web site hit counter A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton, From Box Tops to Big Star to Backdoor Man - Ebooks PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton, From Box Tops to Big Star to Backdoor Man

Availability: Ready to download

The first biography of the influential musician and forebear of the indie-rock scene Alex Chilton’s story is rags to riches in reverse, beginning with teenage rock stardom and heading downward. Following stints leading 60s sensation the Box Tops (“The Letter”) and pioneering 70s popsters Big Star (“the ultimate American pop band”—Time), Chilton became a dishwasher. Yet he r The first biography of the influential musician and forebear of the indie-rock scene Alex Chilton’s story is rags to riches in reverse, beginning with teenage rock stardom and heading downward. Following stints leading 60s sensation the Box Tops (“The Letter”) and pioneering 70s popsters Big Star (“the ultimate American pop band”—Time), Chilton became a dishwasher. Yet he rose again in the 80s as a solo artist, producer, and trendsetter, coinventing the indie-rock genre. By the 90s, acolytes from R.E.M. to Jeff Buckley embodied Chilton’s legacy, ushering him back to the spotlight before his untimely death in 2010. In the career-spanning and revelatory A Man Called Destruction, longtime Chilton acquaintance Holly George-Warren has interviewed more than 100 bandmates, friends, and family members to flesh out a man who presided over—and influenced—four decades of American musical history, rendered here with new perspective through the adventures of a true iconoclast.


Compare

The first biography of the influential musician and forebear of the indie-rock scene Alex Chilton’s story is rags to riches in reverse, beginning with teenage rock stardom and heading downward. Following stints leading 60s sensation the Box Tops (“The Letter”) and pioneering 70s popsters Big Star (“the ultimate American pop band”—Time), Chilton became a dishwasher. Yet he r The first biography of the influential musician and forebear of the indie-rock scene Alex Chilton’s story is rags to riches in reverse, beginning with teenage rock stardom and heading downward. Following stints leading 60s sensation the Box Tops (“The Letter”) and pioneering 70s popsters Big Star (“the ultimate American pop band”—Time), Chilton became a dishwasher. Yet he rose again in the 80s as a solo artist, producer, and trendsetter, coinventing the indie-rock genre. By the 90s, acolytes from R.E.M. to Jeff Buckley embodied Chilton’s legacy, ushering him back to the spotlight before his untimely death in 2010. In the career-spanning and revelatory A Man Called Destruction, longtime Chilton acquaintance Holly George-Warren has interviewed more than 100 bandmates, friends, and family members to flesh out a man who presided over—and influenced—four decades of American musical history, rendered here with new perspective through the adventures of a true iconoclast.

30 review for A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton, From Box Tops to Big Star to Backdoor Man

  1. 5 out of 5

    Tosh

    I have not previously met a person who didn't like something by Alex Chilton. He's a cult artist by definition, but he is without a doubt a major work who made priceless pieces of treasure throughout his long career in music making. Why he didn't play the Greek Theater or the Olympia or Albert Hall on a regular basis is not his fault, but it was the 'general' audience that was asleep at the wheel, or using their extra funds foolishly by buying 'that' other record. At this point and time, everyon I have not previously met a person who didn't like something by Alex Chilton. He's a cult artist by definition, but he is without a doubt a major work who made priceless pieces of treasure throughout his long career in music making. Why he didn't play the Greek Theater or the Olympia or Albert Hall on a regular basis is not his fault, but it was the 'general' audience that was asleep at the wheel, or using their extra funds foolishly by buying 'that' other record. At this point and time, everyone 'now' knows that Big Star are essential recordings as well as his long and complicated solo career. And of course, The Box Tops, you can't forget that! The story of Alex is really the story of the South, and the southern aesthetic in how it played to the rest of the world, as well as the influences that touched the region that Chilton came from. In other words, it's a Cecil DeMille production, but in reality it was directed by Sam Fuller. Chilton and Big Star are blessed with some exceptional books. Rob Jovanovic's biography on Big Star and Bruce Eaton's focus on Big Star's Radio City are excellent titles. So is this biography by Holly George-Warren, which is well-researched and well-rounded view of this unique figure. "A Man Called Destruction" (a catchy title, but I feel there is nothing tragic or destructive about Alex, compared to.... Chet Baker or ....etc.) covers all the bases and she, like the other writers, has a feel on Alex, his music, and his world. The thing is Alex is just one character in this fascinating story - the whole creative and boho culture of Memphis is also part of this story. I always felt that Alex's genius lies in not only in his music, but in his culture as well. What you get is black American culture, Elvis culture, and William Eggleston culture as well. It's an insane world, but one that is totally manageable, but it does have its tragic side as well. I got the feeling from reading this book and the others that he really felt the death of his parents, Chris Bell, and his brothers - he didn't talk about it, but the silence is pretty loud. Excellent biography.

