. And that’s all you really need to know in order to enjoy the sublime new documentary Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me, a profoundly detailed love letter to the wildly influential, Memphis-based 1970’s power pop band that Chilton cofounded along with guitarist/songwriter Chris Bell, drummer Jody Stephens and bassist Andy Hummel. Directed by Drew DeNicola, Nothing Can Hurt Me is by turns heartwarming and heartbreaking, as band members, journalists, photographers, label employees, family, fans and friends recount their own experiences with and memories of a band whose three albums (#1 Record, Radio City and Third) garnered volumes of critical praise, but whose record label lacked the distribution necessary for Big Star to break commercially. Despite its music being virtually unheard during the band’s existence, Big Star songs deeply influenced bands as diverse as Cheap Trick, The Bangles, REM and The Posies, making them possibly the first cult band, ever.

Like I said, you don’t need to know anything about Big Star or its music to be completely engrossed by the band’s story and be charmed as well as intrigued by its four very talented members, particularly the enigmatic Chilton and the insightful (and still devastatingly handsome) Jody Stephens. The band’s music, as well as Chris Bell’s post-Big Star efforts and Chilton’s many and varied solo projects, are featured prominently in the film, and I can guarantee that if you do not already own Big Star’s catalog you will be downloading it from iTunes directly after watching this film. Like another great music documentary film released this year, Jobriath AD, Nothing Can Hurt Me provides a bittersweet hindsight to what went wrong and what might have been done differently. Most importantly, it provides a showcase for music that is timeless, amazing and simply should not remain a well-kept secret.

Adding an additional note of melancholy to the film is the realization that any true Big Star reunion is now impossible, with Stephens being the sole surviving member of the group. Chris Bell joined the 27 Club – the victim of a single-vehicle car cash – in 1978, and both Chilton and Hummel passed away within months of each other in 2010. It’s very likely though that this film will reignite a following and lead to more musicians being influenced by a band that never got to enjoy the fame and fortune they deserved. To find out where you can see Nothing Can Hurt Me before it’s eventually released on DVD, please visit Big Star Story Dot Com.

The Worley Gig Gives Nothing Can Hurt Me Five out of Five Stars!

Watch the Trailer Below:

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Recommended Viewing: Color Me Obsessed, A Film About The Replacements

A Guest Blog By Warren Bobrow

I saw Color Me Obsessed, The Replacements’ documentary, last night and really enjoyed it. It was a good-sized crowd in the theater, though probably with the narrowest age range you would ever see at a movie (from about age 45 – 55 ). First and foremost, Color Me Obsessed is a movie for fans only. Each story about a particularly awesome or atrocious gig was met with knowing nods and laughs from the crowd. I can’t imagine anyone who doesn’t know about the band enjoying it. And, with no music from them included in the film (more about that later), it doesn’t expose them to a new audience.

The film offers a great chronology of The Replacements and features lots of back-story on what was happening in the Minneapolis punk scene of the time. Interestingly, it has plenty of interviews with members of Husker Du (though not Bob Mould), but not with the other big TwinTone band of the time, Soul Asylum. It does offer profiles of the surviving band members with an emphasis on the late Bob Stinson, who Director Gorman Bechard sees as the core and spirit of the band.

All of the talking heads (including Tommy Ramone, Peter Zaremba, Jessie Malin, John Rzeznik and Steve Albini, among numerous others) are clearly hardcore fans. It’s interesting that almost none of them are upset that Stinson left/got fired from the band because of alcohol abuse, showing a lack of concern about his health, but others felt that it represented the band “selling out,” which pissed them off. This sentiment contrasts with how much affinity these fans/friends had with the members because they were “regular guys.” In some ways the film (inadvertently) shines a bright light on the indie scene. Everyone’s favorite record was the one they heard first (Let it Be being the exception for some of those there at the beginning), which tends to reveal how hardcore fans can have problems changing with the band.

The central question is whether The Replacements made records their fans loved because they were fuck ups (and we saw their zenith) or whether, had they not been fuck ups, they would have reached a wider audience. The answer is, of course, unknowable, but after the first few laughs of them doing something stupid to either just be assholes or sabotage their career, it just gets sad. Plenty of bands cleaned their act up and made great records. Why not them?

Director Gorman Bechard was present at the screening to talk about the film and why he decided to not use any of the band’s music, etc. As he explained it, he likened it to faith. Bechard proposed that if people can believe in god by only reading about him, then they could do the same about The Replacements – and he believed in The Replacements.  I reasoned that there were licensing issues as well, though you would think that, since the movie was a love letter to the band, the record companies would have licensed the music without a problem. NBC letting them show the SNL performances; well, that’s probably a different story. One thing giving credence to his explanation is that the film used very few pictures of the band as well (and most of those were at the very end). I’m assuming those would be plentiful and inexpensive. The bottom line is that if you are a fan of the band you’ll like the movie.

