Big Star Live At Missouri University in 1993
Big Star is an American rock and roll band of the early 1970s. Critic Jason Ankeny describes Big Star as "the quintessential American power pop band [and] one of the most mythic and influential cult acts in all of rock & roll."
Initially co-led by Chris Bell and Alex Chilton in 1971, Big Star's music was lyrical, powerful, at times melancholy pop for the post-1960s generation. Their approach not only recalled the British Invasion groups, but also the spare, relaxed style of Stax Records as well as the edgy rockabilly of early Sun Records. In an era of singer-songwriters, jam bands, and heavy-metal groups, they played melodic, concisely written pop songs. Their reputation, negligible in 1974 beyond a small coterie of admirers, has steadily grown, and they are today considered one of pop's classic groups.
In the 1980s, critics began to cite Big Star's albums as among the finer recordings of the previous decade, and an important link between the classic guitar-pop of the '60s and the new-wave and alternative rock sounds of the '80s. Three of Big Star’s albums, Radio City, #1 Record, and Third/Sister Lovers are included in Rolling Stone magazine’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”. Many alternative bands and artists of the '80s and '90s, including R.E.M., Teenage Fanclub, The Replacements, Primal Scream, the Posies, Bill Lloyd and the dB's, cited Big Star as a major influence. Big Star's influence on acts such as Game Theory, Matthew Sweet, and Velvet Crush is unmistakable.
The Bangles included a cover of "September Gurls" on their 1985 album Different Light. This Mortal Coil recorded covers of "Holocaust" and "Kangaroo" on their album It'll End in Tears and Chris Bell's songs "I am the Cosmos" and "You and Your Sister" on the album Blood. Fellow 4AD artist His Name is Alive covers "Blue Moon" on their 1993 release, Mouth by Mouth. Singer/songwriter Jeff Buckley also performed a version of "Kangaroo" (seen on the posthumous album Mystery White Boy) at live concerts, though he and his band added a long "jam" at the end of the song.
Big Star was introduced to a new generation of fans when "In the Street" was selected as a representative song of the 1970s decade by the producers of the sitcom That '70s Show, who used it for the show's theme song in 1998. In 1999, Cheap Trick recorded a new version of the song, renamed "That '70s Song," for the show. "That '70s Song" and the original Big Star version of "September Girls" were included in a 1999 album released by the television program's producers, That '70s Show Presents That '70s Album: Rockin'. Numerous other Big Star songs appear in various episodes of That '70s Show including "Thirteen" which is played during Donna's flashback in one of the final scenes of the series finale.
Elliott Smith and Garbage both covered "Thirteen". Placebo covered "Holocaust" recently on their special edition version of Sleeping with Ghosts. Son Volt also recorded a cover of "Holocaust" that appears on their "Son Volt - A Retrospective 1995-2000" CD. The Lemonheads perform a cover of "I'm In Love With A Girl" in their live sets (Auckland gig - 26 March).
Australian rock band You Am I recorded a version of "In The Street" as a b-side on their "Cathy's Clown" single. The band has also covered "September Gurls" during live shows. In addition to this, it is commonly believed that You Am I's "#4 Record" is a direct reference to Big Star's "#1 Record".
In 2003, the band Yo La Tengo released a cover of "Take Care" on their album entitled, "Summer Sun".
At Colin Meloy (of The Decemberists)'s August 21, 2005 solo show at the Beachcomber, he performed a cover of "Nighttime."
In 2006 the song "I'm In Love With A Girl" appeared in a Heineken television commercial.
Chilton and Stephens reunited in 1993 with Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow of the American pop band The Posies taking the place of Bell (who had died in a car crash in 1978) and Hummel (who had left music for an engineering career) at the University of Missouri. For an encore, the band performed Gene Chandler's "Duke of Earl," reflecting Chilton's marked, post-Big Star interest in early rock and roll.