Big Star - #1 Record
(4 Men With Beards)
This weeks ESSENTIAL entry is a record that embodies the spirit of many albums near and dear to us here at the shop. Records that were underappreciated and totally ignored at the time of their release. This is a story told time and time again in record stores everywhere; “this is the best album by a band you've never heard”.
Whether Big Star's #1 Record is already a favorite of yours or if it sits on your list of records you've heard about but never digested, it shouldn't be a surprise to see it labeled as anything but essential. It's an album that was a labor of love for everyone who was involved, from the musicians to the engineers (often one and the same with this record), the label who took it on and the critics who were blown away by what they heard. Everything seemed to be in favor of this record making the big time. And then it didn't. Not only did it not make waves, but the band imploded, friendships were broken, labels sunk and everything fell apart. But simultaneously, this perfect storm of misfortune manifested itself into the perfect mythology of the foremost lost rock album.The details of this story are chronicled in the excellent documentary of the band, Big Star – Nothing Can Hurt Me, so instead I'll tell you a different story.
My relationship with both Big Star, the band and the album #1 Record, started right here in this very record store. A few years ago when I could be found on the other side of the counter, I was a devout customer / disciple of Angry Mom relying on the taste and experience of its staff to supply me with the music that I needed, whether I knew it or not. I would skip down the stairs ready to spend a few hours digging and discussing music, what i've been listening to, what's new to the shop, etc. It was quite typical that one such employee would persistently and passionately, tell me what I needed to buy. He would sometimes even have a bag with my name on it, full of records that he knew I needed (I'll let you take a guess as to who this wonderful gentleman may be). If you know our store, then you also know the owner George; incredibly knowledgeable, stoic and generous. I'd hold a record up to George and say “How's this one?”, and he'd tell me if i'd like it or not. He was always right, and was always as easy going about one record as another. But one day I asked him, “What's the deal with Big Star?”, and all of the levity was sucked dry from the room. It was as if someone cut the power or if time had stood still. George looked me dead in the eyes and simply, but firmly said “you need all of those records.” Coming from someone I had always found to be pretty easy going, I took this as a warning that my life and my record collection would forever be lacking if I didn't take heed and both buy and understand Big Star immediately. I left the store that day with the first two records, (Third would prove to be a much more difficult thing to obtain) and I have never looked back. Besides the fact that George was right, everything I had ever heard about this record was also correct. It is the best album you have never heard, it is a champion of the underdog narrative, its contents make it hard to file it under anything besides completely essential. If you don't know anything about this album, don't wait for me to explain. Just believe me when I say you need this record. (Adam)
Click here to correct the atrocity of never hearing a track from this album.