Number 1 Record
|Studio album by Big Star|
|Studio||Ardent Studios, Memphis|
|Big Star chronology|
Many critics praised the album's elegant vocal harmonies and refined songcraft but #1 Record suffered from poor distribution and sold fewer than 10,000 copies upon its initial release. However, #1 Record gained wider attention in the late 70's in the UK when EMI reissued it with Radio City as a double LP package due to increasing demand. The same combination was used when the album was released on CD in 1992. In 2003 it was ranked number 438 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. Rolling Stone magazine also ranked the song "Thirteen" as number 406 on its 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
#1 Record is the only Big Star album on which group founder Chris Bell is officially credited as a member. Bell had a major hand in the record through songwriting, vocals, guitar work and the album's production. The polished sound of #1 Record, in contrast to the more raw styles of the band's subsequent albums, Radio City and Third/Sister Lovers, is attributed by producer John Fry to the presence of Bell: "When Chris Bell was still in the band, he took more interest than anybody in the production and technology end of things. He had a good production mind...the reason why the second album is rougher, with fewer harmonies, is due to the absence of Chris's influence in the studio." Bassist Andy Hummel would also credit Bell with having a hand in the album's production: "Chris was in charge. I would pretty well credit him with recording and producing that LP [#1 Record]. Of course, he had a lot of artistic help from Alex [Chilton] but Chris was the technical brains behind it. He was the only one of us at that time who knew how to record."  Alex Chilton would also acknowledge Bell's heavy role in the studio production: "Chris was really into recording. He didn't want the rest of us fooling around in the studio, that was his business." Chilton would also give producer John Fry credit for being achieving the album's high-level of production quality: "John Fry was a genius in his way of mixdowns. We didn't put things on tape much differently then was the standard method of doing things, but he just had such finesse and great ears, and he was just a great meticulous mixdown engineer and producer. [...] He's the one responsible for making those records sound so fucking great."  In 2014 the album was re-released through Stax Records with liner notes by Mike Mills.
Composition and recording
Eight years earlier in 1964, when their home town of Memphis, Tennessee became a tour stop for The Beatles, primary songwriters Alex Chilton and Chris Bell were thirteen years old. Heavily influenced by the UK band, the pair—Bell in particular—wanted to model their songwriting on the Lennon–McCartney partnership, with the result that they credited as many songs as possible on Big Star's debut album to "Bell/Chilton". In practice, they developed material incrementally in the studio, each making changes to the other's recordings. Drummer Jody Stephens recalled, "Alex would come in and put down something rough and edgy and Chris would come in and add some sweet-sounding background vocals to it." Chilton once offered the following on Chris Bell's unique vocal contributions: "Chris and I did all the harmony vocals, and he had a brilliant mind that worked in a sort of contrapuntal way. It wasn't based so much on 'Oh you're singing the root. I should be singing the 3rd above.' he would just sing along with the line I was singing. He was a brilliant, instinctual maker of counterpoint." 
The pair also each contributed songs to the album that were individually composed before Big Star was formed. Chris Bell brought the songs "Feel", "My Life Is Right", and "Try Again" to the recording sessions, which he had previously recorded with a band called 'Rock City' (which featured Big Star drummer Jody Stephens and Steve Rhea), and Chilton brought "The Ballad of El Goodo", "In the Street", and the acoustic ballads "Thirteen" and "Watch the Sunrise". "The India Song" was written and composed by Andy Hummel.
On its release in August 1972, #1 Record immediately received widespread acclaim, and continued to do so for six months, although an inability by Stax Records to make the album available in stores meant it sold fewer than 10,000 copies upon its initial release. Record World called it "one of the best albums of the year", and Billboard commented, "Every cut could be a single". Cashbox described it as one where "everything falls together as a total sound" and one that "should go to the top". The River City Review's reaction to the album was to state that "Big Star will be around for many moons".
- "Feel" – 3:34 (Lead: Bell)
- "The Ballad of El Goodo" – 4:21 (Lead: Chilton)
- "In the Street" – 2:55 (Lead: Bell)
- "Thirteen" – 2:34 (Lead: Chilton)
- "Don't Lie to Me" – 3:07 (Lead: Bell)
- "The India Song" (Andy Hummel) – 2:20 (Lead: Hummel)
- "When My Baby's Beside Me" – 3:22 (Lead: Chilton)
- "My Life Is Right" (Bell, Tom Eubanks) – 3:07 (Lead: Bell)
- "Give Me Another Chance" – 3:26 (Lead: Chilton)
- "Try Again" – 3:31 (Lead: Bell)
- "Watch the Sunrise" – 3:45 (Lead: Chilton)
- "ST 100/6" – 1:01 (Lead: Bell & Chilton)
- Chris Bell – guitar, vocals
- Alex Chilton – guitar, vocals
- Andy Hummel – bass guitar, vocals
- Jody Stephens – drums
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