Big Star's first album--1972's #1 Record--was met by enthusiastic reviews, but ineffective marketing by Stax Records and limited distribution stunted its commercial success. Frustration took its toll on band relations, and by the time a second album was completed in 1974 both Bell and Hummel had left the group. Like #1 Record, Radio City received excellent reviews, but label issues again thwarted sales--Columbia Records, which had assumed control of the Stax catalog, likewise effectively vetoed its distribution. After a third album was deemed non-commercially viable and shelved before receiving a title, the band broke up late in 1974. Four years later, the first two Big Star LPs were released together as a double album. The band's third album was finally issued soon afterward; entitled Third/Sister Lovers, it found limited commercial success. Shortly thereafter, Chris Bell was killed in a car accident at the age of 27.
The Big Star discography drew renewed attention in the 1980s when R.E.M. and other popular bands cited the group as an influence. In 1992, interest was further stimulated by Rykodisc's reissues of the band's albums, complemented by a collection of Bell's solo work. In 1993, Chilton and Stephens reformed Big Star with recruits Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow of The Posies, and gave a concert at the University of Missouri. The band remained active, performing tours in Europe and Japan, and released a new studio album, In Space, in 2005. Chilton died on March 17, 2010, after being admitted to a New Orleans hospital with heart problems. Hummel, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2008, died on July 19, 2010. These deaths left Stephens as the sole surviving founding member.
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