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Big stars come together to play Big Star classic 'Third'

Matthew Sweet

Matthew Sweet Credit: Handout

In the 35 years since its completion, “Third,” the third album by power-pop band Big Star, has gone from being a presumed flop to an acknowledged classic.

When Big Star finished the album in 1975, no label would release it because it was not commercial enough. It eventually made its way out and became a touchstone for a generation of musicians, including R.E.M’s Mike Mills and Michael Stipe, M. Ward and Matthew Sweet, who will be performing it live this weekend.

amNewYork spoke with Sweet about the concert.

What is it that people love about this album?
It has a really beautiful range of emotions — it goes from despondent to upbeat to romantic. I think of [late Big Star leader] Alex Chilton like John Lennon: He could be funny, nasty, or the sweetest, most open-hearted guy in the world.

Why do you think the album did so poorly when it was first released?
It has some heavy songwriting on it, so I wouldn’t expect it to be a best-seller. But the great thing is, none of that mattered. They’re bigger now than they would have been had they been successful at the time. They’re an influence on so many artists that their place in rock history is undeniable.

How did Big Star’s music influence you as a songwriter?
The biggest thing was seeing and feeling what it was like to express that much personal stuff through music. When I made my [1993] album “Altered Beast,” I was a little out of my mind and was expressing a lot of feelings. It’s hard to think I could have done that without having known Big Star.

If you go: Big Star’s “Third” will be performed at Baruch College Performing Arts Center’s Mason Hall at 7 on Saturday night. 17 Lexington Ave., 646-312-5073, $35-$100

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