  2. 4 out of 5

    George Bradford

    "I never trust a person who hasn't burned their life completely to the ground at least twice," says Jon Dee Graham. "Otherwise, I don't believe they're sincere." By this standard, Alex Chilton stands as one of the most sincere musicians in the history of rock and roll. And that is certainly the portrait emerging from Holly George-Warren's "A Man Called Destruction". Alex Chilton was many things. But above all else he was an artist committed to his own individual path. It's a path littered with suc "I never trust a person who hasn't burned their life completely to the ground at least twice," says Jon Dee Graham. "Otherwise, I don't believe they're sincere." By this standard, Alex Chilton stands as one of the most sincere musicians in the history of rock and roll. And that is certainly the portrait emerging from Holly George-Warren's "A Man Called Destruction". Alex Chilton was many things. But above all else he was an artist committed to his own individual path. It's a path littered with success, failures, disappointments and heart break. And it's a path with one hell of a brilliant soundtrack. Fans of The Box Tops, Big Star and Alex Chilton are likely familiar the story's plot line. In 1967 Memphis teenager Alex Chilton sings "The Letter" with The Box Tops. The single sells 4 million copies. Alex Chilton has made it. And two albums of solid material later it's clear he's no "one hit wonder". The Box Tops are one of top drawing bands in America. But restless Alex Chilton quits The Box Tops for an uncertain future. In 1971 Alex Chilton joins Chris Bell, Andy Hummel and Jody Stephens to start a new Memphis band. While recording their original material at Ardent Studio the group decides to call themselves "Big Star". And in 1972 Big Star crafts one of the greatest albums ever recorded. (Every detail of how that album was recorded is detailed here.) Then the trouble begins in earnest. And it doesn't let up for about twenty years. Life deals Alex Chilton one cruel misfortune after another. (Many are self inflicted.) Yet Big Star manages to produce two more masterpiece albums. Alex builds a third Memphis sonic juggernaut called Panther Burns. He produces recordings for The Cramps and other bands. He relentlessly writes and records new original music that defies categorization. Alex Chilton proves to be one of the most revolutionary and productive musicians in the insanely rich history of Memphis (the home of rock and roll). And he never hits the big time. Actually, Alex Chilton rarely manages to break even. So, why a 'serious' biography about Alex Chilton? (And make no mistake. This is a very serious biography. Meticulously researched and objectively written, Holly George-Warren delivers a book with the heft normally reserved for Presidents.) Why publish a biography of this nature about an individual who never 'achieved' widespread notoriety, fame or fortune? Why document the life of Alex Chilton? Certainly his music merits serious attention. It's fueled a devout following now entering its fifth decade. But this biography treats its subject far more seriously than an obscure cult figure or historical footnote. As it should. Alex Chilton's life and music challenge conventional notions of 'success' and 'achievement'. Examining the life of Alex Chilton requires the reader to question how greatness is defined and measured. And for the reader willing to wrestle with those ideas Alex Chilton emerges as a hero. Perhaps sincerity cannot be quantified in this life. If not, then I agree with Jon Dee Graham. The individual who hasn't burned their life to the ground at least twice cannot be trusted. They are not sincere. But Alex Chilton was. Alex Chilton was one of the most sincere musicians in the history of rock and roll.

  3. 4 out of 5

    ~☆~Autumn♥♥☔ Wells

    This book was interesting at first but then it became very depressing and I sure don't need to be reading that. This book was interesting at first but then it became very depressing and I sure don't need to be reading that.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ray

    This book poured through me in a couple of days. Over the years, I spoke with Alex a number of times. The first was on a teenage pilgrimage to meet him in Memphis in 1975 as part of a cross country relocation. I worked with him indirectly through an association with the early Panther Burns. We have mutual good friends in Memphis, one of my favorite cities because of these friendships. Although I recommend this book to any casual fan, I think that anyone that wants to know about the inner working This book poured through me in a couple of days. Over the years, I spoke with Alex a number of times. The first was on a teenage pilgrimage to meet him in Memphis in 1975 as part of a cross country relocation. I worked with him indirectly through an association with the early Panther Burns. We have mutual good friends in Memphis, one of my favorite cities because of these friendships. Although I recommend this book to any casual fan, I think that anyone that wants to know about the inner workings of the music biz of the 60's /70's should read this. So much of it is based on chance and luck. Holly had a strong connection with Alex, who asked her to write this book. He had a harder life than I realized and I've come out of this book with even more respect for the man. I have to say that I found Holly's overview of the Box Tops musical output quite charming. She describes the recordings to be better than they really are, but her words inspired me to revisit them to hear Alex's versatility as a singer. Thanks Holy for writing this book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Holden Richards

