About Me

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I'm the co-host of THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO with Dana & Carl (Sunday nights, 9 to Midnight Eastern, www.westcottradio.org).  As a freelance writer, I contributed to Goldmine magazine from 1986-2006, wrote liner notes for Rhino Records' compilation CD Poptopia!  Power Pop Classics Of The '90s, and for releases by The Flashcubes, The Finkers, Screen Test, 1.4.5., and Jack "Penetrator" Lipton.  I contributed to the books Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth, Shake Some Action, Lost In The Grooves, and MusicHound Rock, and to DISCoveries, Amazing Heroes, The Comics Buyer's Guide, Yeah Yeah Yeah, Comics Collector, The Buffalo News, and The Syracuse New Times.  I also wrote the liner notes for the three THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO compilation CDs, because, well, who could stop me?  My standing offer to write liner notes for a Bay City Rollers compilation has remained criminally ignored.  Still intend to write and sell a Batman story someday.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

CLOSING ARGUMENTS: Alex Chilton

The death of Alex Chilton in 2010 was a tough blow for Dana and I, so of course we dedicated that week's edition of This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl to Chilton.  This what I wrote, and this is what we played.  And there ain't no one gonna turn me 'round.
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The heart is often incapable of speaking its own mind. Please forgive the mixed metaphor, because it's true:  on an emotional level, the thing that is most important to us is the most difficult to articulate.  If you were ever a teenager in love, you know this first-hand; and if, at any age, you have watched a love slip away--casually or cruelly, by accident or design, temporarily or irrevocably--then you still remember the ache of your tongue-tied efforts to somehow express the poetry inside you, to give voice to the exact words that, when spoken, will make True Love prevail against unbelievable odds.  So many words, so much to say.  And all we can do as she walks away is mumble, "I loved you, well...never mind."

With that phrase, Alex Chilton turned even our seeming helplessness into art.  A teenaged hitmaker with The Box Tops, a cult-pop legend with Big Star, and a fiercely (and frustratingly) independent solo artist, Alex Chilton was dismissive of his own legacy.  But he was a brilliant songwriter, responsible in whole or in part for a handful of what I believe to be among the most affecting, beautiful pop songs ever done.  With his Big Star partner Chris Bell, Chilton co-wrote "The Ballad Of El Goodo," the single most transcendent expression of triumphant hope that I am ever likely to hear; their song "Thirteen" found the elusive words to articulate adolescence as no other song before or since.  And Chilton's "September Gurls," perhaps the greatest record ever made, is with me every day of my life, its haunting mix of longing and possibility providing a constant reminder of the heart's struggle to speak its mind, and of the artist's ability to turn the struggle itself into unforgettable, eloquent elegance. 

As we say goodbye to Alex Chilton, we reflect on the wealth of wonderful music he left us.  The Box Tops' hits--"Soul Deep," "Cry Like A Baby," "Neon Rainbow" and, especially, "The Letter"--still sound terrific on the radio, and they will always sound terrific on the radio, for as long as there is radio.  Chilton's solo work, while I won't pretend to be a big fan of much of it, shows an artist and performer determined to follow his own vision, without regard for what his audience might expect, stubbornly insistent that it will take you home and make you like it.  And Big Star...!  I can't say enough about the sheer brilliance of Big Star, about how much those records have meant to me, of how much they will continue to mean.  So many words, so much to say, but...never mind.

THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO with Dana & Carl streams live every Sunday night from 9 to Midnight Eastern, exclusively at www.westcottradio.org


THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO # 524:  ALEX CHILTON & FRIENDS 3/21/10

