Seven Myths About the Band Chicago

If you’re someone who knows what’s going on with me via stuff I mention in my blog, chances are you have no idea that since late November 2010, I have become a huge fan of the band Chicago.

As in HUGE fan.  They’re nearly all I’ve listened to for over eight months.  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the raised eyebrows that I get sometimes when I confess this, but there’s a lot more to them than 80’s power ballads and the launching of Peter Cetera’s solo career.  Since first getting into them, I’ve spent lots of my free time learning about their history, including (and peaking with) the autobiography of the original drummer, Danny Seraphine.  As is the typical situation when one learns a lot about a subject, I’ve noticed that there are plenty of people around that pretend to know what they’re talking about when it comes to Chicago, but don’t.  They’ve been fed myths, and they believe them all.  Well, I’m going to set the record straight on some of these.  They come from comments I’ve seen from people on the internet, my own misconceptions that I’ve noticed other people shared, and some that are more widely known and are almost “urban legend,” if I could actually call it that.  I’m going to do seven of them, because there were seven original members and I needed to pick a number somehow.

Take note that if you know Chicago even remotely as well as I do, you won’t find new information here.  This is for the masses.

Myth #1: Chicago is just an adult contemporary band from the 80’s.

Okay, let’s start with the bare-bones basics.  Prior to being told otherwise in the early 2000’s, I thought this.  My wife thought this prior to me getting into them several months ago.  Many of my friends that are kind of annoyed that I’m still listening to them so much thought this.  Tons and tons and tons of people who have heard of Chicago have heard the songs “You’re the Inspiration” and “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” and assumed that the ballads and soft rock is what Chicago is . . .

Now let’s get one thing clear.  I love 80’s Chicago.  Saying they “wrote some 80’s power ballads” is like saying Rembrandt “painted some pictures” or Frank Lloyd Wright “built some buildings.”

I’ll admit the video is completely nuts, though.  I can’t figure out exactly what’s going on in it, Peter Cetera is NOT left handed, everyone except Peter and Danny (drums) are playing keyboards, with the third exception of Walt (sax) who appears to be taking a dump in the heating register behind Jimmy at 2:12.  But it was 1984, and we really need to demonstrate a lot of grace and not judge bands or songs on their early-80’s music videos; it was an odd time.  Plus, for my purposes, the song is the point.  That’s our image of this band.  Yet, for more than 10 years, THIS was the image of Chicago:

Chicago was a hard-rocking, big-concept, high-art, almost avant-garde rock ‘n roll band.  They were a group made to make music, not to create stars.  This was especially true for their first three albums.  A great example of this, though it is only one of many, is the full piece “Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon.”   It was written on the road by trombonist Jimmy Pankow, who had been listening to a lot of classical music and wanted to do an extended rock piece with movements and sections the way a lot of larger classical pieces did.  If someone were to do that today, I feel it would be easy to write them off as pretentious or hipster.  But this was 1969 or 1970, meaning that rock music as art was just coming into form, and yet here’s the band destined to be known as the group that the “Glory of Love” guy left, and they’re at the forefront.

The band then was known most for their intricate horn section, but the whole group was made up of top-notch musicians who were all masters at their instruments (most of them classically trained), and they all played at the peak of their abilities for every song.

Clearly this is not a band that deserves to be ranked among Toto and Hall & Oates.

Myth #2:  Peter Cetera joined Chicago and used them to launch his own solo career.

We’re knocking out the two myths that were most prevalent in my mind until seven months ago, first.  I’ve heard at least one other person equally ignorant of the band as I was state this myth.  Peter Cetera is known by those of us 30-ish and younger as Mr. Soft Rock.  The guy who not only did that song from the Karate Kid Part II soundtrack, but did that duet with Amy Grant and recently was the theme of a beer commercial that insists he could only be “cool” because the ladies like him (there must be an age gap for that fact, because my wife can’t stand him).

Well, many people learn, if they didn’t already know, that Cetera got his start in Chicago.  When the Chicago you know is “Hard Habit to Break,” it’s not too far of a shot to conclude that Cetera was a pretty powerful driving force in the band.  That much is true.  When you then learn that Chicago had a very rock-based past, coupled with the fact that the band continued after Cetera left, some people (such as myself) conclude that Cetera was a late-comer who treated the band as a springboard to his own success.

Well, I don’t know if you caught it, but he’s in that photo from 1970 and the older video up there.  Far left in the photo, 1:24 in the video (as well as other places).  He was an original member, and was part of the band for 17 years.

The band was formed with the first six members and were playing shows around the city of Chicago under the moniker “The Big Thing.”  They had guitar, drums, keyboard, sax, trumpet, and trombone, but no bass.  Apparently around that time it was a cool thing to have your keyboardist carry the bass line with bass pedals.  A perfect storm occurred only months after getting started in 1968 when The Big Thing decided they needed a third vocalist, a high tenor, since the two they had were more baritone and were getting lost behind their horn section.

It just so happened that around the same time the lead singer of a well-known Chicago band, The Exceptions, was looking to move on from that group.  Turns out the guy was a high tenor and also played bass.  That was Peter Cetera.  The Big Thing easily convinced him to join, and within a matter of months their name changed and their real career began.

I’ll expand further on the misconceptions about Cetera’s role in Chicago a bit later.

Myth #3:  Their first album, “chicago transit authority,” was self-titled.

Up until a few days ago, I had Myth #3 here as something else regarding their well-known name change in 1969 from “Chicago Transit Authority” to simply “Chicago.”  Well I recently came across some information that mildly invalidated what I originally said, and was actually much more interesting.

I’ve already mentioned that their first name was “The Big Thing.” According to drummer Danny Seraphine, their very first manager named them that after they refused his first idea, “Top Banana.”  Well they switched up managers after a year or so to a guy that some of the members knew named Jim Guercio.  Jim heard the band and loved them and immediately went into getting them noticed.  Step one: everyone moves to Los Angeles.  By 1969, The Big Thing didn’t live in Chicago anymore.  Also, right away, Guercio changed their name to one he had thought of years before when working in Chicago, “The Chicago Transit Authority.”  The band soon started referring to themselves as CTA.

At some point early on, they played a well-received show back in their hometown.  Their success drew more eyes to them, such as the eyes of the actual Chicago Transit Authority.  The REAL CTA informed Guercio that they would sue if the band name didn’t change.  They had already had issues with people getting the name wrong on marquees (a rather funny one was “The Chicago Transients”), so it was an easy decision and they shortened it to just “Chicago.”  Plenty of people know that story, and if you didn’t, you do now.  What many people don’t know, and what I thought up until just a couple weeks ago, was that this all happened shortly AFTER the release of their first album.  This is a reasonable assumption, since the album is called “Chicago Transit Authority.”  However, in the liner notes, Guercio emphasizes that the band chose to name their first album after their moniker up to that point, but the name had already changed.  So the name of the album would technically be “Chicago Transit Authority, by Chicago.”

One quick note: knowing what I know about Guericio, I could probably state that it’s a myth that “the band” chose to name the album anything, let alone name any album anything, but I can’t back that up with much.

Myth #4: “25 or 6 to 4″ is about drugs.

If  you spend any time looking into information on Chicago, you’re bound to quickly run into the controversy over the hit single off their second album, “25 or 6 to 4.”  As with many songs with ambiguous titles or subjects, especially from the 60’s and 70’s, it is concluded that the song must be about drug use.  “25 or 6 to 4″ is Chicago’s very own “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”

If you listen to the lyrics, you can figure out where these assumptions are coming from.

“Flashing lights against the sky”
“Sitting cross-legged on the floor”
“Wondering how much I can take”
“Should I try to do some more?”
“Spinning room is sinking deep”

Yeah, it’s not completely out of left field, that’s for sure.  Add to that the kinds of music fans who KNOW that a song is about drugs when a song is about drugs, and you’ve got a one-way ticket to myth-city.

Let’s look at some facts.  First, Chicago didn’t write songs about drugs.  None of their other songs (and there are a lot) have anything close to a drug reference in them.  All of their songs are about girls, relationships, social issues, personal experiences, and playing music.  So a song about dropping acid is not in familiar company.  That doesn’t definitively prove anything, I know, but keep going . . .

Second, we need to ask if the lyrics really make sense in the context of a drug reference.  Well, the ones I already listed do.  But what about these?

“Waiting for the break of day, searching for something to say.”
” . . . giving up I close my eyes.”
“Getting up to splash my face, wanting just to stay awake.”
“Feeling like I ought to sleep, searching for something to say”

I guess if you squint a little, they kind of do, but that takes us to the third and main point.  Chicago’s keyboardist Robert Lamm wrote the song.  Very early on people were asking him about its meaning, including his band members.  He said back then, he said all through the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and he has said up to now, that this song is about writing a song.  That he was up late one night trying to finish one more song for their new album and he was tired and frustrated but didn’t want to go to bed until he finished it.  The title means he can’t tell if the clock says 3:35 or 3:34 a.m.  That’s twenty five minutes or twenty six minutes until four in the morning.  He’s never altered his story.

So listen to the lyrics again.  They all make sense in the “I’m staying up late and really want to go to bed and need to finish this song” context.  They don’t all make sense in a “doing drugs” context.  Plus, the guys in Chicago were never incredible lyricists.  I don’t mean the lyrics are bad–not at all, but they’re not especially poetic or cryptic.  People debate over lines in “Saturday in the Park,” but that’s really the extent of their deep and artistic lyrical prowess.  Most of the time, they sang what they meant.

Now with that in mind, I bring you some of the geniuses of the internet.

“This song is about being wasted from drugs, simply. 25 or 6 to 4 is the site of a clock. Look at a clock when its 3:54 or “6 to 4″. Then look at that same clock upside down and its 9:25 or 10:25. The song is about losing track of time and seeing the clock and you can’t tell exactly if its 9:25 or 3:54.”

“This song is written (or at least everything points to) about a trip on acid. Specifically LSD-25…The big question that I see is that it’s 6:24 (Six Two Four perhaps?) and our hero is wondering if he should ‘drop’ more ’25’…or maybe it’s just about forcing writing…cause that works really well…”

“You are ALL wrong!!! …”25″ is LSD 25, which was popular in the late 60’s. “6 to 4″ is the amount of time the drugs effects last in your system. LSD would last 10 hours in your system. In this case, from 6pm to 4am. The lyrics clearly explain an acid trip. You must remember the time frame when this song was written (1968). Hendrix had “Purple Haze” and the psychadelic era was happening. The band members of Chicago always avoided telling the real meaning of this song, but if you’re an old hippie like I am, you know what it is about.”

“I ran a small investigation and I go for the LSD-25 story, even though that for all of you who dont now what is 6 to 4, its not an hour, it is a reference for 624-Qualudes which were “hypnotic sedatives” used in the 60s and 70’s, and LSD 25 was the second most popular lsd of the time, so it makes perfect tense, and taking more qualudes to sleep cos the LSD has you with insomia its a pretty good idea…”

“”LSD’s action was about 6 hours. Short term tolerance (24 hours) meant you would have to take 2x/3x when you were coming down to get the same (but lower quality) high. Too much sensory input and you could get a “bad trip” which is emotionally wrenching. To cancel the LSD high one would take tranquilizers, quite often methylqualone or Qualudes (or ‘Ludes for short) which were large flat yellow tablets with the numbers 624 on them, hence 25 or 624, should I continue the trip or stop it.”

“Actually it’s a drug reference, on qualudes (pills) the numbers 624 are inscribed on the tablet, then, the scientific code for acid is LSD25. So we have a choice my friend, take some Ritalin or some good ol’ LSD?”

I really did not have to search hard for those.  Amazing how far some people will go to prove that a song is about drugs.  There’s some very interesting psychology there.  (Also, I did a quick search for “quaalude 624″ in Google, and the only results were about how this song is about them.  That’s not huge, but something to take note of.)

One last thing.  I’m not a druggie, never was, and I’m certainly not an old hippie, but I’m someone who’s written songs.  I can read the lyrics and get how they’re about not wanting to give up on finishing a song.  It’s usually the case that leaving a song unfinished now means it will remain unfinished forever, or at the very least finished in a way you didn’t intend.  So you’ve got to stick with it.  But hey–what do I know?

Myth #5: Guitarist Terry Kath died while playing Russian roulette.

I had thought this one was put to rest decades ago, but I saw a couple comments somewhere within the two weeks prior to writing this in which people stated this myth.

Let’s examine all the angles of this.  First, Terry Kath was the guitarist of the group, and one of the founding members (with Danny Seraphine and Walt Parazaider).  Second, the guy was a freakin’ monster on guitar.  He is my hero on the six-string.

So getting straight to it: Terry Kath did shoot himself in the head.  But it was not suicide (in the strictest definition of the term) nor was it “Russian roulette.”  The gun wasn’t even a revolver.

On the evening of January 23, 1978, Kath was at a party at the house of some guy named Don Johnson.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t THAT Don Johnson; I think it was his guitar tech or something.  So things have wound down, and I’ve read or heard from sources I don’t recall that Kath and this guy were actually going to start working on Terry’s solo album.  (To greatly paraphrase Peter Cetera and add in my own assumptions based off of stuff I’ve read and seen, Kath would have likely been out of the band by the end of 1978 had he lived, especially if their career had taken the same dive in the late 70’s with him there).  Johnson and Kath were the only ones at home, and Kath was most likely either drunk and/or high.  All band members have noted since his death that his drug usage was out of control.  Also, Kath was a gun enthusiast and often carried a gun on his person.  Don Johnson had a couple hand guns, and Kath was messing around with them.  He took an unloaded .38 revolver to his head and pulled the trigger several times, laughing at Don’s pleas for  him to stop.  He put the gun down and picked up a 9 mm semiautomatic, took out the clip and saw that there were no bullets in it, replaced the clip, put it to his temple, laughed at Don and said, “Don’t worry, it’s not loaded” and pulled the trigger.  You probably guessed there was a bullet in the chamber.  He died instantly.

Another side of this myth says that his wife and daughter were in the room when it happened.  That’s not true at all; no accounts of this mention them being there.  In fact, in the Behind the Music episode on Chicago, his widow actually talks about walking from the door to the gate of her home where police were waiting to tell her what had happened.

Of all the things that people can get wrong about Chicago, this is the one that I find the hardest to keep from stepping in and correcting.  It’s tragic enough from all angles, so we don’t really need to have the truth embellished or stretched.

Myth #6:  After Terry Kath’s death, Peter Cetera took control of the band and turned them into the ballad band they’re known most for being.

This is one that I see a lot that gets under my skin.  It makes it sound as if Kath died, and shortly after Cetera took over and said, “Okay, now we’re going to do soft rock hits!”  It’s actually ludicrous if you think about it for even a second.  The evolution of Chicago-the-hard-hitting-rock-band into Chicago-the-band-who-writes-songs-for-weddings-and-proms is much more complex than that.

First, before the band stepped into the studio to record their fifth album  Chicago V, they made a conscious decision to not do overly-long songs.  This is according to Seraphine.  This choice is perfectly understandable, since their first album didn’t get any radio play in its early days due mostly to the length of the songs.  Their second album made it big only because some jerk somewhere chopped up “Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon” and named it after the first movement, “Make Me Smile.”  It’s good in the sense that it got the band noticed, but it became practice to trim down their songs for radio play, and that bugged the band as it would most song writers and musicians.  So to save themselves the heartache, they decided to take their songwriting into a more radio-friendly-format direction.  Seraphine insists that this was the most important moment in them becoming who they were to become, and notice that the year was 1972.

That’s the first part.  The second part is that apparently around that same time, Columbia Records (their label) made it official that they would only pay artists royalties on the first ten tracks of an album.  Naturally that means that artists are only going to put ten songs on an album.

The style jump from Chicago III to Chicago V was very significant (“IV” was a live album recorded at Carnegie Hall).  III had styles all over the place, including jazz, country, rock, 20th century modern, and even spoken word.  The only song to really get any attention was the middle part of one of the larger pieces, called “Free.”  I say it’s a great album as a whole, but it’s not celebrated on the large scale as being one of their best since so little came from it.

V on the other hand has ten songs on it that go down easily.  The styles are less diverse, but some of them are still pretty edgy, especially my personal favorite Chicago song of all time, “A Hit by Varese.”  Then they showed how they still had a hard time keeping away from multiple-movement songs with “Dialogue Pt. 1″ and “Dialogue Pt. 2.”

I don’t own or even really know much about the albums VI-IX first-hand.  But I’ve heard some things here and there, and this is a song that shows they still had their chops and were rock-minded for Chicago VI . . . but it was fading.  Very slightly, but still fading.

As I said, I don’t know much about their stuff through Chicago IX.  But I have Chicago X on vinyl.  Aaaaand . . . I’m not much for it.  I’ve enjoyed it as I was focusing on things like washing dishes, but really paying attention?  The songs are either pillowy soft or uneasily jumpy.  The true rock edge is almost all but gone, with maybe the exception of the opener “Once or Twice,” but that’s “rock” in the way that Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock ‘n Roll” is rock.

