A Man Called Destruction • The Life & Times of Alex Chilton

Biography by Holly George-Warren

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Artist Feature, Book Reviews,   By: Robert 'Bo' White

21st September, 2018     0

Alex Chilton was an incredibly gifted songwriter and singer. Warren spares nothing, warts and all. She spent hours of time in interviews with Chilton as well as well as colleagues, writers, and various admirers. The presence of Chilton’s craft is testimony of Warren’s dogged pursuit of the truth, warts and all. It starts with the early times of the Chilton family of Virginia and Mississippi. It provides a glimpse of the Chilton’s upbringing with University bred parents who provided a hub for what Alex called it a “town for a lot of plantation owner people.”

Alex was looking for something better. When the Beatles arrived he got swept up into it. He would for ever be a fan of the Beatles and the Kinks He did not play an instrument but he sang with a big soulful voice that sounded funky and perfect for R&B. Chilton made the big time with the Box Tops. They were hot and had several hits in the charts with The Letter (big hit), Soul Deep, Choo Choo Train, Cry Like a Baby, I Met Her in Church and a few others. As Alex Chilton’s star rose to the stratosphere, he became more despondent, performing bubblegum songs to teenagers. There was some attention to groupies though not anything outrageous. Afterward, Chilton would distance himself from the Box Tops, though years later they would reunite, tour and produce one LP entitled “Tear Off.”

Ms. Warren made her own masterpiece, weaving the intrigue and the post-glory that Chilton craved, yet walked away from.  She spent several pages on Big Star, a band that was masterful yet self-imploding. This music needed to be heard

But Big Star never made it past cult popularity. The Ardent Label was never able to make any inroads for the band and they gradually gave up, only to repeat the Big Star glory over and over again. They even got a kick out of touring and giving the people what they wanted. Chilton went on to a solo career that was incredible and disturbing, writing such gems as Flies on Sherbet, No Sex, September Girls and a great LP entitled “Feudalist Tarts.”

Chilton was still performing across the country when his health took a turn for the worst. He had struggled with heart disease for several years.

Warren was able to capture the moments that led to Chilton’s death. It would turn out to be Alex’s last vocal recording. Four months after performing with Big Star at Masonic Hall in Brooklyn and the Box Tops at a casino in Niagara Falls. In November 2009, Alex began experiencing shortness of breath and chills. On March 17th, 2010, he phoned his wife Laura in distress, and she raced home from work to rush him to the hospital. Collapsed on the seat, Alex uttered the words, “Run the red light!” before slipping-forever-unto unconsciousness.  He died a satisfied man at the age of 59.

Warrren digs deeply into Chilton’s cultish appeal and the result is incredible. She captures the highs and lows of one of the great singer songwriters of this generation. In 318 pages, Warren givs us the color and the rapture of a great undeclared genius.

The book is available on eBay. Big Thanks to Holly George-Warren for fashioning an incredible testament of Alex Chilton’s life.



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