"Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me"
Release Date: July 19, 2013
Running Time: 112 minutes
Precious few fell in love with Big Star when the Alex Chilton-led rock band first made its presence known with its 1972 debut “# 1 Record.” How the seminal Memphis quartet obtained a cult following and influenced such alt-rock bands as R.E.M., the Replacements, and Teenage Fanclub is a story that is told with equals parts love and sadness in the compelling documentary Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me. Love because this is a band whose haunting, soulful songs inspire true devotion. Sadness because Big Star never received the mainstream acclaim and commercial success before it imploded. Directed by Drew DeNicola and Olivia Mori, Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me opens with a 1978 KUT interview featuring Chilton discussing the problems surrounding the band’s long-delayed album, “Third/Sister Lovers,” and draws to a close with SXSW panelists and attendees mourning Chilton’s passing just days before the start of the 2010 music festival. In between DeNicola and Mori chronicle how the Box Tops lead singer hooked up with guitarist Chris Bell, bassist Andy Hummel, and drummer Jody Stephens and the circumstances under which Bell and Hummel would leave Big Star, allowing Chilton to become Big Star’s driving force for the band’s remaining active years in the 1970s. Band collaborators, record company executives, music journalist and family recount with great regret Big Star’s inability to capitalize on its critical support and the creative conflicts that led Bell to leave the band after the commercial failure of “# 1 Record.” This is a cruel reminder of what it was like back in the pre-Internet days, when it was hard for a band to gain national attention with a sound that went against what was typically heard on Top 40 radio. The documentary offers fascinating dissections of Chilton’s post-Big Star endeavors, which found him experimenting musically, and Bell’s emotional problem and spiritual awakening in the years after quitting Big Star and eventually dying in a car accident at age 27 in 1978. Chilton reformed Big Star in the 1990s when the band developed a cult following, with Stephens joining him on the 2005 album “In Space.” By then, it was impossible to quantify the impact Big Star had made on generations of singer-songwriters, and Chilton had become more myth than man in the eyes of his many admirers. As Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me confirms, a band may fall apart after years of operating in obscurity, but good music will live on and find its audience in all due time.
Aired: July 18, 2013
Web site: http://www.magpictures.com/bigstar/