It’s crazy how much changed in the four years between V and X, but keep in mind that by the time X came out, it was 1976, and they were entering into the late 70’s.  In that time, you were a hard-ass rocker (a la AC/DC, KISS, etc.) or you were goofy pop music (a la The Captain and Tennille, most disco, etc.). The band really could have gone either way at that point . . .

And Cetera happened to write a cute little ditty for Chicago X called “If You Leave Me Now.”

Seraphine says in his book that no one, not even Cetera, expected that song of all the others to get much attention, but it went to #1!  It caught everyone off guard, and when that sort of thing happens, your record label says, “Keep ‘em coming!”  At that point, they knew they needed to have a slow ballad-type song on each album.

And Kath was still alive and part of the band.

They had one more album prior to Kath’s death, Chicago XI, and the ballad on that one (again penned by Cetera, admittedly) was “Baby What a Big Surprise.”  That’s two major ballads by the band before Terry died.

Shortly after the release of XI, the band split with manager Jim Guercio.  Suddenly they are the masters of their own destinies . . . and then Kath dies.  Kath’s death wasn’t devastating just because of the personal loss, but his guitar style and distinct voice were a significant part of the group’s sound.  (It’s interesting how much difference a single person can make in a group’s sound, even when they’re not the leader.  I always think of the differences between Weezer’s first two albums and their later stuff, the personnel change being only bassist Matt Sharp.)

Take a look at where we’re standing now.  Kath is gone.  Around that time, their sales started to slip, too.  They tried a few things to climb back on top, including touching into disco a bit on one album.  It all failed.  They were forced out of Columbia Records and all of them thought the end was in sight.  But by 1982, Chicago bounced back with Chicago 16, new band member Bill Champlain, new producer and co-songwriter David Foster, and the hit ballad “Hard to Say I’m Sorry.”  Two years later, they really hit it out of the park with Chicago 17, which included “You’re the Inspiration” along with several other of their most recognizable 80’s hits.  The ballads actually saved the group.

The story of Chicago ending up what they were in the 80’s is similar in spirit to the story of many musical artists who change dramatically at one point or another.  It is a series of artistic choices mixed with business pressures, market needs, and current culture.  But where I have seen some groups go from artistic mastery to pop-radio trash in a single album . . .

How do I put parentheses around a photo?

. . . Chicago slowly altered and changed, album to album, and fought through loss and years of struggling to keep going, all to end up where they did.  It certainly was not evil Dr. Cetera spitting on the grave of the holy Terry Kath and taking the band hostage into adult contemporary hell.

Myth #7:  Chicago broke up in the 80’s.

Yeah, this one’s a little weak.  I admit it.  But I promised seven myths, and hot darnit I’m going to deliver.

Chicago is still together, though rather pathetically in my opinion.

Cetera left in 1985.  He was replaced by a guy named Jason Scheff, who is literally the only person I’ve ever seen that I want to punch just because of how he looks.

Tell me you don't want to punch that dude. Ugh . . . those CURLS!

They fired Danny Seraphine in 1990.  He and the band have said it was because he was too involved in the business side of things (Bill Champlain in the Behind the Music from 2000 said, “Danny wasn’t focusing on what he should have been focusing on, which is drumming.”)  Reading his autobiography, however, it kind of appears that part of their reasoning might be because of his tendency for violent outbursts, one of them that may have indirectly led to the death of a long-time friend of the band.  But neither Seraphine nor the remaining band has ever suggested that.

Champlain left a year or two ago, after close to 30 years with the band.

Their drummer is the same drummer who replaced Seraphine, and their guitarist has been the same guy since the mid-90’s.  Original members Robert Lamm, Lee Loughnane, James Pankow, and Walt Parazaider are still in the group, touring the country regularly.

They released Chicago XXX in 2005, and finally got their long-awaited Stone of Sisyphus album released in 2008.  That’s currently their latest release.  I’ve only heard snippets of each.  I intend to really listen to them as I get through all the older stuff first, but honestly it sounds like they’re trapped in the early 90’s.  Their concerts show that they’re trapped in their former success.  And it’s all very sad to me because even if Seraphine and Cetera came back for a special reunion tour (and trust me, the Beatles reuniting with two new members is more likely), Kath couldn’t be there and he was the heart of the group.

So . . . yes, Chicago is still technically together.  But is it worth it?

_________________
Sources:
Street Player: My Chicago Story by Danny Seraphine, 2010
InnerVIEWS with Earnie Manouse: Peter Cetera, 2009
VH1 Behind the Music: Chicago, 2000
Chicago NBC TV Special, 1970
Liner notes to the albums Chicago Transit Authority, Chicago (II), Chicago III, and Chicago V.
Songmeanings.net, You Tube, and of course Wikipedia.

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208 responses to “Seven Myths About the Band Chicago

  1. IMO, Kath, Cetera and Seraphine’s departures marked the end to the REAL Chicago!!!

    • In *my* opinion, you’re correct. Chicago–the REAL Chicago, as you put it–will always be Kath, Cetera, Seraphine, Parazaider, Pankow, Lamm, and Loughnane as a collective whole. In their VH1 Behind the Music, they talk about the band being bigger than any one of them–that’s true, I think, but not in the sense that they meant it. The band IS all of them, and with each loss of an original member, they’re that much less of what Chicago is meant to be, and will always be to us fans.

      Boy, that’s poetic.

    • Thankfully, Danny’s new band CTA actually has the energy of the old Chicago, but in these times of Bieber, and lame country stars his new band gets unnoticed by the younger generation. Kids don’t listen to anything that has any complexity, nor is the internet model of music a method of promoting or supporting artists financially. Hopefully, Danny can keep this band going and kids will get involved in more thoughtful music that isn’t something packaged like fashion models.
      .http://jazztimes.com/articles/83817-cd-review-california-transit-authority-s-sacred-ground

  2. I am a bit of a Chicago buff as well. I think all your comments are spot on…I think the leaving of Cetera was a very calculated play by David Foster, he played up his good looks, good voice with Chicago in the mid 80’s and I think he had solo career on the back burner for a long time, he created the “star” then spun him off to go solo. The rest of the band had no choice, they were successful so how could they argue with his lead role in the band. It must have been bittersweet when he left. The evolution off the band is incredible and I think Jason has done a good job, but he had some big shoes to fill.

    • That’s a very interesting suggestion, that Foster groomed Cetera for a solo career, though I do think I respectfully disagree. Foster may have hoped for it and possibly even encouraged it, but based on what *I* know I don’t think he was the mastermind behind it. Cetera was climbing to the top of the band from the release of “If You Leave Me Now,” before Kath’s death, and the storms that came kept eventually favoring him. Seraphine suggests that in the “Hot Streets” to “Chicago XIV” era, Peter was very unhappy and starting to consider a solo career, giving way to his self-titled solo album in 1980/1981. Not long after that, the union with Foster happened. The actual split came when, after road support of “Chicago 17″ was finished, Cetera wanted some Cetera-only time, and the band refused. So again, I think that it’s a reasonable suggestion that Foster had interest in getting Peter out of the band, but he didn’t plant the idea.

      Also, I do know from Seraphine’s autobiography that the departure of Cetera was anything but bittersweet. It was very bitter, though, among many other things. I really suggest that book. It’s a quick read and really really informative.

      • OH I DO THINK HE WAS UNHAPPY TOO, didn’t want to tour much anymore….I am sure he thought about leaving but Foster was the one who did groom him and brought him to the forefront of Chicago. They probably had similar goals…I do want to read the book also.

  3. i don’t get the Hall & Oates Comment and Toto comment..are they not made of great Musicians??

    • That whole section is differentiating Chicago from the label of “just an adult contemporary band from the 80’s,” which Hall & Oates and Toto both securely fall into. I made no value judgment on their talent as musicians.

      • Just an FYI,, thought it was kind of funny when it occurred. H&O opened for Chi for a televised thing when they had released their return CD (H&O).. and members of Chi are credited in Toto liners…J Pankow for one.. I find it interesting that you haven’t (maybe you have by now) seen them live. Also,if you haven’t heard these post 80s songs, you may want to consider 2 CDs..Chicago XXX,, and XXXII, Personally I think they’re a blend of where they came from and (according to what we’ve seen) where they wanted to go. Robert Lamm’s CD;Subtlety & Passion is another example of that..most of the band members appear.

      • A person who would make such a comment about TOTO obviously knows nothing about TOTO other than that of “Rosanna”, & “Africa” and maybe “I’ll Be Over You”. TOTO can be as ‘ballady soft’ as Chicago, but they can also Rock as hard as Van Halen (“Taint Your World”), throw out Jazz (“Don’t Stop Me Now”), Country (“No Love”) or Michael Jackson type Pop (“Fahrenheit” the song). They are undoubtely one of the most talented and versitile groups of musicians ever to come together. I suggest you listen to 1992’s Kingdom Of Desire album, or 2006’s Falling In Between prior to making an uneducated statement about TOTO.

      • I’d respond that you mistook the comment, but I’m not sure it matters anyway.

      • Please do, I don’t mind. Maybe I did miss your point.

  4. I just finished “Street Player” and really enjoyed it! Nice job, Danny.
    I agree the, the original band members were one of a kind. I saw them in 1968 at the Whisky in Hollywood, CA and again at the Greek theater in 1970 and they rocked the house each time. Funny thing is… I saw them 4/2011 at The Pachanga Casino in Temecula, CA and 8/2011 at the Pacific Amphitheatre in Orange County, CA and guess what? They absolutely rocked the house both nights!!
    Go see them live. You won’t be dissappointed.
    (Long time Chicago fan)

    • Thanks, Steve! I might. They’re going to be in my area this summer, and it’s the 2nd year in a row they have been, so I should have some chances.

  5. interesting…i am presently watching ‘chicago in chicago’ and i have to say, they all sound and look fabulous. i have seen them in concert…waaay back in the 70s and i have to say that they sound better today than ever. whatever they’re doing i think they’re finally doing it right.

    • I guess I can’t argue that they’re any better then or now, since I’ve never seen them live and have only seen recorded and televised performances. I still have my reservations, though, due to the fact that I haven’t enjoyed anything released by them since the early 80’s, and that they had nearly 30 years of Bill-Champlain-ism.

  6. I enjoyed “you’re” story of the band. I’m 31 years old. My parents are in their early 70’s and are the reason I even listen to this band. They’re phenomenal by the way! I saw them 2 weeks ago! Amazing! Even with the guy you would like to punch (Jason scheff) Ill knock yer ass out in person for talking shit about a band that actually keeps pursuing the same dream and band that started over 40 years prior. Cetera left! Serephine was kicked out! Get over it! Can you believe the band lasted this or that long anyway?? The fact they wanted to keep going is enough reason. Half of the Beatles are gone not from ignorance (kath) they’re gone from coincidence and circumstance. These guys are still kicking!! And an absolute cinderella story. I enjoyed the read though. You are completely ignorant for thinking what you do about scheff. To this day
    they sound great whether or not it’s the original
    and WHOLE “original” band again. like cetera is gonna jump back in it all of a sudden. They merely made ends meet, that’s it. Not to bruise or be a mean guy. That’s my emotion about this group. I guess they’re that good and deserve it!

  7. As a long time fan,I already knew about the truth vs myth,and i guess that can be said of any band.I’m still not certain about the truth behind the firing of Danny,who is still a great drummer.His replacement Tris Imboden is also a great player,but the whole feel of the band is different without first of all Terry,who was a great player,and as rhythm guitarist,unmatchable.When he played chords,it was like a percussion instrument playing a melody.
    I’m lucky to have seen Chicago live at least a dozen times,starting in 69 at the Fillmore East,Carage hall,the Garden with the Beach Boys,and a few other venues,and recently at the Garden State Arts center,with Earth Wind and Fire,and America.They are no doubt,the hardest working band of all time,having not stopped touring as Chicago since 1969,and they still enjoy themselves.Thanks for the article …Steve B

  8. Interesting piece. It seems contradictory in some areas, though. In one part you admire the band for staying together despite loss and tragedy. At the end you ask if the band being together is “worth it?” See them live, then ask that question. My opinion is, that if you are doing what you love and are still bringing joy to others, then what you are doing is “worth it” despite what others think. It’s also worth noting that all careers transition over the decades. Doctors and nurses practice differently over the course of 40 years; writers write differently; teachers teach differently. Its’ all a natural course of events and human growth. Transitions have different causes: more education, pursuing different creative outlets, wanting to make more money, etc., etc. In this case, loss and tragedy, but because of positive growth as well.

  9. Unfashionable enthusiasm

    Nice post on a still underappreciated band. I agree with you that the 5th album is the best one, the quintessence of their early fusion of pop and the avant garde (though marred by the deletion of “Song for Richard and His Friends” – be sure to catch this one on the Live in Japan album online).

    I really think they lost their way starting with the 6th album, which seems like leftovers from the 5th. Then the 7th veers away from rock to unadulterated jazz (mostly of the lite variety, but with a few edgy outbursts). Then the 8th returns to hard guitar rockers, but is much blander than the first 5. I am very curious about the making of these albums, but Seraphine is little help. It may be relevant that VI was the first recorded at Guercio’s private studio in Colorado.

    To me, their 80s power ballads are actually more consistent and convincing than these stylistic confusions.

    • Thanks! This post is a bit dated in relation to how much of their catalog I know. I do think that the ranch did more harm than good to their sound, and they really couldn’t find themselves anymore. I agree with everything you’re saying. I actually even prefer Hot Streets and 13 to VII or VIII. (Or X for that matter; blech).

  10. Talking about the lengthy songs on the first Three albums. Their were also shorter radio friendly songs that could of been in my mind great hits, Like “Wake up sunshine”, “Where do we go from here”,from Chicago II and from III “At the sunrise”, “Flight 602 “and “What else can I say” Btw on III “Lowdown” had been released as a single. I have seen Chicago in every era and my fav is still seeing them at Carnegie Hall in 1971. Kath was truly the heart of the band and Cetera was a damn good bass player ,listen to his bass lines on” I’m a man” hey they even had a fulltime percussionist for awhile Laudir Oliveira

    • I so agree on Cetera. I annoy myself sometimes when I can’t help but admit that my favorite guitarist, bassist, and drummer are Kath, Cetera, and Seraphine, respectively. (It gets a little redundant: favorite band? “Chicago.” favorite musicians? “Um . . . the guys in Chicago . . .”). If I had to pick, my favorite Cetera stuff would be in the song “Introduction,” though “I’m A Man” is certainly spectacular.

  11. One of my fondest memories is seeing Chicago live at Xavier University in Cincinnati. This was ca. 1970, when they were at their creative best. They played all the songs from the first two albums, and it was a great night. I had seen Blood, Sweat and Tears a year earlier in Baltimore, and they were great too, but not as good as Chicago.

    Glad to find your website, and to see that younger folks are beginning to discover the awesome music of 1970s Chicago.

    • Thanks for reading! When I started my still ongoing Chicago obsession, I mentioned it to my dad, who had raised me on 80’s Chicago and Cetera’s solo stuff (most specifically the album “Solitaire”). I told him how strongly I regret not being able to see them in their heyday, and he mentioned that he had–around 1970, as well, at the SIU Arena in Carbondale, Illinois. I about feinted thinking about the fact that my dad got to see Terry Kath play. “They were really good,” he said.

  12. Not that it is relevant to the music, but your comment in Myth 1 about Peter NOT being left handed is wrong — Peter is left handed, but played bass right handed. If you’re going to post a blog about myth vs facts, it’s a good idea to by sure of your facts first.

    • Thank you for the needless semantic snobbery, Elisa. I invite you to similarly go shake your finger at anyone who says Paul McCartney, Kurt Cobain, or Jimi Hendrix were left-handed and see what kind of reactions you get, then take a moment to think if saying a guitarist is right- or left-handed has anything to do with the hand they write with.

  13. It’s hardly needless, and not snobbery. If I were to write a blog, and was presenting the information as FACT, I would make sure of my facts first. It sort of negates the validity of any other “facts” you post if you don’t actually fact check first. You were the one who brought up the issue of right vs. left hand in your original post — I specifically said that it wasn’t relevant to the music so I don’t get your snide comments about needing to take a moment to think about whether being right or left hand has anything to with “the hand they write with” ?? What is that supposed to mean? The crux of it is, that not only did you post inaccurate information– you did it in all caps. If you can’t take constructive criticism, politely worded, then maybe you should re-think having a blog.

    • Your gripes seem a little silly when your complaint is that I said he wasn’t left-handed, obviously meaning in context that he is not a left-handed guitarist (since it was in response to a music video that shows him playing a bass left-handed), and that somehow means that I didn’t “check my facts.” My statement remains factual and negates nothing. If you’re still confused by any of this, then I’m afraid we will not be able to have an intelligent discussion. Nitpicking semantic minutiae does not make one an objective reader.

    • God! Can you imagine the hell-on-earth it must be to be married to Elisa? Can you bear the thought of waking up to that relentless nagging and nit-picking? Every. Single. Day, Of. Your. Life. Please God. Put a bullet in my head.

