Saturday, September 20, 2008

Got Kinda Lost

click for enlarged view

Obviously the greatest indie rock band ever is still The Steinways, and not Big Star like you were thinking (I'm only kidding, it's really Big Star). Ever since the day I bought my first Big Star record over 20 years ago-- coincidentally to this post, a bootleg version of "September Gurls" on a 7-inch-- there's almost never been a band at the top of my revolving list of "most favorite band ever, for this month at least" that hasn't shown at least some Big Star influence. I know that last sentence doesn't particularly make a lot of sense, but, oh well, carry on.

Yesterday I listened to my copy of the "What's Goin' Ahn" bootleg for the first time in a while, and found to my chagrin that the CD has deteriorated in the 8 or 9 years since I first bought it, so now some of the tracks aren't working anymore. Friggin' CD-R's! Luckily, most of the better songs on the disc still work, so I went about saving what tracks I could so that I could post them here.

"What's Goin' Ahn" is made up of demo tracks and outtakes from Big Star's "#1 Record" and "Radio City", the two greatest musical recordings of all time (yup, cuz I say they are). Some of the tracks here are nothing special, being merely screwed up mixes with the vocals wobbling back and forth between the speakers, or at best an early mix using a reference vocal that was later scrapped-- "Mod Lang" is one of the latter, and Alex's howls on it are actually kinda funny to listen to. But some of the tracks are genuine unreleased demos of songs that have never appeared on any Big Star album.

"I Got Kinda Lost" is one of those demos, and although the song later appeared on Chris Bell's "I Am The Cosmos" CD, I like the version here better. Alex's vocals are separated off to the left from the rest of the band, which isn't so great, but Jody Stephens' drumming (always a highlight of any Big Star track) and a great bass line make it one of my favorite songs ever. (Literally.) Another demo, "Gone With The Light", goes into "Watch The Sunrise" at the end for some reason, while "Instrumental" is sorta country-flavored and doesn't do much at all. The first couple of times I listened to "Instrumental" I was hoping to recognize some other Big Star song within it, or get a clue about another song they were working on for "Radio City" or something, but no such luck. Then there's a cover of Loudon Wainwright's great "Motel Blues", and while it's nowhere as good as the original (though I think it's clever how Alex makes the first "I'll" sound like "Owww!"), it serves the stereotypical image of a lecherous Alex pretty well.

click for enlarged view

Big Star -

"I Got Kinda Lost"

"Mod Lang"

"Gone With The Light"

"My Life Is Right"

"Motel Blues"


"O My Soul"

"Give Me Another Chance"

"You Get What You Deserve"

(these files are now listen-only)

Finally, here's one of the tracks that went bad, though luckily I'd already saved it to my Vox account about a year and a half ago when the CD was still good. It later appeared on Chris Bell's "I Am The Cosmos" as "There Was a Light", though here Alex is singing lead, and it's a terrifically haunting version (when Alex isn't vamping, that is):

Big Star, "There Was A Life"
(listen-only file)


ib said...

See. This is what happens when one sits in at home too much. And brood.

Damn! Awesome post. I haven't heard this one before, so though it's not nice to gloat - it would seem your loss is our gain!

This kind of shit has happened to me with commercial CD's previously, but not CD-R's. Mind you, I haven't checked in a while and I've long had an issue with my burner which has yet to be resolved.

"There Was A Life" is a beautiful take. What a pity.

I have "I Am The Cosmos", but I need to digest all these tracks. Nice.

Thanks for sharing this.

Brushback said...

Almost every CD-R I've ever had has taken the pipe-- I've got stacks of band demos on CD-R which will probably only be a matter of time...

"I Am The Cosmos" is definitely worth digesting-- especially once you get past all the wah-wah effects and the mostly shitty production... it's a brilliant album.

Brushback said...

For space reasons, all of the mp3 files on this post have now been converted to listen-only (non-downloadable) files.

theneedledrop said...

Great post. Not enough people talk about this band. The theme from That 70's show is a cover of one of their tunes, and yet nobody knows who the hell they are!