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Alex Chilton



Alex Chilton wore a lot of hats in his three-plus decade career -- from teenage pop-soul hitmaker to overlooked pop genius/cult figure to iconoclastic recluse to veteran singer-songwriter. It's the second of those guises -- as the frontman for the legendary underground power-pop combo Big Star -- for which he is probably now the most famous. But even before that, he was the star singer of the Memphis-based white R&B group The Box Tops, who scored a number one single with "The Letter" in 1967 when Chilton only 16.

Shortly after The Box Tops disbanded in 1970, Chilton embarked on the tragic odyssey of Big Star, one of the most influential and commercially overlooked American rock bands that ever lived. In the early '70s, Big Star released two huge glorious records, #1 Record (1971) and Radio City (1974), which were full of sweet majestic pop perfection that would influence everyone from Tom Petty to R.E.M. to The Replacements to Teenage Fanclub. Sadly, Big Star's label, Ardent (a subsidiary of Stax), completely mangled the distribution of those records and the band never made any money. Financial difficulties and infighting would eventually lead to Big Star's dissolution, though a posthumous third album, Third, would follow in 1978.

After Big Star broke up, Chilton began producing a breathtakingly eclectic array of records, including his most famous recording, The Cramps' psychobilly 1980 debut record, Songs the Lord Taught Us. Over the next two decades he recorded sporadically, with most of his releases consisting of cover songs. That's the case of 2000's Set (called Loose Shoes and Tight Pussy outside the U.S.), a collection of loose, bluesy ragged reworkings of a few famous songs and some more obscure ones. The featured track, "Oogum Boogum," was written and originally recorded by pop-soul vocalist Brenton Wood in the late '60s.

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