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Alex Chilton – Like Flies on Sherbert (Peabody 1979)

Alex Chilton – Like Flies on Sherbert (Peabody 1979)

A rare solo 1979 LP from the wonderful Alex Chilton, once of the sublime Big Star! A true cult classic!

Nice piece below from goodnight-gracie

I once read something along the lines that aside from Rod Stewart, no one had betrayed their talent more than Alex Chilton. The fact that Alex Chilton’s career has not followed the neat path laid out for him, after scoring a few hits as lead singer for the Boxtops and garnering overwhelming critical sycophancy for the first two Big Star albums, has lead many critics to deride Chilton’s post-Big Star output. Chilton’s later works—his uncommon and seemingly whimsical covers of Volare and The Oogum Boogum Song for instance—have done more to disappoint critics and Big Star fans than Like Flies on Sherbert, but to be sure, Flies’ wanton, fractious and ultimate destruction of the Big Star myth has ruffled more than a few feathers. Mark Jordan of The Memphis Flyer referred to the fact that the album has “among Chiltonites…taken on the status of a cult masterpiece,” as “largely [being] a case of the emperor wearing no clothes. Ultimately, [falling] well short of that mark.” Jordan, like many conservative listeners misses the point of Like Flies on Sherbert—it is not about the quality of composition or songsmanship, or (obviously) musicianship; it is a document, a punctuation mark in Chilton’s career (a semicolon rather than a period), a statement of purpose and a musical ethos. It is a masterwork of petulant defiance and the final widening of the gulf between (what Chilton thought of as) Chris Bell’s Beatles-paint-by-numbers songwriting style and Chilton’s catch-as-catch-can musical obstinacy.

The first time that I saw the name Alex Chilton, it was as the producer of The Cramps albums Gravest Hits and Songs the Lord Taught Us, and also The Gories phenomenal I Know You Fine But How You Doin’ record on Crypt. All of which were grim forebodings of what Chilton would become as the seventies wound down. In 1997 I checked out a book from the downtown San Francisco Public Library called The Spin Alternative Record Guide, which besides it’s name and it’s sponsor was an indispensable text in my musical education. Among the bands I discovered between those pages were The Young Marble Giants, Nikki Sudden, The Swell Maps, Richard and Linda Thompson, Wire, The Modern Lovers, The Stooges, and most germane to this essay, Big Star.

Some time later, perhaps a matter of months, I ran across a reissued copy of Radio City on Big Beat at a record shop in Berkeley that specialized in imports. I took it home, listened to it, and did not really care for it, save for maybe I’m in Love With a Girl, which sounded like Elliot Smith to me. At the time, I was too young and in to all things twee and feminine sounding, especially Heavenly and things of that nature (oh, how people change!). I put it away and did not listen to it much for about a year. I remember looking at the cover though, and trying to figure out which one was Alex Chilton—the singer of Cry Like a Baby and The Letter—not knowing he was the short one on the right pointing at the viewer. I eventually warmed up to both Big Star albums, and soon got to the point where I could tell, like with The Beatles, the difference between lead vocalists, that is to say, when it was Alex, and when it was Chris Bell doing the singing (#1 Record only). It was not long before I began searching for Chilton’s solo material, and Bell’s lone solo work, the Geoff Emerick-mixed scattershot masterpiece, I am the Cosmos (which I will review soon).

