You may or may not have heard of Big Star before, but rest assured, if you’ve ever listened to a college radio station over the past 30 years, then you’ve heard their influence. Pick any alt-rock band at random, and chances are pretty good they’ve got at least one Big Star record in their collection. Big Star is one those groups that other more successful acts listen and aspire to. And you know, some folks might say that’s actually better than being the top name on the marquee.
Most of Big Star’s Tunes were written and sung by two guys; Alex Chilton and Chris Bell. Chilton is probably the more recognizable name as he was the lead singer of The Box Tops during the 60s and would eventually become a darling of the indie rock scene in the 80s. But it was the lesser known Bell’s voice which seemed to hold sway over Big Star, with most of the material on their albums dwelling on Bell’s favorite subject’s: wistful loneliness and God.
If you know a little bit about Bell, that dichotomy kind of makes sense. By most accounts, Bell was something of a mess, desperately wanting to follow the tenants of Christianity as he understood it, but riddled with guilt over his heroin addiction and homosexuality. Sadly, Bell never got the time to properly work his issues out, dying in a non-drug related car accident at the age of 27. Eternal rest, grant unto Chris Bell O Lord: and let perpetual light shine upon him.
Still, we have his music. “Try Again” is one of Bell’s simpler compositions, consisting of a whole two verses, and yet it touches upon an emotional experience that is all too universal. We just keep screwing up, don’t we? We want to do good, but then we don’t, especially when things get hard. But by the grace of God, only by his grace, we get up and try again. I think even St. Paul would recognize those feelings…
“It is not that I have already taken hold of it or have already attained perfect maturity, but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it, since I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ [Jesus]. Brothers, I for my part do not consider myself to have taken possession. Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14; NABRE)