    An encyclopedic, sustained wikipedia entry. No real essence here, no dimensionality.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    Children by the million sing for Alex Chilton when he comes ‘round/They sing “I’m in love. What’s that song?/ I’m in love with that song.” —The Replacements, “Alex Chilton” Somewhere a long the line I figured out that if you only press up a hundred copies of a record, then eventually it will find it’s way to the hundred people in the world who want it most. —Alex Chilton in 1985 Though familiarity with the band Big Star remains the equivalent of rock and roll’s secret handshake, 40 years later ther Children by the million sing for Alex Chilton when he comes ‘round/They sing “I’m in love. What’s that song?/ I’m in love with that song.” —The Replacements, “Alex Chilton” Somewhere a long the line I figured out that if you only press up a hundred copies of a record, then eventually it will find it’s way to the hundred people in the world who want it most. —Alex Chilton in 1985 Though familiarity with the band Big Star remains the equivalent of rock and roll’s secret handshake, 40 years later there’s little doubt about the band’s lasting impact. Big Star was not a descriptive moniker. They released four albums in the early 1970s, produced no hits, and sold very few records. Alex Chilton, the musical genius who fronted the band, is perhaps best known for a song another band wrote about him. Yet, somehow Big Star’s modest influence grew out of oblivion until it practically invented two cherished genres that define today’s musical landscape—power pop and indie rock. These days, Big Star is a lot more than a musical footnote. Scratch the surface of a music geek and you’re likely to expose the underlying dermatitis of a full-blown Big Star obsession. Much to the delight of this sub rosa fandom, the first proper biography of Chilton, A Man Called Destruction by Holly George-Warren, landed on shelves last month. The book borrows its title from Chilton’s final solo record, and if you want to read that title as a literal summation of Chilton’s life, the book offers plenty of evidence for that interpretation. However, if there are any grand lessons to be learned from this definitive addition to the canon of rock lit, it’s really about some of the least rock and roll themes imaginable: What happens when you do—and don’t—take your job seriously. Though Big Star is central to his musical legacy, Chilton’s legend doesn’t begin or end there. He was born to an accomplished pianist and exceedingly gifted Jazz musician in Memphis in 1950, about two years before Elvis Aaron Presley would make that city the most musically influential place on earth. While Chilton was still young, his much older brother had a seizure and drowned in the bathtub. His parents, unable to cope with the grief, chucked their staid suburban bridge club existence and bought a large townhouse in an iffy neighborhood in Memphis. His mother opened an art gallery on the first floor and his father spent all his nights in the house jamming with a never-ending parade of the region’s most talented jazz musicians, many of whom would stay at the Chilton residence for extended periods. For Chilton it was alternately a blessing and a curse that his parents were neglectful alcoholics. He had a great deal of independence at an early age and his hell-raising was abetted by his undeniable charm and appeal to the ladies. [Read the rest of my review over at Acculturated.]

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kaethe Douglas

    Alex Chilton and Big Star are huge names in indie rock. Seriously, god-like in the reverence some hold them. And since I've never spent time hunting up obscure recordings, I knew the names, but was unfamiliar with what they meant, in much the same way that I've encountered the names of Hindu gods without any stories to put them into context. Here's the context: Alex Chilton comes from an upper-class white family in Memphis, TN, an educated, artsy family, his father a pianist, his mother ran an ar Alex Chilton and Big Star are huge names in indie rock. Seriously, god-like in the reverence some hold them. And since I've never spent time hunting up obscure recordings, I knew the names, but was unfamiliar with what they meant, in much the same way that I've encountered the names of Hindu gods without any stories to put them into context. Here's the context: Alex Chilton comes from an upper-class white family in Memphis, TN, an educated, artsy family, his father a pianist, his mother ran an art gallery. As a high school student he got an audition for a band, became their front man, pretty much immediately recorded a song someone else wrote, "The Letter", which became one of the biggest pop hits of all time. Out he goes on tour, cruising the country before he can drive, singing this song to millions of adoring fans. Eventually he learns how to play guitar, joins a band, writes some songs and learns a great deal about audio technology and engineering. His twenties and thirties are an endless series of obscure recordings that never make it big, no money, uneven performances, admiration from people who are really into music, sex drugs, etc. George-Warren goes into tremendous detail about the recording sessions, the live shows, who writes the liner notes and who takes the publicity shots. If you've any interest in the music business as such, this is really informative stuff. [I've been married to an audio engineer for twenty years and am only now really grokking this stuff, to his chagrin]. Not surprisingly this unsettled life is unsettling. Romantic relationships burn up and out, people quit music to pursue real jobs, some stay on the fringe, etc. In actual page count this goes on for eternity. I knew that he died youngish, and I was pretty worried about him. Made it hard to keep going, honestly. Then, abruptly, the last two chapters cover Chilton's last twenty years, which are pretty damn good. Zoom, it's over. He finally gets some money to go with the recognition, he gets a house of his own, decent tours, a loving wife. So, that's all right then. Rushed account of two decades, but it's a pretty good life in the long run, which is all any of us can ask. Library copy.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Laurie