The Original release of Flies was a 500 record run on the local Peabody label. It was recorded at Sam Phillips Studios in 1978, over what must have been a number of boozy, druggy and chaotic sessions. Jim Dickinson produced, which is to say that he let Chilton run roughshod like a child, a fact that shows in the almost uncontrolled and unfocused nature of the output. All Music Guide’s David Cleary had this to say of Flies sound quality: “Sadly, this release is a dreadful disappointment. Production values are among the worst this reviewer has ever heard: sound quality is terrible, instrumental balances are careless and haphazard, and some selections even begin with recording start-up sound.” Again, the overwrought, cynical and mean conservatism shows through in the banal observations of a rather conventional critic.
Many reviewers unfortunately refuse to see a record on its own terms. Like Flies on Sherbert is a cathartic blast of rock impressionism and an obvious example of not only the deconstruction of the Big Star myth, but of rock and roll in general. The album is a collection of originals and obscure covers (save for the lamentable opener, KC and the Sunshine Band’s Boogie Shoes) like Elvis Presley’s Girl after Girl, Ernest Tubb’s Waltz Across Texas, and the Jimmy Newman-penned swamp-country classic Alligator Man.

Cleary is correct in assessing that precision is not really what Chilton and company were after here, but in calling it dreadful or terrible is more an indictment of him as a listener than Chilton and Dickinson as architects of the album’s sound. There is a primal essence in each track, and a trashy devolution at work here; a kind of catch-as-catch-can innocent brilliance that sets the listener on a collision course with an audacious musical wreck. Chilton’s originals too, are strong, including the brilliant My Rival, a shambling mess of a song about jealousy and rejection that would not sound out of place on an early Pavement record. The title track is the final nail in the coffin of Chilton’s boy-band past, a deconstruction of sixties pop, rendered perhaps unlistenable, in a bad acid kind of way to some, by Jim Dickinson’s reliance on effects laden keyboards and piano.

Chilton and Dickinson obviously never intended to record a conventional album and, more to the point, probably never intended to record a classic of rock deconstructionism either, but their instincts, starting with the Big Star Third/Sister Lovers album began to blaze a path toward that eventual end. It’s not the kind of thing that one could go on doing forever, because once you tear it down, you can never build it back up again; you can not go home again. And to that end, I am sure Chilton has disowned this record, like he disowned the Big Star records before. But it doesn’t really matter if David Cleary or even Chilton himself like the album, it is a document that is out there in the ether. It has been re-issued many times, and is a touchstone for many fans. Like Flies on Sherbert is an album of immense depth, that, I think should be viewed like Neil Young’s Tonight’s the Night, and Skip Spence’s Oar; as albums that are documents of a time and a place, records that embody an essence of emotional immediacy and represent a certain skewed mentality at a given time.

by Goodnight Georgie

Alex Chilton
Like Flies on Sherbert

[Peabody, 1979; Earmark Vinyl, 2003]

Styles: art-rock, rock-a-billy, lo-fi, mutant country
Others: Big Star, the Cramps, Panther Burns, Dolby Fuckers

My favorite scene in Bullit, the 1968 cop flick staring Steve McQueen as Detective Frank Bullit, comes near the end of the movie: Shady Senator Walter Chalmers tells Bullit — who’s been through hell and back, dodging death, knee deep in intrigue, and jumping up and down the hilly streets of San Fran in that ’68 Ford Mustang G.T.390 Fastback — “We all must make compromises.” “Bullshit!” Bullit growls.

I like to imagine Alex Chilton saying the same thing when asked by some clueless record execs to tame down his 1980 debut, Like Flies on Sherbet. Maybe the label just didn’t, you know, get it — their unfeeling commercial aspirations unable to grasp the artistic boldness and significance of Chilton’s masterwork. This is his What’s Going On, his Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Bravely, Chilton decided to press a meager 500 copies of the album himself; 500 copies of no-compromise attitude, DIY grit, and triumphant artistic expression.

Yet listening closely to Like Flies on Sherbet reveals that, sadly, my imagined Chilton, creative and courageous, might be exaggerated. Likes Flies is one of the most damaged records I’ve ever heard; not damaged in the way Pig Destroyer sounds “damaged,” but I mean totally wrecked. It’s as if no one involved in the performance, production, mastering, or duplication of the album was sober at any time during the process. The playing is sloppy: in-the-red guitars blast-mask any subtlety underneath, the vocals careen out of tune, studio clatter remains audible, and vocal flubs are left brazenly on display. It’s so ruined it can’t be accidental. Gleefully out of control, the record sounds like someone exiting the New York punk scene, someone enamored with The Cramps (who Chilton had produced), inspired by that snot nosed attitude, aiming to deconstruct rockabilly, blues, and country music, and to rebuild them in his own image.

