Big Star drummer Jody Stephens, R.E.M.’s Mike Mills and more discuss the power pop band’s legacy in The Memphis Masters video series. You can watch the clip below.
The film opens with Stephens next to his drum kit as the band’s “Thirteen” plays in the background. “I think part of the Memphis creed is that we’re all individuals,” he says in the clip. “We don’t really care to have people looking over our shoulders about what we do and how we do it.”
“And therein lies part of how Big Star evolved,” he continues. “[Producer] John Fry wasn’t standing over our shoulders saying, ‘Oh, don’t play it that way,’ or, ‘don’t do this’ or ‘don’t do that.’ He just set us free.”
Aside from Stephens and Mills, The Memphis Masters also features Van Duren, the Hold Steady’s Steve Selvidge and singer-songwriter Chris Milam. “I discovered Big Star through Peter Buck’s record collection,” Mike Mills said. “They had made two of the best records ever made by a band, as far as I’m concerned.”
Directed by Andrew Trent Fleming, The Memphis Masters is a limited video series by Craft Recordings, celebrating albums from the legendary Stax Records and its influence on Memphis. Previous episodes include the Staples Singers, Booker T. and the M.G.’s, the Bar-Kays and more.
In addition to the episodes, Craft Recordings reissued many of the albums on 180-gram vinyl, through all-analog mastering by Jeff Powell at Memphis’ Take Out Vinyl. Reissues of Big Star’s #1 Record and Radio City were released in January.
Over the years Big Star’s records have grown in stature, and are now considered classic records from the era. The first two albums have influenced power-pop bands through the decades, while Sister Lovers’ late-night dark and brooding vibe has inspired countless indie rockers over the years. Minneapolis rockers The Replacements even named a song after Chilton on their acclaimed 1987 album Pleased to Meet Me, which they recorded in Memphis.
“It all just came together for this experience that left a good impression on a lot of people,” Jody Stephens says of Big Star and their legacy. “People just keep pushing it forward. It’s great.”