Song 258: Chris Bell, “You and Your Sister” (1978)


Ex-Big Star member Chris Bell had a very rough time after he left his band. For Bell, the seventies consisted of depression, anxiety, and self-doubt. His decade also included some very good music, but aside from one very good single, Bell didn’t get around to releasing it just before his fatal car accident in 1978.

Much of that music was released as a compilation called I Am the Cosmos, whose title track was the A-side to that aforementioned single. The B-side was a gorgeous song called “You and Your Sister,” a track that shares a lot of musical DNA with the classic Big Star song “Thirteen.” It also marked a brief reuniting of Bell and his former Big Star bandmate Alex Chilton.

Hearing Bell and Chilton sing together after years apart is moving enough, but the song itself is gorgeous. As Mark Deming of Allmusic points out, “You and Your Sister” “make[s] more emotional than literal sense.” But the underlying meaning—don’t listen to what everybody says, I love you and need you—more than comes through. And lyrics like “Plans fail every day” sound beautifully tragic coming out of the mouth of Chris Bell, a man whose plans failed more often than not. This time, however, they very much didn’t.


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