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Raspberries vs Big Star...Again


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Ah the inevitable Raspberries vs Big Star discussion (argument) is taking place on one of my FB friends' page. The friend posted the Big Star song, "September Gurls", and here is how the discussion has gone:


ME:  "September Gurls", just about the only song I like by Big Star.

FB friend:  err... geeze... maybe you need to take another listen.

Another FB friend: Marv---seriously?

ME:  Seriously. I never 'got' them, nor did I understand those who said that they were on the same Power Pop level as Raspberries. For me, Raspberries were way more melodic. However, I keep telling myself to give them another listen, so I will.

Another FB friend: You're missing out, Marv.

ME: I had a couple of their records many years ago, gave it a few listens, and ended up selling them back to the store. Just didn't do anything for me, but hey, I'll give it another shot.

FB post: Iisten to Big Star on the CD player (auto). September Gurls rips.

FB post: No hating on Big Star please! Mod Lang is my favorite track!

FB post:  marvin,. listen again.. if you still don;t get it..you are not hearing what we are and that's your loss

ME::  I know many others who don't get Big Star, so I'm certainly not alone. By the same token, I know people who are fervent in their love and admiration for Big Star. It's all a matter of taste, and for me melody is everything, In my opinion, Big Star never wrote songs that were the melodic equivalent of the songs Raspberries wrote. I will most definitely listen again, and see if I can find what I've never found before.

FB post: Big Star yes, and, um, Raspberries not so much.

FB post:: I like the Raspberries a lot - a whole lot. But listening to them never remotely was any sort of impetus for me to become a songwriter. Radio City is responsible for that. And pretty much nothing else.

ME: I get the fact that Big Star was taken more seriously than Raspberries, but my feeling has always been that Raspberries had few peers when it came to combining their 1960's UK and US influences. Eric Carmen (when in the Raspberries) deserved to be annointed with the praise that seemed to be given so easily to Alex Chilton. Just my opinion, for what it's worth.

FB post: @Marvin, Most 16 & 17 year olds (Alex Chilton) don't start off with Top 40 singles (The Box Tops)......"Cry Like A Baby," "The Letter" (later covered by Joe Cocker), "Sweet Cream, Ladies..." The problem with Big Star was distribution with the record company. I do not believe that Advent stayed in business much longer. Alex Chilton could sing, but went on die at a very young age. The first two Big Star albums contain some tasty tunes.....

FB post: love both bands for very different reasons. I don't choose between my musical children.

FB post: @Marvin, When I purchased "Go All the Way," (LP) it would seem The Raspberries were also influenced by Badfinger. Nothing wrong with that! Dr. Dino Visconti

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I'd never heard of Big Star until I saw members here posting about how great they were.  Upon reading these posts I went and listened to some songs of their's.

The songs were not good at all.  Bad.  So I was puzzled as to the claims of  Big Star's greatness too.

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It's Raspberries all the way for me of course...

If anyone is interested, there's a good documentary on Netflix which can be streamed.

Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me

On another note, I like MikeD's suggestion! You could do a music-related "My Dinner With Bernie" where you invite the person to dinner and proceed to discussion which would be a fun twist on one of my all time fav movies "My Dinner With Andre." 

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Hmmm......It appears not everybody hates Big Star or Alex Chilton here......seeing as Eric included a quote from Alex in the booklet for the just-released Essential Eric Carmen!  The quote - "I remember when I first heard the Raspberries.  Big Star were in a van traveling around doing some dates and we heard "Go All The Way" on the radio, and we said, "Wow, those guys are really doing it!"  I thought that was a great song."  Yet here, it's cartoons cussing out Big Star???

P.S. Also just wondering where John M Borack (who posted here for years as Popdude) fits in.  In his book "Shake Some Action," he names "Starting Over" as the greatest power pop album in history........and the double disk set "# 1 Record / Radio City" by, you guessed it, Big Star, as the second greatest on his list of the 200 best power pop albums.  Perhaps he's a genius for his first pick, but an idiot for his second?

Signed - huge Raspberries/Eric Carmen AND BIg Star/Alex Chilton fan.  And Eric - great, great job on the new collection!!!!  You are correct - significant improvement in sound on so much of the solo material......like night and day!!!

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Bernie - I understand perfectly if you or Marv or anyone else doesn't care for a band's music.  That's fine - different strokes, and so on.........and God knows, I don't like the music of a number of bands/acts myself, many of whom are hugely popular.  What confuses me is bringing extraneous or seemingly irrelevant things into the equation. 

Why, for example, the need to compare Big Star vs Raspberries?  Because a critic or two over the years, to simplify his explanation of power pop, lumped the two of them together?  Every Big Star fan I've ever met also loves Raspberries and Eric......and usually, Raspberries fans are pretty enthusiastic about Big Star as well. There are always exceptions.  To me, saying "I've listened to Big Star, and I don't care for their music -  it doesn't move me," is OK.  Saying they suck because Raspberries are better is a whole different kettle o' fish, though. If we apply that logic to rock & roll music in general, I'm guessing the conclusion might be that practically all bands suck because they're not as good as The Beatles.....and I don't know of ANY band or act that would disagree.

Likewise, adding that critics have lionized Alex Chilton undeservedly, and Eric should have been getting similar adulation, makes no sense when evaluating Big Star's music. How were these two ever in competition?  Big Star, to me, was a great anomaly in Alex's career. It was damn near the only music he ever made which the critics loved when it was released. (And I do agree that he got too much credit for "#1 Record", seeing as Chris Bell wrote and sang lead on half of the album.)  It was also, far and away, the most melodic material he ever wrote or sang.  Why weren't they successful?  As in the case of Raspberries being promoted in an abysmal manner by Capitol, Big Star was screwed by their label Ardent, a subsidiary of Stax, which was used to promoting Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Booker T & The MGs, etc. I remember having trouble even finding their first 2 LPs in record stores back then. 

Chilton certainly wasn't a critics' darling as a teenager in The Box Tops - too commercial for the critics in the 60s. And most of his post-Big Star solo career was also critically panned when it came out - too trashy sounding, lo-fi quality. I remember reading horrid reviews of "Like Flies On Sherbert", "High Priest" and his live in NYC album when they were released.  And critics everywhere trashed Big Star's 3rd album, "Sister Lovers" when it was released....as it was nothing like the poppier first two. What eventually won over the critics for Alex, IMO resulting in revisionism to a large extent, was the fact that he never stopped making music, and the fact that bands like REM and The Replacements kept telling interviewers that he was important to them.  He also produced a number of acts over the years, ranging from Panther Burns to The Cramps (a huge critics' darling) and The Gories (ditto) - and make no mistake - this was trashy, garage music, just like most of Alex's solo efforts.  Again, NOT in competition with Eric or his music. And regarding Alex's "bad boy" image.....Hell, he was stone cold sober, alcohol and drug-free for at least the last decade of his life, if not longer.

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  • 7 months later...

Just got back. The concert was fine. Mike Mills of REM played bass and sang. Ok, here's the deal - very different from Raspberries in terms of quality of writing. If the Beatles and Beach Boys were 9.5, Raspberries were 8, this group would be about 6, and that explains why they had no hits. September gurls is a good tune, but frankly, the only one that I really enjoyed hearing.

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  • 3 months later...

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