Tuesday, February 11, 2014

radio city

Big Star shook things up to find a place in the scene with the beautifully strained spontaneous sound of this shimmering sequel.  Their debut '#1 Record' had floundered on the charts despite rave reviews due to the unwillingness of Colombia Records to distribute or promote the Stax catalogue they had acquired, going so far as to actually pull copies from the shelves.  In the aftermath, the members of the band began fighting amongst themselves, with Andy Hummel actually punching Chris Bell in the face, leading to Bell smashing Hummel's bass.  As things deteriorated, Bell quit the band.  He tried to rejoin when work on 'Radio City' began, but that didn't last long and everyone went their separate ways. 

Work resumed on the album after a few months at Ardent Studios in Memphis with producer John Fry.  These sessions included Alex Chilton on guitar and vocals, Andy Hummel on bass guitar, and Jody Stephens on drums and vocals,  with Danny Jones adding some bass guitar and Richard Rosebrough playing some drums. 

Stephens says:   "The band essentially broke up after the first album and at John Keane's suggestion, we got back together to do a one-off show for this rock writers' convention.  We had such a good time doing that and we actually saw that we were getting some support from the music press so we thought we'd give it another shot.  We got back together to do 'Radio City'...The first album we had Chris [Bell] in the band, and we were a four-piece, with Chris Bell and Andy Hummel and Alex and myself.  Chris had a major part in producing that particular record ['#1 Record'].  When it was released, most of the spotlight was on Alex, and Chris just thought he would always be overshadowed by Alex.  This is speculation, but he thought he'd always be overshadowed by Alex, and I think that's probably why Chris left the band after the first album.  Andy Hummel [the bass player] left after the second just because things weren't panning out like he wanted, and he wanted to go back to school.  He wasn't seeing any success [financial] for his efforts ... 'Radio City', for me, was just an amazing record. Being a three-piece really opened things up for me in terms of playing drums. Drums take on a different role in a three-piece band, so it was a lot of fun...'Radio City' was really more spontaneous, and the performances were pretty close to live performances."

Chilton considered:    "Well, I remember Chris and Andy and I got together several times for writing sessions, and some of those things were more cooperative efforts than anything on the first record. On the first record, Chris and I would come to each other with songs almost entirely written, if not entirely written, and the other might make a change, or just one little contribution here or there. But in the case of the second album, some of it’s a little blurry to me. When Chris left the band, we made an arbitrary decision – Chris and us – which was that we took those songs, and didn’t cut him in on them, and he might have taken some things that we had helped him on, for which he didn’t cut us in on either. I know Chris didn’t want to be cut in on any of the songs on the second album, as for as credit or money goes...Chris never spoke to me much about anything, of any sort, concerning anything like that. Some people have tried to say there was a feud between us or something. But you have to understand, the relationship between Chris Bell and myself constituted a very small part of my life. It covered only a year, or a year and a half, and it’s not something I think about very often. If he was having problems with me at the time, he didn’t mention it to me much. And if he did, it was in very mysterious and very cryptic terms that were pretty much incomprehensible. Looking back on it, I can think of a few little things he said that might have indicated he was having some problems with me, but if he talked about it at all, he talked about it with other people--not me. And any problems I ever had with Chris were strictly under the surface of what he was thinking. I mean, I wasn’t having any problems with anybody, and if Chris was having problems with me, he almost never spoke about it to me. Chris was a very secretive person, and a very mysterious person. But his personal problems weren't my concern, anyway."

Hummel admits:    "This was probably pretty lame, but in those days putting any word in front of the noun "city" to sort of emphasize the totality and pervasiveness of it was just a way of talking people had. If someone suggested going to a store but you had gotten a bad deal there you might say, "Oh no, that place is 'rip off city'." Calling an LP Radio City would be kind of wishful thinking. I mean we hoped it would be played on the radio a lot, making it "radio city". Of course it didn't pan out that way..."

'Radio City' sold better than '#1 Record' with about twenty thousand copies sold; but distribution was abysmal due to the continuing disagreement between Stax and Colombia. 



"September Gurls"

full album:

00:00 O My Soul (Chilton)
05:36 Life Is White (Chilton, Hummel)
08:55 Way Out West (Hummel)
11:43 What's Going Ahn (Chilton, Hummel)
14:23 You Get What You Deserve (Chilton)
17:30 Mod Lang (Chilton, Rosebrough)
20:15 Back of a Car (Chilton, Hummel)
23:01 Daisy Glaze (Chilton, Hummel, Stephens)
26:50 She's a Mover (Chilton)
30:03 September Gurls (Chilton)
32:51 Morpha Too (Chilton)
34:18 I'm in Love with a Girl (Chilton)

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