Event #4: "Cult Failures" 14 Sep 2016 • Host: Calum Mayer

Big Star – Radio City (1972)

Well… it took a while, but we had a followup to last year’s first Birmingham-based Off The Record! Calum Mayer hosted the session and initially chose Big Star’s ambitiously-titled Number 1 Record, their debut album released in 1972. The US power-pop group recorded the album after being hugely inspired by the Beatles, but it sold less than 10,000 copies due to poor distribution and the band fractured. The theme he chose was “Cult Failures”, which was fine – but then Calum texted me the evening before the event to suggest a last-minute change to the followup album, Radio City.

We went with the change, deciding that (sadly for Big Star) it still fit the theme. Reactions on the night were mixed: people could hear the influence Big Star went on to have on later artists, appreciated the lyrical wordplay (and ambiguities at times) and the musicianship. The first side of the album was perhaps less appreciated, being slower and a bit slow to get going, but we ended the record with perhaps a few curious converts .

Afterwards we heard songs from artists suggested by the group, including early 70s proto-punks Death, 60s folk singer Vashti Bunyan, some of the Cure’s early material, early Indian experiments in rave and the sublime Nick Drake.