A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton

Never a kind word for Big Star

Summertime Peruse

Viking, 370 pp., $27.95

Few cult artists as celebrated as Alex Chilton willfully dismiss the work that defines them. His Memphis power-pop foursome, Big Star (1971-74), routinely ranks with the Beatles and Velvet Underground in terms of cultural impact on rock, yet Chilton rarely had any praise for the band. Veteran music biographer Holly George-Warren attempts to figure out why by digging deeply into the origins of the singer – who died suddenly on the eve of a Big Star reunion at SXSW in 2010 – from his scrappy high school bands to his final years as a more casual gentleman of musical leisure. Naturally, Big Star gets big play, but Warren focuses equally on his teen years fronting the Box Tops ("The Letter"), production work with the Cramps and Tav Falco's Panther Burns, and his reinvention as a structure-eschewing solo artist more interested in capturing moments than perfecting craft. Head on, the author engages Chilton's derision of his most famous work and penchant for keeping his feelings to himself, which makes the answer she seeks elusive. Yet Warren still spins a captivating tale, one that will reward longtime followers of Chilton's work and intrigue newcomers to his considerable legacy.

READ MORE
More Alex Chilton
Off the Record
Off the Record
Music News

Austin Powell, March 26, 2010

More Music Reviews
Sheet Music
On Bowie
Quickie Bowie bio and slim fanboy volume shades somewhat heroic

Bryan Rolli, Aug. 12, 2016

My Little Red Book
Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk
Punk rock as L.A. lit no less than Charles Bukowski and Raymond Chandler

Tim Stegall, June 17, 2016

More by Michael Toland
Scientists Revisited on <i>A Place Called Bad</i>
Scientists Revisited on A Place Called Bad
Aussie grunge progenitors await a new generation of action rockers

Aug. 19, 2016

Metallurgy
Mantar
Ode to the Flame (Record Review)

Aug. 19, 2016

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Alex Chilton, Box Tops

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)