By Jim Schutze
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While he still talks to Chilton occasionally, Hummel says he has no desire to get involved with Big Star again, even if that were to mean just making a cameo on a song or two. He points out that his and Bell's replacements, Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer, have now been playing with Chilton and Stephens for 15 years—much longer than he had.
"For me to insert myself into all that would be almost guaranteed to be unsuccessful," he says.
With his new band—at one point dubbed Rocket 211, though Hummel says he hated that name—the diverse group of musicians, which used to include Hummel's college-age son Drew, works up covers of everything from Queen to The Scissor Sisters to country-and-western hits to The Stones. Like The Bangles, they recently worked up a version of "September Gurls," which Hummel maintains is one of the all-time greatest pop songs. But, apart from that, the band doesn't play much other Big Star material—not even Hummel's own "The India Song," which he says was just the product of late-night studio foolery that he never really intended to be a Big Star song in the first place.
"Big Star songs are hard!" Hummel says, laughing. "We usually go for simpler material."
Even with a continually growing and renewing interest in the band, Hummel says, the tiny ASCAP performance royalties and his scarce writing credits with the band don't add up to a significant income from the group. Perhaps that could change with the recent release of a spate of reissues, among them Bell's solo album I Am the Cosmos, the CD box set Keep an Eye on the Sky (which is filled with revealing demos, alternate takes and a recently unearthed live recording at Lafayette's Music Room), and 180-gram vinyl reissues of all three of Big Star's album releases.
For now, though, Hummel remains without regrets, content with his role in the reunited cult heroes' story.
"Universal sends me a check every six months or so," he says. "And it's enough to take my wife out to dinner."
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