Song of the Day #1,556: ‘Thirteen’ – Big Star

This week I’ll feature songs by some of the artists I was steered toward by my genome project research.

If the genome theory is solid, all of these artists should appeal to me on an instinctive level. Whether they’ll have the added mystery ingredient that leads me to full embrace them remains to be seen.

First up is a band whose influence far outweighed its popularity. Big Star formed in 1971 and broke up just three years later, releasing only three albums by the original lineup (surviving members of the band reformed two decades later to release another record).

I have long heard Big Star named as an influence by some of my favorite bands, including R.E.M., Counting Crows, Belle and Sebastian and Ben Folds Five. And listening to their music (thank you, Spotify), I now know why.

Lead singer-songwriters Alex Chilton and Chris Bell penned beautifully melodic, hook-laden and (yes) melancholy songs that fit nicely alongside the best work of my favorite artists.

After one listen to the first side of Big Star’s debut, #1 Record, I felt I’d known songs such as ‘Feel,’ ‘The Ballad of El Goodo,’ ‘In the Street’ and ‘Thirteen’ all my life. I look forward to hearing the rest, as well as their second and third albums, Radio City and Third.

The good news is that the original band released only those three albums, so leaping into the Big Star catalog isn’t exactly heavy lifting.

I can’t imagine discovering somebody like, say, Elvis Costello at this point in his career. On the one hand, what a treasure trove of material you’d have to dive into, but on the other hand… who has that much time?

Won’t you let me walk you home from school
Won’t you let me meet you at the pool
Maybe Friday I can get tickets for the dance
And I’ll take you

Won’t you tell your dad, “Get off my back”
Tell him what we said ’bout ‘Paint It Black’
Rock ‘n Roll is here to stay
Come inside where it’s okay
And I’ll shake you

Won’t you tell me what you’re thinking of
Would you be an outlaw for my love
If it’s so, well, let me know
If it’s “no”, well, I can go
I won’t make you

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4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,556: ‘Thirteen’ – Big Star

  1. Dana says:

    I’ve never heard of this band. Very nice sound though.

  2. Amy says:

    Ooooooo… now this is a chapter of the genome project I can get behind. I love this idea. I have never heard of this band, so I guess I missed those interviews where some of my favorite musicians named Big Star as an influence. This song does remind me of something, but i haven’t yet been able to put my finger on it….. it’s something good, though, I know that. Something Van Morrisony (but not) – driving me a bit crazy, to be honest.

    Regardless, I’m loving it, and I’m looking forward to this new exploration!

  3. Clay says:

    Adam Duritz performed ‘Mr. Jones’ on SNL once and sang “I want to be Alex Chilton” instead of “I want to be Bob Dylan.” He’s also changed the “we all want to be big stars” line to “we all want to be Big Star.”

    I bet he hears the Van Morrison connection too.

    • Amy says:

      We’re seeing Counting Crows on Thursday. Might still be tickets left? Maybe Adam will throw out another allusion to launch a new theme for your blog! :)

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