    Firstly let me say, I am the biggest Big Star fan under 50, but this book was so boring. So boring that I couldn't even finish 100 pages of it. I tried, oh boy did I try, because of my love for the subject, Alex Chilton. It just read like a really detailed wikipedia, instead of engaging me into a person I really already loved. So many sentences about Alex's teenage acne, why???!! Maybe one day I'll pick this up again and try a little harder, but probably not. Firstly let me say, I am the biggest Big Star fan under 50, but this book was so boring. So boring that I couldn't even finish 100 pages of it. I tried, oh boy did I try, because of my love for the subject, Alex Chilton. It just read like a really detailed wikipedia, instead of engaging me into a person I really already loved. So many sentences about Alex's teenage acne, why???!! Maybe one day I'll pick this up again and try a little harder, but probably not.

  9. 4 out of 5

    bananya

    ENCYCLOPEDIC ain't the word! Great (not as in positive, but as in detailed and enlightening) stories re: my fave indie icon and yours, some I knew, most I did not. thank you for the goodread giveaway. ENCYCLOPEDIC ain't the word! Great (not as in positive, but as in detailed and enlightening) stories re: my fave indie icon and yours, some I knew, most I did not. thank you for the goodread giveaway.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Nick Craske

    An musician's biography to feast upon. The detailed and rigorous research never usurps the clear and compelling prose style. Big Star fans, Chiltonites and indy guitar music fans alike, this is the one. An musician's biography to feast upon. The detailed and rigorous research never usurps the clear and compelling prose style. Big Star fans, Chiltonites and indy guitar music fans alike, this is the one.

  11. 5 out of 5

    DameEmma

    Somehow managed to be encyclopedic, but free of substance. A snore and a shame.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Barry Hammond

    Alex Chilton had a long career in music utterly unlike any other artist. Starting first with The Box Tops in the 1960's with their big hit "The Letter," then with Big Star in the 1970's and 80's, then with the punk band Panther Burns, and finally as a solo artist and with various re-formed combinations of the earlier bands he wrote cutting-edge songs that were often years ahead of their time. By the time his audience had caught up with one set of music, he was usually off into something else ent Alex Chilton had a long career in music utterly unlike any other artist. Starting first with The Box Tops in the 1960's with their big hit "The Letter," then with Big Star in the 1970's and 80's, then with the punk band Panther Burns, and finally as a solo artist and with various re-formed combinations of the earlier bands he wrote cutting-edge songs that were often years ahead of their time. By the time his audience had caught up with one set of music, he was usually off into something else entirely and often reluctant to turn back. Fame and fortune never seemed to mean anything to him, only the next song and the next gig. He loved spontaneous performance and was reluctant to rehearse or even sound-check. His taste was wide-ranging from pop, to soul, to punk rock, to rockabilly and early rock and roll, to blues, country and jazz. He was worshipped by some and rejected by others but was always his own man doing the music he liked. This is the first book to explore the career and life of this unique performer and recording artist who left a long legacy of varied music. - BH.

  13. 4 out of 5

    George Taylor

    Not just a biography of Alex Chilton, but a fascinating and well-studied look at punk, pop, rock, glam and every other genre that was born of the 1960s and 1970s. Holly takes an icon and brings him to life through his work and his loves: music, friends and women, to provide a biography of a man that influenced countless musicians.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Aria

    What a boring f'ing book. Oh, the tedium. Disappointing, to be sure. Dnf at what point, idk, b/c I stated skimming early on. Closed forever on p. 202. Left him in CBGB's staring at girls. What a boring f'ing book. Oh, the tedium. Disappointing, to be sure. Dnf at what point, idk, b/c I stated skimming early on. Closed forever on p. 202. Left him in CBGB's staring at girls.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Emilymcmc

    This is wayyyyyy more about Alex Chilton than I wanted to know, almost a day-by-day telling of his life from a very early age, early enough that I wondered how this information was being acquired. I bogged down in the descriptions of teenage girlfriends, being honest. And finally I stopped reading because I worried that, like the biography of Warren Zevon by Crystal Zevon that I also stopped reading, I would like the music less after learning more about the person.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kimmo Sinivuori

