So many songs are recorded every year. Thousands of them are forgettable, but there are always some good, even great songs. Some of those great songs are heard by only a few people. For whatever reason, they don’t reach listeners. Sometimes record labels are to blame. Sometimes radio is the bad guy. Sometimes it just seems like fate. Some music gets noticed, some doesn’t. And unfortunately, good songs seem to disappear before you even get a chance to hear them.
Big Star’s entire recorded output in the 1970s was like that. Barely anyone heard this band while it was still together. It never had a hit record. Its albums sold a few thousand copies and went out of print. Listening now to a recording of a 1973 Big Star concert on the recent box set Keep An Eye on the Sky, what’s remarkable is how little attention anyone in the audience is paying to the musical performance. Looking back on Big Star, they were clearly one of the best bands of their time, but they were playing a gig in front of almost nobody, getting a smattering of claps.
If the story had ended there, it would have been another sad tale about the woes of musicians. But then, the music of Big Star took on a life of its own. Other musicians starting playing Big Star songs or talking about how much they liked those Big Star records. The group suddenly had a cult following. One of its songs even ended up as the theme of a television show.
Some people dream of becoming rock stars. But for me, Big Star represents another sort of dream — the idea that your songs might live on even if your band breaks up, even if you never get onto the charts. The idea that a good song will win out in the end. You may not get rich and famous, but maybe your records will end up in the hands of someone who loves your music. It might take years or decades to happen, but a good song just won’t die.
Thanks for the music, Alex.