  14. Your post in quotes: “I’ll admit the video is completely nuts, though. I can’t figure out exactly what’s going on in it, Peter Cetera is NOT left handed” –seems pretty straight forward to me. You erroneously post that it is a fact that “Peter Cetera is NOT left handed’. And you’re too arrogant to politely acknowledge that you made a mistake. Instead you need to respond with a disparaging attitude, and derogatory comments towards me. Your statement is in no way factual. Peter Cetera IS left handed. It is a simple fact, and is not “nitpicking semantic minutiae”. Whether or not a person is right or left handed is a defined state, not a distinction of meaning between words. Dancing around your error with ridiculous comments such as “obviously meaning in context that he is not a left-handed guitarist” and “If you’re still confused by this” is just plain silly. You made a mistake, it was politely pointed out, and you turned into a insult hurling nut job.

    • Your inability to understand the meaning and value of context is exhausting. To state that he “is NOT left handed” in reference to a video in which he plays bass left handed is not an untrue statement, whether or not he is otherwise right- or left-handed outside of playing his instrument. Hendrix and Cobain were ambidextrous, McCartney is right-handed, but all play(ed) their instruments left-handed. When discussing their guitar playing, it is not erroneous to say that they are all “left-handed.” I, myself, am a left-handed person who plays guitar right-handed. When someone asks me in general if I’m left- or right-handed, I say “left,” unless we’re discussing playing guitar, when I would respond “right.” This is not hard to understand for anyone else I’ve ever met.

      Lastly, two words on politeness:

      1) Your sentence “If you’re going to post a blog about myth vs facts, it’s a good idea to by sure of your facts first” is hardly a polite statement, especially when you clearly have no idea what you’re talking about (as I’ve now shown thrice). It’s a jab–an arrogant calling into question of my knowledge on the subject because I didn’t word something the way you would have preferred to have seen it worded. Such a jab deserves a jab in return. You are welcome.

      2) I’ll now politely ask you to stop commenting on my blog. Your statements have added no value to the topic. Nut job indeed.

  15. Bought tickets for my 42nd (yikes) birthday to see Peter and his band in Cheyenne, WY last weekend. He is an amazing performer and makes the connection between his songs personal, referencing stories of how some came to be. Never speaking poorly of Chicago, nor grandstanding his solo career. He is classy and still makes this girl (woman) swoon:D

    • Honestly, based on what I’ve seen of Peter post-Chicago, I’ve gotten the same impression. Check out some of my sources, especially the Ernie Manhouse interview. He really strikes me as a pretty humble guy at the end of it all (and I totally buy his (and Danny’s) story over the guys still in the band, just for the record.)

      Thanks for reading!

  16. Good article and very informative! I’ve been a Chicago fan since they formed, (I was 13 at the time) and have seen them twice in concert. I think everyone agrees they’re just a shadow of once they one were. Similar to Earth Wind and Fire when Maurice and others left.

    • I’m always jealous of those that got to see them way back when, but not much can be done about when one is born. My dad saw them back in 1970, I think he said. So I’ll take that one vicariously. Thanks for reading, Mark!

  17. Thanks for your blog!….I just became a Chicago fan on Saturday:D so you’ll have to excuse my giddy enthusiam!!!……..I accidently happened upon a YouTube clip of the boys playing outdoors live at the Caribou Ranch….what a kick-a$$ performance by the whole band! Peter Cetera was on his game with the lead vocals….super-soulful, super-sexy awesome voice and what swagger!!! (..wish I could invent time-travel;-)…I’ve not been able to help myself in wanting to learn more about these amazing guys and their journey….I found out that Chicago (Peter Cetera wrote it) did the incredibly beautiful-but-haunting song “Wishing you were here”….it brings me right back to 1974 and is linked with the memory of the tragic death of the little girl who lived next door to my family at the time. Whenever I heard this song on the radio, I thought of Kristen….Who Knew!!! Great to be able to connect everything after all these years!…i.e. the song/the band/who sings and plays what instrument. After playing clips of dozens of songs posted on YouTube….I realize how integral a part of my childhood/teen/young adult memories their songs had become…..All this has given me the inspiration to pick up my bass again and start a band that covers their music;D as hearing it now gives me the same good feelings it did then…..interesting to learn that Peter is left-handed but plays bass right-handed….if I understand it correctly;)….I am the same – write left/ play right :D Cheers!

    • I think your comment is so far my favorite on this post. I hope you find their history as fascinating as I do, though I’m not sure why I do in the first place. Perhaps a bias . . .

      • Thank you for this great article. As a 40-year fan of the band, I see their career as a facinating musical book. In fact, at one point in the 70’s, they would introduce their latest album as ‘the next chapter…’ The first song (Introduction) on their first album somehow predicts much of the book to follow, ranging from screaming rock guitar (Jimi Hendrix once said that Kath was better than him) to mellow (ballad?) horns with lyrics of ‘now we took you through the changes, and turned around the mood’. I too prefer albums I-V, but would suggest giving VI-VIII a try. Skip the hits (suggest that for pretty much all their albums) and listen to Hollywood, Something in this City…, Jenny, In terms of two (VI), Song of the Evergreens, Byblos, Woman Don’t want to love me, Happy Man (VII) and Never been in love before, Hideaway, Brand new love affair (VIII). I think Lamm, Pankow and the others continue playing because they simply love thier jobs.

      • Hi Steve. Thanks for reading! I actually have all Chicago albums through 17, now, sans IV/Carnegie Hall, IX, and 14. I love VI but it feels like a sub-par V, if I was going to be harsh. VII is incredible in how different it is; I love that they still had an artistic edge wanting to come through. VIII I’ve not listened to much since about a month after I got it; I need a refresher, I think. I also really like XI, too. Though for the Kath era it’s only 2nd best in my opinion, above X. Blech. X. Can’t do it.

        I can’t fault anyone, especially musicians, for doing what they love. But I agree with a later commenter that they’d do well to realize that the modern musical climate will allow for so much of that artistic daring-do they seemed to have to repress by the late 1970’s. I’m trying not to think about that too much lest I get my hopes up.

  18. I was an avid Chicago fan from CTA to 17, buying their albums the day they hit the shelves, buying many as gifts for friends, seeing them in concert four times in the 70’s. I even bought Robert Lamm’s 1975 solo album “Skinny Boy.” Many of their albums I have owned in multiple formats including vinyl, cassette, and CD. You obviously did your homework, the debate about right or left handedness, notwithstanding. Your observations are spot on for being a newbie to their catalog and history. I agree with you on your comment about Jason Scheff but for a different reason. He sings through his nose and obviously lacks the range, style and tonal quality of Cetera. Anyone who says otherwise is either tone-deaf or a blood relative of Scheff’s, but I digress. There are comments on YouTube ad nauseum comparing Scheff to Cetera. I maintain that that horse left the barn long ago and is moot. It’s not about who’s better. It’s about the band taking pride in artistic excellence, which is what they were all about through 17. (IMO, their only redeeming effort since 17 is Night and Day.) Settling for such mediocrity in their vocals in Scheff and Champlin for so long turned them into a cover band of themselves, and sadly, not a very good one, overall. To hear them now is truly a bittersweet experience for me. The band is SO GOOD but the vocals are SO poor and at best, mediocre. I cringe every time I see Scheff get within 10 feet of a microphone. THANK GOD Champlin is gone. Lou Pardini is certainly a vast improvement. If only they would show Scheff the same door they showed Danny, chances are very good his replacement would be better – how could he be worse? To wit: when Chicago appeared in the finale of American Idol last year, my 20-year old daughter (a music major, and unaware of my thoughts on the subject) objectively and correctly observed, “Wow, DeWyze is better than Chicago’s lead singer.” (referring to Scheff) Out of the mouth of babes …

    • Anyone bugged by Scheff and Champlin is a friend of mine. Thanks for reading!

      • I so agree with you on Scheff and Champlin. Actually, when Champlin was brought in to the band in the early ’80’s, I didn’t like his voice and thought it was completely wrong for the sound of Chicago. I stopped following the band after Cetera left. I would also like to punch Scheff. Don’t really know why. He just aggravates the heck out of me with his lack of singing style and stage presence and his terrible singing. He is often off key and does sing through his nose. I tried to like the band after Cetera left, but stopped trying after hearing their music. IMO, they are just a cover band of their previous selves. Love reading your take on the band. Thanks!

      • I’ll be happy to hold Scheff down if you want to smack him.
        No one can replace the talented, sexy Cetera ;)

  19. Ahh … you left out Myth # 8: Terry Kath was the heart of the group. Dead people always get the glory, and what bullshit it is because it’s not always warranted. If one’s mindset is that the “real” Chicago existed in those first 5 or 6 years (as it should be), then it’s absolutely mind-numbingly absurd to reference the “heart” of the band as being anyone other than Robert Lamm. Remember him? Ya know, the keyboardist who wrote those brilliant pieces of music, sang most of the leads … take that away and you’ve still got an adept band with immense potential, but you don’t have the enormity of genius that Lamm brought to the game. Kath was a fine player and singer, but take the Lamm contributions away and you’ve just got a pretty good band; take the Kath guitaristics away and you’ve still got songs that would have resonated for decades. And let me bust one more widely promulgated myth whilst traversing the dichotomy of a tour de force and discreditation; Terry Kath was A.) better than Hendrix B.) As good as Hendrix or C.) almost as good as Hendrix. Take yer pick, because it’s all bullshit. He was not fit to grovel at Jimi’s feet, and nobody else was either. And Terry would have told you that himself. And it would not have been feigned modesty. Anything Kath did, Jimi had already done, and Terry gleaned a lot of his style from having worshiped at the Hendrix alter as had legions, and it’s easy to trace the chronology for those in pursuit of evidential clarity. And spare me the “Well, Jimi said this about Kath” crap; Jimi, the most humble guitarist ever, said a ton of players were better than him. That’s just the way this gentle genius was. Pre-sappy Chicago … one of the greatest bands ever. Rant over. And happy listening.

    • Well I certainly agree on many points, John. But let’s be careful with our semantics. Calling someone the “heart” of the band doesn’t mean they’re the “brains” of the band. Certainly Lamm was very important. But so was Pankow. And, yes, so was Kath. All in the sense they were the creative forces in the early days. But every member has acknowledged that Kath was the “Rock and roll heart” of the group. Based on what *I* know, I’d say that is likely. Seraphine was very jazz-focused. Lamm had more of a contemporary edge. The horn section were all more classically trained (with some jazz thrown in, sure). And we all know where Cetera landed. Kath was the rocker.

      And I can agree that Kath 1) would never have thought he was nearly as good as Hendrix, and 2) Hendrix’s skill was beyond Kath’s, but I also argue what you’re saying about the “dead” musician in regards to a lot of Hendrix’s legacy. Sure, he was lauded as the greatest guitarist ever during his lifetime, but his tragically early death cemented that into our collective conscience that we don’t think anyone can ever unseat him. Also, lets at least remember to call him the greatest ROCK guitarist. I don’t think he holds a candle to the likes of guitarists like Reinhardt or Montgomery. (One last note on Hendrix, there have been rumors abounding for decades that Hendrix called this guitarist or that guitarist better than him, and he was notably humble, but all of those accounts are always from a 3rd or 4th party and often easily refutable (most famously his “comments” about Phil Keaggy), but as far as I know, the comments about Kath by Hendrix to Parazaider are the only validated instance of such a quote).

      • John Williams

        Thanks for your response, and apologies if I seemed a bit curmudgeonly :D The “heart” moniker was posthumously bestowed upon Kath in a tributary nod. I think he, in a sort of ‘mascot’ way (as in being one with a colorful, bigger than life character) could be rightfully thought of as the ‘heart'; however musically (which is, quite frankly, all I care about), the heart lay in the Lamm ‘songbook’, as it were (and for which he also wrote most of the horn charts, btw). Those creations were not merely cerebral, but were rife with musical inventiveness and heart. And passion.

        As for Jimi (for the better part of it, at least), he held no aspirations to mining jazz terrain and would have been as convincing foraying into that genre as would have been Wes cutting a ‘rock’ side. Or Howard Roberts, who was brilliant also. Apples and oranges. Kath straddled that line well, as did Zappa.

        Maybe we agree to disagree on some of this, but hey, it’s all in the name of championing the heady contributions of the, once, incomparable Chicago. Today, self-relegated to the status of a cabaret act (it hurts to say), they’re a shadow of their former self. But, yes, the potential remains, and at least one can hope for Lamm to drop an occasional gem like he did with ‘Subtlety and Passion’, which approaches glory-day Chicago (for my money). Nice blog here … kudos.

      • If I could sit down with the members of Chicago, I would want to ask about the change of direction in the early 80s. Some acts emerged from the disco backlash and created material that, while slicker and more commercial, did not negate what they had done before. The best examples I can think of are Steve Winwood, Kool and the Gang, and “Born in the USA” era Springsteen. Once these artists had paid their dues to their fans, it wasn’t necessarily a sellout to record “Back in the High Life Again,” “Joanna”, or “Brilliant Disguise.”

        Chicago’s 80s material, to me, seems to throw overboard all of the previous Chicago material, whether prog rock, fusion, or soft rock, and to start over. This is perhaps more like what Phil Collins did after Genesis, or “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” by Starship (ex-Jefferson Airplane).

        I wonder if there was any talk among Chicago of continuing in a post-disco R&B direction and pitching singles to the R&B charts as well as the pop charts. But perhaps at that time race was still an issue, and Kool and the Gang could do this but a white rock band couldn’t do it in the wake of Disco Demolition Night.

      • Have you seen the other comments here? There was nothing to apologize about, trust me.

      • Do a little research. Hendrix heard Kath and RAVED about him. Kath was quite taken aback by this. Now since you obviously worship Jimi, isn’t his opinion of Kath good enough for you???

      • Hey Steve, not sure who you’re talking to. If it’s me . . . well let me inform you that “a little research” would show you that history is full of people claiming that Hendrix said that this person or that was “better than him,” when in all likelihood he said nothing of the sort. The references to Kath do have more merit than most, however, as we know for a fact that Hendrix witnessed Kath play and it is Walt that tells the story that Hendrix said to him directly, “I think your guitar player is better than me.” But I think someone else pointed out here in these comments that such a statement, while noteworthy, does not become fact just because Jimi said so.

        Beyond that, I’m far from someone who worships Jimi, so I have no idea where you got that notion.

  20. I’ve known Chicago since I was seven and heard the “Ballet” from my big sister’s LP copy of II. I hardly had any idea music could be so good. Of course, I was seven, but still, it holds up.

    I like VII a lot–it’s probably one of my favorites. I even have no problem with the way it starts out as something of an avant-fusion album (you’ve gotta admit, “Devil’s Sweet” is a real ride, and opening with the “Prelude to ‘Aire'” in the wake of “Just You ‘n’ Me” took guts) and turns into a good mainstream pop/rock album. I also like VIII, and think it’s underrated; X, as you say, is a real downturn, and they never really got it back for me.

    I don’t know if they realize that they could make a more, well, “direct” or “musical” album–throw out the synths and the big production, have some actual playing–and get some attention these days. I think lots of ’70s musicians who felt they had to make big changes in the ’80s had a hard time understanding that Fortune is smiling a little broader upon that earlier sensitivity these days–that the culture of rock music long ago reached a point where the listeners that still care about them actually want them to stop running away from it. Some, like Rush and Ian Anderson, have largely gotten the message; some haven’t, I guess.

    • Thanks, Jeff. I’ve owned VI, VII, VIII, and XI for a while, now, as well as X on CD, and I agree on your assessment of VII entirely. I really like that album, in large part because of how bold it is after a radio-friendly (though still great) album like VI. I listened to VIII heavily when I first got it but it’s been at least a year since then and I’ve stuck with earlier stuff, so I can’t comment too much on it now, but your comments have inspired me to bring it out again.

      It’s interesting you talk about how these artists that lived through the 80’s (and I would add early 90’s, for sure) not really understanding how tastes have changed in reaction to the 80’s. I’ve thought about this myself. There’s a lot of “adult contemporary” music that has stayed stagnant in its style since the early 90’s. The easiest example of this is Christian contemporary music; not sure if you know much about that genre, but stylistically it hit the early 90’s and stayed there. Many other bands from the 80’s and earlier have had the same issue–Chicago included. What I’ve hypothesized is that they all missed the boat when Nirvana’s Nevermind hit the scene and changed everything. That was the “punctuated equilibrium,” if you will, of pop and rock music, and everything has continued to evolve from *that* point. Groups like Chicago and genres like Christian contemporary have attempted to progress from what things sounded like in 1990.

      Anyway, I’m not doing my hypothesis a great justice here, since I’m in a tiny bit of a hurry. I’ll have to expand on it in my neglected blog sometime, because I think it has merit. All that said, I definitely wish Chicago would catch on to the current climate as you’ve described. As a previous commenter pointed out, Lamm (and I add Pankow) were the early creative forces of the group, and they’re still there. Plus Champlin is gone, so that’s a bonus.

