Big Star’s #1 Record and Radio City & Opinions on Jay-Z

Jim and Greg conduct a double Classic Album Dissection of Big Star’s #1 Record and Radio City with drummer Jody Stephens.

main image
Download Subscribe via iTunes

Music News

This week everyone is talking about music from across the pond. That’d be The Beatles, of course. But, another British artist is also making headlines. UK rapper Speech Debelle has just been named the winner of the prestigious Mercury Prize after only selling 3,000 copies in her home country. As Jim and Greg explain, this is quite a contrast from the highly commercial acts rewarded by The Grammys. Speech Debelle is certain to see a sales boost after winning this prize, however it’s uncertain whether she’ll follow suit of past winners like PJ Harvey and Franz Ferdinand, or less successful ones like Roni Size who amazingly beat Radiohead.

#1 Record & Radio City

Radio City

During this episode Jim and Greg celebrate the legacy of Big Star with a Classic Album Dissection of their first two records, #1 Record and Radio City. Both albums have recently been re-released as a double album, and a new Big Star box set is due out next week. As Jim and Greg discuss, the band changed the history of American music without selling very many records. With a sound that combined Memphis Soul with British Invasion rock, they laid the groundwork for Power Pop and influenced bands including R.E.M., Wilco and The Replacements. The original Big Star lineup included former Box Tops singer Alex Chilton, Chris Bell, Andy Hummel and Jim and Greg’s guest this week, drummer Jody Stephens.

Following their discussion with Jody Stephens, Jim and Greg each discuss and play a song. Greg chooses to highlight the opening track from #1 Record called Feel. The song was written and performed by Chris Bell. While Alex Chilton is the name most people associate with Big Star, Bell really created it. Most of his incredible work didn’t see the light of day until after his death at age 26, but Greg thinks songs like Feel, illustrate the power of his voice and lyrics–many of which convey the problems he faced in his short life.

Jim plays a song written and performed by Alex Chilton from the second album called September Gurls. As he discussed with Jody earlier in the show, this was a breakout song for the band and one that was immediately adored by critics and fans including The Bangles, who later covered it. Jim’s not sure what the song means, but for him it’s more about the mood that Chilton created. With its sweeping melodies and pan-sexuality it’s a power pop classic.

The Blueprint 3 Jay-Z

The Blueprint 3

Hip hop’s top entrepreneur Jay-Z has a new album out called The Blueprint 3. It’s the third in the rapper’s Blueprint series. For the first he worked with then unknown producer Kanye West. Then for the second he invited a slew of big name guest stars. Now he splits the difference–West is back in the studio, as are guests like Timbaland. Greg finds the result split; half the tracks are good, half show the rapper on autopilot. Jim was also disappointed to hear that Jay-Z didn’t really explore his life as a business man and celebrity husband in any unique way. But, the voice is still wonderful. It gets a double Burn It.

Greg

For his turn at the Desert Island Jukebox, Greg wants to add a song by one of his favorite Power Pop bands. The term was actually coined by Pete Townshend during The Who’s pre-rock opera era. It now describes a slew of bands who use a lot of big melodies, tight arrangements, harmonies and prominent guitar riffs. The Midwest produces a lot of power pop bands, including Green. The band has had many incarnations, but it’s the constant force of Jeff Lescher that gives the group its edge and puts them above the rest for Greg. He takes their song, She’s Not a Little Girl with him to the desert island.

Dear Listeners,

For more than 15 years, Sound Opinions was a production of WBEZ, Chicago's public radio station. Now that the show is independent, we're inviting you to join the band and lend a hand! We need your support more than ever because now we have to do all the behind-the-scenes work that WBEZ handled before (like buying insurance and paying for podcast hosting, ugh). Plus, we have some exciting ideas we'd like to try now that there's no one to tell us no!