Alex Chilton had quite a career in the music business. As the singer of his first group, the Box Tops, he had a number one hit with “The Letter”; he was just sixteen at the time. Later, he joined Big Star, writing pop gems that failed to find an audience then, but are now so beloved that the band has one of rock’s biggest cults. He recorded wonderfully chaotic material from the mid-to-late ‘70s, before setting on a steady course of gigging and albums that focused on his interpretations of other people’s songs, as well as periodic reunions with the Box Tops and Big Star. He died in 2010 at the age of 59.
When Chilton was around 20, he began using something he found useful in helping guide his life’s path: the zodiac. Alex initially became intrigued with astrology during his teenage years, but it was only after he moved to New York in 1970 did he fully embrace it. While living in Manhattan during the post-Box Tops/pre-Big Star period, Chilton befriended the Brooklyn musician, Grady Whitebread, who schooled Alex on astrology. Over the years, Chilton used horoscopes to decide who he should hang out with—including potential band members—and generally deal with life’s uncertainties. In a 1992 interview, Alex talked about the subject:
I’ve studied it rather extensively and I’ve gotten really, really sharp at it. I’m a pretty good interpreter of [astrological] charts. It is interesting as far as understanding people and it’s just darn interesting in and of itself. The longer you study something you believe in, the more profound it can get for you. (from the 2014 Chilton biography, A Man Called Destruction)
His fascination with astrology has, in turn, influenced his songwriting. Two tracks from the second Big Star album, Radio City, come to mind: “Morpha Too”, which contains the line, “Kitty asked me to read her stars”; and “September Gurls,” arguably Chilton’s best tune. Alex was born on December 28, referenced in the song’s refrain, “December boy’s got it bad.”
Chilton frequently covered other artist’s material, and one choice in particular was surely swayed by the star signs.
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