  21. Kath was a huge loss, but they did climb back, even if ONLY in a pop(bubble-gum) sense only. – Which, in itself, is NOT a bad thing at all,
    But Ya, thanks Pete, you were ‘DA man back then -. uhhh, anyway.
    However, (with the 1990 loss of Danny), and/or was kicked out ?,…, whatever, well, that was it for me !
    “Sheikago”, has since then, just become a “shell” of their former selve(s).
    In fact, more or less, nowadays, “Sheikago”, as they are more affectionately known , is just a LasVega$ side-show, simply pretending they aren’t really in LasVega$ anymore ?

    BTW: Hey Danny, (seriously) Kudos bud, and Good Luck with your new CTA works, ’cause that’s excatly how Terry would’ve played it out too, had he still been alive ‘n well.

    Dismissing Danny?, stfu Chicago ! :(

  22. I confess I don’t share the nostalgic affection for the first five years of Chicago. As far as I’m concerned, they were a product of their environment and the anti-war was the flavor of the times and they chimed right in with their lyrics. Don’t get me wrong, it was fine for its time. CTA and Chicago II got me hooked in the first place, and I wore the grooves off the first 13 except for Carnegie Hall. But hey, news flash, Saigon falls in 1975, the draft is over and what are they gonna sing about now? It seems to me that if a band wants to stay viable, right-on and relevant, then they need to put a product out there that the music-buying public is interested in. If not commercial, then they end up on the dust pile of has-been-remember-when groups. (So, OK they got caught up in the disco craze with 13, but hey, we all make mistakes.) But then It turns out that there was a taste for power ballads and who knew “If You Leave Me Now” would catch on. So fine, what were they to do? Keep doing good ol’ rock’n roll and play for empty seats or change with the times? How many times has Cher reinvented herself over the last 40 years? So I’ll come out of the closet right here and now and admit that I REALLY enjoyed the emergence of Cetera as a lead figure and David Foster’s influence. I remember it well – just when you thought they were washed up, 16 & 17 came out and they’re actually getting serious airplay again – something that hadn’t happened since 1976. (No Tell Lover doesn’t count. It got airplay, but just barely.) And (referring to 16 & 17) if you didn’t just listen to their Top 40 ballads, you enjoyed some of the best brass/rock/lyrical arrangements they had ever produced. (Heck even Champlin was good on those first few albums. But that was before he decided he needed to compensate for something, I dunno. What was Seraphine’s line to him? “I’ll stop over-playing when you stop over-singing.” There are songs I swear Champlin never did find the note. He would throw in more grace notes than BJ Thomas.The main difference being BJ Thomas didn’t sound like a cat in heat.) Anyway, you can’t argue with success – didn’t 17 go double platinum like six times? I’ll bet those royalty checks were never bigger until or since. So Pankow and Lamm can lament all they want about how sad it was when the band lost it’s way in the 80’s but I’ll bet they enjoyed the big venues they played in those days. They even got to play their fresh tunes, not just Saturday in the Park for the MILLIONTH time, like they do now. Seriously, how do those guys get through those oldies without falling asleep? If they had taken the time to vet a true replacement for Cetera, they’d have remained viable much longer, and who knows, might still be a force today.

  23. Very good article..been following chicago since 1970…you’ve made quite a musical discovery…the early chicago albums are great…agree with everything you’ve written….you might wanna check out vii..originally a double album…first album predominantly instrumental and experimental jazz…the second an eclectic collection of songs one of which has terry kath backed up by the beach boys…there’s another song with the pointer sisters singing background vocaks

  24. The Chicago Story Is Nothing No new facts and retorical nonsense.
    If you really want a story find out why Cetera really left the band…
    More importantly his girlfriend that left him for the personal trainer ..
    Cetera is a real selfsh guy,and has a real exagerated sense of self importance…..A real dumb 1/2 Polock
    Now that being said I would have to say that he was one of the five best voices of the time. Peter “dont call him Pete” lives his life out on a lake and still cant fly fish.
    As for Jim Guercio, ( The manager) Jim screwed the band early on and Peter got it, Peter was the disagreeable member of the group and was
    a very rebelious guy at the time but at least he knew that Guercio was screwing the band in as paying them only enough so that they would not ask questions.

    Guercio lined his pockets in a big way and the band well they all drove used cars whilst Guercio enjoyed his Caribou ranch with the bands money…..In 1980 the ranch had a suspicious fire Daaaa Guercio had enough As far as Peter and his producer, they are and have had a knock down drag out split….Peters a funny guy, if he even thinks you are going to try to mount him he’s done with you….thats just the way this guy is, no sense of humor and he knows everything there is to know…If Peter would have had half a brain he could have been ver very rich at this point but as it turns out the only one that got rich was Guercio……………..But even at that Guercio carries a trmendous guilt around with him to this day for Terry;s Death and its sad its sequestered him away from any new ideas and people…Guercio only wants what benefits him and no one else…..a real shame comes from the mixed feelings the band had and his own guilt…..This guy that wrote this shit about the band knows nothing I speak from first hand knowledge its nothing but Drama now and Danny book is full of nothing but Drama, the real story will never come out because its all to fuckin painfull for anyone to admit and ackknowledge.

    • Oh you are just ADORABLE!

    • You say you speak from first hand knowledge, I’d like to know HOW you know. Are you a member of Chicago and using a made up name? Or are you one of the roadies that worked with and for the band. Otherwise, you have no idea what really went on with the band on a daily basis. You speak of Cetera and his “girlfriend” leaving him. The girlfriend was Diane Nini and she was his wife and the mother of his first daughter Claire Cetera. Get your facts straight before you post. I have met Peter and he is a very kind, caring and actually shy man. He may have made waves within the band, but I would think that most band members at one time or another make waves by standing up for their ideas of how a song should be written or sung. You come across as a very angry person where Chicago is concerned and I for one would like to know why!!!

  25. As a guitarist myself, Kath was an idol for me growing up. However, while he was a great singer and amazing guitarist, he didn’t really do much writing, the bulk of the writing was done by Robert Lamm, who I would argue as the most important member of the band. Pankow was their second strongest writer, though he didn’t write as much as Lamm who probably wrotw 65-70% percent of their songs.

    AlSi you mentioned that Chicago V marked their slope into mainstream rock. That’s almost right. Chicago VI is where the decline started.

    You mentioned that you weren’t very familiar with Chicago V. You should go grab that album, it’s arguably their best (along with III, II, and CTA). Most Chicago fans assume it’s bad, most Chicago fans can’t name a single song off the album aside from Dialogue and Saturday in the Park. Check it out, it was their last mind blowing album.

    VI sucks unfortunately. VII, VIII, and X are pretty good. First 5 solo albums are gold.

    • No, I said I was very familiar with V and that it’s my favorite, and that VI was where they started to “slip.” Maybe I didn’t say V was my favorite here, but it is. What I did say is that V marked when the band actively made the decision to compose songs in radio-ready lengths and release it in a single disc. Their rock edge didn’t start slipping until VI.

      But I like VI a lot. Especially “What’s the World Coming To?” And most of VII is genius. And VIII’s edible. And X is atrocious. I also mostly like XI, Hot Streets, and XIII.

      There are two other points I want to make. First, I don’t buy the continually implied idea that the songwriter of a group is the primary or superior member of a band, or that all or even most of what the other members contribute in the end is somehow technically from the pen of that songwriter. Certainly that is sometimes the case, but when you have the caliber of musicians like in Chicago, the songwriter is the starting gun of the race the whole group runs together. Without the strength of the other six guys, Lamm’s songs would have been pretty weak. The second point is, with that said, Lamm *was* the primary writer with Pankow second, but Kath was third. Actually equal to Pankow much of the time. He wrote “Introduction.” C’mon! Later, Cetera and Seraphine were equal to each other in contributions for fourth place (all pre-Kath’s death, of course). So even the premise that Kath’s significance was less that remembered because Lamm was the primary writer is, I believe, very flawed.

  26. “Without the strength of the other six guys, Lamm’s songs would have been pretty weak”.

    The disparity of nonsensical utterance imparted by the relatively informed has never been greater. And I’m being kind. Because I like you bradenbost. But don’t push it … ;)

    • Sorry John. I stand by that. So many of Lamm’s early day compositions have such potential to be tame soft-rock ditties. Without factors like the strength and tightness of the horn section that owes nothing to anyone but themselves, Seraphine’s powerful drumming, Pete’s masterful bass work, and of course Kath’s rock sensibilities, rhythms, and solos, Lamm’s work mostly would not stand up the way it does. That’s what’s so great about this band–how any one factor not being there changes the whole dynamic.

      • Nah … do you know what a “ditty” is? Lamm’s offerings were sophisticated; that’s not subjective, that’s a fact. You may not like them, and that’s fine, but they weren’t simple “ditties”. Also, the horn charts were Lamm’s, so any assertion of them owing nothing to the creator is absurd. Maybe they didn’t owe EVERYTHING, but certainly not NOTHING. Additionally, your assessment that Lamm’s work wouldn’t “stand up the way it does” w/o “Kath’s rock sensibilities” is analogous to one saying Kath’s guitar work wouldn’t stand up the way it does w/o Lamm’s songbook. You comfortable with that? ‘Cause I’m not. Just because the sum may be greater than the parts doesn’t mean that the parts couldn’t independently be excellent; Lamm, Kath and Cetera could very well have each carved out successful musical careers had CTA never eventuated. I think we may have to agree to disagree on this one ….. but if I attributed as much mediocrity to the primary composer of a band (during a period which I deemed to be their creative zenith) the way you do Lamm, I sure as hell wouldn’t be wasting my time listening to it as much as you claim to have ….. that’s some compartmentalization zone you can go into there … (insert smiley emoticon here) But I DO concur with you on your summation of the individual members’ musical brilliance. Wonderful band. As in BAND. As in GROUP. EFFORT. (under the careful guidance of Robert Lamm, of course. LOL)

      • Group effort is exactly my point. And the horn charts were Pankow’s.

      • Lamm in Aug., ’12: “when I write for Chicago, I always sketch the horns in. I have done that from the beginning, but now I have really good sounding horn samples that when I play the parts that I’ve composed for the guys …”.

        “beginning”. “composed”. That’s clear to me. Sketching may not be the full blown end product, but it’s the biggest gist of that which would have been typically handed down to Pankow to tweak. At other times, Lamm would write the parts out in totality, e.g., ‘Beginnings’, ‘Saturday …’, ‘Free’, (and that from JP himself). That Pankow put pen to paper to document the part (which was, itself, mere nomenclature and not creative) after a bit of tweaking (which was a bit creative) shouldn’t muddy the ratio waters. ‘Kath-era’ Lamm songs always had Lamm horn parts, albeit ofttimes with a late inning assist from Pankow. The soft spoken Lamm has never struck me as a tower of ego; perhaps you suspect his veracity. I don’t.

  27. If you ever heard Lamm’s “Skinny Boy” album in 1975, “pretty weak” sums it up quite well.

  28. Thanks, Fayette. You beat me to it. “Skinny Boy” is available on Rhapsody and is worth a listen for the serious Chicago fan, but not really up to the level of Lamm’s work with Chicago.

    Terry Kath never released a solo album, but I you can compile one from various album tracks on Chicago’s 6th to 11th albums. There are a few that sound suspiciously like Kath’s own demos, without any input from the band. (This is speculation on my part. Danny Seraphine does not admit it in his book, but it sure doesn’t sound like him, or his drumset, on certain tracks.)

    “Jenny” (VI)
    “Song of the Evergreens” and “Byblos” (VII)
    “Till We Meet Again” and “Thank You Great Spirit” (VIII)
    “Hope for Love” (X)
    “Takin’ It On Uptown” (XI)

    I don’t find this material any more compelling than what is on “Skinny Boy”. Probably the standout track is “Takin’ It On Uptown,” with its uncanny imitation of Hendrix’s guitar solos and his vocals.

  29. John, really? “… sophisticated; that’s not subjective, that’s a fact.” Of course it’s subjective, unless you own Ronco’s amazing new “Sophisticatometer.” It slices, it dices, and it’ll measure the sophistication level of any piece of music you choose. Wonder if you’re favorite ditty is sophisticated? Wonder no more and be the first kid on your block with your new Sophisticatometer. Then you can say with confidence. “The music I listen to is more sophisticated than yours! It’s a fact!”

    • I don’t mean sophisticated in a societally-classist or condescending way, but literally in a musical context, i.e., harmonically developed chord progression and melody, sure, Lamm’s songs are a helluva lot more ‘sophisticated’ than a little “ditty” (the comparative), which is a simple, short song keeping high company with nursery rhymes, sea shanties, field hollers and Irish pub sing-a-longs. That’s not subjective. That’s FACT. It doesn’t connote to one genre being inherently superior or inferior to another, as you may personally find the nursery rhymes ultra-gratifying–THAT’S subjective; it just means what it says. Do you really believe that there’s only one level of musical sophistication? Because if you do, then it’s really too late for you, now isn’t it? And if you don’t, then why don’t you take your smart-ass adjoiner above and re-read it, because all of a sudden it becomes self-directed. Back to yer shanties Cap’n-

  30. On Peter Cetera Leaving Chicago, you have to understand that when he left, he was with the band for quite some time. It’s comparable to Steve Perry being with Journey and then leaving in the late 80’s. Both guys left in their primes because they wanted to work in their relationships and family life, not tour the world any more. Ultimately, both of them were not successful in keeping their relationships. This is the sad side of true great vocal rock gods.

  31. I agree, Seth. After living out of a suitcase for 18 years, who can blame him for trading that for retiring to some property in Idaho, singing when he wants and where he wants, his personal relationships notwithstanding. I seriously doubt he’s ever looked back.

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  33. Glad ive been a hard core fan for over 40 years..esp during the early years.. i lived through it…. most people can only dream about it, or try to put the pieces together off how it must of felt to follow the band over the years.

  34. Interesting comments about skinny boy…if you where a hard core fan you would of purchashed that in 1974 as i did…

    • I did buy the Skinny Boy in ’74. I tried to like it, I really did. I thought, maybe it’s an acquired taste. So I listened to it as long as I could stand it. It was like cake without frosting – good, but something was missing.

  35. I have been a die hard Chicago fan since the 70’s. Loved them in the 70’s and 80’s and still love ‘em. They are different now….older…..wiser, more smooth around the edges….but, damn. They still have it, they still totally love what they do and you can see how much they are enjoying themselves. Things change. They aren’t the old hard edged rockers anymore, but I still love what they do. Jimmy Pankow makes me smile just watching him. Long live Chicago.

  36. This has been a really interesting and entertaining read.

    I’m quoting someone (not sure who) that i read on YouTube that called the original 7 members “a fortunate collision of diverse talents”. I agree, they were all such gifted musicians and together made my favorite music.
    I don’t want to beat up Jason Scheff but i don’t want to hear him singing either. I actually feel bad for him, he gets a lot of hate on the internet!

    One thing I’ve got to ask though, Braden.. “Chicago doesn’t write songs about drugs”. You mean all this time i thought Fancy Colours off of II was about an acid trip and it’s not?! lol, it sure sounds like Robert’s describing an acid trip to me! ;)

  37. Totally, totally on all accounts! This been verty fun to read and check out the video links! Although, as you said, none of this is new information to me. I have been a huge fan since a can remember listening to music. As a child, “Hard To Say I’m Sorry” was one of the first songs i really fell in love with. “Love Me Tomorrow” was equally as intriguing to me for some reason. I was only 9 or 10 when I first heard these songs and the longing, sadness and melancholy were not something I could really relate to. Maybe it was some kind of foreshadowing ha ha. Either way, Chicago 17 was a highly anticipated release for me and it became my very first favorite album. I carried the cassette with me every where I went for probably an entire year. I could probably recite the liner notes from memory. I still have that original cassette today but it is nearly unlistenable due to the insane amount of dropouts from overplaying it on a variety of shitty tape decks!
    Then one day I’m crusing some neighborhood garage sales with my sister and I found a 45 single by Chicago! Some song I had never heard! It was called “Colour My World” with “Beginnings” as the b-side. I bought it and excitedly ran home to check it out. And then became very confused. “Must be two different bands named Chicago I guess” was what I though. This didn’t sound anything like the Peter Cetera-led band that was pumping out these tear-jerker, adult contemporary ballads! I still listened to the 45 a bunch but didn’t like it nearly as much. But it was still haunting and intriguing to me for some reason.
    Eventually I found a copy of Chicago’s Greatest Hits at the local record store and bought that to see what else these guys were all about. Having already been primed for the difference, I pretty much fell in love with this collection. Could it be true that these guys had actually released 15 albums before I had ever heard of them? Hmmm
    Next I saw the Carnegie Hall box set at the record store. 4 lps!!! I wanted it soooooo bad! I couldn’t afford it. To this day I regret not buying that when I had the chance because I never really saw it again for years. I wouldn’t hear any of it until the early 90’s when my friend taped the whole set for me. And by then I was very familiar with “early” Chicago at least.
    I just got done listening to Chicago V and Chicago X (I love the former and the latter holds a lot of inter-band interest for me), and was curious again why Danny was booted from the band. I happened across your blog and this happily distracted me for a while. They were certainly one of the best bands of all time and one of the most interesting. People don’t talk about them the way they do other greats from the same era, which is kind of surprising. I guess there are just a lot of fans still embarrassed by the slight delving into disco phase or something. But as terrible as certain elements of Chicago 13 and XIV may be, there are still good moments on even those albums. And the critics can suck it! I’m sure Robert Lamm would agree!

