Well quite an outpouring online to the surprising and sad death of Alex Chilton. This is no surprise, as it was one of those cases where the reaction “What a loss” is acutely true. There’s certainly not a lot of wisdom for me to add on this subject, but I’ll pass along a few links below, since Chilton having been a New Orleanian gives the subject a slight connection to this blog.
Actually before I get to the links I’ll mention one instance of Chilton’s music that’s a favorite of mine but that I haven’t seen discussed much elsewhere: A record he did with Alan Vega and Ben Vaughn in 1996, Cubist Blues. In particular, one song on that album, “Lover of Love,” is one of my favorite songs, period. I actually remember where I first heard it: In New Orleans, as it happens, in the big Rue de a Course on Magazine. (That’s now something else.) They had WWOZ going, and it was one of those moments when I was really struck by a song and had to hang around longer than I wanted to, to get the info on who it was.
The story goes that Cubist Blues was recorded in two night-long jam sessions, basically improvised. It’s not exactly radio-ready material, but it obviously wasn’t meant to be, and I think it holds up pretty well for what it is, and the whole document is in my view quite enjoyable. That said, “Lover of Love” is the standout. While the sessions were in New York, and there’s nothing particularly New Orleans-y about most of the songs, the piano line in this one is pure N.O. (Chilton plays piano on the track.) The album’s sparse liner notes mention the track only in the following manner:
Most rock musicians … are not comfortable with this sort of unstructured approach; spontaneity is taken only so far. With this album it was taken to the point of controlled chaos. Alex and ben played and recorded all the instrumental tracks in whatever manner they pleased … to hell with perfection. (Listen, for example, to the drum sound they inadvertently innovated on ‘Lover of Love’ … call it compressed leakage through piano lid.
More about the record, including sound clips, here.