In the last forty years of music there have been a number of bands that have made a lasting mark on the musical time line. Big Star deserves to mentioned as one of those bands. Formed in 1971, the power pop group hailing from Memphis, Tennessee gained critical success on their first three albums (#1 Record, Radio City and Third/Sister Lovers) but due to failed handling by their label and little interest in their early works, they never gained the commercial success their music garnered. Years of turmoil and tragedy spoiled one of the most promising bands this side of the Beatles; the band broke up in 1974 followed by the untimely death of former band mate Chris Bell. Despite the band's abrupt end, their music was ever-present. Inspiring artists such as REM and Jeff Buckley, Big Star's music not only left a mark on fellow artists but also left a hefty indention on Rolling Stone's Top 500 Albums of All Time, claiming three spots on the coveted list: #403 Radio City, #438 #1 Record and #456 Third/Sister Lovers.
Reforming in the early 1990's by two of its original members, vocalist/guitarist Alex Chilton and vocalist/drummer Jody Stephens, Big Star has continued perform their influential music around the world to a new generation of listeners. Last week, Rhino Records released Keep An Eye On the Sky, a collection of unreleased material and rarities from the band's early days; the box set includes nearly a hundred recordings from Big Star, as well as solo work from Bell and Chilton, spanning from 1968 to 1975. In lieu of Big Star's performance at the Masonic Temple in Brooklyn, NY, I had the chance to ask Big Star drummer and founding member, Jody Stephens, a few questions about his time with the band.
MTC: After nearly forty years in the music industry, what has been the most gratifying thing about making music?
JS: Being a part of the creative process. Whether I am directly involved as in Big Star, or indirectly involved as in Star & Micey our new band on Ardent Music. There is nothing like it.
MTC: Aside from the box set, does Big Star have any plans on releasing any new material?
JS: Not at the moment. You never know though.
MTC: Having made three albums ranked in Rolling Stone's Top 500 Albums of All Time, would you consider that your biggest accomplishment as a musician?
JS: Very grateful for that but, for me as a musician, it is always the last show.
MTC: Those three albums (#1 Record, Radio City and Third/Sister Lovers) were all recorded at Ardent Studios, what does it feel like being on the other side of the table, now working for Ardent Music?
JS: I am now a part of the process of figuring out how the band and the label can make a career out of producing music.
MTC: Despite not being known as a touring band, would do you like most about performing live?
JS: It is pretty daring...it's live, no safety net. The four of us depend on each other to pull it off. The big rush is the energy from the audience when we do pull it off.
MTC: Looking back, do you wish you would have performed more shows?
JS: Yes. I love playing. There just weren't that many opportunities for us in the '70s and now that we actually have an audience 30 years later, we all have our own personal pursuits.
MTC: You will be performing at the Masonic Temple in Brooklyn on November 18th, what can the crowd expect from Big Star’s performance?
JS: I always expect to have a good time and have never been disappointed.
MTC: When Big Star finally decides to hang up the towel, what's the one thing you want people to remember about the band and its legacy?
JS: It is always about the songs and the emotional connection. It either happens or it doesn't.
I would like to thank Jody for participating in my interview and would like to extend nothing but the best for him and Big Star. Tickets are still available for Big Star's performance at the Masonic Temple on November 18th; tickets can be purchased here. Keep An Eye On the Sky is available now via Rhino Records and other music retailers.
Interview with Big Star's Jody Stephens Reviewed by Scott Rowe, Editor on 8:56:00 PM Rating: