A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Times of Alex Chilton by Holly George-Warren (Viking Press)


It’s not easy to capture a life like Alex Chilton’s in a biography, with it’s rare riches-to-rags trajectory; he topped the charts with his first recording – The Box Tops’ “The Letter”- at the young age of 16, followed by decades of unraveling that included amazing work with Big Star, and a messy solo career. Author Holly George-Warren’s handles the wide scope of Chilton’s life and music well, providing an Everest-sized amount of facts and first-person accounts from the people who were there. The author was, herself, one of those people, having spent some time with Chilton when he produced an EP for her band Clambake in the mid-’80s, although she wisely saves that bit of personal info for the Epilogue. The book really gets you wondering what life was like for Chilton, having had so much success at a young age, and then spending several decades swimming upstream against an ever-strengthening current. For me, A Man Called Destruction is a pretty sad story of a guy who was a brilliant writer and singer, but also clearly tortured by personal demons (there are multiple suicide attempts, domestic abuse, and other forms of self-destructive behavior), but it’s such a well-researched and well-written book (I couldn’t find any spelling or grammar errors – a rarity for a rock bio) that you’ll be feverishly turning the pages to see where Chilton’s journeys take him next. Highly recommended.