All of which wouldn’t be so surprising if it wasn’t for Chilton’s pedigree: At 16, the Memphis kid was fronting The Box Tops, gallivanting about the country on the strength of the group’s massive hit, “The Letter,” which found the young Chilton sounding impossibly gruff. Eventually, he left The Box Tops, frustrated by a lack of songwriting input, and headed home where he joined the fledgling Big Star. Over the course of three albums, Big Star would define American power pop; they laid the foundation for everyone from The Replacements to R.E.M. and garnered a cult following that still obsesses over every sound on those three records. But commercial success eluded the band, and by the time Third/Sisterlovers was released, the strain was audible. The final album to bear the Big Star name was haunting and disparate, created largely by Chilton alone. A fractured psyche is revealed, capable of chiming power pop as well as tortured balladry (listen to “Oh Dana” followed by “Holocaust”).

Despite an ongoing debate over Third/Sisterlovers’ status as a one-man effort, Like Flies remains Chilton’s first definitive solo album. Holed up in Sam Phillips & Ardent Studios with Big Star producer James Luther Dickinson, Chilton leads a group of session musicians through a rambling set of covers and half-formed originals. “I’ve Had It” showcases the album’s most out-of-key performance, with multi-tracked vocals stumbling across the room. KC and the Sunshine Band’s “Boogie Shoes” (the first track or not included at all, depending on which rare pressing you hunt down) features another glorious mistake: Chilton comes in with the vocals too early and in the wrong key.

“Girl After Girl” goes for prime Elvis and ends up sounding like dead-toilet Elvis, while the Carter Family standard, “No More the Moon Shines on Lorena,” features some high, lonesome vocals that don’t entirely fail until Chilton begins uncontrollably laughing amidst the tale of slavery and loss.

It’s not that these tracks are without merit, though. The playing, still messy and loud, is positively gleeful and, on Chilton’s originals, surprisingly appropriate. “My Rival” stomps with Sonic Youth joy, driven guitars chugging along with complete abandon, and “Hey! Little Child” re-imagines Big Star’s lovelorn “Thirteen” as a Catholic school girl call out; with its repeated chorus of “Hey! Hey! Hey!” the song fits alongside “S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y night!” and “Hey ho! Let’s go!” in the pantheon of deliriously stupid and wonderful rock ‘n’ roll mantras. The album’s title track, “Like Flies on Sherbet,” is an ace card: a pounding piano-driven rocker embellished by avant-garde synth and guitar squeals that sounds something like a Here Come the Warm Jets B-side covered by Badfinger.

To say that Like Flies on Sherbert is a masterpiece of lo-fi punk would be a misnomer. Chilton wasn’t a punk rocker, even if he wanted to be. But to decry the album as an utter failure would be just as faulty. Chilton’s work has grown increasingly stale over the years, the oddball madness of early albums replaced by cool ambivalence and easy listening forays into jazz and blues. Modern Chilton doesn’t seem to care about anything, but the Chilton of Like Flies seems to care about not caring. What he found so exciting about punk was its engagement of the audience. Like Flies is G.G. Allin tossing excrement on his crowds; it’s Iggy Pop rolling around in broken glass and peanut butter; it’s Elvis Costello cutting the band off mid-song on SNL and launching into “Radio Radio” instead. Like Flies is the sound of a musician railing against the indifference he felt his career had endured.