Rating: 4 Out of 5 Stars. To find a screening of Color Me Obsessed in your area visit This Link.

Visit Warren Bobrow’s website at All About Performance Dot Biz.

RIP Alex Chilton

Sad and shocking news from Commercial Appeal Dot Com:

Pop hitmaker, cult hero, and Memphis rock iconoclast Alex Chilton has died, March 17th, 2010.

The singer and guitarist, best known as a member of ’60s pop-soul act the Box Tops and the ’70s power-pop act Big Star, died today at a hospital in New Orleans. Chilton, 59, had been complaining of about his health earlier today. He was taken by paramedics to the emergency room where he was pronounced dead. The cause of death is believed to be a heart attack.

His Big Star bandmate Jody Stephens confirmed the news this evening. “Alex passed away a couple of hours ago,” Stephens said from Austin, Texas, where the band was to play Saturday at the annual South By Southwest Festival. “I don’t have a lot of particulars, but they kind of suspect that it was a heart attack.”

The Memphis-born Chilton rose to prominence at age 16, when his gruff vocals powered Box Tops massive hit “The Letter.” The band would score several more hits, including “Cry Like a Baby” and “Neon Rainbow.”

After the Box Tops ended in 1970, Chilton had a brief solo run in New York before returning to Memphis. He soon joined forces with a group of Anglo-pop-obsessed musicians, fellow songwriter/guitarist Chris Bell, bassist Andy Hummel and drummer Jody Stephens, to form Big Star.

The group became the flagship act for the local Ardent Studios’ new Stax-distributed label. Big Star’s 1972 debut album, #1 Record met with critical acclaim but poor sales. The group briefly disbanded, but reunited sans Bell to record the album Radio City. Released in 1974, the album suffered a similar fate, plagued by Stax’s distribution woes.

“I’m crushed. We’re all just crushed,” said Ardent founder John Fry, who engineered most of the Big Star sessions. “This sudden death experience is never something that you’re prepared for. And yet it occurs.”

The group made one more album, Third/Sister Lovers, with just Chilton and Stephens — and it too was a minor masterpiece. Darker and more complex than the band’s previous pop-oriented material, it remained unreleased for several years. In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine would name all three Big Star albums to its list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

In the mid-’70s Chilton began what would be a polarizing solo career, releasing several albums of material, like 1979’s Like Flies on Sherbet — a strange, chaotically recorded album of originals and obscure covers that divided fans and critics. Chilton also began performing with local roots-punk deconstructionists the Panther Burns.

In the early ’80s, Chilton left Memphis for New Orleans, where he worked a variety of jobs and stopped performing for several years. But interest in his music from a new generation of alternative bands, including R.E.M. and the Replacements, brought him back to the stage in the mid-’80s.

He continued to record and tour as a solo act throughout the decade. Finally, in the early ’90s, the underground cult based around Big Star had become so huge that the group was enticed to reunite with a reconfigured lineup.

“It’s obvious to anybody that listens to his live performances or his body of recorded work, his tremendous talent as a vocalist and songwriter and instrumentalist,” Fry said.

“Beyond the musical talent, he was an interesting, articulate and extremely intelligent person,” Fry added. “I don’t think you’d ever have a conversation with him of any length that you didn’t learn something completely new.”

The band, featuring original member Stephens plus Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow of the Posies, continued to perform regularly over the next 16 years. Big Star became the subject of various articles, books and CD reissue campaigns, including the release of widely hailed box set, Keep an Eye on the Sky, released last year by Rhino Records.

“When some people pass, you say it was the end of an era. In this case, it’s really true,” said Memphis singer-songwriter Van Duren, a Chilton contemporary in the Memphis rock scene of the ’70s.

The band was scheduled to launch the spring 2010 season at the Levitt Shell at Overton Park with a benefit concert on May 15.

Big Star had not played in Memphis since a 2003 Beale Street Music Festival appearance.

Chilton is survived by his wife, Laura, and a son Timothy.

Remembering Bob Stinson of The Replacements

Replacements
The Replacements, from left: Paul Westerberg, Chris Mars, Bob Stinson and Tommy Stinson

Bob Stinson, lead guitarist and founding member of The Replacements, who passed away on February 18th, 1995 after years of hard drug and alcohol abuse, would have celebrated his birthday today, December 17th (born in 1959). I remember reading an article called “Hold My Life,” a brutally honest and deeply sad interview with Bob, in SPIN magazine less than six month before he died. You could see right then that he wasn’t long for this world. Rest in peace, Bob.

Happy Birthday, Tommy Stinson!

Tommy Stinson Portrait

 Tommy Stinson, bassist for The Replacements (Fave Song: “Alex Chilton”) and Axel Roses’s “Las Vegas Showgirl” version of Guns N’ Roses turns 43 today! Happy Birthday, Tommy!