Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Sunday night my daughter was goofing around with my iPhone (she’s only 11 months old, so even “goofing” is stretching it, but she sorta gets it) and through a series of finger plays managed to pull up the iPod portion, get to the song list and select Alex Chilton by the Replacements. Both she and my son stopped what they were doing, their eyes lit up and they started to dance. It was a pretty great moment for a music loving father.

I’m not a huge Replacements fan, but I’m not a passing one either, and I certainly have a lot of respect for where they came from and their role in the ongoing saga of rock n roll music. Alex Chilton, from their 1987 album Pleased to Meet Me, is easily one of the top five songs from a catalog of winners that also brought us Can’t Hardly Wait, Bastards of Young, Achin’ to Be, I Will Dare and a slew of others, courtesy of the pen of Paul Westerberg.

Paul Westerberg

And just as I can pay my respects to Westerberg and what he did with the Mats and continues to do as a solo artist, Alex Chilton in turn pays huge homage to the man of the same name. Chilton, who sadly passed away last year, is very well (un)known via classic rock radio as the lead singer for the Box Tops and their airwaves staple The Letter. More influentially, and adoringly, he’s known as the leader of Big Star, whose 1972 debut #1 Record is easily one of the most important albums in the development of alternative rock music, essentially drawing the blueprint for power pop, and influencing everyone from REM to Primal Scream – and of course the Replacements.

Even having said all of that, I’m not a huge Big Star fan either, and actually prefer their sophomore album Radio City. But that certainly doesn’t mean that Alex Chilton the song is not a fantastic offering of power pop perfection. If it’s that obvious to a couple of kids whose combined age isn’t even half a decade and who spend too much time watching Pingu, then it should be infinitely so to anyone who appreciates a good tune in any genre.

Alex Chilton

From the start, Alex Chilton is an insistent rocker, with all verse-chorus-verse ingredients in place, hammered to perfection and turned up to eleven. Westerberg speculates if his hero isn’t in fact from another planet, as well as jokingly references his notorious obscurity. But even as it pokes fun, it heaps loads of adoration, and you’d be hard pressed to find a “song for…” that is more well written to encapsulate what the subject matter is all about, plainly displaying influences and trying (and succeeding) to impress. It’s all pulled off with a rough elegance that only the Replacements could have produced, allowing college kids to dance in the late 80s and toddlers to do the same today.

Such is the timelessness of the song, the men behind their creation, the music that inspired and influenced them and the whole kit and caboodle known as rock n roll.

1 comment:

R.C. Killian said...

Always nice to see I'm not alone in preferring Radio City!