17 March, 2010

Goodbye Alex Chilton

For my second post, I wanted to say hello to anybody that would be reading this, maybe let others learn more about my thought process (whatever that is). However, I just found out that Alex Chilton died, and there's no way I can go on without at least expressing something, regardless of how relevant it is. Besides, maybe you'll learn about me somehow through this ramble fest.

I'm currently listening to #1 Record/Radio City, and it's just so sad to think that I'll never get to have a conversation with the man who wrote "Thirteen" and "The Ballad of El Goodo." These aren't just life-changing songs; they're life-affirming. So few songs these days are actually written in this manner. Now we can say that it's because of the times, but I disagree with this statement. Alex Chilton (and Chris Bell, at least for one album) had a classic set of songs that they simply could not get released or played anywhere, and yet they continued to release happy music. "September Gurls" and "I'm In Love With a Girl" stand as a testament to this. Yet Chilton also released perhaps the most insular album of all time with Third/Sister Lovers, which is a harrowing listen.

The point is not to show people how much I know about his music; there are many others that could give you a greater and more coherent history than I. No, I mourn the loss of Alex Chilton because of how my life was touched by his music at the exact right time. I was eighteen when I first downloaded his music, and I've been listening every year since. #1 Record was the first record I got with a new pressing, and I can still hear the needle skip on the harmony vocals to "Watch the Sunrise" from repeated listens. It's because I needed to believe in myself at that particular moment, and Alex Chilton gave me the confidence to find my own voice. He said simple things, but because he meant them with all his heart he never needed to complicate his work. This is what I strive to do, and yet I find myself constantly losing this battle. Chilton never lost this battle; he could always find the right words to sing you to a higher plane. Even then he was a master interpreter. Listen to his covers of "Femme Fatale" or "Oogum Boogum" to know what a true interpreter sounds like. He's the only one who could master New York distant cool and sweet soul music simultaneously, and he did it effortlessly.

The greatest compliment I ever got for my singing voice was that I sounded like Mr. Chilton. They were wrong, but I still took heart that I could sound like a true passionate soul. When I sing "I'm In Love With a Girl," I mean it, dammit! I feel all screwed up and lost when I sing "Thirteen," and I feel hopeful when I play "Watch the Sunrise." Be advised, if I'm playing "Kangaroo" or "Holocaust," I'm borderline suicidal. But nonetheless, I always mean it and don't want to fake it, only because Alex Chilton never did.

There's too much cynical crap out there today to really make you feel good, but as soon as you hear those chiming notes for "The Ballad of El Goodo," all is right with the world. So, one more time, Alex: "There ain't no one going to turn me around." We'll miss you.

1 comment:

Eche Sica said...

Great post Kyle; don't know much about music but i can definitely appreciate clear, sincere and excellent writing. I enjoyed your post!