A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton, From Box Tops to Big Star to Backdoor Man [NOOK Book]


The first biography of the influential musician and forebear of the indie-rock scene

Alex Chilton’s story is rags to riches in reverse, beginning with teenage rock stardom and heading downward. Following stints leading 60s sensation the Box Tops (“The Letter”) and pioneering 70s popsters Big Star (“the ultimate American pop band”—Time), Chilton became a dishwasher. Yet he ...
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A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton, From Box Tops to Big Star to Backdoor Man

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The first biography of the influential musician and forebear of the indie-rock scene

Alex Chilton’s story is rags to riches in reverse, beginning with teenage rock stardom and heading downward. Following stints leading 60s sensation the Box Tops (“The Letter”) and pioneering 70s popsters Big Star (“the ultimate American pop band”—Time), Chilton became a dishwasher. Yet he rose again in the 80s as a solo artist, producer, and trendsetter, coinventing the indie-rock genre. By the 90s, acolytes from R.E.M. to Jeff Buckley embodied Chilton’s legacy, ushering him back to the spotlight before his untimely death in 2010.

In the career-spanning and revelatory A Man Called Destruction, longtime Chilton acquaintance Holly George-Warren has interviewed more than 100 bandmates, friends, and family members to flesh out a man who presided over—and influenced—four decades of American musical history, rendered here with new perspective through the adventures of a true iconoclast.
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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Howard Hampton
The many perils of rock genius (in or out of scare quotes) are on full display in Holly George-Warren's poignant, invigorating A Man Called Destruction…The book makes a perfect companion piece to the 2012 documentary about Chilton's hard-luck band, Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me. It fleshes out the back stories, the wild personalities and the Memphis bohemian milieu where he developed, thrived and imploded…Yet George-Warren's book isn't a downer. Chilton had his own brand of tenacity and perverse integrity.
Publishers Weekly
George-Warren's (Punk 365 ) swirling, perhaps over-generous biography follows the rowdy life of Alex Chilton, a largely unheard of underground rock star. The work spans the career of the Memphis-born Chilton from his 1967 debut as a chart-topping 16-year-old pop idol with the Box Tops, to his critically acclaimed but obscure work with Big Star and other punk bands, to his minor resurgence from the 1980s as an elder statesman of indie rock. Along the way George-Warren tells a well-paced, matter-of-fact, classically sordid saga of dissipation—including booze, pills, groupies, onstage antics, domestic violence, suicide attempts, anti-semitic outbursts, and Elvis-like bloating—that bottomed out in stints spent working as a janitor and dishwasher. Less entertaining are the elaborate rehashes of Chilton's recording sessions. Chilton's abandonment of commercial success, inclination towards wild, frequently off-putting music, and squalid life-style have made him a martyr in the punk-grunge pantheon, but the many encomiums George-Warren assembles may not convince readers of his brilliance. Instead, he comes across as the embodiment of an aesthetic beloved by the cognoscenti rather than the creator of music that can move the masses. (May)
Library Journal
Alex Chilton is one of the great cult artists of the rock pantheon. An international star at 16 as the singer of the worldwide hit "The Letter," with his band the Box Tops, and later a member of the critically acclaimed 1970s group Big Star, Chilton owns a legacy that spans five decades and multiple musical genres. His influence waxed in the Eighties through the likes of R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck and The Replacements (the band even titled a song "Alex Chilton") and the rise of indie pop. George-Warren (editorial director, Rolling Stone Press; The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll) chronicles Chilton's early stardom, tumultuous years with Big Star, seminal influence on the indie rock scene, and subsequent emergence as a solo artist. Although there have been several books written about Big Star, including Rob Jovanovich's Big Star: The Short Life, Painful Death, and Unexpected Resurrection of the Kings of Power Pop and his more recent Big Star: The Story of Rock's Forgotten Band, this is the first book-length biography of Chilton. VERDICT An engaging, readable history of a true music legend; for all readers of pop/rock biographies and fans of alternative rock. [See "Editors' Spring Picks," p. 27]—Dave Valencia, Seattle P.L.
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-01-20
A thoroughly reported biography illuminating the life and work of one of the more mystifying and influential cult figures in rock. Few musicians have ever experienced a career trajectory and musical progression quite like Alex Chilton's (1950–2010). At the age of 16, he enjoyed (if that's the word) not only his biggest hit, but "the biggest hit single ever recorded in Memphis" with "The Letter" as the lead singer of the Box Tops. Though he was little more than a hired voice, he subsequently established his creative bona fides in Big Star, a band so influential that it all but invented indie rock. That band suffered from a series of recording-label disasters that prevented it from reaching its popular potential at the time, but Chilton subsequently proceeded to confuse his fervent fan base (which increased, along with his influence, as bigger bands such as R.E.M. paid homage) with solo recordings that ranged from abrasively noisy and raw to lounge lizard-y (including "Volare"). It may be hard to find the common denominator, but veteran rock journalist George-Warren (Public Cowboy No. 1: The Life and Times of Gene Autry, 2007, etc.) connects the dots, showing how it all fit together: his Southern upbringing in a family that was patrician, artistic and permissive, his early mood swings, his later suspicion of the music business and rejection of the adulation that belatedly came his way. He became a true bohemian, bedeviled by alcohol, drugs and a penchant for tempestuous romance. He even took an extended hiatus from music to work as a New Orleans dishwasher (and later live in a tent). But he came to terms with his life and legacy before his death at 59, and "he died a happy man," perhaps the most surprising twist for such a complicated musician and man. As an artist who "left behind…many lifetimes of brilliant music, a legacy that will inspire generations to come," Chilton receives the biography he deserves.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780698151420
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 3/20/2014
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 106,861
  • File size: 13 MB
  • Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.

Meet the Author

Holly George-Warren is the award-winning author of the New York Times bestseller The Road to Woodstock (with Michael Lang), Public Cowboy #1: The Life and Times of Gene Autry, Punk 365, and a dozen other books. The two-time Grammy nominee has written for such publications as Rolling Stone, the New York Times, The Village Voice, and Entertainment Weekly. Coeditor of The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, she served as the editorial director of Rolling Stone Press for eight years. She lives in upstate New York.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 30, 2014


    Best music biography I've read. The book has a very intimate feeling and I could not put it down. RIP Alex.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2014

    Great read

    Great book for fans of Alex Chilton.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews

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