Big Star's third album finally gets star treatment

Wed Mar 23, 2011 6:16pm EDT
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By Derek Caney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - It was supposed to be a celebration.

Big Star, mostly unheralded in the 1970s but now revered by generations of younger bands, was scheduled to perform in Austin, Texas in March, last year.

Three days before the show, Chris Stamey, founding member of the dB's and Big Star acolyte, was planning to fly in and pitch a new project to the band: a series of performances of its legendary third album -- alternately called "Third" or "Sister Lovers" -- that included a full string ensemble.

That morning, before Stamey left, Big Star frontman Alex Chilton died of a heart attack at age 59. But instead of derailing the project, Chilton's death gave it momentum.

"There was a greater sense of purpose for this now," Big Star drummer Jody Stephens said of Stamey's project.

So, Stamey has assembled a group that includes Stephens, Michael Stipe and Mike Mills from R.E.M., Mitch Easter from Let's Active and Matthew Sweet, and they are slated to perform the album the way on Saturday at New York City's Mason Hall.

If you don't know Big Star, you are not alone, but you may have heard their work. Their song "In the Street" was the theme for TV's "That '70s Show," performed by Cheap Trick. And if that song is unfamiliar, many of rock's biggest acts of the '80s and '90s performing alt-rock, grunge rock and even today's power pop songs, owe some debt to the band.

"Literally everything about Big Star was what I was aiming at," Mills said. "I don't necessarily want to sound like Big Star. But when I make a record, I want it to be as good as a Big Star record."   Continued...