Episode 6: #1 RECORD

Big-Star-1-Record

#1 Record – Big Star – Ardent Records – 1972

Towards the end of 1971, four young men from Memphis — some established musicians already, some just starting out — came together to record their debut album. Known collectively as Big Star, they delivered a set of songs that were at once intensely intimate and emphatically exuberant. Their music depicted how it feels to have boundless energy with limited places to spend it, coupled with curious, angst-ridden minds in search of kindreds. It is music that encapsulates the essence youth, yet remains universal and relatable at any age. It’s music that is very much of its time, yet still sounds fresh today.

Their debut album, #1 Record, was released in the summer of 1972, and was followed by two more albums in the 1970s before the group disbanded, never reuniting until nearly two decades later. Big Star has since influenced some of today’s most enduring and celebrated artists; publications like Rolling Stone consistently rank the group’s albums among the greatest of all time, so the question must be asked: why is Big Star not a household name?

In this episode, we discuss #1 Record‘s origins, influences, and what kept it from commercial success. We also talk about why it is so personal to us, and why it’s the kind of music that, once found, cannot be forgotten.

Listen to #1 Record: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • Yes, we threw some shade at The Classic. Desert Trip — you’re still okay. We are more than open to discussing opinions on the two classic rock festivals with you.
  • Spotify’s Discover Weekly feature may just be the only thing that makes Mondays suck less, and has led to us discovering a wide variety of music, both new and old. Check yours out and let us know how you like it.
  • Certain music evokes seasonal or weather related feelings for us, and we’re sure we’re not the only ones, but question for the crowd (let us know on Twitter, Facebook, or email): What are your favorite “season” albums? Or, do you have some other off-beat way you categorize music? We’re interested.
  • Here’s a more thorough timeline of the formation and evolution of Big Star.
  • Give us a semi-tragic story of a great album getting “lost” and we will probably love it.
  • We highly recommend the documentary Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me. See our further watching links below to watch the trailer and where to find it online
    • Here’s that Twitter thread on the rest of our favorite music docs that we mentioned. Check out ones you haven’t seen yet, or just rewatch some perennial faves.
  • Big Star has been called one of the pioneers of “‘70s power pop,” and, a full definition of what exactly that sub-genre is (because, to be honest, we were a little “okay, clarification, please” when we read this) can be found here.
  • “The Ballad of El Goodo” has been seen in some instances as a Vietnam War protest song, primarily due to these lyrics: “They’ll zip you up and dress you down and stand you in a row / But you know you don’t have to, you can just say no.”  
  • Yes, “In the Street” is the That ‘70s Show theme song.
    • Yes, they actually used a Cheap Trick cover version.
    • Again, no offense to any That ‘70s Show fans or anyone who worked on it, but we did not watch that show. So, sorry, this will be a relatively That ‘70s Show-free podcast.
  • Studio banter is the key to our hearts. 
  • If you’re new here: we love sequencing (so much that we’ve started using #RespectTheSequence), and, save for The India Song, side 1 of #1 Record is quite possibly one of the perfectly sequenced sides of any album, ever.
  • Chris Bell’s struggles with depression, anxiety, and sexuality have been speculated upon for years after his death, and “Try Again” can be seen as a window into his “tortured soul.”
  • Honestly, how can you not want to at least try to be a morning person, even if only for one day, when you listen to “Watch The Sunrise”?
    • Here’s Carrie’s mellow running playlist, good for slow runs when you’re still half asleep, long walks, or just chilling.
    • Carly will definitely be making a playlist with songs she considers to be a “breakfasts,” so stay tuned.
  • If someone can make a mashup of ST 100/6 over The Beatles’ “Because,” that would be so welcomed by us.
  • Big Star influenced a host of modern artists, from Elliott Smith and M. Ward to Wilco and REM. Follow us on Spotify — our master playlist has all the songs we referenced in this episode, along with some choice related music to draw out these comparisons.
  • We discovered this album on the internet, through an algorithm’s ridiculously accurate recommendation. Let us know if you’ve ever discovered (or rediscovered) an analog artist through some sort of digital means.
  • Feel free to get in touch with us! We have had some great conversations so far. We have an ever-evolving FAQ page here, but shoot us an email, like and message on Facebook, and follow on Twitter to get at us with your questions, comments, or just a “hello!”