BIG STAR:  "Back Of A Car" (Ardent, # 1 Record/Radio City)
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ALEX CHILTON:  "(Every Time I) Close My Eyes" (Razor & Tie, Bach's Bottom)
ALEX CHILTON:  "Free Again [original mix]" (Big Beat, VA:  Thank You Friends)
RACHAEL GORDON:  "Thirteen" (Wizzard In Vinyl, Rock 'n' Roll Girl)
ALEX CHILTON:  "Don't Worry Baby [excerpt]" (Big Beat, VA:  Thank You Friends)
THE BOX TOPS:  "Neon Rainbow" (Arista, The Best Of The Box Tops)
ALEX CHILTON:  "The EMI Song (Smile For Me)" (Big Beat, VA:  Thank You Friends)
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THE FLASHCUBES:  "September Gurls [live]" (unreleased)
BIG STAR:  "I Got Kinda Lost [demo]" (Big Beat, VA:  Thank You Friends)
ALEX CHILTON:  "Let Me Get Close To You" (Razor & Tie, High Priest/Black List)
BIG STAR:  "O, Dana" (Rykodisc, Third/Sister Lovers)
CHRIS BELL:  "You And Your Sister" (Rykodisc, I Am The Cosmos)
BIG STAR:  "Life Is White [demo]" (Rhino, Keep An Eye On The Sky)
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MAURA KENNEDY:  "Big Star Song (Work Of Art)" (unreleased)
BIG STAR:  "Don't Lie To Me" (Rykodisc, Live)
CHEAP TRICK:  "That 70's Song (In The Street)" (Big 3, Silver)
BIG STAR:  "In The Street [alternate mix]" (Rhino, Keep An Eye On The Sky)
THE BOX TOPS:  "Soul Deep" (Arista, The Best Of The Box Tops)
BIG STAR:  "Watch The Sun Rise [single version]" (Rhino, Keep An Eye On The Sky)
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CHRIS STAMEY:  "The Summer Sun" (Rhino, VA:  DIY:  Come Out And Play)
ROCK CITY:  "Try Again [early version]" (Rhino, Keep An Eye On The Sky)
GARY FRENAY:  "Blue Moon" (Tangible Music, Jigsaw People)
BIG STAR:  "Till The End Of The Day" (Rykodisc, Third/Sister Lovers)
THE YANKEES:  "Take Me Home & Make Me Like It" (Big Sound, High 'N' Inside)
BIG STAR:  "ST 100/6 [alternate mix]" (Rhino, Keep An Eye On The Sky)
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BIG STAR:  "The Ballad Of El Goodo" (Ardent, # 1 Record/Radio City)
BIG STAR:  "Morpha Too [alternate mix]" (Rhino, # 1 Record/Radio City)
THE BANGLES:  "September Gurls" (Columbia, Different Light)
BIG STAR:  "I'm In Love With A Girl" (Ardent, # 1 Record/Radio City)
THE BOX TOPS:  "Coca-Cola Ad"
BIG STAR:  "O My Soul [alternate version]" (Rhino, Keep An Eye On The Sky)
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THE LOLITAS:  "Mummy" (New Rose, Fusee D'Amour)
BIG STAR:  "Thank You Friends [original mix]" (Big Beat, VA:  Thank You Friends)
KELLY WILLIS:  "When My Baby's Beside Me" (Koch, VA:  Big Star Small World)
ROCK CITY:  "Lovely Lady" (Big Beat, VA:  Thank You Friends)
BEN VAUGHN:  "Doormat" (Enigma, Dressed In Black)
BIG STAR:  "I Am The Cosmos" (Zoo, Columbia)
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THE SCRUFFS:  "She Say Yea" (Northern Heights, Wanna' Meet The Scruffs?)
BIG STAR:  "The India Song [alternate version]" (Rhino, Keep An Eye On The Sky)
THE FLASHCUBES:  "Cycles Of Pain [live]" (unreleased)
BIG STAR:  "Jesus Christ" (Rhino, Keep An Eye On The Sky)
TEENAGE FANCLUB:  "Star Sign" (Jetset, Four Thousand Seven Hundred And Sixty-Six Seconds)
BIG STAR:  "Downs [demo]" (Rhino, Keep An Eye On THe Sky)
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THE CRAMPS:  "The Way I Walk" (IRS, Psychedelic Jungle/Gravest Hits)
BIG STAR:  "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" (Rykodisc, Third/Sister Lovers)
THE SEARCHERS:  "September Gurls" (Raven, The Sire Sessions 1979-80)
THE REPLACEMENTS:  "Alex Chilton" (Sire, Pleased To Meet Me)
TAV FALCO'S PANTHER BURNS:  "Peggy Sue" (Emergo, VA:  Everyday Is A Holly Day)
CHRIS VON SNEIDERN:  "Annalisa" (Heyday, Sight & Sound)
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THE BOX TOPS:  "Cry Like A Baby" (Arista, The Best Of The Box Tops)
ALEX CHILTON:  "Bangkok" (Rhino, 19 Years)
BIG STAR:  "Way Out West" (Ardent, # 1 Record/Radio City)
BIG STAR:  "Give Me Another Chance [alternate mix]" (Rhino, Keep An Eye On The Sky)
BIG STAR:  "You Get What You Deserve" (Ardent, # 1 Record/Radio City)
BIG STAR:  "Thirteen [alternate mix]" (Rhino, Keep An Eye On The Sky)
THE BOX TOPS:  "The Letter" (Arista, The Best Of The Box Tops)
BIG STAR:  "September Gurls" (Rhino, Keep An Eye On The Sky)
ALEX CHILTON:  "Raunchy" (Razor & Tie, High Priest/Black List)