“For You” Changes the Gameplan

Posted by on November 28th, 2010 with 0 Comments

As I understand it, Jim Dickinson’s arrangement of “Kanga Roo” was one of the events that jumpstarted the Third Big Star album’s expansiveness. Another one was certainly the recording of Jody’s “For You.” Just as the Beatles’ cessation of touring allowed them to open up their studio creations to include things that couldn’t be performed by the basic quartet, the recording-only status of the duo of Alex and Jody meant they were no longer constrained by stage practicalities. So Jody was able to commission the young Memphis orchestrator Carl Marsh to write a (possibly “EleanorRigby”-inspired?) string quartet for what was then entitled “Fireplace.” Carl came through, in spades, and Jody describes this as opening up Alex’s eyes to new possibilities. Soon Carl and Alex were huddling around the Wurlitzer piano, in the same way as Paul McCartney and George Martin must have done a generation before. Except that the harmonic language now included shades of Ravel and Rimsky-Korsakov in with the Bach and baroque. It was this yin-and-yang, control-and-abandon approach–influenced equally by Dickinson’s and Marsh’s contributions–of recording chance events, then framing them in highly structured ways, that is part of the groundbreaking nature of Sister Lovers and is also at the heart of its enduring appeal and influence. The sound of music winging toward the unknown horizon, the perils and promises of creative freedom.

(Postscript: Alex always felt that “For You” was one of the very best things on the record. I remember him saying so on several occasions, repeating, “It’s so musical . . . so musical.” He felt likewise about “Way Out West” on Radio City . . .)

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