Carl Wilson at Bookforum:
As you can learn from Holly George-Warren’s new biography of Chilton, A Man Called Destruction—as well as previous accounts such as Rob Jovanovic’s 2004 book Big Star, Robert Gordon’s 1995 It Came from Memphis, and Drew DeNicola and Olivia Mori’s recent documentary Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me—the bizarre part of all this worship is that, even in its own brief heyday, Big Star as a band hardly existed.
The group seldom toured outside its Memphis home base and even there rarely played live. The blend of hubris and self-deprecation coded in its name (lifted from a local grocery-store chain) and in the title of its first album, #1 Record, extended to the conceit that it could function mainly as a studio band. Its members camped out all hours of day and night in the Ardent Records building in Memphis, precision tooling—and later precision demolishing—gems of rhythm and melody and attitude. Today we’d call its music “power pop,” but that phrase wasn’t in vogue at the time, when the band mainly seemed like an unfashionable throwback to the Beatles and Stones and Byrds, lacking the heaviosity of prog or Zeppelin or the chooglin’ bands popular in the South.