  38. Ugh, I wrote too fast and excited. Sorry about the lame typos!

  39. If you suggest that “Toto” or “Hall and Oates” are the comparison myth elements for those not fully aware of Chicago, then just as you did not know the history of Chicago when you believed this myth, you do not know the history of Toto or Hall & Oates. Neither’s best work is well represented by the 80’s soft power ballad dreck the unfortunately produced. The first three Toto albums or Hall & Oates “Abandoned Luncheonette” will illustrate my point. I would compare 80’s Chicago to Rick Astley.

    My experience with these three bands (Chicago, Toto, H&A) was sequential, not looking back with the 80’s as my starting point. It was sad to see very interesting bands devolve in the 80’s. I’m glad you took the time to put this collection of myths – it could be done for so many other bands too (The Doobie Brothers, Genesis, Styx, etc.) Something about the 80’s caused everyone to become bland, mushy, less interesting.

    I think the best formula for any real music lover is to go back to the first studio album of a band/artist, and then progress through their work sequentially. You really get a sense of the development of the band.

    Glad you found out about Chicago, tho, a great band.

  40. “Yeah almost all the pre 80’s rock groups music sucked in the 80’s.

  41. Nicely expressed, I think you`re quite accurate.

  42. Well thought out and interesting. I really enjoyed going through your commentary and find a great deal of pleasure in the fact that people are still discovering this band for what they were prior to the 80’s. Even so, I must admit that I am delighted they (Chicago) are still touring and plan on seeing them with my kids when they come through town a few months from now. But I will always cherish the Terry Kath era the most and can only say… Thank God they produced such a Large Body of work to enjoy & explore in the bands first 9 years of playing together… :)

  43. Larry Weisberg

    Nice write up. As a Chicago fan from the early 70’s I appreciate your fresh insight. Definitely check out Stone of Sisyphus. It is a very strong album. I wish Chicago would keep doing new music… the constant repackaging and oldies touring and releases of old live albums just does not help.

    • Well, we may disagree on the quality of Stone of Sisyphus, but we certainly agree on our desire for them to get off the nostalgia circuit. Thanks for reading!

  44. This is Elisa’s husband!! His name is Bill CHAMPLIN…NOT Bill Champlain! Why don’t you get your facts straight before you print them as fact!!?? LOLZ! Just kidding! :O) GREAT blog posting! I liked reading about the Seven Myths. I have been a Chicago fan since 1969 and I agree with a lot of your comments. Well done! I’ve seen different versions of them over the years and have never been disappointed…and yes, Chicago X is probably their most unlistenable album IMHO…

  45. My brother and i loved Chicago in the late 60’s Chicago Transit. Authority .Saw them in Manchester ( think Terry Kath was there) Best band we ever saw.So professi)onal great musicians .Broke our hearts when they went soft on us .Terry Kath was fantAstic , Chicago horn section was wonderful ( Hard habit to break ) Thanks for the article .

  46. MY ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME INDUCTION SPEECH FOR CHICAGO

    The year was 1966, and the place was Chicago’s DePaul University. That was where a saxophone, clarinet, and flute player named Walter Parazaider got together with a drummer named Danny Seraphine, a guitar player and singer named Terry Kath, a trumpet player named Lee Loughnane, and a trombone player named James Pankow. Then in 1967, they met a piano player and a singer named Robert Lamm, from Chicago’s Roosevelt University, who was performing at the Belmont Lounge and Yogi’s Den in Chicago, and they asked him to join their band, which he did. The band would be called The Big Thing, and The Big Thing would play on the Midwest club circuit, building a following. An engagement during the second week of December 1967 proved to be an important gig. The Big Thing was an opening act at Barnaby’s in Chicago for a band called the Exceptions, which was the biggest club band in the Midwest, and they stuck around and listened to them. If The Big Thing had stayed late to see the Exceptions, one of the Exceptions had come early to see The Big Thing. That night, singer and bass guitar player Peter Cetera would leave the Exceptions and join The Big Thing as its seventh member, and big things were about to happen.

    James William Guercio, who had been a DePaul University student of music as well, moved the band out to Los Angeles and he would become their manager and producer. The Big Thing would become The Chicago Transit Authority, and then simply, Chicago. The plan from the beginning was to start a horn centered Rock and Roll band, a Rock and Roll band with a horn section, a Rock and Roll band with horns that were an integral part of the music, a Rock and Roll band whose horn section formed the heart of the band, a Rock and Roll band with a horn section that was another lead voice dancing with the vocals. Chicago’s use of brass and woodwinds was like no other band. They took what is called a “melodic” approach to the horns rather than a “harmonic” approach. The horns actually acted as an additional vocal line, not just performing fill rifts. This is what was innovative about Chicago. Chicago was a rock ‘n’ roll band with horns, and a band way ahead of its time.

    True to the need of the album-oriented rock format that launched them, the first four albums released by Chicago between 1969 and 1972 comprised three double albums and one quadruple album. That’s 10 albums in three years. Chicago’s next five albums: Chicago V, VI, VII, VIII, and IX all hit number one on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart. Chicago took America and the world by storm without the help of their faces. Total subjugation of individual ego to the collective good of the group was the rule in Chicago, even to the point of using a logo rather than a picture of the band on all of their album covers. Chicago refused to emphasize celebrity over the music. The group turned its anonymous, professional air into a virtue and a marketing strategy. They were the faceless band behind a logo. Chicago’s logo and its facelessness were very much in keeping with the style of the late ’60’s that valued group effort over individual ego. The group would come to be identified by a logo, and that logo, designed by Nick Fasciano, would become the most famous logo in Rock and Roll history. Some people though would offer a more sinister viewpoint of the logo, suggesting that management used the fact that nobody really knew what the members of Chicago really looked like as a reminder that nobody in the band was irreplaceable. Inspired by classical music, Chicago also chose to number most of their albums with Roman numerals instead of giving them full names.

    In 1969, Chicago released their first album, and to this day, it is considered to be one of the greatest groundbreaking albums ever produced in the history of Rock and Roll; that album being The Chicago Transit Authority. It was a blend of jazz, classical, and straight-ahead rock and roll. It included an unheralded synthesis of electric guitar rock and roll to more deeply rooted jazz influences and arrangements. It was funky, melodic, emotive, and politically intoned. I’m guessing most people in this room tonight have never listened to The Chicago Transit Authority. You can not buy a Chicago greatest hits record and understand what I’m talking about, but there are so many people that I am speaking for tonight who know exactly what I’m talking about. When The Chicago Transit Authority was released in 1969, it seemed to be the perfect synthesis of everything that was diametrically opposed. It had smooth, lush harmonies, it had the distorted feedback-drenched pyrotechnic guitar works of Terry Kath, it had the Beatles-meet-Motown bass works of Peter Cetera, it had the Buddy Rich-meets-Mitch Mitchell drum works of Danny Seraphine, it had the churning Hammond organ and classical piano works of Robert Lamm, and it had those powerful horns of Walter Parazaider, Lee Loughnane, and James Pankow weaving in and out of the arrangements, ending up toe-to-toe with everything else, and it all worked. The dynamics were perfect. The Chicago Transit Authority seemed to have everything in the right place. The horn section, the vocalists, and the rhythm section were tight and unified. Individually, the members of Chicago were all outstanding on their respective instruments. Unlike many bands of the era that utilized session musicians for their recordings, Chicago was completely self-contained.

    Chicago’s first 11 albums all showcased the impeccable musicianship of all the members of the band. At first, Chicago’s sound was a hard sell. Radio stations wouldn’t play their songs. Chicago’s music was not easily identifiable what it was. Chicago could not be pigeonholed. Their sound met with resistance. Record executives turned to Guercio, and Guercio edited a number of Chicago’s songs to make them shorter and more radio friendly. It was a compromise to be on the radio, and it was what it was. You can still listen to all of the band’s songs in their entirety on all the early Chicago albums; it’s the radio versions of the songs that are shorter. Basically, the songs were made shorter because (as Robert Lamm put it) Chicago’s music wasn’t for people with Attention Deficit Disorder. You know, because those are the people who listen to radio—people with A.D.D. As the ’70’s became the ’80’s and the demands of the music industry started to change, Chicago went looking for a new record label. During Chicago’s search for a new record company, one label said to them, “If you get rid of the horn section we’ll sign you,” to which Chicago responded, “Go fck yourself!” Asking Chicago to get rid of the horn section is like asking Elton John to get rid of the piano, as James Pankow once said. Chicago would go on to sign with a new record label, and the horns stayed, and the band played on for forty more years.

    Question: What do you get when you mix the voice of Ray Charles with the voice and the guitar playing of Jimi Hendrix? The answer is Chicago’s first lead singer and lead guitarist, Terry Kath. Terry Kath had a very soulful quality to his voice and he was an outstanding, superb, deep and wicked virtuoso of a guitar player. One of the best examples of Terry Kath’s brilliant guitar playing can be heard on the hit single 25 Or 6 To 4 from Chicago’s second album. The song’s distinctive descending riff has been murdered by as many beginning guitarists as has been done with Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water,” Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” and Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.” The terrifyingly brilliant guitar solo performed by Terry Kath-a mountain few players ever dare to climb-is what makes 25 Or 6 To 4 absolutely essential. It is one of the greatest moments in Rock history for the electric guitar. The song’s rather mystical title is just a reference to the time of day the song was written: 25 (or 26) minutes to 4 A.M. In a group known for its horns, it was Terry Kath’s hard-edged guitar and soulful vocals that kept the band rooted in rock and roll. Chicago’s line-up for such a large band was astonishingly stable, broken after eleven years and eleven albums only by the death of Terry Kath. After Terry Kath’s tragic death in 1978, Chicago could have gone on to produce albums under a different name, they could have dissolved their band completely with each member going off to do other musical projects, or they could have just left the music business altogether and done other things with their lives, but they didn’t. Chicago soldiered on for another forty years with the help of other notable lead rock guitarists, from Donnie Dacus and Chris Pinnick, to DaWayne Bailey and Keith Howland.

    Chicago’s second lead singer was Robert Lamm—an ambitious composer and piano player whose songwriting talents made him the default leader of the band in the early years. The Robert Lamm-penned hits included, Beginnings, Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is, Questions 67 & 68, Saturday in the Park and of course the afore mentioned, 25 or 6 to 4. His clear baritone voice was an asset, as were his stylized keyboarding skills. The International press portrayed Robert Lamm as Chicago’s social conscience, and many of his best songs (Dialogue, Free, Harry Truman, State of the Union) all espoused political themes. Some of Robert Lamm’s compositions had a swing feel to them as well. Frank Sinatra could have handled Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is, very well. Actually, as the story goes, it was Colour My World, a portion from trombonist James Pankow’s Ballet For A Girl In Buchannon that Frank Sinatra wanted to do a remake of. It never happened though because Frank Sinatra wanted James Pankow to write a few more verses for it, and James Pankow wouldn’t do it. You don’t mess with a classic, even if the chairman of the board himself asks you to. Other Chicago songs penned by James Pankow included the hits, Make Me Smile, Old Days, Just You ‘n’ Me, I’ve Been Searchin’ So Long, and Feelin’ Stronger Everyday. That last one, by the way, was written by James Pankow and Chicago’s original bass guitarist and third lead singer, Peter Cetera—the elastic tenor voice who was brought in to hit the high notes and keep up with the horn section, which the baritone voice of Robert Lamm and the gruff voice of Terry Kath couldn’t.

    If you were to ask any Chicago fan or Rock music historian to name the first three Chicago songs they think of when they hear someone say the name Peter Cetera, they will all tell you the exact same thing—what else but the smoochadelic classics, If You Leave Me Now, from the 1976 Chicago X album, Baby, What A Big Surprise from the 1977 Chicago XI album, and Hard To Say I’m Sorry from the 1982 Chicago 16 album—the comeback album. The sexiest, the sweetest, the most distinctive tenor voice in all of Rock And Roll history belongs to Peter Cetera mthrfckrs! There is no comparison. “High above shimmering, echoing ballads and rock-solid choruses that aim for the bleachers, Cetera’s tenor voice soars like a bird in flight. If it doesn’t strike you deep in your heart, it’ll at least stick deep in your head.” That’s what an unknown source from Rolling Stone Magazine’s website once said about Peter Cetera. Well Peter, I would like to tell you tonight on behalf of all your fans that your voice has actually done both for us. Your voice has struck us deep in our hearts and it is stuck deep in our heads and that is where we want it and that is how we like it! In May of 1985, after 18 years with the band, and after the Chicago 17 album, Peter Cetera left Chicago for a solo career. Let’s just say that things got really ugly. It was like a divorce, as Peter would say, and that’s all I’m going to say about that because it’s none of my gddmn business! So, out walks Peter Cetera and in walks singer/songwriter and bass guitar player Jason Scheff, the son of Jerry Scheff, who was a bass guitar player for Elvis Presley. Jason Scheff has been with Chicago now for over 25 years. To tie this whole thing together, I have to take you back to 1981 because that was the year that singer/songwriter, keyboard player and guitarist, Bill Champlin, the lead singer of the late 60s and 70s psychedelic rock band, the Sons of Champlin, joined Chicago. During his 28 years with Chicago, Bill Champlin’s husky voice was the perfect complement to both, Peter Cetera and Jason Scheff.

    And finally, Chicago’s original drummer; its backbone, Danny Seraphine. During his time with Chicago, Danny Seraphine played drums in a style that, ironically perhaps, can best be described as lyrical. To be a good drummer one must develop his own technique. Good timing and good taste is essential, but it is the technique that sets the truly great drummers apart from the rest. In 1973, Chicago brought in percussionist Laudir De Oliveira from Sergio Mendes. For seven years, Laudir De Oliveira added Latin flare to the band’s music and his percussion work was the perfect complement to the drum work of Danny Seraphine. After 25 years with the band, let’s just say a little more drama ensued, and Danny Seraphine was replaced by drummer Tris Imboden, who has been with Chicago now for over 25 years. And that folks was Chicago. 50 years, 50 albums, 5 number one albums, 130 million albums sold worldwide, 50 hits, and 3 number one songs later, Chicago is being inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

    Now I am going to present you with information that must be stated! According to Billboard chart statistics, Chicago is second only to the Beach Boys as the most successful American Rock and Roll band of all time, in terms of both albums and singles. The number one charting Rock and Roll band of the 1970s was Chicago! The Top 4 charting Rock And Roll bands of all-time on both the Billboard 200 Albums Chart and the Billboard 100 Singles Chart just happen to be the same four bands on both lists, and this is how the lists read: Number 1 – The Beatles! Number 2 – The Rolling Stones! Number 3 – The Beach Boys! And at number 4, (all together now) Chicago! And in case you are wondering who’s at number five, it’s The Bee Gees! And that says it all right there folks! And up until tonight, Chicago was the only band on those lists who had not been inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame yet! And all I have left to say is that it’s about fckng time Chicago got inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame because this is Chicago mthrfckrs! This isn’t Boston or Kansas—if you know what I mean! So, without any further ado, ladies and gentlemen, CHICAGO!!!

