There Was A Light

Today on the Please Kill Me blargh, Bruce Eaton, author of Big Star’s Radio City (33 1/3 series) chats up Rich Tupica, author of There Was A Light: The Cosmic History of Chris Bell and the Rise of BIG STAR, the recent Chris Bell biography.

Check it out here!

Just as an aside, when social media first made me aware of the Chris Bell book, I didn’t make any plans to read it. The whole thing seemed rather sketchy, a paperback written by an author I wasn’t familiar with, published by HoZac Records. I wasn’t a huge fan of that cover (it’s growing on me), and besides, it was $40.00! For a paperback! When it sold out, I figured that was that.

But since then, all I’ve seen are glowing reviews. So when I read the PKM piece this morning, I checked the HoZac site for a status update. Second printing is shipping now, and I’ve got a birthday coming up.

After FIVE solid years of painstaking research and hard work, Rich Tupica’s epic tome on the deep end of the BIG STAR story is ready. At 400+ pages, There Was A Light is stocked with a wealth of previously-unseen color photos, personal ephemera from the Bell family’s archive, as well as everything Ardent Studios could jam in, it’s nothing short of breathtaking stuff! Starting with intense coverage of Bell’s childhood bands and continuing deep into his post-Big Star solo work, this book delves into the details beyond the documentary, distilling countless hours of minutiae into a riveting oral history of one of rock’n’roll’s most beloved cult bands, and a trip through Memphis underground music history like no other.

Happy birthday to me
Happy birthday to me
I look like a monkey
And snobby rock books ain’t free

6 Replies to “There Was A Light”

  1. In that interview, Rich Tupica is correct that Chris’s breakdown was about way more than the commercial failure of #1 Record. It played a role, but he had many more issues. To me it’s illustrative to consider the opposite: what if #1 Record had been successful? I hope the book raises that question. I believe he would have been far worse off. Big Star would have been forced to quickly work up a live set, which they hadn’t done. Then there’s the grind of touring, which would have worsened an already bad drinking/drug problem. Touring would also have spotlighted Alex, whom everyone assumed was the leader, and who was a far more charismatic performer. In that environment, Christianity and his loving brother, both of which saw him through his difficulties, would not have been much help. Then, there would have been pressure for a strong follow-up album. He just wasn’t equipped to handle all that. It would have been better if he’d lived to see the growing cult of Big Star than to have had sudden fame thrust upon him.

    By the way, I saw another article on this book that approvingly quoted Pitchfork calling Big Star “rock’s first cult band.” That’s just laughable. Have these guys never heard of the Velvet Underground? I’m constantly stunned by the number of rock journalists who don’t know their shit.

    1. I remember reading a Chris Stamey interview not too long ago. He and Will Rigby actually drove to Memphis, tracking Bell down where he was managing one of his dad’s restaurants. (I’m pretty sure it was the Danver’s on Estate, because they sat down to chat at a nearby “fern bar,” which must have been the Bennigan’s right there at Poplar.) Not sure where this piece fits in the timeline, but during the visit, Bell told them he was done with music.

      Rigby was so traumatized by the experience of seeing one his idols working fast food that he wrote a song about it.

  2. I think he was managing the one on Kirby near Poplar, but I could be wrong. I do know that it was east, so likely one of those two. Peter Holsapple also came down with Stamey & Rigby and encountered him during his “I’m done with music” phase. Was stunned when he asked Chris what he was listening to, and he just shrugged and answered that he thought Fleetwood Mac was pretty good. Peter was expecting something a little more hip, or at least British. Peter did get Alex to produce a single for him while here, and that visit also resulted in Alex later collaborating a bit with Stamey.

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