Thank You, Friends

Columbia: Live at Missouri University 4/25/93

Going for one of the best and most brazen examples of ‘the-worst-they-can-do-is-say-no’ in rock and roll history, in 1993 two staffers at the University of Missouri’s radio station decided to call a notoriously mercurial underground legend and get him to reform his long defunct band and perform on their campus. Luckily for them, Alex Chilton was in a good mood that day.

Big Star had disbanded almost 20 years prior so once Chilton and drummer Jody Stephens were on board, the latter contacted Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow of The Posies, who filled in for the deceased Chris Bell and bassist Andy Hummel who was not interested. Auer and Stringfellow seemed an inspired but hardly random choice: The Posies were noted Big Star acolytes and had recorded a cover of Bell’s “I Am the Cosmos” as a single. 

Titled in a rather matter of fact fashion, Columbia: Live at Missouri University 4/25/93, the resulting live album, manages to be both breathtaking and irreverent with a set list culled in large part from Big Star’s first two albums #1 Record [Ardent/Stax-1972] and Radio City [Ardent/Stax-1974]—“Thank You, Friends” is the lone representative from the contested Third/Sister Lovers album [PVC-1978]—as well as “I Am the Cosmos” and a couple of T-Rex (“Baby Strange”) and Todd Rundgren (“Slut”) covers.

The Chilton/Stephens/Auer/Stringfellow lineup remained sporadically active—they even managed to record a studio album, In Space [Rykodisc-2005]—right up until Chilton’s death in March of 2010, but this album documents the start of the unlikely but welcome reunion that was set in motion one spring day, under a tent in a field on the campus of a college in Columbus, MO.