The Random Griffith

Alex Chilton gets props from the House

Posted in Uncategorized by Jackson Griffith on 19/03/2010

With all the usual stuff we hear our congresscritters spouting from the lectern, it’s pretty great to see Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Memphis) honoring fellow Memphian Alex Chilton from the floor of the House today. Especially since Cohen replaced Harold Ford, a man whose awareness and connection to rock music is much more tenuous, even though he represented the home town of Elvis.

It’s strange to bring up the name of Chilton, who died of an apparent heart attack yesterday in New Orleans at age 59, to people. Some folks, like those who have responded to this blog, or Rep. Cohen, or other people who posted on Facebook, seem profoundly aware of Chilton’s importance in the grand scheme of things. Others, including some friends who are musicians in indie bands, have no idea who Chilton was or why he was important.

Which really is pretty weird to me. I mean, how can you be a fan of rock music and not grasp that spark of genius that Chilton embodied? For me, after the Beatles disbanded, I was always looking for something that would whet that particular thirst for melodic, well arranged but muscular rock music, the kind with smart guitars, the kind dripping with emotional resonance, and Big Star’s records did that for me. The fact that they also oozed an essential Elvisness, being products of Memphis, and even had kind of an Al Green cool, was an added bonus.

And if anyone ever writes a cooler song than “Thirteen,” I’ll eat my tam o’shanter. —Jackson Griffith

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