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
Local

MTA announces service changes for Sunday

The MTA has announced service changes ahead of Sunday's People's Climate March, which will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday. Riders using…

Local

NYPD launches Twitter account for L train

The NYPD recently launched a Twitter handle dedicated to the L train and its riders. According to @NYPDLtrain, officers went underground Thursday morning to hand…

Local

Bushwick community space offers activists a place to…

A new Bushwick community space offers community activists to meet, create, learn and throw back a few cold ones. MayDay, located 214 Starr Street in Bushwick,…

Local

Activists gearing up for Sunday's "historic" People's Climate…

If all goes according to plan, more than 100,000 people will gather near Central Park West on Sunday morning and march through midtown to raise…

Movies

Kevin Smith makes peace with the Internet

I was thinking about Ain't It Cool News and Harry Knowles last night, wondering if anyone from Ain't It Cool had reviewed my new movie…

Movies

Art imitates life in 'Swim Little Fish Swim'

There's a certain comfort to be taken in finding that young artists are still moving to New York and trying to make it — and…

Movies

Review: Terry Gilliam's 'The Zero Theorem' is better…

Terry Gilliam's latest, "The Zero Theorem," concerns a reclusive malcontent (Christoph Waltz) struggling with the search for the meaning of life.

Music

Esperanza Spalding and a being called Emily get…

Esperanza Spalding is about to spiral off in a brand new direction that may or may include an alter ego named Emily.

NFL

Oday Aboushi ready for increased role, and to…

Oday Aboushi might feel comfortable enough to engage in some trash talk the next time he is on the field.

NFL

Giants vs. Texans: 3 things to watch

The Giants host the surprising Texans (2-0) in what may already be a must-win game for Big Blue.

NFL

Eric Decker misses practice again, could miss Monday

Jets wide receiver Eric Decker missed practice Thursday as he continues to rehab a hamstring injury suffered last Sunday.

MLB

Derek Jeter still focused on baseball as final…

Derek Jeter has effectively hid his emotions for 20 years in the Bronx.

Parenting

A sneaky way to serve kids fruits and…

"My First Juices and Smoothies" gives smoothie recipes for kids.

Style

3 things we love from Day 1 of…

The highlights from Day 1 of Milan Fashion Week.

Sex

Why don't more couples use condoms?

  Call it the “condom moment.” That’s the name the authors of a new study have given to the pivotal conversation every couple should be…

Sex

Need an idea for a first date? Here's…

Picture your idea of a nice first date. Is it dinner and a movie? A visit to an interesting museum exhibit? Instead, an expert on…