Saturday, January 30, 2010

438. #1 Record- Ironic title number… actually I’ve lost count.

Album: Number 1 Record.
Artist: Big Star.
Year: 1972
Genre: Pop.
  1. Feel
  2. The Ballad of El Goodo
  3. In the Street
  4. Thirteen
  5. Don't Lie to Me
  6. The India Song
  7. When My Baby's Beside Me
  8. My Life Is Right
  9. Give Me Another Chance
  10. Try Again
  11. Watch the Sunrise
  12. ST 100/6
I suspect a conspiracy at work, it's the only way I can account for this. I think a group of the contributors to the list decided to have a bit of a fun with the concept and subtly include a massive gag purely for their own entertainment. While everyone else decided to take their awesome responsibility seriously and carefully evaluate whether Revolver was better or worse than Pet Sounds, a small but statistically significant bunch of giggling jokesters decided to subvert the entire experience. Whoever these funny-buggers were they've given us not one, not two but all three albums by Big Star in the top 500. Take that mainstream rock press!

As far as conspiracies go it's perfect. If they'd chosen a completely worthless musical act (Bucks Fizz for example) people would have picked up that something was wrong and approached the pranksters who would have tried to maintain they were deeply moved by Makin your Mind Up. It also would have looked odd if Big Star appeared at number one but having all three releases in the bottom 100 is crazy but not so implausible it immediately calls attention on the entire ruse. Most people would look at the list and say "Oh another album by Big Star. They were obviously a lot more influential than I thought. They must have been seminal." Few people know what seminal actually means (and fewer still can say it without giggling) but it's a great way to describe an album that you don't really like but think people who know more than you enjoy.

Look I have nothing against Big Star and nothing against this album. I just can't for the life of me see why it's here. It's not really groundbreaking in any way. Nobody is trying anything new, playing in a unique time signature or breaking out an instrument that hadn't made it's way onto a pop record before. You can't say this album was the first of it's kind, if anything it's the 10,000th of it's kind. The only thing unique about it is the fact that it sounds really British despite being American. It's totally unlike other American albums but a lot like a lot of English ones. That technically makes it unique but not in any revolutionary way. None of the musicians are brilliant masters in their field. A list of the greatest singers, drummers, guitarists or bass players isn't going to include a member of Big Star anywhere in it's ranks. That's not to say they can't play but I'd describe them all as "competent" rather than outstanding and who wants to be described as competent? ("Hey you have to come down to the pub there's this new band playing who are all really competent.") . There's not a song on this album that I hated but nothing at all that stayed with me. It made as much impact on me as a ball of wool makes on concrete. The only emotion I had while listening to this album was confusion at how it possibly rated above almost half the albums that loiter in the charts below it.

The only way I can account for this album's success is to blame it on patriotic American's who grew up during the British Invasion years of Rock and Roll and were overly enthusiastic about a group of their countrymen proving that it wasn't only Limeys who could make pop/rock. Either that or my conspiracy theory was closer to the mark than I realised.
Highlight: The Ballad of El Goodoo, if only for the name.
Lowlight: Try again.
Influenced by: The Beatles, The Kinks etc.
Influenced: REM. Tom Petty and others.
Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: (This is a comment made on someone else's review) "What kind of person gives a one star review to an excellent release of Big Star's first two albums???? Your kind is what. Really, you should be sterilized before you reproduce."
-Ouch. Clearly there's no allowing for differing music tastes.
So is this truly a Number One album or just a bit pile of Number Twos? Let me know below.


  1. Great Album. Love the track Thirteen. I like the idea of big star, but this wayward genius thing with Alex Chilton and all, Is he the US's Syd Barrett or Peter Green?

  2. Just a view editorial comments:
    -this album is 438 on the list not 439
    -the title should probably be spelled out as #1 Record as opposed to Number 1 Record (using the number sign)
    -the genre of music should be classified as power pop - not pop - as Big Star is largely considered to be a power pop band (this would also include Radio City and Third/Sister Lovers)

    1. I've changed the title and the ranking, thanks for pointing them out.

      I try and keep the genres as simple as possible because pretty much every album could have about 12 different genre titles and genres are becoming meaningless anyway.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.