Rod Liddle

Too close to Heaven

Too close to Heaven
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I dunno how this passed me by, just missed the news I suppose. But apparently Alex Chilton died a week or two back – which is no great surprise, in one way, but sort of shocking in another. He was one of two or three heroes of mine in that limited but enlivening medium, rock music; always defiantly beyond the mainstream, difficult but hugely talented. As a kid, I wanted to be Alex Chilton, even more than I wanted to be someone I valued more as a songwriter, Neil Young.

These rock musicians, the talented ones, of which there are few; it’s as John Updike wrote, not long before he died: “we’re getting within the big fella’s range.” They are all popping off.

For those of you interested, Alex’s second group, Big Star, made three wonderful albums of which the best is probably the third, Sister Lovers. By himself he made a patchily fabulous solo album, Bach’s Bottom, and a dozen or so whacko and inventive efforts afterwards, of which the best were probably Like Flies On Sherbet and Black List. And there was the single Bangkok, with its unbeatable opening line: “Here’s a little thing that’s gonna please ya, it’s just a little town down in Indonesia – Bangkok.” Accuracy never meant much to Chilton. RIP.