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Alex Chilton's Forgotten Record - 1970

Posted by Miss Ess, November 21, 2008 05:23pm | Post a Comment

For years one of my favorite posters in the back hallways at Amoeba SF has been a bright, colorful border surrounding a black and white image of young Alex Chilton, leaning against a wall in an argyle tank top with the number 1970 below. I smiled every time I saw it but for some reason never gave it much thought...

alex chilton 1970


Chilton has always been something of a cult hero with not one but two fine bands, The Box Tops and Big Star, that largely alex chiltonflew under the radar/were forgotten, and he wrote some of my favorite songs of all time while in different mutations of Big Star including "Thirteen" and "The Ballad of El Goodo" (from #1 Record) and "Nighttime" (off Third/Sister Lovers). He's a master of sweet, low-key ballads, but can also turn out pop perfection -- a very satisfying combo since basically it means he is something of a melodic genius.

This week I happened upon a copy of an album by Alex Chilton entitled 1970! I had somehow never bothered to figure out what that poster stood for, and now here it was, right in front of me. As it turns out, the album is a post Box Tops solo record made by Chilton in, of course, 1970, in Memphis, which was promptly forgotten and left untitled by both artist and producer when Chilton moved on to Big Star. The original, unadorned tapes were later discovered and released in 1996 by Chilton's famous Memphis label, Ardent Records.

Chilton must have been feeling liberated upon leaving his alex chiltonlate-60s pop outfit The Box Tops, because he sounds utterly confident and raucous throughout 1970. The influence of the storied Steve Cropper is everywhere in the record's clean, chugging guitar sounds and there are also other touches of Southern sounds with funky guitar solos and a pedal steel on "Free Again" and "The Happy Song." You can definitely tell that the album was made south of the Mason-Dixon line!

At the same time, the record's sound is fairly timeless -- the over the top, macho sounds of the past combine effortlessly with sounds that reverberate in the future of rock, since Chilton was always ahead of the game. Chilton sounds feisty and even tongue in cheek as he covers "Jumping Jack Flash" and "Sugar Sugar"/I Got the Feelin'" -- he definitely adds a lot of salt to his heavy version of "Sugar Sugar!" In fact, the entire album is positively salty and feels almost like it's running off the rails at times (in a good way), with tracks like the strutting "All I Really Want Is Money." Chilton sounds like he is in his element. It's a shame it never saw release in its time, but at least we can make up for that now by giving 1970 its proper due in our Chilton collections.

Relevant Tags

Alex Chilton (3), Big Star (8), Ardent Records (1), 1970 (2)