    THE CHICAGO INDUCTEES

    01. Walter Parazaider (1967-Present: saxophone; clarinet; flute; songwriter)
    02. Lee Loughnane (1967-Present: vocals; trumpet; flugelhorn; songwriter)
    03. James Pankow (1967-Present: vocals; trombone; songwriter)
    04. Robert Lamm (1967-Present: vocals; piano; keyboards; songwriter)
    05. Terry Kath (1967-1978: vocals; guitar; songwriter)
    06. Peter Cetera (1967-1985: vocals; bass guitar; songwriter)
    07. Danny Seraphine (1967-1990: drums; songwriter)
    08. Laudir De Oliveira (1973-1980: percussions; songwriter)
    09. Donnie Dacus (1978-1980: vocals; guitar; songwriter)
    10. Bill Champlin (1981-2009: vocals; keyboards; guitar; songwriter)
    11. Jason Scheff (1985-Present: vocals; bass guitar; songwriter)
    12. Tris Imboden (1990-Present: drums; songwriter)

    POSSIBLE CANDIDATES FOR GIVING THE ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME INDUCTION SPEECH FOR CHICAGO:

    Bill Clinton, David Foster, Al Jardine, Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Bruce Johnston, Barry Gibb, Philip Bailey, Verdine White, Ralph Johnson, Steven Van Zandt, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Billy Joel, Sting, Gerry Beckley, Steve Lukather, Bobby Kimball, Alistair Ian “Ali” Campbell, Huey Lewis, Chris Isaak, Dave Matthews, Lenny Kravitz, Axl Rose, Slash, Dave Grohl, Taylor Hawkins, Rob Thomas, Stephan Jenkins, Mark McGrath, Steve Malkmus, Trey Anastasio, Justin Vernon

    ALTERNATE ENDING IF CHICAGO IS INDUCTED DURING A BARACK OBAMA PRESIDENCY

    Now I am going to present you with information that must be stated! According to Billboard chart statistics, Chicago is second only to the Beach Boys as the most successful American Rock and Roll band of all time, in terms of both albums and singles. The number one charting Rock and Roll band of the 1970s was Chicago! The Top 4 charting Rock And Roll bands of all-time on both the Billboard 200 Albums Chart and the Billboard 100 Singles Chart just happen to be the same four bands on both lists, and this is how the lists read: Number 1 – The Beatles! Number 2 – The Rolling Stones! Number 3 – The Beach Boys! And at number 4, (all together now) Chicago! And in case you are wondering who’s at number five, it’s The Bee Gees! And that says it all right there folks! And up until tonight, Chicago was the only band on those lists who had not been inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame yet! And you know what’s funny? First, a Chicago politician named Barack Obama is elected the first black President of the United States of America in 2008. Then, in 2010, the National Hockey League’s Chicago Blackhawks win their fourth Stanley Cup in franchise history, but their first Stanley Cup since 1961, the year of Barack Obama’s birth. Dustin Byfuglien becomes the first African-American hockey player in NHL history to win the Stanley Cup. Then, in 2013 the Chicago Blackhawks win their fifth Stanley Cup in franchise history and their second during a Barack Obama presidency. Three more black hockey players win the Stanley Cup: Ray Emery, Jamal Mayers, and Johnny Oduya. Obama and Oduya both have five letters and they both begin with the letter O and end with the letter a. Obama and Oduya both have Kenyan ancestry. Then, what do you know, Chicago, the band, is finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 20??, during a Barack Obama presidency, but Chicago the band isn’t black, but they did play Rock and Roll, which stems from the blues, which is the music of black people as Jann Wenner said at the 2008 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction ceremony in reference to the induction of Little Walter. Walter is also the name of Chicago’s saxophone, clarinet and flute player—Walter Parazaider that is, who is a member of an elite group flute players in Rock history that includes Ray Thomas of the Moody Blues, Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, and Peter Gabriel of Genesis. Well, you know what they say, things always happen in threes, and in this case it’s Barack Obama, the Chicago Blackhawks, and Chicago. And all I have left to say is that it’s about fckng time Chicago got inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame because this is Chicago mthrfckrs! This isn’t Boston or Kansas—if you know what I mean! So, without any further ado, ladies and gentlemen, CHICAGO!!!

    JUST SOME EXTRA INFO WITH A DIFFERENT ENDING WHICH WON’T BE USED IN THE SPEECH

    First, a Chicago politician named Barack Obama is elected the first black President of the United States of America in 2008. Then, in 2010, the National Hockey League’s Chicago Blackhawks win their fourth Stanley Cup in franchise history, but their first Stanley Cup since 1961, the year of Barack Obama’s birth. Dustin Byfuglien becomes the first African-American hockey player in NHL history to win the Stanley Cup. Then, in 2013 the Chicago Blackhawks win their fifth Stanley Cup in franchise history and their second during a Barack Obama presidency. Three more black hockey players win the Stanley Cup: Ray Emery, Jamal Mayers, and Johnny Oduya. Obama and Oduya both have five letters and they both begin with the letter O and end with the letter a. Obama and Oduya both have Kenyan ancestry. Then, what do you know, Chicago, the band, is finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 20??, during a Barack Obama presidency, but Chicago the band isn’t black, but they did play Rock and Roll, which stems from the blues, which is the music of black people as Jann Wenner said at the 2008 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction ceremony in reference to the induction of Little Walter. Also, “Chicago” had seven letters and seven members until a game of rumored Russian Roulette. Then there were six, just like the six letters in “Barack”, who is an “ally” of Russia. Keeping one’s nuclear rivals close can be seen as a six-lettered gamble itself, and gambling was born of the Chicago mob scene. Seven Blackhawks on the ice would have been too many.

  47. Glad I found your blog (off a facebook post by Roy Salame, btw).

    I have been a Chicago fan since middle school listening to ‘Beginnings’ on CBS-FM back in Hackensack NJ *before* it became an oldies station. I bought and played the grooves off C2 and C3 and purchased C4 the day it dropped to stores (not a trivial amount of cash for a fifteen year old). I remember where I was and who I was with when I heard the news about Terry’s death and I also remember how it crushed me! It was my own day the music died. Many fans have their own. I have gone to only two post-Terry’s death concerts and the music just was not the same.

    The Chicago that I like best was the seven musicians of the original LP’s and their producer, James William Guercio. He may have been a controlling, manipulative, son-of-a-bitch [check out the old NBC documentary about Chicago on youtube to confirm how dismissive JWG could be], but he was their son-of-a-bitch and I think the music showed it.

    Chicago LP’s without Terry and Jim were just good to listen to…They no longer moved me. Good stuff, just not great stuff.

    • Thanks for reading! I still enjoy a good portion of Chicago: Hot Streets through Chicago 17, though, but in an entirely different sense with how I enjoy their first 5-7 albums. I can take or leave VIII through XI. And I’ll always leave X.

  48. I WOULD LOVE TO SEE MR CETERA BACK IN CHICAGO SOME DAY

    • As would I. But only with Danny.

      • Here’s an answer to your wish I just found on YT. Unfortunately, it’s not the answer either of you were hoping for. The answer comes from Robert at about the 24 minute mark:

      • Danny burned his bridges by starting a band and competing? They kicked him out of the band! Not to mention that I’m floored by the audacity that Chicago is in active competition with anyone these days . . .

      • Danny sure wants to do it! Great interview Danny! :)

        http://www.sandiego6.com/story/drummer-danny-seraphine-20130812

      • Great interview Danny; not a great interviewer, though. Let the guest talk, dude.

      • I’ll have to ‘reply’ here as some comments don’t have reply buttons. @ chicagofan, thanks for the Seraphine interview link. As much as I sympathize with Danny (my cousin was canned, coincidentally enough, by a Guercio-managed band with a #1 in the charts), I also feel the band did what it had to. Be that as it may, I’d, personally, never be able to get enthused about any Chicago reunion w/o the participation of both Cetera and Seraphine, and a very damned good Kath-alike singer/player. And while you’re at it, whittle it back down to 7 (that’s all you need). And stop with the cabaret act already … because it sucks mightily. And Robert, pull the Hammond out of storage and schlep it along with a Rhodes. No cheezoid patches allowed. I don’t ask for much, do I? For those who require less, I’m happy for you. For me … there’s always the old recordings … and they do rule.

      • You write what I feel.

        Let’s turn this more positive. In our collective fantasy Chicago reunion that only includes original members, who would be a good fit to fill in for Kath?

        I’m sure there are plenty of good choices, but I’d like to see a digital revival of Terry, a la Tupac Shakur style.

        Okay, not really. But really. But not really . . .

      • PUHLEEZE NO HOLOGRAM TERRY! LOL!
        After reading Don Felder’s book, I wished he could have sat in for Terry sometimes. He’s an excellent guitar player although his style is different from Terry’s. Unfortunately he lacks the vocal skills.
        @John Williams: You’re welcome for the link and I thank Braden again for giving some of us old school Chicago fans a place to talk!

      • After reading about the coke use and egos in The Eagles, they make Chicago look like angels lol
        Don solo:

  49. Just saw this on YT today and thought i’d leave the link here for other Chi Fans to check out. Sounds like this could be very interesting!

    The History Of Chicago Trailer:

    • I find this exciting but also a little sad because I know Danny and Pete will have no part in it except mentions. That said, after reading Danny’s autobiography and watching that Ernie Manhouse interview with Peter, seeing the story from the remaining 4 original members’ perspective will be interesting.

      I find it amusing that one of the commenters on Youtube asked if he can pay to just see the first hour.

      • It kind of makes me wonder if this is will be their rebuttal to Danny’s book?! I’ve never heard any of them comment on Street Player so it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

  50. Re: Your Myth #1. Peter Cetera is most definitely LEFT HANDED. I have met him and have seen him sign autographs with his left hand. I have followed the band since their beginning and still love the Original Band. Peter once said that learning to play the bass with his right hand and sing at the same time was much like ” patting your head and rubbing your tummy”. You should read the book “Feeling Better Everyday” by Ben Joseph. It is very interesting and was written before Danny wrote his book.

    • Look, I already had it out with someone else about this. He doesn’t play guitar left-handed, and I said he wasn’t left-handed in reference to a video where he plays his bass left-handed. So I’m not incorrect about that. *I* am left-handed yet play guitar right-handed, and if someone is talking to me about guitars and asks if I’m righty or lefty, I’ll say I’m a righty. Because we’re talking about guitars. Not about signing autographs or filling out DMV forms.

      And that’s not even the myth I was addressing! Sheesh.

      • So sorry that I posted this. Somehow, I missed the other discussion about Peter’s hand playing. I’m really enjoying reading this blog although much of it I already knew. Thanks and keep up the good work.

  51. stumbled across your post by happy accident — nicely done!

    i’m in my late 40s — my VERY first LP was “chicago transit authority.” chicago was the first band that i went apeshit over as a kid in the early 70s.

    terry kath’s early demise still feels like a punch to the gut. he was such a monster player. much of the material they recorded while kath was still around holds up very nicely, imho.

    and precisely because he recorded/issued SUCH an endless stream of ghastly saccharine pap, peter cetera has done himself a real disservice by making it too easy for people to completely forget that, really, he was one heck of a rock&roll bass player (i’ll refer, again, to CTA, pretty much in full, as an example — the opening cut, “introduction” in particular. the rhythmic and harmonic support he delivers on that multiple-modulations tune, really is a thing of low-end beauty).

  52. …Any myths concerning the Sisters Nini?

    • I don’t know anything about Peter and Roberts ex wives except that they were both drop dead gorgeous!

      • Well, Peter and Jimmy P were both married to Nini sisters. I recall (vaguely) that Jimmy actually had to get divorced first. And I think that at least one other band member -Lee? – had involvement with someone in the Nini family, too.
        It makes me wonder.

    • Peter was married to Diane Nini and had one daughter, Claire. Bobby Lamm, not Jimmy Pankow, was married to Julie Nini. They are both beautiful and are sisters.

  53. Braden, somebody posted a link to your blog on Peter C’s site. (i have to admit i’d forgotten i’d posted here!)
    I hope it’s okay for us to still comment here. I haven’t found a good site to talk freely about the group Chicago. I don’t feel like you can speak freely on the official site and YT isn’t the greatest commenting site either. Way too many trolls!

    • I just checked that. Very cool! Maybe Peter checks his forums! Maybe. Maybe he’ll read this and contact me and we’ll hang out, and he can lecture me about how he’s actually left-handed. I can dream.

      Ad feel free to keep the Chicago talk going! I enjoy it and am honored to provide such a forum for it.

  54. Hey, I bought Skinny Boy in ’74, too. And loved two tracks – Temporary Jones with TK on bass! and Crazy Brother John – which was long and rambling fable. Like listening to one of Bernie Taupin’s songs…

    High tenor who plays bass??? Is that a thing that I never knew about? Cetera, Randy Meisner, Timothy B Schmit…All bass-playing tenors.

  55. Its so enjoyable and learning to follow all of what comes up here. being an old fan, since the end of 60s. More convenient with the older materials. Its amasing that so many skilled individuals have managed to make this into a band-sound. Im amased….

  56. I have hear many times that the BIG THING was in the national battle of the bands, and the band that won was a band that played at our after football game, named the TROPICS. They where from FLA. and flew to our town for the dance.

  57. Nice blog… I just got back from their concert here in VA and you’re absolutely right… I want to punch Jason Scheff in the head. His nasally tone really screws with the songs. He needs to be replaced! Thanks for your insights to the band! Good stuff.

  58. Ah … that’s the big $ question, and a fun one to ponder. It can be painful listening to a jazz guitarist playing rock; hammer-ons, pull-offs and bends aren’t typically part of their vocabulary, while the scales oriented soloing just doesn’t have any rawk attitude and, as such, they usually end up sounding stiff and unconvincing (not to mention the sterile distortion sounds). On the other hand, rockers don’t typically possess the chops to get close enough in jazz. Terry was a true jazz-rock hybrid; not some bow tie wearing jazz man trying to ‘rock it up for the young set’, nor a rock poseur pretentiously vying for ‘artistic credibility’ by clumsily navigating some freshly gleaned music theory, he successfully bridged the gap between the two disparate terrains and pulled it all into a cohesive whole. Though not a plentiful lot, they can be found, but they gotta sing too, and do it WELL, and in >that way< … and therein lies the rub. As in TALL order. Rather than the already established sideman, my guess is this 'mystery man' exists … woodshedding in relative obscurity. Somewhere. Waiting for a call. That will never come. But it's fun to ponder … Got any ideas?

  59. A couple more comments I have on Danny’s San Diego interview.

    http://www.sandiego6.com/story/drummer-danny-seraphine-20130812

    First off, I can’t believe Danny hasn’t that 1970 Tanglewood concert! The whole thing is on you tube and is so fantastic, I’ve watched the whole thing a few times.
    I also find it odd that he speaks in his book and in this interview about the 2 guys he feels responsible for his ouster from the band. Jason Scheff and Bill Champlin but then he invited Bill to play with CTA. I guess he wanted to bury the hatchet?

  60. why was daniel seraphine fired from the band?

    • Danny says it was because Champlin and Scheff took issue with a drummer running the business side of the band. In 2000, Champlin said it was because Danny wasn’t focusing enough on his playing. Kinda the same story either way but from different angles. Danny’s autobiography also makes a big deal out of his severe anger issues, which may be a silent factor that no one involved points out.

  61. Who the hell cares what instrument he played. So he had a few bad concerts in London. That negates the previous decades of literally thousands of stellar performances? If it went down at all like Danny says it did, then I’m really disappointed that the original members didn’t have the balls to stand up for their long-time friend and original band member and instead piss away a 20+ year relationship, which included much in the way of good times and bad. They (originals) should have sat down with Danny and appealed to him in every way possible to mend fences. Instead they looked the other way and let the newcomers (majoring in mediocrity and neither of which were fit to tie the shoes of their predecessors) turn them against their friend and allow him to be cast aside like yesterday’s news.

  62. I discovered Chi much like you, there was a station in chi in the 80s that would on Saturdays play 2 of their songs back to back. I was amazed: .”Wait, the Sat In the Park guys are the Stay The Night guys..whoa”.. Soon after: My Chi collection started. 25 or 6 to 4, yeah I figured out the time reference on my own, but you have to admit the coincidences. Fact..Chi or Robert Lamm did an anti-drug PSA early on, (may still be on youtube), and we all know they did drugs.. (not bashing-I love them, just being honest). Don’t think it would be wise to admit if the song referenced along with the time; drug use, In relation, never been able to figure out Fancy Colors from album 2.. is that about drugs… hmm. I’d also like to understand the attraction that children have with album 2. The stories are told over and over, and I am one. Regardless of generation, the songs attract kids, for me it was Color My World, I was 9, which is the age range you hear. I differ with your opinion on less than stellar lyrics (my phrasing). A very fun read.. thanks

    • I feel like Lamm would have admitted that 25 or 6 to 4 was about drugs by now–since the secret of their drug use is old news and the hot lights of being toward the front of rock culture turned off long ago.

  63. No one says a band has to remain exactly the same as when it started to be totally enjoyable.Things change-sport teams,government,etc.,get the picture.I saw Chicago in 1969 and 30 times since and never was disappointed wether it was Kath Cetera and Seraphine or any of the able fill ins.They may not have been as great as the origanals but very enjoyable none the less.Kath,Cetera and Danny are gone.Time to quit harpen about it and enjoy them for what they are now.If you don’t like who they are now,don’t go to the concerts or listen to their music.Very Si Ai

    • While I agree that a band does not have to stay the same throughout their career, I strongly reject the notion that I have to either enjoy what an artist has become or keep quiet. No one is beyond reasonable criticism.

    • Even if the original 7 were together today, they still wouldn’t sound like they used to. Age has affected all of them. Robert and Peter’s voices are nothing like they were back in the 70’s. So, no a band can’t stay or sound the way it did when it started.
      I have already been taking your advice and don’t go to Chicago’s concerts or listen to their music now. It just doesn’t sound right to my old ears!
      The reason I post in this blog is because we can discuss,gripe, harp and speak freely about the past and present group. If you don’t like it you don’t need to come here either. The official Chicago site is for you.

  64. OMG. I just love an expert who became a fan in 2010!
    First of all, you have NO IDEA about the circumstances of Terry’s death because of one simple thing–YOU WEREN’T THERE. So, please drop the expert analysis.
    Secondly, you lose any credibility you might have had when you say you want to punch Jason because of the way he looks. What? Are you 13?
    Third, Danny punched out a guy who died much later. He probably should punched you just because of the way you look.
    Finally, only because I can’t waste any more time on your ridiculous blog, Bill was forced out; he didn’t “leave.” I know that because I know Bill.

