This Week on the Music Beat
Big Star and All Saints made news the week of September 18, 1998
The ’70s cult band Big Star has been lionized by R.E.M. and the Replacements and covered by the Bangles and Garbage, yet the star-crossed group never came within spitting distance of living up to its name during its brief lifespan. Now, however, a Big Star oldie is getting big-time exposure via Fox’s highly rated sitcom That ’70s Show, which uses the band’s 1972 song ”In the Street” as its theme. Oddly, the tune — retitled ”That ’70s Song” — is credited to the composer of the show’s background music, Ben Vaughn (although the closing credits contain the phrase ”based on ‘In the Street’ by Alex Chilton and Chris Bell”). Vaughn, an old buddy of Chilton’s (cowriter Bell died in 1978), maintains that he isn’t trying to steal anyone’s thunder, saying his ”arranger’s credit” is merely for ”speeding up [the song] to make it sound like it came off of Who’s Next.” Says Vaughn: ”I called Alex and asked how he’d feel about [my reworking the song], and he said, ‘That’s great. I always wanted that song to see the light of day.”’ The notoriously media-shy Chilton didn’t return calls for comment, but former Big Star drummer Jody Stephens says his ex-band mate is happy with the financial arrangement. ”At the end of the day, I think everyone’s just grateful that song is in that show,” says Stephens. ”And I’m sure Alex can use the money.”
After months of struggling to attain Next Big Thing status, surrogate Spice Girls All Saints have finally hit it big in America with their top 10 single, ”Never Ever.” But there’s an untold story behind the song, which was the subject of a (surprisingly quiet) lawsuit filed in London this past January by American songwriters Sean Mather and Robert Jazayeri. The pair are seeking 50 percent of the copyright and royalties for ”Never Ever,” claiming that they wrote the music for the song and that All Saints member Shaznay Lewis added lyrics (the three share writing credits). All Saints decline to comment, but a rep for Mather and Jazayeri says the suit is close to resolution. In spite of the dispute, Lewis seems happy with the results of the collaboration, calling it ”a classic song” (something we’d never ever do).