Favorite track(s): Watch the Sunrise (Carly) | Feel (Carrie)
Least favorite track: The India Song (Carly) | The India Song (Carrie)

Album credits:
Chris Bell – vocals, guitar
Alex Chilton – vocals, guitar
Andy Hummel – vocals, bass guitar
Jody Stephens – drums
Terry Manning – electric piano, harmony vocals

Further watching:
Thank You, Friends: Big Star’s THIRD Live trailer | April 2017
Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me trailer | 2012 | Currently available to stream on Amazon

Further reading:
Big Star: #1 Record/Radio City rerelease review | Pop Matters (October 2014)
The Ballad of Big Star | Grantland [ed. note: RIP, Grantland. We miss you.] (July 2013)
The 10 Best Big Star Songs | Stereogum (September 2012)
Depression, Quaaludes, and the Wildest TGI Fridays in America: The Real Story of Big Star | Noisey (March 2012)
You’ve Never Heard Big Star’s ‘#1 Record’?! | NPR (June 2011)
Big Star: The Unluckiest Band in America | NPR (February 2010)

Episode 5: THE SLIDER

t-rex-the-slider

THE SLIDER – T. Rex – T. Rex (UK)/Reprise (USA) – 1972

By 1972, British music had fully renewed itself on the American scene in the form of glam rock. David Bowie, Slade, and Roxy Music were all part of this musical landscape that Marc Bolan and his band T. Rex expanded and exemplified. Glitter, platform boots, sci-fi imagery, and ’50s rock n’ roll roots made this sub-genre exciting, fresh, and new to kids of the ’70s who may not have realized that this was the rock n’ roll of Chuck Berry, Howlin’ Wolf, and Little Richard — just amped up and fuzzed out for the new generation.

T. Rex’s album The Slider made full use of all of these elements to create a vibe that spoke to a new generation of rock fans. The album was the pinnacle of the dreamworld that Marc Bolan created, and it leaves us spellbound more than 40 years later. In this episode, we theorize over some extremely poetic lyrics, attempt to decode Bolan, introduce a new hashtag (#RespectTheSequence), and somehow, somehow connect T.Rex to DJ Khaled.

