Alex Chilton

Songs named after famous people number 3. In 1987 The Replacements released Pleased To Meet Me, an album with some great songs marred by some bad production. Lead Replacement Paul Westerberg got some kind of wish fulfilment here, recording a song in tribute to one of his heroes , Alex Chilton, who returned the favour by playing guitar on the song Can’t Hardly Wait.

Alex Chilton

‘Children by the million
Sing for Alex Chilton
I’m in love
with that song’

Westerberg’s song is a song about being in love with a band and we can all identify with that. Alex Chilton wrote September Gurls so he pretty much gets a free pass from me.

While we’re here the version of Can’t Hardly Wait, recorded for the 1985 album Tim, but not used is to these ears superior to the one on Pleased To Meet Me. I’ve posted it before but it’s worth a repost. Bob Stinson’s guitar is electrifying, far more so than the later, sweeter, version with horns. This version makes some clear allusions to suicide in the lyrics, removed from the ’87 one which was turned into being a song about touring.

Can’t Hardly Wait (Tim Version)

September Songs

September arrives after a long August bringing with it a change in tone and pace. The first of today’s pair of September songs is Ian McCulloch’s solo single from 1984. Ian wanted to indulge his crooning side away from the Bunnymen and this song, a cover of the 1938 Kurt Weill standard, is decent enough (but in the same year as Ocean Rain it naturally pales a little). The lyrics nail this day and month perfectly-

‘Well, it’s a long, long time
From May to December
But the days grow short
When you reach September’

September Song (Long Version)

Meanwhile a decade earlier Alex Chilton wrote this song for Big Star, less about September maybe and more about a gurl. There is something heart-wrenchingly beautiful about this song- the guitars, the chord change, the vocal. Autumnal perfection.

September Gurls

Mystery Plane

The Cramps work like a palette cleanser or paint stripper- no matter what’s going on, what you’ve been listening to or what’s going through your head, they strip it all away, reduce it down to the bare bones. That’s a good thing.

In 1979 they recorded some demos with Alex Chilton. Many people consider these songs to be superior versions to the ones that came out a year later on Songs The Lord Taught Us. This version of Mystery Plane sounds as good as they look in the picture above, also from 1979.

Mystery Plane (Ohio Demo Version)

Left Of The Dial

There can’t be many bigger fans of yesterday’s postee Alex Chilton than Paul Westerberg. In fact, he even wrote a song called Alex Chilton. Westerberg’s 80s indie-punk  band The Replacements deserve a place in every record collection. Starting out as snotty teenage Mid West punks they (matured is probably the wrong word) eventually made several excellent albums, the pinnacle being Let It Be, a stone cold classic. They managed to sabotage their career on multiple occasions, through drunkeness, bad timing and bad luck. Left Of The Dial is one of their ragged anthems, a tribute to where on your radio tuner you need to go to find more interesting sounds.

Left Of The Dial

The Letter

This song by The Box Tops was a big hit in 1967. Written by Wayne Carson Thompson it’s a perfect little 60s number, less than two minutes long, and with a great organ break and aeroplane sound effects during the middle eight. It’s astonishing too that Alex Chilton was only sixteen years old when he recorded the vocal. He sounds so much older. One of those songs that seem to be linked permanently with footage of helicopters and Vietnamese jungle.

The Letter