Review : Chris Bell - I Am the Cosmos
PitchforkHistory is written by the winners, but in the case of Big Star it's the losers-- the quiet obsessives, the hopeless romantics "in love with that song" (to quote Paul Westerberg)-- who kept the band's legacy alive under the threat of perpetual obscurity. Certainly Big Star itself (current iteration aside) didn't really last long enough to bask in any belated good will. Alex Chilton's writing partner Chris Bell was gone by the time the band released its second album, 1974's Radio City, and by the next year Chilton had essentially pulled the plug on the group, leaving behind a few loose ends later collected as the once-abandoned, later-resuscitated masterpiece Third/Sister Lovers.
Bell died in a car accident not long after that album's eventual 1978 release. Prone to serious depression and chemical indulgence, he began fitfully working on solo material as soon as he exited Big Star (though he reportedly participated in at least some of the Radio City sessions), and if there was every reason to expect good things from him, Big Star's own bad luck was indication enough he'd have just as much trouble getting people to hear it. In fact, it wasn't until Big Star's Third/Sister Lovers showed up on shelves (however haphazardly) that Bell made his solo bow: the single "I Am the Cosmos" backed with "You and Your Sister", songs coincidentally (or not) steeped in the same sense of sadness and loss that marked Big Star's swan song....full text
RollingstoneIt's safe to say there would have been no modern pop movement without Big Star. Everyone from the Replacements, the dB's, the Bangles and R.E.M. to Teenage Fanclub and Ride is beholden to Big Star for the post-Beatles, post-Velvets trails the band blazed in the early Seventies. Big Star dared to be poppishly offbeat when both pop music and nonconformity were being beaten back by the industry-driven push toward corporate rock and laid-back singer-songwriters.
Making matters more difficult, Big Star hailed from Memphis, a city with a long-standing rhythm & blues tradition but hardly a Liverpool when it came to pop bands. Big Star released a pair of classic albums – #1 Record (1972) and Radio City (1974) – on Ardent Records, a poorly distributed arm of Stax that folded not long after the group recorded its extraordinary third album. Third remained in the can until 1978, three years after the group's breakup; issued twice by an indie label and never widely available, it has long been out of print....full text
BlogcriticsChris Bell, the founder of the legendary Memphis power pop band Big Star, was, along with Alex Chilton, the principal songwriter of the group’s debut album, the cheeky and optimistically titled #1 Record (1972). Bell, described as almost suicidally depressed, left the group he started later that same year. In the lore of Big Star’s fractious demise, Chris Bell - a young man torn by his intense religious feelings and the subsequent guilt caused by his homosexuality and drug abuse - often plays the complicated and saintly Abel to Chilton’s destructive Cain.
Bell was the son of a successful local restaurateur, and grew up in the advantaged, predominantly white neighborhood of Germantown in Memphis, Tennessee. School friend and later bandmate of both Bell and Chilton, Richard Rosebrough described his and Bell’s upbringing thusly to Mojo’s Barney Hoskyns: “Our scene was Memphis prep: snotty-nosed, spoiled-brat Germantown kids.” During the late '60s, while Chilton, the son of a local jazz musician, was cutting his teeth as the lead singer for local blue-eyed soul hit-makers The Boxtops, Bell was performing live in local Anglophilic acts such as The Jynx, Rock City and Ice Water and recording intermittently at John Fry’s Ardent Studios....full text
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