The Hobo Record Club Says Lonely Days Are Gone

You know who is never affected by hard times? The hobos who deliver records to my house, they just keep chugging along and delivering quality records to my home. Those guys may be troublesome but they have been surprising me of late with their choices (Side note: If you have no idea what I’m talking about click here to see the previous Hobo Record Club posts). This morning I found the latest hobo record selection at my doorstep. Judging from the selection they must have been reading my blog at the public library. Check out this week’s selection:

That’s The Box Tops – Super Hits on vinyl.  Everyone knows The Box Tops, even if they don’t realize it. In case you’re trying to place the name, The Box Tops sang this song:

As the rock nerds out there know, that 16 year old kid lip syncing unhappily to The Letter in the clip above is one and only Alex Chilton who I complained about in yesterdays post. As you know Alex left The Box Tops and formed Big Star (but not before recording one underrated solo album). While I complained about him yesterday it should be noted that some of my favorite songs are written by or about Alex Chilton. I’ve only been disappointed by his disinterested performances because I love the guy so much; I even like a lot of his post Big Star career.

No one has ever asked me this but if someone ever did ask my favorite music post from this blog I’d probably go with this little bit of rock and roll semi fiction featuring Alex Chilton and other rock legends:

A partially fictionalized music nerd moment…Bangkok is a so-so song on a mostly forgettable album called “Live in London” recorded in 1980 and released years later. By the time The 80’s came around Alex had been in the music biz for 13 years, ever since The Box Tops had a smash hit with The Letter in 1967. While not even 30 years old Chilton sounds here like he’s lost the map, he is out of tune and playing with a band that had just met and rehearsed the previous day. In 1980 Alex Chilton isn’t a legend yet, The Replacements haven’t written a song about him and the bands that will pay homage to his legacy haven’t heard their first Big Star song yet. In 1980 he’s just trying to make a living, he’s done some production (he’s listed as producer on a number of The Cramps early singles) he’s been a hired studio hand and tried to keep a hand in the business but it’s tough; he’s got no band, no label and too few prospects when he arrives in London. As the band meanders through Bangkok Chilton sounds almost disinterested…slurring his words and sleepwalking through the guitar bridge before it suddenly clicks. Having stepped back to play the guitar lead something happens, maybe it’s the house lights, or the crowd, or just the realization that THIS it’s all about THIS is what keeps him going. Alex steps back to the microphone with purpose and growls out the line that name checks a punk rock classic “I ain’t living on the Chinese rocks…” before bringing the song to a close and tearing into an R&B classic. A few more times that night he catches the ghost again but not often, just enough to make the people in attendance remember why they came.

Somewhere in Midwestern United States the man who made Chinese Rocks a classic, a man as bent on self destruction as Chilton is tied off in a bathroom. In a few hours he’ll sleepwalk though his songs too. In torn clothes and shoes Johnny Thunders cuts a sad figure. Johnny mumbles his words, insults the audience and even falls off of the stage, but sometimes just for a second the feeling hits him and he’s just a little more a guitar player than he is a junkie. For a few seconds the kids at this club in Minneapolis cheer and John smiles before he stumbles backwards. When the show is over one of the kids in the audience goes home and writes a song called Johnny’s Gonna Die, he’s 18 years old and has a band. His name is Paul Westerberg and later on he’ll write a song about Alex Chilton too.

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5 Comments

Filed under hobo record club

5 responses to “The Hobo Record Club Says Lonely Days Are Gone

  1. pacolongisland

    The Box Tops were one of the bands you introduced me too so I have to thank you for that. I knew the songs without knowing the band name. Plus thanks for introducing me to the Rev.

  2. betheboy

    Here to help Paco, glad to share.

  3. those hobos never quit, do they? how brilliant.

  4. Paul M.

    Sadly I found out how unhip I was when trying
    to sell my old Bobby Goldsboro records at a
    flea market.

  5. betheboy

    I don’t care what the kids say Paul, Honey is a great song.

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