MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It was 1978 at Sam Phillips Recording Service in Memphis. North Carolinian Peter Holsapple had rolled into town chasing the essence of Big Star. He hooked up with musician/engineer/friend-of-Big-Star, Richard Rosebrough after approaching, and being turned down by, Chris Bell, who Holsapple had hoped might be interested in producing him. Together Richard and Peter started laying down tracks during the off hours at the studio.
Chilton, meanwhile, was knee-deep in the making of Like Flies on Sherbert, also being tracked at Phillips. He told Peter, “I heard some of that stuff you’re working on with Richard … and it really sucks.” Alex promised to come by and show Peter “how it’s done.”
According to Holsapple, “I caught Alex exiting a world of sweet pop that I was only just trying to enter, and the door hit me on the way in, I guess.”
The results? Alex’s tracks definitely line up with the chaos found on Flies, while several of Peter’s songs found homes on The dB’s’ albums (“Bad Reputation” and “We Were Happy There”) and on an album by the Troggs (“The Death of Rock” retooled as “I’m in Control”), so not a loss at all.
What we have in these newly discovered tapes is a fascinating pivot point, with the artists moving past each other, heading in distinctly different directions. Chilton leaned toward punk/psychobilly as he began playing with Tav Falco’s Panther Burns and produced the Cramps’ debut, Songs the Lord Taught Us, within a few months of these recordings. Holsapple was off to New York to audition for The dB’s and enter the world of “sweet pop.”
The Death of Rock: Peter Holsapple vs. Alex Chilton will be released — 40 years after the lost sessions — by Omnivore Recordings, on October 12, 2018.
Liner notes by Holsapple tell the story of these recordings first-hand, and author/filmmaker/ Memphian Robert Gordon helps pull the time and place into focus. Previously unseen photos included in the package are drawn from the collections of Holsapple and Pat Rainer. The album was made possible with the kind assistance of Bill Webb, Jr. and the estate of Richard Rosebrough, produced by Cheryl Pawelski, with mastering by Mike Graves at Osiris Studio and Jeff Powell at Take Out Vinyl/Sam Phillips Recording Service in Memphis, which brings it all right back to where it started.
Gordon summed it up thusly: “Holsapple and Chilton have a bang-up meet up. It works out OK for both artists, the collaboration taking each somewhere they’d likely not have gone by themselves. In some collisions, the results are Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. In others, the ambulance has to haul people to the hospital. Here, no blood was spilled, but each artist finds himself in a place pretty much unlike any other visited on his own.”
1. Bad Reputation
2. House Is Not A Home
3. We Were Happy There
4. The Death Of Rock
5. Take Me Back
6. Mind Your Manners (Backing Track)
7. Tennis Bum
9. Heart And Soul
10. Train Kept A Rollin’
11. Hey Mona
Bonus Abuse: Peter Holsapple (Except *Alex Chilton)
12. Bad Reputation (Long Version)
13. Tennis Bum (Rehearsal)*
14. O My Soul (Instrumental/Rehearsal)
15. In The Street (Instrumental/ Rehearsal)
16. Baby I Love You (Rehearsal)
17. The Death Of Rock (Rehearsal)
18. Someone’s Gotta Shine Your Shoes (Rehearsal)
19. Mind Your Manners (4-Track Version With Vocals)