News in Review: Alex Chilton, Charlie Gillett, Universal Records, Michael Jackson

First Appeared in The Music Box, April 2010, Volume 17, #4

Written by John Metzger

Fri April 30, 2010, 06:30 AM CDT

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Alex Chilton Dies Unexpectedly

Big Star - #1 Record / Radio City

On March 17, mere days before his prominent appearance at Austin’s SXSW Music Festival, Alex Chilton passed away at a hospital in New Orleans after suffering a heart attack. He was 59. Born in Memphis, Chilton scored his biggest commercial successes (The Letter, Cry Like a Baby, and Neon Rainbow) as the front man for The Box Tops. Frustrated with the group’s record label, he walked away from the Box Tops in 1970 and ventured to New York City, where he performed briefly as a solo artist. After returning to Memphis, Chilton formed Big Star with songwriter Chris Bell, drummer Jody Stephens, and bass player Andy Hummel. The outfit released only three albums in the 1970s: #1 Record, Radio City, and Third/Sister Lovers. None of them sold particularly well, which aggravated Chilton, causing him to resume his solo career. His subsequent efforts were all hit-and-miss affairs. Nevertheless, after outfits like R.E.M. and The Replacements began to cite him, Big Star began to develop a loyal following. Last fall, after the umpteenth reissue if #1 Record and Radio City, Chilton’s output with Big Star was given deluxe treatment in the form of the boxed set Keep an Eye on the Sky.

Sound of the World Presents: Beyond the Horizon

World Music DJ Charlie Gillett Dead at 68

Journalist, author, and longtime radio DJ Charlie Gillett passed away on March 17 at the age of 68. Several years ago, Gillett had been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. His ailment was treatable but not curable, and it forced him to slow his activity. In recent months, he suffered from several other health issues, too, which culminated with the occurrence of a heart attack during the week prior to his death. Gillett began his career writing for an array of music magazines, though it wasn’t until he penned The Sound of the City: The Rise of Rock and Roll that his reputation began to grow. His second book Making Tracks focused on the history of Atlantic Records. Gillett soon joined BBC radio, where he became an avid, early supporter of Dire Straits. Three decades ago, however, Gillett turned his attention to promoting world music. Via a series of programs that aired on Capital Radio and the BBC, Gillett became a well-known ambassador for an array of international artists. He also assembled a series of world music compilations, including the 2007 set Sound of the World Presents: Beyond the Horizon.

The Knack - The Best of The Knack

Universal Moves to Lower CD Prices

In a long overdue move that should spark CD sales across the country, Universal has implemented a plan to price many of its new releases at $10 or less. All of the major labels have suffered tremendously in recent years as customers have slowed their consumption of physical albums. Although digital sales have been rising steadily, they have not grown enough to counter the industry’s overall decline. Universal’s new pricing structure Velocity will allow retail stores to compete more effectively with the digital delivery mechanisms offered by iTunes and Amazon. At the same time, though, the profit margin for regular retail outlets will be reduced. In addition, lower sales prices will not be applied to deluxe-edition reissues or new efforts from some well-established artists.

Michael Jackson - Thriller

Liability of Jackson’s Doctor May Rest on Bodyguard’s Claims

The Los Angeles coroner ruled that Michael Jackson’s death was a homicide, and Dr. Conrad Murray, Jackson’s personal physician, admitted that he had been treating the pop icon’s insomnia with an anesthetic. In March, however, new claims were made by Alberto Alvarez, Jackson’s bodyguard, that have further damaged Murray’s reputation and made matters more difficult for his defense team. Alvarez’s statements might explain why Murray took so long to seek help and call 911 after he discovered the singer’s body. According to Alvarez, Murray stopped trying to resuscitate Jackson so that he could clean up the room and hide evidence. Murray reportedly stashed his supplies in Jackson’s closet, where police eventually found them. Murray’s lone hope is that his lawyer can successfully paint Alvarez as an unreliable witness. Alvarez’s latest claims contradict the statements he made to investigators last June.

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Of Further Interest...

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Music News: The Final Word on the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards (2010)

Music News: The Who, Michael Jackson, Kate McGarrigle, Leonard Cohen

Music News: Vic Chesnutt, Teddy Pendergrass, Lilith Fair, Willie Mitchell

Music News: Paul McCartney, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Weezer, Blues Awards, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

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