1967 Box Tops – Neon Rainbow
Guitarists John Evans and Gary Talley, bassist Bill Cunningham, and drummer Danny Smythe created the group The Devilles in the mid-sixties. They recruited 16-year-old lead vocalist Alex Chilton to complete the group and began playing together in the Memphis area in 1967. Alex’s vocals were exactly what producer Dan Penn had been looking for, and he produced the band’s first single, The Letter. Wayne Carson wrote the song, and the members of the group played and sang on the single.
After changing their name to the Box Tops (another group had already recorded as the Devilles), the group signed with Bell Records. The company released their single on the Mala label in 1967. The record easily jumped to the top of the Hot 100.
Wayne also wrote the group’s second song and Dan again produced the single. Neon Rainbow did not perform as well as The Letter, but the single still reached #24 on the Hot 100 near the end of 1967.
In early 1968 the band released their second album and the title song, Cry Like A Baby, brought them back near the top of the charts. Dan and Spooner Oldham wrote that single, and it peaked at #2.
Two of the band’s members returned to college to avoid the draft, and the band replaced them and switched to new producers. They had four more top forty singles in 1968 and 1969, but none of them even dented the top ten. The group disbanded in early 1970, although their ex-record company kept releasing singles, hoping to find more hits.
Alex began playing guitar and pursued a solo career for a little more than a year before becoming a founding member of the group Big Star in 1971. That group released several albums before breaking up in 1974. One song that Alex wrote that the group recorded was September Gurls.
Bands including R.E.M. and the Replacements referenced Big Star as an influence in the early eighties, leading to the re-issuance of their albums.
In 1986, the Bangles covered September Girls on their second album. The royalties from that inclusion were probably the biggest payday Alex ever had.
Big Sky reformed in 1993 and persisted until Alex had a heart attack and died in 2010.
A 2012 film, Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me, was a documentary about the group, their influence, and their inability to succeed commercially.
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One thought on “1967 Box Tops – Neon Rainbow”
I always liked “Neon Rainbow” but I think Alex struggles with it. “Cry Like A Baby” and “Soul Deep” were probably their best.