Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me traces the origins and history of the legendary band from the late sixties with lead singer Alex Chilton sky-rocketing to stardom at the age of sixteen with The Box Tops and their #1 hit, “The Letter” to the serendipitous meeting of Chilton and local Memphis singer-songwriter-guitarist, Chris Bell; through the tumultuous recording of the group’s three landmark albums, #1 Record, Radio City and Third/Sister Lovers (Ardent Records); culminating with their implosion due to failed record sales, personal breakdowns and the tragic death of Chris Bell in 1978.
This film is a unique portrait of an incredibly talented group of musicians who crafted three albums now considered pop masterpieces (all of which charted on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 albums of all time). The group strived for stardom but fell victim to the corporate stranglehold of the major record labels and radio stations who dominated the music business at that time. Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me is seen as a cautionary tale of the growing corporatization in pop music in the 70’s as great American independent labels like Memphis-based STAX (Ardent’s distributor), were swallowed whole or marginalized by the music conglomerates. Artists whose musical vision and style were not deemed worthy of radio play were doomed to obscurity until many were discovered by a new breed of musical upstarts who arose from places like CBGB’s in New York and in college towns throughout America. Eventually aligning under the term “Punk Rock,” the movement by the late 1970’s sought to topple corporate control over the music industry and remind the world what rock and roll is all about. It was the leaders of this movement—bands such as REM, The dB’s, The Replacements--and the passion of many frustrated music writers at such publications as Rolling Stone, Creem, and Musician Magazine who brought about Big Star’s resurrection and eventually defined the term “alternative music,” articulating a genre lying outside of the mainstream and brimming with the vitality and soul on which rock and roll was built.