Alex Chilton, A Personal History


Alex Chilton, RBW, Jack, outside Alex’s Treme, New Orleans, cottage, spring, 1998

A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton, my wife Holly George-Warren‘s biography of Alex, hits bookshelves this week. (You can keep up with events and enjoy videos and reviews at the Facebook page.) In advance of that auspicious occasion, Paper magazine commissioned me to write an essay about how Alex and his music and life impacted my family. I’ve pasted the first paragraph below, with a link to the rest of the piece. Please enjoy!


Technically, my wife Holly George-Warren worked on A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton for about three years, but she’d been talking about it for almost two decades. A fan since the ’70s, she met Alex when he was washing dishes in New Orleans in the early ’80s. He was in the “rags” part of his riches-to-rags-to-riches arc, scraping jambalaya off tourists’ plates to make ends meet. Holly and Alex hit it off. A couple years later, he produced her band Clambake, an early step on his winding path back to musical activity. I came on the scene in 1987, when Holly’s band Das Furlines and my band the Fleshtones shared a bill. All I knew of Alex was that he’d been the 16-year-old white singer of The Box Tops, a kid who’d sounded like a 40-year-old black man on the 1967 smash “The Letter.” I’d heard-tell of his ’70s cult band Big Star, but I’d not checked them out. I learned more — a lot more — via Holly’s stories of Alex, and her expansive record collection, which included Box Tops LPs and the Big Star oeuvre alongside Alex’s eclectic, occasionally slapdash, intentionally confounding solo work. Holly also possessed The Cramps classic debut LP, Songs the Lord Taught Us, which Alex produced. I am partial to Big Star, but Holly loves it all.

                                                                                                                         Read more HERE.


2 responses to “Alex Chilton, A Personal History

  1. I’m so glad I stumbled on news of this biography. I was lucky enough to meet Alex twice, and the first time was after the final 1st-gen Big Star show, when they opened for Badfinger at the Performance Center in Harvard Square after having had all of their equipment stolen. (The recording of this (rather amazingly good) performance that surfaced online a few years go was recorded by my best friend with a semi-pro Sony portable deck, and apparently stolen from a friend of his in the mid 90’s.) I remember asking him “Where are you going next?”, not realizing it had been the last date of the tour, and his replying “I don’t know about those guys, but I’m going back to Memphis to buy a guitar.” And then I talked to him after a solo show at the Rat; I asked him about the still unreleased 3rd album, and he stumbled for words for a second and then explained that “it had snakes coming off it.” (!)

    I just checked Amazon, and my review of #1 Record / Radio City is still the most helpful … it’s been gratifying to have been even a tiny part of this.

    • Thanks so much for these stories, Eric. I’ve heard the recording of that show and you are so right. Considering they’ve just been ripped off, they play surprisingly well. You’re so lucky to have seen them. Hope you get a chance to check out the book.

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