They had swagger, melancholy, and a melodic crunch that led to some of the catchiest pop songs of any era. They also knew they were good. Why else name your first album “#1 Record”?
But in 1974, after three years and poor sales, the Memphis-based Big Star was done. Or was it? Reissued by record labels in Europe, plugged by everyone from R.E.M. and Yo La Tengo to the Replacements and Elliot Smith, their music found an audience and the group became a cult icon. All three Big Star records are on Rolling Stone’s list of 500 top albums of all time. Alex Chilton, the group’s quirky, conflicted singer-guitarist leader, played “The Tonight Show” in the early 1990s with a reformed version of Big Star.