I saw the Big Star documentary at a press screening last May and I loved it, because it's about Big Star. It also kind of bugged me, for reasons that are unfair, like how so tragically little footage of Big Star exists in the world. After a while I got antsy watching a bunch of dudes talk about how great Big Star is (even though those dudes include Lenny Kaye, who's basically my favorite person). But now the movie's streaming on Netflix and I rewatched it last Sunday and it was less antsy-making: probably because I knew what to expect, but also because I watched it in bed in my PJs when it was nice and hot and sunny out. Bed is the best place for watching a Big Star movie; Big Star is very closely associated with sleeping and dreaming and being lazy and feeling perfect about it, at least in my book.
The movie's called Nothing Can Hurt Me, by the way, which is so smart. It's a lyric from "Big Black Car," which is maybe my third favorite Big Star song, I think? If you could get songs tattooed on your body - not song lyrics but like actual songs, with their complete actual sound and aura - then I'd get "Big Black Car" tattooed on myself. But you can't, so I got Alex Chilton's name tattooed on me instead. So here is a list about Alex, and everyone/everything else I love in the Big Star movie:
i. ALL OF BIG STAR, ALL TOGETHER
For some reason the other day I read the first paragraph of the New York magazine review of Wolf of Wall Street, which says how in the movie Martin Scorsese "continues his worship of masculine energy: energy for its own sake, energy as a means of actualizing the self, energy because there’s nothing worse in Scorsese’s cosmos than passivity, which inevitably translates as impotence." I like Martin Scorsese's movies just fine, but mostly that sentence interests me because I'm into the idea of Big Star as an alternative to Scorsese-y energy: energy that's masculine and feminine, tough and dreamy, neither active nor passive, just...receptive. That's the sort of energy I worship.
Plus I just really love this picture because they're brothers. Weird brothers, I guess: I can't imagine too many brothers spend a lot of time sitting around bedrooms together. They're probably like the Darjeeling Limited brothers, bitchy and impossible and hotheaded and wonderful. Wes Anderson is a nice alternative to Martin Scorsese.
ii. BIG STAR MINUS CHRIS BELL, I GUESS
It's sad that Chris Bell left when he did but we have to accept it, I guess. And they look pretty all right as a trio, especially here, with Alex being a big diva and Jody having amazing bangs as per yoozsh:
And what's happening on Alex's shirt here? Are those spaceships? They look like spaceships, but also like hamburgers. I don't know how you pull off wearing a shirt printed with cartoon things that look like spaceships and hamburgers and still be completely tough and elegant, but there you go: Alex Chilton.
iii. JODY STEPHENS
One time LJ saw this picture of me and some rock-star guy and said "It's almost unattractive how hot he is," which is really funny and sort of how I feel about Jody Stephens. Big Star drummer Jody Stephens is so hot it's almost gross - but it's not gross, because he's lovely. Look how lovely he is, just passing through the background while Alex lights a cigarette in his outstanding sweater. I hope whatever he's drinking is wine.
iv. LESA ALDRIDGE
Lesa was Alex's girl for a long time, maybe for most of the existence of Big Star? Something that didn't completely sink in the first time I saw Nothing Can Hurt Me was the part when the Village Voice photographer (Stephanie Chernikowski) talks about meeting Alex in the late-'70s and asking him why he didn't write songs like Big Star anymore, and how Alex just said "I can't," and then Chris Stamey says how that was because of losing Lesa. So that's kinda sad to think about.
I don't know much about Lesa Aldridge but I'm very into her Barbarian Women in Rock EP, which you can download here, and it's got a cover of "Till the End of the Day" that uses that same backing track as Big Star's version. I love her lazy voice.
v. ROBYN HITCHCOCK
Look at that shirt! It's gorgeous, it's a big pink garden, and his hair's so radiantly white too. I hardly know anything about Robyn Hitchcock but last year I put "The Man Who Invented Himself" on this playlist I listen to when I'm writing, and it's a good song to write to. And on the inside cover of my diary in ninth grade I wrote this thing Robyn Hitchcock said on 120 Minutes, something like "Every generation needs a bigger sound to bludgeon them into feeling something." I was a very disaffected child. (JK.)
vi. WINE AND CRACKERS
It's cool that Big Star played Max's Kansas City but more importantly: look what's happening on Wednesday night at "World Disco" in Newark. What's happening is WINE & CRACKERS ON THE BAR. I want "wine & crackers on the bar" to be a thing that happens all the time, everywhere, in every city. Not just in Newark.
"Where everything is everything": what a deep slogan. And that font is so hot, and so are all those logos. I wanna go back to Memphis. I wanna eat the eggs and ham and 87 cups of coffee I had that morning with Alissa on Beale Street when it was psychotically raining. I wanna go to Beale Street in the rain and listen to the part in "Dream Lover" by Big Star when Alex sings "On Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeale.........street." Heaven.
John Fry ran Ardent Studios, where Big Star made their records. He had fantastic hair and is an "angel babe," like Jen called Pete Campbell one time after sending me an email to a link to this Dwell article about his house. I love the part in Nothing Can Hurt Me when John Fry talks about being visited by Chris Bell's ghost.
ix. CHRIS BELL
Both times I've watched the Big Star movie I've cried for Chris Bell, but on Sunday I cried a lot more than the first time, maybe because I was safely in my bedroom. And I've written about this here before but if you've never heard the This Mortal Coil version of "You and Your Sister" (starring Kim Deal as Chris Bell and Tanya Donelly as Alex Chilton): oh my god, listen to it right now, or at least very soon. I still believe Chris Bell is an actual angel.
But I'm happy that Chris Bell got to go to Europe and bash around with his big brother and busk in the streets and all of that. Something that's not addressed in Nothing Can Hurt Me: when Chris went to London in '74 he got invited to George Martin's studio and ended up meeting Paul McCartney for ten minutes, which he said was "The singularly most heavy moment of my life." <3 <3 <3 <3
x. ALEX CHILTON
Look at Alex, smoking his Cruella DeVille cigarette. He's like 12-years-old there. He's a teenage superstar.
And oh my god he looks so good here. I feel bad saying that, I feel bad about objectifying Alex Chilton - like, you probably shouldn't go get someone's name tattooed on your body and then be a total creep about him on the Internet. It's just sort of rude. But still! He looks kind of like a girl, and a bird, and so intense. He is an intense girl-bird.
Late last year I saw Raymond Pettibon "in conversation" with Jonathan Lethem at UCLA; it was deeply boring and Raymond Pettibon was such a joyless drag. But at one point he did this thing where all of a sudden out of nowhere he went "I mean, Sid Vicious didn’t mean a fuck to me," all grumpy and put-upon-sounding. I loved that moment. The reason I'm bringing it up now is that this still's from a part in Nothing Can Hurt Me where they show footage of some dude asking Alex if he's "punkish." And Alex pauses for half a second and just kinda stares and then goes, "Yeah," and it's glorious. Sid Vicious doesn't mean a fuck to me either, but Alex Chilton means everything. He is my favorite girl poet and punkish rocker.