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There Was A Light

The Cosmic History of Chris Bell and the Rise of Big Star

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“…the holy grail of information on Big Star and the late Chris Bell. An oral history spanning 400 pages, There Was A Light is exhaustive in its detail and entrancing in its storytelling.” —Under the Radar

Available for the first time as a traditional paperback, this revised and updated edition contains new and archival interviews with those closest to Chris Bell and the Big Star circle: their friends, family, former bandmates—even fans, exes, classmates, and coworkers.

“Bell’s and Big Star’s existence was short, but the wealth of stories and quotes here provides a healthy sustenance for the truth seekers. A top-notch biography.” —San Francisco Book Review

The varied cast of voices—many from the band’s hometown of Memphis—comprises all the members of Big Star, including Chris Bell, the iconic Alex Chilton, Andy Hummel, and Jody Stephens. In the following decades after its 1975 breakup, the obscure group somehow reached and inspired some of rock’s most important bands, including R.E.M., the Replacements, Yo La Tengo, Teenage Fanclub, Beck, and Wilco.

With Chris Bell at the center of the Big Star universe, this book carefully reveals the production of the band’s masterful 1972 debut LP, #1 Record, for Ardent/Stax Records. Despite stellar reviews, the record suffered abysmal sales. Soon after, toxic personality conflicts and turmoil tore the band apart while Bell battled drug abuse and depression. There Was A Light then delves into Big Star’s second and third albums, while recounting Bell’s second act as a struggling solo musician and born-again Christian. During several trips to Europe, he produced ambitious recordings and pitched himself to record labels—even crossing paths with Paul McCartney. From this fertile era arose Bell’s lone solo album, the posthumously released I Am the Cosmos—his swan song and masterpiece.

There Was A Light details the pop culture phenomenon that made Big Star legendary and divulges how its staunch fanbase saved the band from obscurity.

“... an encyclopedic compendium…illuminating Bell’s life from a thousand angles.” —Memphis Flyer

"Containing new and archival interviews with those closest to Bell and Big Star, the story of one man's tragic life and his enduring impact is explored in a way that's remarkably, even surprisingly, revelatory." 

– Bob Mehr, in Commercial Appeal, bestselling author of "Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements"

"Chris Bell, who Alex Chilton co-founded the ahead-of-its-time Memphis band Big Star, died forty years ago, before his accomplishments as a singer, songwriter, and musical visionary could be widely acknowledged. Rich Tupica sets the record straight in There Was A Light: The Cosmic History of Chris Bell and the Rise of Big Star." 

– Chicago Tribune

"There are many fascinating insights... There Was A Time is both a labor of love and a fine achievement." 

– UNCUT