Over 40 years after the release of their debut album, Alex Chilton’s power-pop combo are still spoken of in reverential tones.
The Memphis outfit recorded three LPs worth of classic off-key pop – #1 Record, Radio City and Third/Sister Lovers – between 1971-74. The group accrued cult cachet over the following two decades, and finally reconvened in the early 1990s.
On May 28, an impressive roster of musicians will assemble to recreate Third/Sister Lovers in its entirety. As Clash report, Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor, ex-R.E.M man Mike Mills and Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub are among the names stopping by the Barbican to perform tracks from the album. Other guests include Brendon Benson, Yo La Tengo’s Ira Kaplan and Robyn Hitchcoch, amongst others. The stars will all perform with an ensemble headed up by Big Star drummer Jody Stephens. The concert will also included a second set, dedicated to music from across the Big Star canon (not to mention Alex Chilton and Chris Bell’s solo material).
Stephens said: “It’s easier as time passes to revisit that album because it came out of such a dark period. There were brilliant moments in the studio, especially Carl Marsh’s string arrangements, which really take it to a whole other world. But it could be emotionally difficult to watch certain things happen. I was so close to it at the time that I could not see what it was.”
‘Emotionally difficult’ just about sums up Third/Sister Lovers’ famously troubled gestation. After a litany of label difficulties and line-up jumbles, Third/Sister Lovers was rejected by label after label. The band dissolved in 1975, and the record didn’t hit shelves until 1978 through PVC Records. The album’s damaged, vulnerable songs offer an insight into Chilton’s own mental deterioration at the time.