    • What’s funnier, Vic? Your pathetic shoehorning in that name drop at the end? The fact that you’re infuriated by a blog post because it was written by someone who you don’t deem worthy to have an opinion on the subject? Or is it how the expression of an opinion in a facetious manner for the sake of humor is so lost on you, that it speaks volumes about your reading comprehension level?

      You’re trying pretty hard to imply that I’m immature, but when we break down what you’ve written, it would seem it’s the other way around.

  65. Darrell Jamieson

    Hey, Bradenbost, I for one don’t care when you came into the fold. I appreciate the fact that even a Jonny-come-lately can take a listen to a volume of work and appreciate it for what it was and is—even after 40 years. I say, “Welcome Aboard!” I was an avid fan through 17 and even though I followed the band closely at times and from a distance at others, I appreciated the trouble you went to research their long history, and I learned many things I did not know—and I thought I knew everything there was to know about the band. Apparently some feel that they closed the gate behind them to new fans and no new ones are allowed into the “club.” When I initially read your blog my reaction was one of validation—that someone else came to the same conclusion I did many years ago, not disdain that you came late to the party. It validates the notion that good music holds up over time. “You weren’t there?” Oh, I get it – since you weren’t in the room when he pulled the trigger, you aren’t allowed to have an opinion on the subject. That’s like saying you can’t be a Christian if you weren’t present at the crucifixion. I haven’t gone back and read your blog, but I don’t recall you claiming to be offering “expert analysis” of anything. I would disagree with you about Mr. Scheff however. I want to punch him not for how he looks, but for a different reason. He just plain can’t sing. In the meantime he’s going around the country stinking up really great songs. He and Champlin used to share the wrecking duties of the vocals and now he’s doing a fine job all on his own. Necessity is the mother of invention and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Andy Hildebrand, the inventor of Auto-tune technology, got the idea on his way home from a Chicago concert. So for Andy, he could honestly say to Jason, “You’re the Inspiration.”

    • Thanks Darrell. Fandom is a tricky thing; I have to admit I’ve spent a good portion of my adult life deeply evaluating how irritated I should be at new fans of things I’ve enjoyed for decades. It seems others don’t quite have the capacity, or maybe just the time, for such introspection.

  66. i worked for Chicago (lived with them on the bus) as there assistant tour manager from 1999-2002. it was one of the best experiences of my life. as much as i think i know about the guys and the band, there is much that i don’t know (including that i know little about kath, serraphine and cetera other than what they sounded like musically). i have been meaning, for years now, to delve deeper into their musical catalogue and even more interested to learn the story of their history. i ordered danny seraphine’s book on amazon yesterday – figured that would be a good place to start. i checked out a few articles on-line and came across the ‘7 myths’ and am about half way through the conversation above. i appreciate the writing and dig the passion on the subject matter.

    i was born in 1971. last summer, a guy who is about 15 years older than me and knows i worked for Chicago was trying to explain to me what the band meant to him way back in their early days. he said they were alternative before there was such a thing as alternative – that there sound defied categorization. i kind of new that, sort of, but it was really cool listening to someone who loved them and knew there music better than me talking about it.

    i think it is true of almost every music group (comedian, writer, etc.) that they tend to do their best work when they are young and hungry and broke and full of piss and vinegar. w ould I love it if Chicago released a new album tomorrow that blew people’s minds the way they seem to have done 40 plus years ago? sure. but I see no shame in them touring the country every year playing their most familiar songs. they bring joy to people with their music and that can’t be bad.

    one type of fan might want to hear that they are the greatest guys in the world. another type might want to hear that they are entitled and mistreat people. neither is true. they are regular guys who have made a living getting up on stage 100 times a year and rocking the house. the 4 that have been there since the beginning (Robert, Walt, Jimmy and Lee) have been doing it for a long time now. they are road warriors. granted they live in nice houses and stay at the ritz carlton, but i think of them as road warriors. it’s not easy keeping the hours and schedule they keep – for 45 years. the 4 guys on my bus (Jason, Keith, Tris and Bill Champlin) are also road warriors. tris has almost 25 years and toured with al jareau and Kenny loggins for years before that. keith has almost 20 years now, i believe. bill (though he has been gone for a couple years), had almost 30 years with Chicago and was well-traveled by the time he started (maybe 15 years with Sons of Champlin and co-writing a couple hit songs for E,W & F and George Benson). Jason had been doing it for over 25 years now, having started with the group when he was practically still a kid.

    i saw Chicago in concert when they were touring in support of 17. i think i went with my parents. i was in junior high. i slowed danced to their ballads at the age where you weren’t sure if you should keep your mid-section way far away from the girl or press it up against her. like many other bands that i dig, my favorite albums are their earliest efforts. 2 is probably my favorite – the CTA album would be right up there.

    i really enjoyed reading bradenbost and i am looking forward to reading danny serraphine’s book. i am sure i will enjoy reading the parts about the drama and the break-ups and who did what to who. i guess i am not that into worrying about what would be if cetera and danny were still in the band or whether the newer guys do justice to the original guys. they are all bad-ass musicians (“bad boys” as bill champlin would say about a really good musician) and it always sounded really good from where i was standing. i had my favorite songs. beginnings might be my favorite. i tried to make sure i carved out a few minutes to listen to that song while i was doing my job. beginnings, feeling stronger, the ballet, and on and on. it was awesome getting watch these guys do there thing “night after night, day after day.”

    i wasn’t even born when Chicago started touring. i was in my late 20’s/early 30’s when i worked for them. it has been over 10 years since i resigned my post and moved on. these guys are road warriors and survivors in business where people hope to be relevant for 15 minutes. how they are not in the hall of fame, with the catalogue of music, the hits, the album sales, the coming-up-on-50-years-straight of touring, is beyond me.

    thanks for a good read bradenbost. if i had one question i wish you would clear up, it would be “what did you mean by 30 years of champlinism?” it seemed like you kept roughing up bill champlin. i loved that guy. he was very humble and self-deprecating. i agree that the guy that took over for him is a great singer and musician (and a nice guy, too)…but i thought bill was all of those things as well. he had me over to his house one time – his idea. he thought i was good at doing voice impersonations and knew i was trying to get into acting. he used his home studio and gave me a couple hours of his time, no charge, to help me make a demo.

    • Wow. Thank you, Kevin, for the kind words. Things always get a little awkward in these kinds of situations when someone that *knows* the people in question politely speaks up.

      And did I say “30 years of champlinism?” If I did (without checking myself), I would have been referring to Bill joining the band and quickly taking not just creative duties (which, personally, I feel is allowed) but administrative duties (which I feel is arrogant–not my call to make I understand, and also I’m now and will always be an outsider to that group anyway, but as a fan it strikes me as arrogant for a man to say “Danny wasn’t focusing on what he should have focused on, which is drumming” about a guy that was in the band 15 years before he was and, at the time that what he’s talking about was relevant, he was in the band less than 10). Hope I’ve successfully backtracked out of that . . .

      • “less than 10″ years? 10 years, 5 years, 3 years … it’s a moot point. At any rate, a nine year tenure in a band certainly constitutes a vested interest in which one should feel rightfully compelled to voice his opinion about another member should an issue arise. If anything, “arrogance” is thinking you’re exempt from consequences by virtue of provenance. I, personally, never listened to post-Kath Chicago (for a few reasons), but that shouldn’t logically preclude a non-original member from being able to weigh in on a matter that will hold sway over his financial/creative destiny.

    • Kevin, all you say is true. I was on the 17 Tour.

  67. i showed my wife what I wrote because I have been talking about Chicago a lot over dinner tonight. in true elisa-like fashion, she was good to point out that I used “there” instead of “they’re” a couple times and “new” instead of “knew.” my bad.

    just wanted to add that, when I go back to see the guys every now and then, they treat me like part of their (not there or they’re) extended family. when i had guests come to the show, they couldn’t have treated them better – always taking time to visit after the show when all they probably wanted to do was get on the bus and eat dinner.

    being in a band is a like marriage in some ways. these guys are with each other as much as they are with their families. marriage with 2 people is complicated enough. marriage with 7 or 8 people is probably really tough to keep together. only the principals, in this case, the members of the band, will really know what went down. and even their memories and perspectives of the events probably change over time.

    Chicago has made and played great music for almost 50 years.

    • Champlin was just fine in 16 & 17 and then progressively appeared to be over-compensating for something, especially in live performances. There is no shortage of such examples of his caterwauling on YouTube. I’m sure he’s a nice enough fella personally, but it’s not about that. He just can’t sing anymore — not a lick. It’s a shame that he and Scheff made a nice living over the years turning chicken salad into chicken ____, but I digress.

      So, Kevin, first off, thanks for posting your first-hand experience with the guys. What a treat that must have been to be with them those years and get to rub shoulders with truly remarkable musicians. But I’ve got to ask. In the four years you were with them did you or anyone else ever invoke the names, “Cetera” or “Seraphine?” into polite conversation or was that akin to bringing a ham to a Jewish festival?

      In 2001 I heard a radio interview between Mark Davis (Dallas radio talk show host) and Robert Lamm. During the course of the interview he asked the million dollar question — the likelihood of a Chicago/Cetera reunion concert, and Lamm’s response was, “Never say never.” So at least at that time the feeling was that the door was open to the possibility, if even just a crack. I’ve often suggested in other blogs about the possibly a reunion concert to raise money for charity. Heck, I’d guess that would garner in the millions when you consider DVD sales and downloads. Based on how well you know the guys, should I add “Chicago Reunion Concert” to my bucket list, or rather to the list of things I will likely never see in my lifetime just under “Minnesota Vikings win the Super Bowl.” ?

  68. my favorite song of all time: questions 67&68 written by lamm sung by cetera. check out the live version done in japan. cetera’s vocals are classic. (although i’m not a fan of lamm throwing in his Japanese “it really doesn’t matter anyhow”). the band has sucked since 1977.

    • Questions 67 & 68 is my all time favourite also. I remember those unbeatable vocals for the first time as a 16 year old bass player/singer. It gave me a reference to work with. I’m nearly 60 now and still working towards this unatainable reference level.

  69. Hey old school Chicago fans, I just found this little gem on YT this morning:

  70. Here’s one more of my oldie favs:

    • One of my favorite things about this cover is how wrong they got the lyrics. Their version is superior to the original, but when you read the real lyrics, the thought is “oh . . . yeah, that makes a lot more sense.”

  71. Hey Braden how cool is it that a small thought started a few yrs. ago still going with fresh comments and gaining notority more than ever? I just spent an enjoyable hour beginning with the 7 myths and checking a few comments and went all the way to the end. LIKE THE INITIAL ONES BY DATE and then seeing many are continuing to post here and some true Chicago fans like myself. As I type this I am listening to CTA. I am a long haul truck driver with a giant variety of musical likes. While I find CTA thru VII my fav’s I don’t discard the later stuff. I am a suburban Chi Town native and while I am not a professional geetar player I play just for hobby and Terry was always one of my strongest influences. I have succeded in getting all the remastered albums on cd and they have had quite a steady rotation in the big rig for a few years now. I am glad you have this blog/comment still going and Chicago Fan has been contributing neat tidbits to it also. It is a nice outlet to vent, discuss, and talk about the guys.

  72. The Real Chicago

    Terry Kath, RIP, the day Chicago died.
    He gave them their Grit.
    Fantastic article! Simply amazing stuff. Quite accurate.
    THANKS for heads up on Girl from Buchannon. Saw an old cut from a live Tokyo show that played a Make Me Smile trilogy similar to one here.
    Chicago was born to be a group of rock musicians with extraordinary talents.
    THANKS for bringing that out where it needed to be!!!
    $0.02
    PS- have you ever seen Electra Glide in Blue……… :-)

  73. Keep posting here Chi fans! I love checking back and reading the new comments,
    .
    I have Danny Seraphine’s CTA Sacred Ground and have been listening to it a lot lately. One song from it “In the kitchen” is on YT. Hope it’s okay if I pimp it out here! ;-)

  74. OK admitting right now that I am listening to the band while I read all these posts so feeling super geeky but in good company. I always liked the songs but never considered myself a fan – until recently I went to a concert and was blown away by how much I enjoyed it. Except of course for Jason Scheff who made me feel like my ears were bleeding. He sang the opening song (title obliterated from my mind) and I had a very bad feeling that it was high school prom night in the late 70’s and we got the cheap cover band to save money so the head of the prom committee could buy more paper decorations. On stage he seemed younger so I assumed maybe he was a recent fill in. But of course have since found out otherwise. Once they started playing the really good older stuff his voice was less of a focal point and I could concentrate on the brass section and the amazing performances (I was weirdly taken by how buff Robert Lamm looked for an old guy) and filter him out. Except for the sappy solos from the later Cetera years. It had me thinking, if Journey can find someone who halfway sounds like Steve Perry, how can they not find someone who can do a decent Peter Cetera? Then I realized revenge must be the motive. Every time Cetera accidentally tunes into the band his ears bleed and he is now reminded how much everyone rues the day they performed Baby What a Big Surprise. Not to mention Old Days. Which brings me to my question about myths and hoping someone knows the truth. I read somewhere (on line of course) that Peter Cetera hated singing Old Days because he hated Howdy Doody . I am relying on all of your expertise to expose the truth, but half hoping it’s true because the idea makes me laugh out loud. Loved reading this and will check out your other posts, now that I too am (temporarily?) unemployed.

    • @Napleschef, I don’t know if you’re checking back or not but I found this live version of Old Days on YT and thought I’d post it. Maybe you can tell if Peter is hating on it or not!

  75. Napleschef, I’ve seen that comment about Peter hating to sing “Old Days” too (i think it was in YT comments) and I really don’t know if it’s a myth or not. There is an interview I found online with Peter Cetera that makes me think it could be true though. Here’s the link: http://jefitoblog.com/old-interview-peter-cetera-october-1-1992/
    Here are a couple of quotes from Peter that makes me think maybe he had a beef with Jimmy Pankow:
    “….James Pankow, even though I never really enjoyed his type of music, certainly a lot of people did, I mean, he had “Color My World” and “Make Me Smile,” and things that I didn’t personally like, but they were big hits for us and people loved them,”
    “…..…That I didn’t write, and that I didn’t think were very good songs. [Laughter] Especially “Skin Tight,” I didn’t think that was a good song. Kind of a D-rated song. I just…thought it was a piece of garbage, but as the lead singer, I had to sing a lot of stuff I didn’t like to sing.”
    He doesn’t mention Old Days but when he said he didn’t like Jimmy’s type of music it certainly could be true!

    I enjoyed reading your post :)

    • That interview is great! I don’t think Pete and I would be able to swap mix tapes with much success, but oI find at overall I like his attitude and approach to things.

      • Yeah, I agree on the mix tape thing (lol).
        I was definitely a bigger PC fan when he was rockin’ and thumpn’ the bass back in the 70’s with Chicago.
        Here’s an interview from ’86 with Peter, unfortunately it’s laced with his videos from the 80’s (ugh, I hated those cheesy videos!).

  76. Hey, I’m on a roll today!
    Just found a new PC interview from Singapore that Peter did on his B-Day.
    Still doesn’t sound like he wants to get together with the old band.

  77. Guys guys guys, I think the point is, WHAT should a band sound like after 45 years of providing top quality songs for us? As they aged, so did their music, so did their fans. As a Lifelong Chicago fan, I appreciate every piece of crap that they put on record. The hits along with the trash. And there was alot of trash before they became the HIT MAKERS you all complain about. I’ve seen Chicago at least 5 times in every phase of their carreer and just pray for ONE MORE YEAR!

  78. Been a fan of the band since the beginning. I don’t know if it’s been mentioned, but Robert did pen a song about drugs. It is Fancy Colors. Just my 2 cents. Nice work.

    • Thanks for reading, Michael. I’ve gone back and forth on that one . . . unfortunately I don’t have the time to dive into it right now to make a personal determination, but off the top of my head I seem to remember listening closer to the words and realizing it’s not as trippy as its title suggests. But again, I’m not able to really get in and check right now . . .

  79. Mystic Maverick

    Enjoyed this fun informative blog. I liked Chicago’s hits from the beginning through the 80s. Then I rediscovered them a few years ago and have seen them perform live several times and they were so fantastic, I started buying their music beginning with their three Christmas CDs, all great. Then I bought the box set of their first 10 albums. I love the four original members – Robert, Jimmy, Walt and Lee – but I appreciate Jason (when he’s singing on key), Keith, Tris, the percussionist, and Lou is an improvement over Bill Champlin.

  80. More Power to all the past and present members of the band. I grew up listening to your music and have seen you guy’s play live. One song that would always light me up is the song COLOUR MY WORLD since this was my first kiss with my girlfriend then and it was the background music. 2 other memorable songs would be QUESTIONS 67 & 68 and BEGINNINGS. Would love to see you all again sometime here in Southern California. All the best to all of you.