Chilton may not be the “rock-hard” Bullit, refusing to compromise, but his album at least recalls that film’s famous car chase. There’s one scene where the camera is hit by one of the cars, causing the shot to shake violently before cutting out. The scene was left in the movie. Perhaps the director wanted to make it known that the chase was real, that there was tangible danger and risk involved. Like Flies on Sherbert is an entire album of that shot. It certainly isn’t perfect, but it’s absolutely real.


on 10-16-2008 –>

What happens when a pop genius goes on a bender and tries to give a middle finger to his record label? The answer is found on Like Flies on Sherbert. If you are looking for utter dourness of Sister Lovers, the punchy pop of the Box Tops or the power pop of Big Star’s most accessible tunes, you will be sorely disappointed. It is a drunk and drugged ode to the origins of rock and roll that is evenly split between moments of utter brilliance and sloppy bar band chaos. However, I even like the unrehearsed and thoroughly fucked versions of classics as well as sabotaged originals that are deformed into some base form that sound like little else I’ve heard.

Somehow my teenaged self heard a radio show on Brave New waves where Yo La Tengo played their favorite songs for a bit. This was in the early 90s before I even knew about Big Star or the “The Letter” was a byproduct of Alex Chilton. They played the title track and it was an epiphany. There is so much going on in this song. It is a combination of apathy and passion. He attempts to ruin it with high-pitched vocals and intoxicated piano chords, poorly placed choruses and synthesizer mayhem, but I swear it os one of the most beautiful things thine ears have had the pleasure of hearing. Chaos suited him and his increasingly mannered follow-ups to Like Flies on Sherbert suggest that he should despise the world more often.

“I’ve had It” reminds me of John Cale circa Paris 1919 after too many whiskeys and a stick removed from his anus. It has the grandiose chorus and piano chords of Cale’s prime period, but Chilton fucks it all up in the right ways. it lacks in the intricacy and orchestration of Cale’s work, it makes up for in a shaggy dog charm that Cale would probably revile with all of his heart.

To be honest, some of the album misses the mark and descends into a charmless middle finger, but I wish there were more albums that could hold a candle to Chilton’s mangling of R&B, soul, 50s and 60s rock and roll. I find it hard to believe that this was intended as a throwaway since it brings out previously unseen qualities in his work. Sadly, they were never seen again.

by magicistragic


1. Baron Of Love, Pt. II
2. Girl After Girl
3. My Rival
4. No More The Moon Shines On Lorena
5. I’ve Had It
6. Rock Hard
7. Waltz Across Texas
8. Alligator Man
9. Hey! Little Child
10. Hook Or Crook
11. Like Flies On Sherbert
12. Boogie Shoes
13. Baby Doll
14. She’s The One That’s Got It
15. Dateless Night

here she be:

thanks to magicistragic

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October 16, 2008 Posted by | Alex Chilton, Big Star, Music_Alternative, Music_ClassicRock, _MUSIC | Leave a comment

Mercury Rev – Back To Mine (2006) @320

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Mercury Rev – Back To Mine
Released in 2006
Mp3 @320kbps / 142 Mb / 2 RARs
A wonderfully eclectic and excellent compilation via the boys from Rev!

Yap, this 2006 compilation was handpicked by Alternative heroes Mercury Rev and features many songs that have influenced them as well as a few current favorites.

Amongst the array of great talent here are Suicide, David Bowie, Nico, Alex Chilton, Galaxie 500, Billie Holliday and John Cale. There are also some more obscure music – including an amazing Nicolai Dunger track.

I could live without the awful Terry Jacks track though! Thank fuck for delete buttons!

And, if that’s not enough, there’s a brand new Mercury Rev track, ‘Cecilia’s Lunar Expose’, recorded specifically for this collection!

Get downloading now mofos!!

As one might expect from a band as eclectic as Mercury Rev, their late-night mixtape compilation offers a selection of style and genres, incorporating legends (Billie Holiday, George Jones, Nico, Pharoah Sanders and Randy Newman) alongside more outré talents. What’s also no surprise, given the layered approach of their early albums, is the elegant congruence of many of the segues: the opening link from Bowie’s “A New Career in a New Town” to Johan Johannsson’s “Hotel Borg”, for instance, is all about shared intent and melodic echoes, while the move from John Cale’s “Days of Steam” to Andrew Bird’s “Opposite Day” involves the subtlest of shifts from viola to violin.