    "Sometimes you have to respect a guy for not trying". Holly George-Warren has written a great biography of Alex Chilton. Her writing is a pleasure to read and her portrait of Chilton is symphatetic but still comes with warts and all. The Big Star years, that have been covered pretty well before by many publications, do not offer anything new but what is really interesting in this book is the account of Chilton's "lost decade" after he had finished Big Star's Third/Sister Lovers. My information o "Sometimes you have to respect a guy for not trying". Holly George-Warren has written a great biography of Alex Chilton. Her writing is a pleasure to read and her portrait of Chilton is symphatetic but still comes with warts and all. The Big Star years, that have been covered pretty well before by many publications, do not offer anything new but what is really interesting in this book is the account of Chilton's "lost decade" after he had finished Big Star's Third/Sister Lovers. My information on this period in Chilton's life has so far mostly relied on the 1980's fanzines that gave a highly entertaining but extremely unreliable account of what Chilton was up to, washing dishes and all. I didn't know that Chilton was in the center of the CBGB's New York punk scene. If you read about those times in other books, Chilton is almost never mentioned even though he played a key role with Terry Ork and his Ork records. I didn't know that Chilton was friends with Richard Lloyd of Television and Richard Hell. Fast forward a bit, the times he spent with Gustavo Falco are legendary. I would have liked to read more about that. Maybe Gustavo was not in a mood to talk about it. "When Train Kept-a-rolling ended, to the relief of most everyone present, including the band..." There must be a million stories about Tav Falco and the Panther Burns that need to be told. Maybe a book on Tav next? I really enjoyed this book, it was not only highly entertaining but provided with a lot of interesting new facts and insights. If only she had mentioned Nomads' classic cover of Bangkok, which in 1985 provided me for the entry point to the world of Chilton and the Big Star, this book would have been perfect.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Caryn Rose

    Painstaking, enthralling, detailed, full of history. For me, who came to Alex through the 80s underground, but remember him being part of the NYC downtown scene too, it connected the dots for me in a way that was just fantastic. With the list of bands whom I love who adored AC, there's no wonder I fell in love with the first two records the instant I heard them. I felt like I was pretty solid on my Big Star and Alex Chilton history but it was good to patch up the holes. Chilton wasn't the most sy Painstaking, enthralling, detailed, full of history. For me, who came to Alex through the 80s underground, but remember him being part of the NYC downtown scene too, it connected the dots for me in a way that was just fantastic. With the list of bands whom I love who adored AC, there's no wonder I fell in love with the first two records the instant I heard them. I felt like I was pretty solid on my Big Star and Alex Chilton history but it was good to patch up the holes. Chilton wasn't the most sympathetic character and there are always multiple sides to every story, but I think that George-Warren did the biographer's thankless job of walking a solid middle ground: he wasn't an angel but he wasn't the devil incarnate either (except, of course, when he was). For music fans of A Certain Age, this is required reading; for the rest, at least it's down in one place so he won't be forgotten (not that those songs ever would). It's a quick read.

  18. 4 out of 5

    D.N.

    A well-researched but unseemly book about one of the most underrated pop musicians of the 1960s—1990s era, George-Warren spent too much time on tangential people in Alex Chilton's life who could provide sordid details of his worst moments where she should have spent more pages detailing the music. Although the author does give Chilton his due as the putative godfather of indie rock and provides the musical trajectory of a spotty career encompassing the Box Tops, Big Star, and a DIY-ish one-man s A well-researched but unseemly book about one of the most underrated pop musicians of the 1960s—1990s era, George-Warren spent too much time on tangential people in Alex Chilton's life who could provide sordid details of his worst moments where she should have spent more pages detailing the music. Although the author does give Chilton his due as the putative godfather of indie rock and provides the musical trajectory of a spotty career encompassing the Box Tops, Big Star, and a DIY-ish one-man show, it comes at a high price. I found myself skimming relentlessly, and the book never seized my interest in the way that Chilton's music captured me in college. I was left wishing that Alex had written his own autobiography—something that was no doubt a very low priority of his—if only to preempt this trashy retelling of past glories.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Veronica