  81. Satoru "Stevie" Kusanagi

    I just found your blog tonight – LOVED it! I was ‘late to the party’ with Chicago as I was born in mid-November 1969. However, Terry Kath’s guitar is what led me to pick up the instrument myself – I learned how to play lead and rhythm guitar, and sing at the same time in the late-eighties from the CTA album (well, CD actually), and I have been playing in bands ever since then. (I am 44 now). I loved all of the albums with Terry—VII (“Song Of The Evergreens,” anyone??), yes, even X, which is worth it to me just for the first two/thirds of “Oh Thank You, Great Spirit,” and XI, which, to me, had more of Terry’s soul in it than anything from VII onward.

    I don’t hate at all on the, group post-Terry. I just prefer Chicago from the first to eleventh albums. Thanks for the post!!

    • I don’t hate it either; the earlier stuff is certainly best but I’ll always have a soft spot for the Cetera Era. Also that rhymes. Thanks for reading!

    • Welcome to you, Satoru! Poem 58 blows your mind doesn’t it! Does mine. I used to make out, etc. with girls to that tune. Are you in Japan? “Thank you, Great Spirit” is on CVIII her in the U.S. Have you heard “Chicago in Japan”? Great live versions of songs from CTA-CV. I had to download from Rhino to get a copy — and that took some work since the DRM on their files was wacky. Vastly superior recording to Chicago at Carnegie Hall. I couldn’t afford CiJ when I was in college…My memory tells me it was $40+ back in the 70’s. (half a week’s pay for me) In fact, I think I”ll fire up iTunes and listen to it now…

      • Satoru "Stevie" Kusanagi

        I do indeed have Chicago in Japan – wish I were in Japan right now! I’d be in Osaka with half of my family, but I’m in San Francisco, so I am not complaining. I have a bunch of stuff from Chicago on CD and mp3 covering the last 40 years. And you are spot on with Oh Thank You Great Spirit on XVIII – I posted the “chocolate bar” X by mistake.

  82. This was an interesting read and did help me to gain some insight to the band. I’ve been listening to Chicago since their beginning. Their silver album was a steady companion to me and eased my mind many, many times. These guys were my go to when I needed solace or to withdraw from my environment. I served aboard nuclear submarines and would be deployed for extended periods of time and remain submerged for most of the time. Even today, listening to their music makes my heart leap and gets my feet to tapping with song lyrics and style that are as relevant today as back then. Terry Kath is an immortal in my mind and I am grateful for his soulful explanations. This band rocked and made us all believe that “we can make it happen”. I’m wondering how much credence to give to Seraphine’s comments about the band’s devolving because of drug use which he says propelled him to becoming the de facto band leader? Regardless of the bands internal politics, these guys were great!

    • I certainly want to give Danny the benefit of the doubt, but the way the rest of the band tossed him out, I’m not so certain they felt the same way about his seemingly-self-appointed role.

  83. Jamie Yarbrough (ChicagoKid69) has put together 30 or so tracks in which Terry’s guitar work has been isolated. http://snd.sc/1cjfuXk

    I got at least 25 of ‘em.

  84. LOVED this! Found this while looking for Chicago info. Saw them on the Grammy’s and got all fired up again! I was on the couch jumping up and down when Chicago played with Robin Thicke. Don’t usually watch the Grammys anymore because I don’t particularly like todays music but that was a treat. Brought back old memories… Oh and Happy Birthday Terry Kath! There never was and never will be anyone to compare with you…

  85. What happened to let the fire out of Chicago? Times changed. The Viet Nam War ended, Nixon resigned, and the band got older. Who or what were they going to protest? Gerald Ford? Inflation of the economy? Their early anthems/hits were protest songs, songs about touring, and songs about writing songs. They couldn’t sustain that source of material forever. The first five albums consisted of 22 sides of vinyl that have not been matched by any band in the last 45 years. That far excedes the output of most artists who are considered giants.
    Danny Seraphine’s autobiography reminded me that even a celebrity’s life is largely unremarkable to read. The engaging parts are the stories about playing, not the list of wives or all the times he felt bad about his marital infidelities. The rest is interesting only to the author.
    Seraphine’s impression that he was the leader was in part his self-image of street-tough scrapper and, perhaps legitimately, in the way the original leader, Terry Kath, focused on the drummer while playing live. Watch video of the band playing in the early ’70’s. Kath led the band live and played instrumental breaks making eye contact with Danny as if they were still the rhythm section of Jimmy Ford and the Executives. When Kath was gone, Seraphine must have seen himself as the one who filled that role.

  86. Danny Seraphine was fired was Jason Scheff was having an affair with Danny’s daughter Kris Seraphine from the time she was 17 years old to the time Danny was fired due to the tension in the band.

    Shame as Jason couldnt keep his pecker in his pants and ruined it. Jason Scheff should have been the one fired. He was just brought into the band as his Dad was a bassist for them and for Elvis.

  87. Anyone who loved Chicago back in the ’70’s like I did….ya gotta see this!

    Thanks again Braden for letting me spam your blog with YT vids!
    I have no idea what to even say about that Jason Scheff / Danny S. comment above! lol

  88. After reading several comments about Peter leaving the band, I felt that I needed to put in my two cents worth. And Kenny, correct me if I am wrong. However, in several interviews and comments on his website some years back, the impression that I got is that more than a solo career, Peter wanted to spend more time off the road. The touring schedule was keeping him away from his beautiful daughter, and being a private individual, he retreated to the northwest and a more natural and laid back lifestyle. He continued to write and record, but he was able to create music on his timetable, rather than being locked into the grueling touring that Chicago maintains to this day. As an aside, several of the members take time off during tours (such as Jimmy, who has a wonderful sub with Nick Lane), because of a devotion to family, or in Walt’s case a case of taking care of health problems. Granted, there were hard feelings from band members because possibly Peter’s departure was a disruption in the bond that the band had maintained since 1967. Certainly that is understandable. And probably the reason we will never see Pete rejoin his former bandmates is because some things were said that cannot be taken back. That being said, it would be wonderful if someway, somehow, everyone could put aside differences and reunite for the 50th Anniversary celebration coming up in less than three years. I respect Peter for the success he has had and enjoy his work as much as I enjoy Danny and CTA, with the occasional guest appearances of Bill and Kenny. Rather than looking at them as Benedict Arnolds, I look at it as a broadening of the artistic work that was born back in February of 1967. Instead of just one band, we have a great band to enjoy with several members still contributing in the same way and giving us more music to enjoy, and you have to include Robert’s solo projects in that mix as well. They all are still creative and give us so much to enjoy…as Jimmy wrote they have “so much to say, so much to give.”

    • Well said Tim!……..just one thing…..before you say “probabaly never” regarding the things that were said, remember that Hell even Froze Over for the Eagles, and Steve Lukather & Bobby Kimball patched things up in Toto. Peter may never be a band member again, but I would bet that we will see him on stage with them in some limited capacity. He HAS TO be intrigued by the idea.

      • Even if Peter just got together with Danny to do something, it would be great. Every time I see Paul and Ringo do something together I think why couldn’t Danny and Peter? It would make some of us old Chicago fans so happy.

  89. Great conversation; thx to all. Became a fan in 6th grade (1970) when Miss Augustine (Herbert Hoover Elementary) played “Does Anybody…” when teaching about social issues and promoting Chicago’s appearance at our very own Neshaminy High School, Langhorne PA.

  90. Robert C. Goetzke

    I started to follow this band closely from the time I heard their second album in the Spring of 1970. I attended their concerts in or near Baltimore, MD yearly from 1971 to 1977, and they always put on a great show. They were the most talented group of musicians, at least of an American band, at that time. Their first three studio albums, all double albums, are classics. Beginning with Chicago V in 1972, they had to compromise their musical integrity in order to satisfy their producer and their record company. They continued to make great music, albeit with a more commercially lucrative sound. They had a very successful second run in the 1980s. They could still play as well as ever, but it wasn’t the same for me. Amazingly, the band is still playing over forty years later, but they’re essentially a tribute band to what I was able to see and hear in their prime.

    • Interesting that you take the time to discuss that angle about Chicago V. I was recently having an ill-advised argument on YouTube about the state of the video game industry and its perceived “lack of innovation.” I mentioned that the movie and (especially) music industries have already done what the video game industry has started doing: abandoning bold, ground-breaking, and risky output in favor of tried-and-true formulas, which are boring and uninspired, but sell to the masses in nearly unfathomable quantities. It’s an unfortunate reality of the evolution of any commercial-based entertainment. I adore Chicago V but, as I mentioned in the blog post, what made their early days so special started to slip after that (I’m very familiar with VI through VIII, now, FYI). But, oh, what if this were a perfect world and such compromises didn’t have to be made to be able to survive? What places would these guys have gone after the boldness of III?

      In many ways, I’m thankful for the music industry the way it is today. The internet and ease of mass communication has made it so that genuine musicians don’t have to give up their artistic integrity to such degrees in order to have careers, but that’s a blog post for another time. Thanks for reading!

  91. Robert C. Goetzke

    As I stated in my previous post, Chicago veered from its initial avant garde music characterized by extended compositions with movements to a more radio compatible format with Chicago V in 1972. Ironically, that album may have had the purest rock/jazz sound that they intended from the start.

    Although each of the original members was a contributor to the success of the band, Lamm, Kath, Cetera, and Pankow were indispensible to the level of excellence that it attained.

    At the outset, Lamm, who truly is or was a gifted songwriter, penned more of the material than the other members combined, although Kath and Pankow made notable contributions. Cetera emerged as a songwriter later on.

    Until he began to spiral into a haze of drink and drugs, Kath, who was a monster guitarist playing both lead and rhythm, was the focal point when the band was performing live on stage.

    At about the midway point of their initial run of success, Cetera, who could really run those base lines, assumed most of the lead vocals and became the “voice” of the band. He essentially carried the band during their second run of success during the 1980s.

    Throughout the band’s existence, Pankow, who contibuted more than his fair share of the band’s hits, has always been the primary arranger of the brass section.

  92. Another great video from YT that has really great old footage of the original 7 band members:

  93. Reality check. The real Chicago was only two albums. CTA and Chicago. III was ok, but not great. 5 was popish and the rest float into soft rock.

    The first two albums were highly innovative, fresh, new, energetic. Terry Kath was the driving force of the band. He kicked them into overdrive.

    There were two camps back then; The BST camp and the Chicago camp.Fans were usually split. Some really hip fans appreciated them both.

    Similar to Chicago, BST lasted 4 albums; one with Al Cooper, 3 with DC Thomas.

    It was all over with both by about 1973. But they both haved lived on and thats a good thing.

    Horn bands of the era were also much more than just Chicago and BST. Ten Wheel Drive, Chase, Lighthouse, Tower of Power etc etc. all produced innovative, fusion type music that reached into new territory combining elements of many other types of music. It wasnt crossover. It was creative and inspired.

    • Thanks for the input, jake, but what I’ve come to find out over the last few years is that our assumptions about what the “real Chicago” was and who was or was not the driving force in the band at any particular moment in time are incomplete at best.

      • Sorry, but mine are not assumptions. I grew up with the music from the very beginning. The first time I heard Introduction I was blown away. I played the music in a Chicago cover band in the early 70’s. Memorized all the horn parts. Bought and listened to every album up until and ever after Kath was gone. I was a huge fan. Still own many on vinyl. I am merely making a comment on the early innovation vs later albums. Chicago was a power house in the early days. I dont know of anything in the later years that compares to the first two albums (which were really 4 albums since they were both doubles.)

        Always open minded, would love to know if I am missing something from the later years that I have not heard. Please let me know if you have any recommendations.

  94. Robert C. Goetzke

    Here are some recommendations from their later albums. Chicago V: “A Hit by Verese” and “Now That You’ve Gone”, Chicago VI: “In Terms of Two” and “What’s This World Coming To?”, Chicago VII: “Byblos” and “Women Don’t Want to Love Me”, Chicago VIII: “Oh Thank You Great Spirit” and “Hideaway”, Chicago X: “Another Rainy Day in New York City” and “Once or Twice”, Chicago XI: “Mississippi Delta Blues” and “Little One” (including the prelude). Granted, not as cutting edge as their earlier material, but good listening nonetheless.

    The rock music of 1970s was not nearly as energetic or innovative as that of the 1960s, neither was the decade. Chicago’s music was representative of both eras. That in itself was quite an accomplishment.

  95. Being both a Beatles and Chicago fan, I sum up Chicago’s first 4 studio albums as such: Their first (CTA) was their “Rubber Revolver”, Chicago II was their “Sgt. Pepper’s Mystery Tour”, III was the “White Album”, while V was “Abbey Road”. Everything after that was a Yoko Ono album… however, I do like VII, VIII, 17 and 18 in a guilty-pleasure sense.

    I saw them live at the Akron Rubber Bowl in 1972, shortly after the release of V. What struck me most was Terry Kath’s inter-action with the audience; so cool and so laid back, as opposed to Lamm’s usual condescending comments. The Akron concert included almost every song from V, except Varese and Alma Mater, the two songs I really wanted to hear live; and most of the songs catalogued in IV (Carnegie Hall). Encore: “I’m a Man”, segued into Motorboat/Free (extended version).

    I also heard that Kath re-strung his guitars in a fashion that would include a bass guitar string (in place of low E), and re-wire the lower 5 regular strings to the upper 5 positions, omitting the final (and thinnest) high-E string. Alas, I cannot verify this.

    Cetera leaving? Not a big shock; after about 4000 gigs in 20 years, along with an average of 3 or 4 house per concert, someone was bound to retire. Wyman left the Stones for the same reason (no animosity, just a change of life).

    But to fire Seraphine? Shame on them!

    CMcF

  96. Danny and CTA are sounding pretty fine:

  97. AS for the bands change of direction ,go YOU TUBE search for the “Peter Cetera years”, the trumpet player Loughnane tells another reason why they changed to soft rock.

  98. “Explain It to my Heart”, “Here in My Heart”, and a couple of other songs should have been top 40 hits possibly top 10 after their last top 40 hit “Chasin the Wind” #2 in 1991

  99. I’m a fan of all of it. Probably my favorite Chicago song outright is on Chicago III. It’s called The Approaching Storm. It’s an instrumental and features each member, most notably Kath. Oddly, around the same time my Dad was touring with Brenda Lee, whose early stuff isn’t just country. My Dad wrote an arrangement of The Approaching Storm which appears on Brenda’s “Live In Japan” album. Not so much about Chicago other than to say they’re one of my all time favorites and to illustrate that other musicians were listening to them then and Chicago’s influence was out there.

    One quick note, I know that Chicago X was pretty much a let down, but I can’t help but like “You Are On My Mind”, perhaps because Jimmy Pankow is the vocalist on it. It’s one of only two songs he sang lead on and I think he should have done more, but I suppose its hard to sing and at trombone at the same time.

    Great to see younger people listening to good music.

  100. Nice write up. I am listening to “Liberation” as I type. I forgot just how good this record is. I really didn’t pay much attention to the stuff after IV or so, and especially after Kath died. I was 17 when this record came out. The horns differentiated this from almost everything else, on first blush. It took a while to realize how good the players actually are. This band as a whole was better than the parts. One of the definitive American bands of the era.

  101. I have news for you. Paul McCartney and Jimi Hendrix WERE left handed. I met Paul personally and he is most certainly left handed. If you watch “A Hard Day’s Night” or “HELP!” you will see by his actions that he is left handed. He opens doors with his left hand, plays with his left, picks up things with his left. I think you are too young to know these people in their heyday. If your father turned you on to Chicago, I am guessing you are in your twenties or early thirties, much too young to have heard and seen these artists in their prime and REALLY know what rock and roll is all about. The crap that passes for rock these days is just plain crap.

    • People like you complain that young people don’t appreciate the things you appreciate, but when a young person *does* appreciate it, you slam them because you don’t think they can understand it.

      The real irony is that you insult what “passes for rock these days” without knowing the first thing about the modern rock scene–or anything with the rock scene for at least the last 20 years. You see a bunch of corporate-manufactured tools wearing eyeliner, playing $4000 custom guitars and assume that’s all that exists, or at the very least represents the “best” of what’s available . . . and that means that it is YOU who doesn’t really know what rock and roll is all about.

      Good day, sir.

  102. Robert C. Goetzke

    My favorite Chicago driving song is their Carnegie Hall live version of “Happy Cause I’m Going Home”. I set the replay button on my car CD player and let that baby play over and over. Cetera’s bass line while providing his vocal is amazing, and the interplay between Kath, Cetera, Seraphine, and Parazaider during the instrumental portion of the song is the bomb. For me, the band peaked at about this time (1971).

    • I’ll have to head back in and listen to that one. When I listen to IV, I always get caught up on Introduction. I can still feel the energy more than 40 years later.

      And I could see that 71/72 was their peak, even though it took a few years, still, for that to really be noticeable.

      • Robert C. Goetzke

        As you may know, most of the band members, particularly the horn guys, were against releasing that album due to the poor acoustics at Carnegie Hall for recording a live show. Fortunately for us, their producer, James Willaim Guercio, knew it would be a commercial success. The band’s live performance recorded in Japan in 1972, of which I also have a copy, has a much higher quality sound.

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