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September Gurls: Vicki of The Bangles Shares Alex Chilton Memories

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2010-03-19-vicki.jpgSince his passing, rock critics have noted Alex Chilton's influence on bands including R.E.M., The Replacements and Wilco. He influenced the Bangles so strongly their "September Gurls" cover in 1985 gave the song a second life. Vicki Peterson of the Bangles (at right) describes Chilton's influence, his friendship and his skill in compiling a set list:

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"We Bangles played "September Gurls" at a school benefit just last Saturday. I made a point to comment to the crowd (being in an institution of learning and all...) that if they didn't know Big Star's music they needed to change that now!

I myself loved the Box Tops' hits as a kid, but didn't know about Big Star until the early 80's when love and reverence of their music spread through the Paisley Underground. We were all besotted. Michael Steele, our bass player, was the one who brought "September Gurls" in as a song to cover. She sang it beautifully, although I'm not sure we ever got the lyrics quite right. When the Panther Burns came to do a show in LA, it seemed like a great opportunity to pass Alex a (cassette!) tape of our version of the song. I wasn't in town, but Susanna and Micki went to the show and afterwards asked Alex if he wanted to hear our "September Gurls." He declined, but made a comment-- something along the lines of, "Hope I make some money..."

I believe that he did.

When I moved to New Orleans in the early 90's, Alex was already a local fixture. Susan Cowsill and I (the Psycho Sisters) had the opportunity to open shows for him, which was--I do not lie--a thrill for me. It seemed as if he'd be the grumpy curmudgeon one week and hilarious, charming and friendly the next. One night before a set at the Howlin' Wolf, he came into the dressing room as Susan and I were compiling our set list. "Let me do it,' he offered, so we did. He asked a couple of questions, but mostly went on song titles alone...wrote us a helluva set.

Alex seemed relaxed and happy when I last saw him, with friends in New Orleans. He left us much to sing about."

- by Vicki Peterson

The Bangles cover of Big Star's September Gurls video at NewOrleans.com.

 

Follow Karen Dalton-Beninato on Twitter: www.twitter.com/kbeninato