    I think this book would have been much better had it come from Alex instead of a biographer, which is disappointing since it sounds like that could have been a possibility. Overall, I was not drawn in, and I kept having to refrain from skimming ahead. Alex Chilton is an indie music idol who rose quickly to fame in 1967 at the age of 15 with "The Letter" by the Box Tops. He then achieved critical success (albeit not commercial) with his second band, Big Star. From the sounds of it, Chilton really I think this book would have been much better had it come from Alex instead of a biographer, which is disappointing since it sounds like that could have been a possibility. Overall, I was not drawn in, and I kept having to refrain from skimming ahead. Alex Chilton is an indie music idol who rose quickly to fame in 1967 at the age of 15 with "The Letter" by the Box Tops. He then achieved critical success (albeit not commercial) with his second band, Big Star. From the sounds of it, Chilton really was self-destructive, and because they were friends, I think Holly George-Warren had a hard time keeping an unbiased approach. However, it was very well-researched, just not as great as I had hoped.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    So disappointing! A well-researched but dull biography that fails to address the key questions in Chilton's life - particularly the effect of the untimely death of his older brother whom he idolised and the origins of his difficult temperament (both possibly related). The author works very hard at what she does but fails to show any actual talent for it. She opens this book with a countdown of the Chilton family history - hardly enticing the reader - as though she took literally someone's advice So disappointing! A well-researched but dull biography that fails to address the key questions in Chilton's life - particularly the effect of the untimely death of his older brother whom he idolised and the origins of his difficult temperament (both possibly related). The author works very hard at what she does but fails to show any actual talent for it. She opens this book with a countdown of the Chilton family history - hardly enticing the reader - as though she took literally someone's advice to begin at the beginning. Events are chronicled but no insights are offered, no answers even attempted to the big questions in his life. A pity. There is still plenty of room for the real story of Alex Chilton's extraordinary life.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    I received this book for free in a Goodreads giveaway. This biography of influential rock musician Alex Chilton never really got off the ground for me. Despite the importance of Chilton's work and dramatic highs and lows of his life, George-Warren's biography of him failed to sustain my interest. There was a lot of good information on Chilton's life and music, but it just wasn't compelling, and worst of all, did not fill me with a desire to listen to the music discussed. Maybe this book would wor I received this book for free in a Goodreads giveaway. This biography of influential rock musician Alex Chilton never really got off the ground for me. Despite the importance of Chilton's work and dramatic highs and lows of his life, George-Warren's biography of him failed to sustain my interest. There was a lot of good information on Chilton's life and music, but it just wasn't compelling, and worst of all, did not fill me with a desire to listen to the music discussed. Maybe this book would work better for someone more into Chilton's work. but it fell pretty flat for me.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    While I have become fascinated by the music of Alex Chilton, the Box Tops and especially Big Star, this bio came across more as a fan's adulation than an in depth description of a complicated artist. Subjects which may have show Chilton in a compromising light, such as his belief in astrology and his alcoholism and drug use are mentioned, but never truly explored or shown how they directed his music. This left me wanting more and the final decade of his life seemed especially truncated. It seeme While I have become fascinated by the music of Alex Chilton, the Box Tops and especially Big Star, this bio came across more as a fan's adulation than an in depth description of a complicated artist. Subjects which may have show Chilton in a compromising light, such as his belief in astrology and his alcoholism and drug use are mentioned, but never truly explored or shown how they directed his music. This left me wanting more and the final decade of his life seemed especially truncated. It seemed to me as if the author was rushing it's completion.

  23. 4 out of 5

    David Holtzclaw

    I won this book through the FirstReads giveaway on Goodreads,& truly liked it. Honestly, being a bit of a musicologist,I'm surprised that I didn't know hardly anything about Alex Chilton & Big Star. He had quite a cult following as well as a large discography, spanning a number of years. It's a well written bio,& Ms.George-Warren, paints an intriguing portrait of a very underrated rock icon. I won this book through the FirstReads giveaway on Goodreads,& truly liked it. Honestly, being a bit of a musicologist,I'm surprised that I didn't know hardly anything about Alex Chilton & Big Star. He had quite a cult following as well as a large discography, spanning a number of years. It's a well written bio,& Ms.George-Warren, paints an intriguing portrait of a very underrated rock icon.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Elwyn

    Overall, a very interesting and insightful read. Very much, this book is a warts and all biography. However, some of the details are just not that interesting such as all the short-lived band line ups that Chilton leads after Big Star and never really achieves anything What I appreciated the most was the stories behind the songs.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Leigh

    Really 2.5 stars. Honestly, I just got sick of it. You have to really, really love Alex Chilton to want this level of detail about every recording he ever made.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    Somehow I missed Alex Chilton during the 80s and 90s when I most likely would have come across him, and, like many others, I was tipped off to him by the song "Alex Chilton" on the Replacements Album "Pleased to Meet Me." After reading the Replacements book "Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements" I was really excited to read this biography. Unfortunately, I've come away from it with great ambivalence and feeling as though Alex Chilton's greatness is diminished in my mind. Let's start w Somehow I missed Alex Chilton during the 80s and 90s when I most likely would have come across him, and, like many others, I was tipped off to him by the song "Alex Chilton" on the Replacements Album "Pleased to Meet Me." After reading the Replacements book "Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements" I was really excited to read this biography. Unfortunately, I've come away from it with great ambivalence and feeling as though Alex Chilton's greatness is diminished in my mind. Let's start with the good -- there was a LOT of detail about specific events in Chilton's life as well as recording sessions in the book. I had a really great time reading the book while simultaneously listening to many of the songs mentioned. Alex seemed to have an encyclopedic knowledge of music with eclectic tastes. I ended up finding a few gems that I never would have if I hadn't explored the book. Somehow I also missed Big Star, and I have to say I'm a huge fan of the band after listening to all three of their albums; I can now see their influence in a lot of the music that came later. Now the not so good. The book was just extremely dry. I've heard so much about the legend of Alex Chilton by now that I expected to ingest copious stories full of drama and destruction and self-sabotage. I expected to get the story of a complex, conflicted man. The reality is there are lots of statements about how, at various times, Chilton was "at the nadir of his career" or was wasting his talent, but there's very little exploration of, or even conjecture on, his motivations and emotions. There were quotes from critics of his shows and music, but very few stories to demonstrate the trajectory of his life and career. Even the stories that are told are relayed matter-of-factly without color or context. In addition, the first 50 years of Chilton's life are explored almost tediously in depth, but then the final 10 years of his life just flit by with very little detail or depth. There's a statement of fact that Chilton achieved a sense of peace and balance later in his life -- perhaps somewhat related to his teetotaling -- but there's no exploration in any depth where this important change came from. Like much in this book, it's just drily stated and there is no exploration of the changes Chilton's character, just the changes in his actions. Maybe this is because, as the author recounts, she was originally talking to Chilton about writing his biography (to be titled "I Slept with Charles Manson") with him, but Chilton never had the time to get the project off the ground. Still, this feels like a cop out as other biographers put in the work to explore the depth of their subject and provide conjecture as to internal thoughts and motivations. As a result, "Destruction" reads like a biography written by someone who could never get close enough to the subject to truly know him. "A Man Called Destruction" often states that Alex Chilton was brilliant, but reading the book didn't give me any real insight into that brilliance. The book talks about the self-destruction and self-sabotage, but didn't illustrate that behavior and how it affected him. The book talks about Chilton looking back on his life and finding satisfaction, but unfortunately "Destruction" left me unsatisfied and wanting more than just the skeleton of the man it sketched.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lisa McBrien