The most sustained progress, however, is from the band’s “Cecilia’s Lunar Exposé”, a slice of Saucerful Of Secrets-era Floydism, through the Neu!-style groove of Spacemen 3’s “Big City”, to the erotic trance-scape of Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream”, a beautifully modulated arc for the more ambitious musical explorers, with childlike comforts furnished by “Seasons In the Sun” and “When You Wish Upon A Star”.

Highlights :’Days Of Steam’, ‘Big City’, ‘Dream Baby Dream’, ‘Cecilia’s Lunar Exposé’


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1. A New Career In A New Town – David Bowie
2. Hotel-Borg – Johan Johannsson
3. Seasons In The Sun – Terry Jacks
4. When Will You Come Home – Galaxie 500
5. I’m A Fool To Want You – Billie Holliday
6. Days Of Steam – John Cale
7. Opposite Day (Reprise) – Andrew Bird
8. The Grand Tour (Clean Version) – George Jones
9. If I Were A Little Star – Nicolai Dunger
10. Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams – Nico
11. Cecilia’s Lunar Expose – Mercury Rev
12. Big City – Spacemen 3
13. Dream Baby Dream – Suicide
14. Let Me Get Close To You – Alex Chilton
15. Astral Traveling – Pharoah Sanders
16. Cast Anchor – Hanne Hukkleberg
17. Uncle Bob’s Midnight Blues – Randy Newman
18. When You Wish Upon A Star – Cliff Edwards

Here she be:




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August 19, 2008 Posted by | Alex Chilton, Billie Holiday, David Bowie, Galaxie 500, Hanne Hukkelberg, John Cale, Mercury Rev, Music_Alternative, Music_Electronica, Nicolai Dunger, Suicide, Various Artists, _MUSIC | Leave a comment

Step Right Up – The Songs of Tom Waits

Step Right Up – The Songs of Tom Waits
Mp3 @ 192

Don’t worry. This has nothing to do with that bloodbath inflicted on Waits’ material earlier this year by booby Scarlett O Hara .. sorry, Johannsson!

For a tribute album, this one’s pretty good. But it’s hard to fuck up such wonderful source material (unless you’re booby Scarlett O Hara !)

Some amazing acts in here too, the likes of Tindersticks, Violent Femmes, Pete Shelley, Wedding Present, Alex Chilton, et al!

I see Tom wrote a song for me … ‘Better Off Without a Wife’! You’re preaching to the choir, Tom! Preaching to the fucking choir!!

Let’s not be too hard (no pun!) on Scarlett. She can’t sing or act but she can bounce those boobilicious boobs just right!


1. Old Shoes – Drugstore
2. Mockin’ Bird – Tindersticks
3. Better Off Without A Wife – Pete Shelley
4. Red Shoes By The Drugstore – The Wedding Present
5. Step Right Up – Violent Femmes
6. Downtown – Alex Chilton
7. Big Joe And Phantom 309 – Archers Of Loaf
8. You Can’t Unring A Bell – These Immortal Souls
9. Pasties And A G-String – Jeffrey Lee Pierce
10. Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis – Magnapop
11. Ol’ 55 – Dave Alvin
12. Jersey Girl – Pale Saints
13. Martha – Tim Buckley
14. Ruby’s Arms – Frente!
15. I Hope They Don’t Fall In Love With You – 10,000 Maniacs

Here’s Tommy


Thanks ByeByeKeano
(Keano’s gone nowhere mate!)

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August 6, 2008 Posted by | Alex Chilton, Music_Alternative, Pale Saints, Pete Shelley, Tindersticks, Tom Waits, Violent Femmes, Wedding Present, _BABE, _MUSIC | Leave a comment