Political Beats podcast

Episode 120: Mark Hemingway / Big Star

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Introducing the Band:

Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) are joined by guest Mark Hemingway. Mark is a writer at RealClearInvestigations and RealClearPolitics and an occasional contributor at The Federalist. Check him out on Twitter at @heminator.

Mark’s Music Pick: Big Star

How do you merit an episode of Political Beats when you've released only a handful of albums in your career? When two happen to be among the best pop/rock records ever recorded and a third is a fascinating “"lost masterpiece” that’s never had a real, official release and is steeped in so much mystery no one is even sure what the correct track order might be. That, and much more, is the story of Big Star.

In actuality, there's a rich story behind the music of Big Star, from bad luck to poor distribution to bad timing to, much later, acknowledgement of the stellar work that was done. The songs they recorded form the rock solid foundation of power pop, influencing bands decades into the future. Some of your favorite artists likely learned numerous tricks from Big Star, bands like The Posies, R.E.M., Teenage Fanclub, Gin Blossoms, Wilco, Matthew Sweet, The Replacements, and many more.

Only a few thousand copies of Big Star’s records sold upon release, both a comment of the prevailing tastes of the early 1970s and an indictment of the distribution strategy (or lack thereof) of the band’s labels. We try to explain the genius of both Alex Chilton and Chris Bell and come to praise the contributions of Andy Hummel and Jody Stephens to the arrangements. If you don’t know Big Star, this is a perfect introduction.

As a side note, Mark Hemingway becomes our very first three-time guest on the show, opening the door for others to return again in the future. He’s been anointed “King of the Short Discography” after tackling The Replacements, Nirvana, and now Big Star on the show.   

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