The brilliance of Big Star & Chris Bell!
BIG STAR & CHRIS BELL
I worked on the original Ryko releases of Big Star Third / Sister Lovers, Live and the Chris Bell solo album. These are some of my favorite records that Ryko ever released, so I really threw myself into the project.
Once they were assembled (a story for another day), we needed to promote them.
In order to generate “buzz” for the releases, I created a promo sampler to send to record stores, journalists and other industry weasels. We called it "A Little Big Star", and included Westerburg's quote from the Replacements' tribute to Alex Chilton. The sampler also had an exclusive Chris Bell track called "Psychedelic Stuff", an early example of Chris' recording efforts - while it's interesting, it's a far cry from the Chris Bell mainstream.
Because this particular brand of exclusive promo item makes the average music industry nerd's freebie-boner tingle with special-ness, I decided to take it a step further and taunt those folks by making them even more rare-and-unique- seeming. We numbered them - but taking a page from Alex Chilton’s “it’s fun to mess with people” handbook - I decided to make the vast majority of them the same number.
When all the art was delivered I bought a couple cases of beer and goaded a few fellow Ryko employees to stay after school and stamp all the CDs on the inside rear card with a number. I didn’t want to make them all super low, so I went with “7”. The number was low enough that the recipient would feel lucky, but not so unbelievably lucky that they’d doubt their good luck. Plus, Don Rose, the President of Ryko, had a huge James Bond fetish so 007 was a tribute to him as well.
This particular jewel box and artwork was the sample that I showed to all my beer-guzzling assistants so they’d get placement right, etc. I no longer have the CD - just the art & my scrawl - a piece of Big Star history.
I will say that there ARE other numbers - some of my crew balked at my idea and went off on their own path. That said, I’d guess 87% or more are all #007.
A rare physical reminder of that night nearly 25 years ago in chilly Minneapolis.