Big Star shine brightly in ‘Nothing Can Hurt Me’


Big Star’s 1972 debut, “#1 Record,” did not turn the Memphis quartet into what their name implies; the album didn’t even come close to charting at the position that its title suggests. They would, however, eventually influence the next generation of alternative rock music, but this initial burst of self-imposed tragic and comic irony would go on to haunt the band. Director Drew DeNicola wanted to get away from this disparity when making the new documentary, “Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me.”

But it’s something that Drew DeNicola wanted to get away from when making the new documentary, “Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me.”

“I think what I’m wanting to come across in the film is that it wasn’t even in the DNA of the band. It wasn’t even in that music for it to be successful at that time,” says the director. “That’s what makes it the story that it is. It really needed to mature. They needed to have this resurgence. The sensibility of these guys wasn’t a commercial one, even if they thought so. The Big Star name was slightly tongue-in-cheek.”

Tongue-in-cheek or not, Big Star were perpetually in the right place at the wrong time. They played the type of guitar pop that earned them comparisons to The Beatles at a time when the biggest bands were inflated and gimmicky (think: KISS or ELO). They got a record deal on the prestigious Stax label, which went bankrupt before their second album could leave the warehouses. They had a distribution deal with the Columbia label, just as president Clive Davis was fired. Founders exited the band in frustration with one, Chris Bell, dying in a car crash at the age of 27, before his band achieved posthumous popularity.

“Nothing Can Hurt Me” chronicles the band during their brief and bright existence as well as the bizarre aftermath of solo careers and ambivalent reunions. Through interviews, old photographs and a very limited amount of moving footage, DeNicola and co-director Olivia Mori wring out a sweet story of the participants who tried so hard to make it work for the Memphis band.

“I don’t like to dwell on the whole element of ‘They didn’t make it.’” says DeNicola. “I’d just like to dispense with that and talk about the story of the people in the band and the music.”

Feels like the ‘Third’ time
As Big Star rode this spiral of misfortune down, their music got weirder and weirder, culminating in an artsy off-kilter masterpiece called “Third.” Band leader Alex Chilton pulled stunts like inviting a homeless man into the studio to sing background vocals and erasing drum tracks and replacing them with the sound of a deflated basketball. Drummer Jody Stephens says that even though it was challenging to record their swan song, it was an honor just to work in the studio with Chilton, who as further tragic twist would have it, died in 2010, before he could see his band’s story committed to documentary.

“The ‘Third’ album is such a brilliant reflection of where Alex was in terms of lifestyle and where he was emotionally,” says Stephens today. “Given that, if there had been commercial success, it could have taken Alex somewhere else and produced a different kind of record, because I think Big Star’s records always reflected where the writers were in the moment in their lives or maybe a yearning for something.”



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking

Local

K-9 nose helps capture $150K in cocaine at…

A furry, four-legged security agent helped authorities stop an illegal cocaine shipment from sneaking past JFK customs.

National

Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after…

A man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent.

National

Man sues hospital after surprise penis amputation

An Alabama man who went in to a hospital last month for a circumcision awoke after surgery to find his penis had been amputated, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Movies

Review: Brett Ratner's big 'Hercules' movie is small…

The latest "Hercules," starring Dwayne Johnson as the half-god beefcake of Greek myth, strips its hero and tale of most of its fantastical elements.

Arts

Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…

Television

Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…

U.S. Soccer

Orlando City takes shot at NYCFC over Frank…

Orlando City reminded the world how big a signing Brazilian star Kaka earlier this month with a photo of Kaka mobbed by fans juxtaposed against Lampard.

NBA

Jeremy Lin says 'Linsanity' is over as he…

Jeremy Lin lit up the NBA two years ago with his play for the Knicks but he has no desire to recreate "Linsanity" in his new career with the Lakers.

NFL

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…

Tech

Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.

Tech

Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.

Tech

Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.

Style

Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.