Big Star #1 Panel

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Big Star #1 Panel

Austin Convention Center, Thursday, March 18 According to local Big Star superfan-turned-moderator Kent Benjamin, Alex Chilton isn't the kind of guy who wants to sit in front of an audience and talk about his music. Chilton's absence from Thursday's panel was keenly felt, but it offered an opportunity to discuss the late Chris Bell's oft-overlooked role in Big Star, one of the most influential pop groups of all time. "Chris Bell was really the person responsible for forming Big Star," Benjamin said. Although Memphis was a renowned music mecca, drummer Jody Stephens said their love of melodic British pop rendered them hometown outcasts. "They didn't want to hear Beatles songs," he said. "They wanted to hear 'In the Midnight Hour.'" Armed with amazing songs like "In the Street" and "Don't Lie to Me," Big Star meticulously recorded #1 Record after hours at Ardent Studios, only to have Stax drop the ball. According to bassist Andy Hummel, who's now an aerospace engineer in Fort Worth, this was the underlying reason why Bell quit the band in late 1972. "He'd done his job, and he'd done it wonderfully," Hummel related. "Now it was the businesspeople's job, and they didn't do it wonderfully. They were total abject failures." Big Star continued as a trio before breaking up in 1974. Tragically, Chris Bell was killed in a one-car accident in 1978. Chilton and Stephens resurrected the group in 1993 with Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow from the Posies. Gigging only sporadically since then, Big Star is back at Ardent recording their first album in over 30 years – exciting news indeed for disciples of the big jangle.

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