Number 1 Record

#1 Record is the debut album by the American rock band Big Star. It was released in August 1972 by Memphis-based Ardent Records.

#1 Record
A white neon star with the word "BIG" in neon yellow in the middle
Studio album by
ReleasedAugust 1972
StudioArdent Studios, Memphis
GenrePower pop[1]
ProducerJohn Fry
Big Star chronology
#1 Record
Radio City

Many critics praised the album's vocal harmonies and 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 1970s in the UK when EMI reissued it with Radio City as a double LP package due to increasing demand.[2] The same combination was used when the album was released on CD in 1992.[3] In 2020 it was ranked number 474 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[4] Rolling Stone also ranked the song "Thirteen" as number 406 on its 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[5] It was voted number 188 in the third edition of Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums (2000).[6]

Composition and recordingEdit

Six years earlier in 1966, when their home town of Memphis, Tennessee became a tour stop for The Beatles, primary songwriters Alex Chilton and Chris Bell were fifteen 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".[7] 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."[8] 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."[9]

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".[10] "The India Song" was written and composed by Andy Hummel.[11]

#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."[12] 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."[13] 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."[9] Chilton would also give producer John Fry credit for 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 than 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."[9] In 2014 the album was re-released through Stax Records with liner notes by Mike Mills.[14]


Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [15]
Christgau's Record GuideB+[16]
Classic Rock          [17]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music     [18]
Rolling Stonefavorable[19]

On its release in August 1972,[20] #1 Record immediately received widespread acclaim, and continued to do so for six months, although the inability by Stax Records to make the album available in stores meant it sold fewer than 10,000 copies upon its initial release.[21][22] 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".[23] The River City Review's reaction to the album was to state that "Big Star will be around for many moons".[23]

The album's reputation and influence have continued since then. As William Ruhlmann wrote in AllMusic, "The problem with coming in late on an artwork lauded as 'influential' is that you've probably encountered the work it influenced first, so its truly innovative qualities are lost. Thus, if you are hearing Big Star's debut album for the first time decades after its release (as, inevitably, most people must), you may be reminded of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers or R.E.M., who came after -- that is, if you don't think of The Byrds and The Beatles circa 1965. What was remarkable about #1 Record in 1972 was that nobody except Big Star (and maybe Badfinger and The Raspberries) wanted to sound like this -- simple, light pop with sweet harmonies and jangly guitars."[24]

Track listingEdit

All tracks are written by Chris Bell and Alex Chilton, except where noted.

Side one
No.TitleLead vocalsLength
2."The Ballad of El Goodo"Chilton4:21
3."In the Street"Bell2:55
5."Don't Lie to Me"Bell3:07
6."The India Song" (Andy Hummel)Hummel2:20
Total length:18:51
Side two
No.TitleLead vocalsLength
1."When My Baby's Beside Me"Chilton3:22
2."My Life Is Right" (Bell, Tom Eubanks)Bell3:07
3."Give Me Another Chance"Chilton3:26
4."Try Again"Bell3:31
5."Watch the Sunrise"Chilton3:45
6."ST 100/6"Bell and Chilton1:01
Total length:18:12


Big Star



  1. ^ Tangari, Joe (March 22, 2010). "The Life and Music of Alex Chilton". Pitchfork. Retrieved June 3, 2015.
  2. ^ "Big Star Discussion Board - Alex Chilton, Chris Bell, The Box Tops". Retrieved January 17, 2018.
  3. ^ "Big Star: #1 Record / Radio City Album Review Pitchfork". Retrieved January 17, 2018.
  4. ^ "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. 2020. Retrieved May 3, 2021.
  5. ^ "500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. Retrieved July 9, 2017.
  6. ^ Colin Larkin, ed. (2006). All Time Top 1000 Albums (3rd ed.). Virgin Books. p. 97. ISBN 0-7535-0493-6.
  7. ^ Jovanovic 2013, pp. 6–13, 100
  8. ^ Jovanovic 2013, p. 89
  9. ^ a b c George-Warren, Holly (March 20, 2014). A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton, From Box Tops to Big Star to Backdoor Man. Penguin. ISBN 978-0698151420.
  10. ^ Jovanovic 2013, pp. 83–87
  11. ^ "Big Star Bassist Andy Hummel Dies at 59". Rolling Stone. Retrieved January 17, 2018.
  12. ^ "CLASSIC TRACKS: Big Star 'September Gurls' -". Retrieved July 9, 2017.
  13. ^ "Big Star - Andy Hummel interview". Retrieved January 17, 2018.
  14. ^ "Big Star's First Two Records Are Coming Back in Print". Rolling Stone. Retrieved January 17, 2018.
  15. ^ Ruhlmann, William. Number 1 Record at AllMusic. Retrieved August 4, 2011.
  16. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: B". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved February 21, 2019.
  17. ^ Lewis, Jonathan (November 2009). "Big Star - Reissues". Classic Rock. No. 138. p. 97.
  18. ^ Larkin, Colin (2007). Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0857125958.
  19. ^ Scoppa, Bud (February 1, 1973). "No. 1 Record/Radio City". Rolling Stone. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
  20. ^ Jovanovic 2013, p. 115
  21. ^ Borack, John M. (2007). Shake some action: the ultimate power pop guide. Shake Some Action – PowerPop. p. 12. ISBN 9780979771408. Retrieved December 16, 2011.
  22. ^ Gulla, Bob (July 1996). "CMJ New Music Monthly". CMJ Network, Inc.: 16. Retrieved December 16, 2011. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  23. ^ a b Jovanovic 2013, p. 107
  24. ^ Ruhlmann, William. "#1 Record". AllMusic. Retrieved November 12, 2021.


  • Jovanovic, Rob. Big Star: The Story of Rock's Forgotten Band. London: Fourth Estate, 2004. ISBN 0-00-714908-5.
  • Jovanovic, Rob (2013). Big Star: The Story of Rock's Forgotten Band (Revised and updated ed.). London: Jawbone. ISBN 978-1-908279-36-1.
  • George-Warren, Holly. A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton, from Box Tops to Big Star to Backdoor Man. New York: Viking, 2014. ISBN 978-0-670-02563-3.

External linksEdit