Born into a wealthy family in Tennessee, Chris Bell spent his childhood listening to the Beatles, photographing, and playing music with his friends. He got a reputation as a good songwriter and guitar player when Alex Chilton (of the Box Tops fame) came back to Tennessee he was welcomed into the fold. Fuelled by his fascination with the Beatles, Chris Bell wanted the two to become a song writing team like Lennon/McCartney. Big Star began working in the legendary Ardent studio at night as Big Star, the group created a brilliant album titled #1 Record. The sound, which was later labeled power pop, was drowned out by FM staples such as Led Zeppelin and marred by lousy distribution by Stax.
Big Star played only seven gigs in its original configuration before Chris Bell left disillusioned. Bell worked on a solo album that wasn’t released until 14 years after his death and became a born-again Christian, preaching the power of the Lord to friends if they wanted to listen. Chris Bell accidentally crashed his car while driving home early one morning and died on impact.
Artists such as Elliot Smith, Wilco, R.E.M., and Ryan Adams revere Big Star’s music. Cheap Trick’s remake of “In The Street” is now known as the theme from That ’70s Show. (Alex Chilton, who kept the band alive for another album after Bell left, recently revived Big Star.) He is truly one of rock’s unheralded, yet remarkable songwriters.