Chris Bell iTunes Tracks

Chris Bell

Influenced by classic British pop/rock, CHRIS BELL (born Christopher Branford Bell, January 12, 1951, Memphis, Tennessee) began writing and performing while in high school band The Jynx. It was there he met ALEX CHILTON, his future sparring partner in BIG STAR (and a fellow teenage protégé who aspired to become frontman with chart-topping 60s act The BOX TOPS). BIG STAR were one of America’s great lost bands and a towering inspiration for countless indie hopefuls. They’d evolved from Chris’s other early 70s combos, Icewater and Rock City.
Recorded while Chris was at still university – he actually handed the album in for a class project! – 1972’s `#1 Record’ should’ve been massive but for the well-documented disaster with its distribution; while critics reached for the collective thesaurus, Stax subdivision, Ardent Records proved themselves incapable of handling a white pop act. Of the dozen tracks on the set, Chris and Alex divied the lead vocal parts between them; Bell’s highlights `In The Street’ and `Feel’.
Devastated by the record’s failure to sell vast quantities, CHRIS BELL found himself at loggerheads with Chilton on how best to proceed. He finally departed in late ‘72 and fell into a deep depression caused by drugs and alcohol, which would dog him on and off for the following few years. During that time he briefly reunited with Chilton and BIG STAR drummer Jody Stephens (whom he’d formed Baker Street Regulars with), cutting a handful of tracks which turned up on his former band’s 1974 album, `Radio City’. Yet such was the tension between the former writing partners that Chris subsequently refused to be credited.
Instead, he cut three tracks, `I Got Kinda Lost’, `I Don’t Know’ and the sublime `I Am The Cosmos’ at Shoe Studios in Memphis, before his brother David, worried about his worsening emotional state, accompanied him to Chateau d’Herouville Studios in France. The resulting sessions produced an impressive clutch of tracks which were subsequently mixed by BEATLES engineer Geoff Emerick, and which Chris and his aforesaid brother duly attempted to hawk around London record companies. Despite considerable interest, no concrete deal was forthcoming and Chris eventually resigned himself to working in his family’s restaurant business. He nevertheless carried on with his music in his spare time, enthused by the mid-1978 “2 fer 1” re-issue of `#1 Record/Radio City’ and the belated release of his own `I Am The Cosmo’ (b/w `You And Your Sister’) single for the New York indie label, Car. Tragically, on December 27, 1978, Chris died instantly after the sports car he was driving struck a telegraph pole.
Incredibly, BELL’s unreleased masters gathered dust until the early 90s when a surge of interest in BIG STAR – due in no small part to the patronage of Scottish artists such as PRIMAL SCREAM and TEENAGE FANCLUB – saw Rykodisc Records finally releasing the tracks as an album. From its meditative cover shot to the hypnotic beauty of the music contained within, I AM THE COSMOS (1992) {*8} finally did the man justice. Worth the asking price alone for the opening title-track salvo, the LENNON-esque `Better Save Yourself’ and the lovely `Speed Of Sound’, the collection highlighted a criminally underrated talent whose inability to secure a decent recording contract in the 70s remains baffling beyond belief.
© MC Strong 1999-2003/GRD-BG // rev-up MCS Aug2016

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