Big Star’s Third Performed Live in NYC
Readers of this blog may remember a story about a very special performance of Big Star‘s Third that ran for two nights at the Cat’s Cradle in Carborro, North Carolina in December of 2010. The same performance was reprised in March of this year in New York City. The performance featured (as did the first) a string section to recreate Carl Marsh’s arrangements on the original record, and an impressive guest list, to say the least: Michael Stipe & Mike Mills (REM), Matthew Sweet, M. Ward (She & Him), Ira Kaplan (Yo La Tengo), Mitch Easter, Chris Stamey (The dB’s), Tift Merritt, and Will Rigby (The dB’s), among others.
Jody Stephens (Big Star’s original and current drummer, and the last surviving original member of the band) had this to say about the conceptualization of the original performance:
Sometime around last December John Fry and I got an email from Chris Stamey (The dBs, and producer of the Big Star Third live production). In the email he talked about producing a live performance of Big Star’s Third LP and was asking if I would participate. He also was hoping Alex would join in. I walked over to John’s office to see if he had read the email… he had. I think we both said “Is he crazy?”
Chris approached Carl Marsh (brilliant Third arranger and player) about recharting the string arrangements. Carl agreed, then John agreed to pull the stings off the multitracks to facilitate the process. The project was moving forward… slowly.
Alex’s passing away in March added a new sense of purpose to the project and we all started thinking that Chris’s crazy idea was actually a very sincere way for us all to share a fascinating experience.. it became a blue moon in the sky.
We got this email from Chris: “We just had our first reading of the string parts for the Big Star Third concert. just with a quartet of the four first-chair players, all excellent musicians. It was an unforgettable experience to hear that music come back to life in the room. I wish you all could have been here. I guess you will, eventually.
We didn’t get the score for ‘For You’ until 10 minutes before they arrived, at 10 AM this morning. We started with it, and the room filled up with that great beauty. After that it was revelation after revelation.”
When we all came together at Cat’s Cradle, Carrboro, NC on Decembner 8th for the first rehearsal together it was indeed revelation after revelation. Odd how a dark and melancholy record can bring out the best spirits in people. Everyone was so committed to the performances.. players and audience alike. I wish everyone could have been there.
All the crazy ideas are the best ones!
This show precedes another very exciting piece of news for Big Star fans and vinyl enthusiasts: the re-release of Third on vinyl through Omnivore Recordings, set for Record Store Day 2011. From the announcement on Omnivore’s website:
We’ve got a brand new pressing of Big Star’s Third on 180gm vinyl! This is the Test Pressing Edition that commemorates the original 14-song version of this album among albums and comes stuffed with replicas of the studio tracking sheets and lead sheets. This limited edition is being cut from the original assembly reel, on the same lathe at the legendary Ardent Studios in Memphis and by the very same engineers who cut it the first time, Mr. Larry Nix and Mr. John Fry! Pressed on high quality vinyl at RTI, this should be the definitive version of this album.
Randomly inserted into this limited edition run (1,000 for the US, 1,000 for Europe) will be five copies of the original test pressing from ’75 courtesy of Big Star’s Jody Stephens—signed by Jody, Larry Nix and John Fry of Ardent Records. You KNOW how hard these are to come by! All we ask, is that if you’re one of the lucky five to find an original in your package, please send us a picture of it, or of you and it, or of it and your favorite stuffed animal. We’ll post the photo on our Big Star page so you have bragging rights and we know they’ve all landed in a happy, loving home.
(In the photo: Jody Stephens during Big Star’s Third, live in New York City. Photo by Conni Freestone.)