    This is one of the best music bios I have ever read!!!!!! The author painstakingly weaves a potrait of a complicated man who wrestled with both personal and professional demons. So many people were influenced and inspired by Big Star and The Box Tops, yet it is clear that Alex struggled to find his way and his voice until the last 15 or 20 years of his life. People within and outside the industry as well as critics either loved him, hated him, or misunderstood him. The thing is, that through eve This is one of the best music bios I have ever read!!!!!! The author painstakingly weaves a potrait of a complicated man who wrestled with both personal and professional demons. So many people were influenced and inspired by Big Star and The Box Tops, yet it is clear that Alex struggled to find his way and his voice until the last 15 or 20 years of his life. People within and outside the industry as well as critics either loved him, hated him, or misunderstood him. The thing is, that through everything he did, he remained and always will be a one of a kind artist who sorely doubted and at times underestimated his talent. Anyone looking for proof of his influence need only look as far as Pavement LPs or anything Stephen Malkmus has done either solo or with The Jicks. However, in Alex's case, fandom could be good and bad, he always had a certain fanbase that only wanted to hear Big Star stuff. An even smaller fanbase could really appreciate his past work WHILE appreciating his forays into experimental, Punk, and Jazz. The book also brilliantly exposes how corrupt the industry was. In their heyday, Big Star's music couldn't even reach as many people as it should have because of problems with distribution. Alex's situation at one point was so bad he was actually resorting to driving a cab, sweeping floors, and washing dishes. However, it is a testament that when he wanted to do a project and nobody would give him any money, he'd pay studio and production costs himself and make sure people he used or went on tour with got paid. And the musicians who admired him in the industry made sure to treat him with respect. For example, when the Bangles found out he had not gotten paid royalties for their use of Big Star's "September Gurls," they took money out of their own pockets. In order to understand Alex, his music, his influences, and the trajectory of his career, people need to understand Memphis and his upbringing. The author spent alot of time researching the Chilton family and their unconventional lives. We also get vivid portraits of all of the colorful and equally brilliant people he crossed paths with. A word of caution: Alex was a deeply flawed man at times and nowhere is this more evident than in any passages that concern relationships. People who may be sensative might want to skip these parts, most of his relationships with women were at best vertbally abusive and at worst physically abusive. I tried to approach these instances in a nonjudgemental way, as deeply personal narrative details were not supplied(Other than the face that drugs and/or alcohol may have been involved), but some may not be able to negate this or overlook it. My only complaint is that the last 2-3 chapters of the book seemed to be rushed. Or perhaps it was that I knew how the story ends and I was sad and didn't want it to. Either way, this book is better than most rock bios go and provides enough entertaining moments and information to satisfy those who are fans and those who have yet to discover Alex's genius.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    If you've never heard of Big Star or Alex Chilton, you're not alone (and welcome to the cult!). Obscure as they may be, Big Star has a bigger following today than they did when they first recorded and toured in the 1970s. Before he joined Big Star, Alex Chilton was a member of the Box Tops, whose song "The Letter" -- recorded when he was just 16 -- was one of the biggest hits of 1967. Saleswise, the Box Tops proved to be the apex of Chilton's career. After Big Star's first three albums flopped, If you've never heard of Big Star or Alex Chilton, you're not alone (and welcome to the cult!). Obscure as they may be, Big Star has a bigger following today than they did when they first recorded and toured in the 1970s. Before he joined Big Star, Alex Chilton was a member of the Box Tops, whose song "The Letter" -- recorded when he was just 16 -- was one of the biggest hits of 1967. Saleswise, the Box Tops proved to be the apex of Chilton's career. After Big Star's first three albums flopped, he spent some time in New York, dabbling in the punk and indie music scenes (he was a regular at CBGB in its heyday), playing cover tunes in hotel bars and at one point washing dishes for a living in New Orleans, where he eventually settled. He was always more influential than commercially successful, but eventually did earn a comfortable living from royalties (including from television's "That 70s Show," which used "On the Street" as its theme song) and reunion tours with Big Star and the Box Tops. Over the years, Big Star's music continued to find new audiences and be re-recorded by other bands and musicians. Chilton died of a heart attack in 2010 at the far too young age of 59, just before a reconstituted version of Big Star was supposed to play at the SXSW conference in Austin, Texas. (Apparently he had been feeling ill for some time but had not sought treatment, in part because he lacked health insurance.) My interest in Big Star and Chilton was piqued anew when I found "A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton" by Holly George-Warren. "Big Star: The Story of Rock's Forgotten Band" by Rob Jovanovic was also on the shelf, so I picked up both books and then read them, one after the other. There's aren't many books out there on the band -- so if you are into Big Star &/or Chilton, or want to learn more about them, both would be essential reading. Both are well researched. If you are more interested in the band as a whole, "Big Star" by Jovanovic is a good primer -- although I must confess I found the writing slightly flat. "A Man Called Destruction" is primarily focused on Alex Chilton, and overall, I found it to be the better written and more engaging of the two books. Chilton was a fascinating character -- gifted and talented, but also (like many geniuses, I suppose) conflicted and troubled -- an abuser of both drugs and alcohol (as well as, sometimes, women -- although he did eventually find marital happiness later in life) -- prone to undermining his own success, and sometimes, yes, a bit of a jerk. While he & Big Star may both be gone, their legacy continues to grow as new generations (and those of us who missed out the first time around) continue to (re)discover their music.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kristy

