I was a massive fan of Jeff Buckley when his album Grace came out. Obssesive. I remember much about the day I bought the album, which is unusual for me. I had picked it up mostly on a feeling, based on just one song I had heard, the title track, on a Rock Video Monthly tape (who remembers those?). I was hooked immediately and listened to the album repeatedly (“Lilac Wine” via headphones, do it). I was able to see Jeff play live once, at the Agora in Cleveland, and met him briefly after his set. My lingering impression was that he was small, quiet, and had a heavy sadness about him. I remember when the news first came across that he had gone missing in the Mississippi River, and how I was glued to the computer for days, waiting for him to be found.
I learned of this BBC documentary today via Open Culture (if you haven’t heard of the site before, you’ll want to bookmark it now – they share tons of fantastic free content from around the internet), and wanted to share it here.
Alex Chilton died yesterday.
As I suspect was the case with most music-lovers around my age, Chilton wove his way through my life in a non-direct fashion. My first brush with Chilton was through the 1967 hit he had with his young band the Box Tops, “The Letter”. When my father was a younger man, before my arrival, back when he was the sort of person who had friends in bands, he got up at a party and sang a song with his friend’s band – “The Letter”. Anyone who knows my father now would have a difficult time reconciling this fact with the gruff, curmudgeonly Italian-American they know. That is likely the very reason why the song always felt significant to me, that connection to a version of my father that was more like me. That, and it’s a good song. Chilton’s husky, soulful voice is commanding, and the modern sensibility of the song was always a captivating thing to hear in the midst of all the other songs played on the oldie goldies radio stations.
My next, very roundabout exposure to Chilton was the obvious one: the Replacements’ fantastic paean to the singer/songwriter, “Alex Chilton”. … Continue reading