Only one member of the quartet that fashioned Big Star’s 1972 debut, #1 Record — very possibly the greatest power-pop record ever made — is still with us. Andy Hummel, the Memphis band’s founding bass player and very occasional lead vocalist for both Record and its nearly equally beloved follow-up, 1974’s Radio City, died of cancer Monday in Forth Worth, Texas. He was 59. Hummel, who didn’t participate in the band’s most recent reunion shows, but did reprise his role at SXSW in Austin this year to commemorate the passing of his old bandmate, Alex Chilton. It’s been a hard year for fans of the band, who remain legion.
Hummel is best known for those rare lead-vocalist turns — “Way Out West” and “The India Song” most notably, both slightly odd but warmly welcomed changes of pace on their respective albums. (Love the flute on the latter.) If that’s all you’ve ever heard out of his mouth, please consult this 2001 Perfect Sound Forever interview with friend-of-SOTC Jason Gross, which gets delightfully salty (Andy calls later BS-producer Jim Dickinson “Jim Dick-in-Son”), though also sort of poignant, in a very understated, bass player sort of way:
PSF: What do you think Big Star’s legacy is?
Well I don’t know about legacies, but if all the stuff other subsequent acts have said about us is true, the I guess we kind of laid the ground for the revitalization of Rock and Roll which eventually emerged as Alternative Rock. More realistically, we were probably just one of the many fairly good acts in this world that, for whatever reason (and I believe I previously went into some detail on that), never hit.
May he be off in a forest somewhere now, drinking gin-and-tonic and playing a grand piano.