    A solid piece of music journalism on a guy who was part-genius, part-asshole, and more than anything else, an ordinary guy susceptible to life's unpredictable swerves. Some sections were tough to get through (physical abuse of his partners, lack of support for his son, burned bridges, drug and alcohol abuse, etc.), but George-Warren doesn't sugarcoat Chilton's life, and because of her honest view, his deliberate changes and ultimate indie-rock celebration at the end of his life seem like a posit A solid piece of music journalism on a guy who was part-genius, part-asshole, and more than anything else, an ordinary guy susceptible to life's unpredictable swerves. Some sections were tough to get through (physical abuse of his partners, lack of support for his son, burned bridges, drug and alcohol abuse, etc.), but George-Warren doesn't sugarcoat Chilton's life, and because of her honest view, his deliberate changes and ultimate indie-rock celebration at the end of his life seem like a positive redemption of his earlier actions. The author is particularly good in her description of the Memphis of Chilton's youth, his artistic and intriguing family life, and the kinds of musical magic that can happen when you give a bunch of Memphis dudes the keys to a studio to use for free after hours. And, while I've never been a fan of the kind of music writing that lists out versions of songs and talks about what music sounds like, I found the inner workings of the Memphis music industry to be fascinating, especially in this time between the old school music machine of the Box Tops and the wild experimentation that was to come. Chilton is a guy who was never anything other than himself, musically and personally. I'm glad he was able to make and record as much as he did, and even though he got a little tired of playing the Big Star stuff, I'll never get tired of listening to it.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Langert

    This is a very thoroughly-researched and detailed biography of a both legendary and obscure musician, Alex Chilton. As a 16-year-old, he fronted the Box Tops, whose hit song "The Letter" topped the charts. After that ran its course, he co-founded Big Star, an influential power pop band in the early 1970s, who influenced more well-known bands (R.E.M. and The Replacements, most notably) but did not sell many records. After that, Chilton did a lot of solo work, but had barely enough commercial succ This is a very thoroughly-researched and detailed biography of a both legendary and obscure musician, Alex Chilton. As a 16-year-old, he fronted the Box Tops, whose hit song "The Letter" topped the charts. After that ran its course, he co-founded Big Star, an influential power pop band in the early 1970s, who influenced more well-known bands (R.E.M. and The Replacements, most notably) but did not sell many records. After that, Chilton did a lot of solo work, but had barely enough commercial success to survive. As a fan of The Replacements, whose signature song is titled "Alex Chilton," I have long been curious about Chilton. I have collected all his and Big Star's records. Yes, I have Best of The Box Tops also, but it was his work with Big Star and as a solo artist that created his legend. Sadly, this was not an uplifting book. Chilton was a decadent, hooked on drugs and alcohol, and had many, many illicit sexual relationships. He certainly doesn't come across as a hero in any way, shape or form. Credit to the author for the depth of her research and for telling the truth. The book certainly more than satisfied my curiosity. Just wish it had a happier ending. Chilton died in 2010 at the age of 59.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.