BY JOHN MOORE
As tragic as Alex Chilton’s death was, the timing seemed to continue a pattern of bad luck – some self-created and some not – that seemed to eclipse his entire musical career. In 2010, just days before he was supposed to take the stage at SXSW with his partially-reunited group Big Star, he died of a heart attack in his adopted hometown of New Orleans. Big Star, despite having never been fully embraced by the mainstream when they first disbanded in the late ‘70s, went on to inspire and launch the careers of hundreds of kids with a jones for power pop.
A Man Called Destruction details Chilton’s life in sober detail, stretching from his seemingly charmed upbringing as the rebellious son of free-spirited, liberal parents that encouraged his music up though his success with the Box Tops; his less successful, but far more influential run with Big Star; and his often fledgling attempts at a solo career. After Big Star, which inspired everyone for R.E.M. to the Replacements, managed to get fucked over by everyone from record labels to tour managers and eventually imploded due to neglect from the music business, Chilton seemed to spend the rest of his musical career running away from the band, while simultaneously going back to Big Star in one form or another to help pay the bills.
Holly George-Warren does a beautiful job of capturing the genius of Chilton while also not whitewashing his drug and alcohol use and his erratic, often dickish behavior. Rock star bios tend to fall into one of two camps: overly fawning pieces that read more like fanzines or salacious tell-alls that careen from one tabloid tidbit to the next. A Man Called Destruction is neither; rather, it’s a complex look at the life of a complicated man who touched millions with his music. Sadly his songs were never fully appreciated by the masses in his lifetime, but albums like Big Star’s Radio City and #1 Record are destined to be passed down from one generation to the next, keeping his voice around long after his more successful contemporaries are forgotten.
Read our recent feature on Alex Chilton and Big Star right here.