Fascinating behind-the-scenes look at a concert tribute to Big Star’s swan song
For an album that was deemed unreleasable at the time of recording and has never had a proper running order, Big Star’s Third has certainly gotten its due. It’s now considered one of the greatest albums of all time. After the sudden passing of Big Star frontman Alex Chilton in 2010, an all-star group of musicians got together to pay tribute, including Mike Mills of REM, Mitch Easter of Let’s Active, Chris Stamey of the dB’s and members of the Posies. They found that the magic they created was worth continuing.
After playing live shows all over the world, they decided to document things with Thank You Friends – Big Star’s Third Live…and More, a DVD/CD combo just released by Concord Bicycle Music. To talk about it, we welcome in the musical director of the project, Chris Stamey. He also talks about playing in a post-Big Star band with Chilton and what led to him releasing Chris Bell’s single “I Am the Cosmos” on his own label in 1978.
Big Star’s first two LPs were full of chiming guitars, heavy drums and melodic hooks, yet somehow both albums failed to meet the high expectations. Those failures loomed large as Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens went to work on their next project.
Eventually called Third or Sister Lovers, the songs recorded for these sessions seemed at times to be the polar opposite of their first two records – alternating between haunting moments of despair, and fragile beauty. The album, never officially completed, has been issued over the years in many forms and track listings. But, Omnivore Recordings has assembled quite possibly the final word on the legendary project.
Complete Third is s three-disc set, bringing together virtually every note recorded for these sessions. Through acoustic demos, rough mixes, and about as final version of the album as we’ll ever hear, we get a peek behind the scenes of this fractured masterpiece.
We talk to Big Star drummer Jody Stephens about recording the album, what producer Jim Dickinson brought to the project, and how a song he wrote, “For You,” helped shape the rest of the record.