Listen to The Slider: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • First things first: we haven’t properly met, and we’ve gotten some great questions from listeners about who we are and what we do. You can read more about us (Carly and Carrie) on our about page, and answers to the most frequently asked questions on our new (and ever-evolving) FAQ page here.
  • We sound better! Thanks to our friend Jesse Berney for the mic recommendation.
  • We’re on Facebook! Like and follow us here, or just search for us. We are literally the only thing that comes up when you search 77 Music Club.
    • We’re also on Twitter! We tweet fun things! Follow us!
    • Last shameless self-promotion bit: follow us on Spotify, where we host a master playlist with all the songs we reference in each episode, as well as individual playlists from Carly and Carrie (your favorite kids who like music made before they were born and respect the art of sequencing) covering a slew of different themes, moods, and tunes we’re listening to in our off weeks.
  • Here’s a summary of how T. Rex morphed from psychedelic folk group Tyrannosaurus Rex to glam rock T. Rex.
  • Shoutout to A1 (again — no, this isn’t sponsored, but we wouldn’t be opposed to that…). If you’re in New York or visit sometime, we would love to go record shopping with you. 
  • “Ride a White Swan” was T. Rex’s real breakthrough to glam rock in 1970.
  • The 77 Music Club Soundtrack playlist (our master playlist) has “Metal Guru” and “My Sweet Lord” back to back, for comparison. Listen and let us know your thoughts.
  • Pitchfork placed “Metal Guru” at 154 on their best 200 songs of the 1970s (more about that later) — read what they had to say about it here.
  • “Panic” by The Smiths is also next to “Metal Guru” on our playlist — let us know what you think of the comparison.
  • Can anyone tell us where we can sit in on a college course called Glam Rock 101 (or something comparable)? Thanks.
  • Fun fact: Ringo Starr and Marc Bolan were bros. He did the photography for the album sleeve.
  • Another fun fact: The Slider was one of many albums recorded at the legendary Honky Chateâu. 
  • Hey, remember that time Dylan went electric?
  • Here’s another plug for our master playlist: compare and contrast Sheryl Crow’s “There Goes the Neighborhood” with “Rock On.” Tell us what you think.
  • Our last episode highlighted a band whose method was music first, then lyrics. With Marc Bolan, the lyrics came first, then the music. When met with criticism that T. Rex’s music was often repetitive or formulaic in composition, Bolan explained that this was intentional: the music needed to remain simple to let his complex lyrics shine.
  • “The Slider” definitely references drugs, definitely has exaggerated coke sniffing lines, and allusions to growing pot. Just @ us if you think we’re wrong, but it screams “Hm, do you get high? Do you? I don’t know, why don’t you tell us more.”
    • Jokes aside, RIP Marc Bolan. Bolan died in a car crash in 1977, two weeks before his 30th birthday. An ironic twist to the tragedy: he feared a premature death, so never learned to drive, but still harbored a fascination with cars.
  • We see you with that Max’s Kansas City shoutout in “Baby Boomerang,” Marc Bolan. We see you.
  • Marc Bolan’s lyrics are bonkers poetry and we absolutely love them. Just read “Baby Boomerang” and see for yourself.
    • The songs were mostly nonsense, but rather than sounding like gibberish, Bolan seemed to be speaking in an alien code that, to this today, we’re still not cool enough to decode.” — Pitchfork, getting something right in their deeply flawed (our opinion) 200 Best Songs of the 1970s list.
    • The Shins covered “Baby Boomerang” in 2004 and you should definitely give it a listen.
  • Anyway, here’s “Spaceball Ricochet.”
    • Part of punk rock’s merits was that it heralded in a greater acceptance of songs that weren’t joyous or pompous, rather, songs that were real, songs that were honest about insecurities in their lyrics and weren’t pretending to be cool. We think “Spaceball Ricochet” stands as a precursor to the genre; we’d love to know your thoughts on this hypothesis.
  • Listen to “Buick McCane.” Then listen to the Black Keys. (They’re both in our playlist; and, actually, it’s been noticed more than once that they wrote a song that is basically “Mambo Sun,” so.) Let us know if you think they could totally kill a T. Rex cover.
  • “Telegram Sam” is about Marc Bolan’s accountant, not his drug dealer. Sorry.
  • Hear us out: “Telegram Sam” did the DJ Khaled pep talk before DJ Khaled.
    • Brief background: DJ Khaled is a producer and a (not that great, tbh) rapper who is famous on the internet (Snapchat, mostly) for videos he shares from his daily life, mostly sharing his “major keys” to success. One time he got “lost” at sea on a jet ski and documented the saga. It was nuts.
    • He has a new baby son and likes to share videos in which he gives him inspirational pep talks. Here is our favorite. Google for more. Your heart will thank you.
    • Anyway, DJ Khaled’s “You’re a boss. You’re a don. You’re an icon. You’re a legend. You’re doing such a good job” spiel is the 21st century’s answer to Marc Bolan giving his friends shoutouts: “Telegram Sam, you’re my main man. Bobby’s alright, he’s a natural born poet — he’s just out of sight.”
    • Lesson: Be a good friend. Pep talk your bros.
  • Can anyone tell us what “Rabbit Fighter” is about? Because we are truly stumped.
  • If “Ballrooms of Mars” sounds like a very Bowie-esque title (and song), don’t be surprised— Bowie and Bolan were bros.
  • Blast “Chariot Choogle” in the car, windows down, volume all the way up. You’ll feel amazing.
    • We will definitely be renting a Zipcar (we live in New York; give us a break), picking a road trip, and doing this once the weather gets warm. We will report back.

Favorite track(s): Telegram Sam and Ballrooms Of Mars (Carly) | Metal Guru (Carrie)
Least favorite track: Rabbit Fighter (Carly) | Rabbit Fighter (Carrie)

Album credits:
Marc Bolan – vocals, guitar
Steve Currie – bass guitar
Mickey Finn – percussion, vocals
Bill Legend – drums
Mark Volman (“Flo”) – background vocals
Howard Kaylan (“Eddie”) – background vocals
Tony Visconti – production, sleeve photography, string arrangements
Ringo Starr – sleeve photography
Dominique Blanc Francard – engineering
Freddy Hansson – engineering
David Katz – orchestra contractor
Andy Scott – engineering assistance
Mark Paytress – liner notes
Chris Welch – liner notes

Further watching:
T. Rex – Get It On (Bang a Gong) on Top of the Pops | 1971 (Note: Bolan wears glitter under his eyes in a move that many music historians credit as the ushering in of glam rock)
T. Rex in Concert – Wembley | March 1972
Marc Bolan-Russell Harty interview | 1972

Further reading:
The Slider reissue review | Consequence of Sound (October 2010)
The Slider reissue review | Pop Matters (December 2010)
The Slider box set review | The Quietus (December 2012
The 10 Best T. Rex songs | Stereogum (June 2013)
Revisiting a Glam Milestone, T. Rex’s The Slider | Ultimate Classic Rock (July 2012)
The T. Rex Wax Co. Singles review | Pitchfork (January 2006)