Certain Songs #48: Big Star – “In The Street”

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Album: #1 Record.
Year: 1972.

The Power Pop Influence

That beautiful, totally new and instantly familiar guitar riff plays.

R.E.M. The Posies. Cheap Trick. The Bangles.

Hanging out, down the street
Same old thing we did last week
Not a thing to do but talk to you

The dbs. Nada Surf. Shoes. The Connells.

Steal your car, bring it down
Pick me up, we’ll drive a round
Wish we had a joint so bad.

Guitar solo #1.

The Replacements. The La’s. Fountains of Wayne. Gin Blossoms.

Bust a streetlight, out past midnight

Guitar solo #2.

Marshall Crenshaw. Let’s Active. The Miss Alans. Teenage Fanclub

Ahh-ahh-ahh-ahh

Ahh-ahh-ahh-ahhh

The Records. Magnapop. Game Theory. Matthew Sweet.

So on and so forth, until the end of time.

The Cutural Penetration

I don’t remember what I thought when I first watched That 70’s Show, and discovered that they were using “In The Street” as their theme song. By that time, I was probably happy that Alex Chilton (and Chris Bell’s estate) were making a few bucks.  Also, despite the awfulness of that original cover version (eventually rectified by Cheap Trick – whom I was also glad were making a few bucks), I think I was hoping that it led some folks into digging up the original.

I’d like to think that there are some Big Star fanatics out there that first heard any Big Star songs via That 70’s Show, which I actually enjoyed for awhile.

I enjoyed it not because it was funny, but because it got a few things dead on about being a teenager in the 1970s.  Sure, there was the usual experimentation w/ substances & people, but what resonated with me was how the kids just wandered into each other’s homes, and wandered around unsupervised and unstructured. Those were real things, at least in my experience, and I appreciated seeing them as a sitcom plot drivers.

However, what they got dead wrong was that a bunch of otherwise stoner suburban kids would be driving around singing “In The Street.” Not in our universe. Maybe in the Fringe red universe. But not in ours. It was a great song that the vast vast majority of teenagers would never have heard at the time. I know this for a fact.

Maybe if Cheap Trick had covered it in 1979, instead of 1999.

The Perfection

There are very few songs that have ever been written that capture the life-making combination of anticipation and ennui that come from hanging out with your friends and doing shit that you really shouldn’t be doing. “In The Street” is one of those songs.

One of the reasons I love it so much is that it feels real and lived-in, like a series of entries in a journal about the summer where you got that first taste of freedom. Except for the part about stealing a car, there isn’t a single word in this song that I didn’t experience as a teenager. It all rings true to me

And speaking of ringing true: there isn’t a single note in either of the jangling guitar solos; a moment in the Chris Bell / Alex Chilton harmonies; a beat in Jody Stephen’s slightly askew part (with cowbells!)  that doesn’t feel completely and utterly true. It’s perfect.

Perfect words. Perfect music. Perfect melody.

“In The Street” is a perfect song.

“In the Street” live on the “Tonight Show With Jay Leno”

My Certain Songs Spotify Playlist:

Every “Certain Song” Ever

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