Why Aren’t They In The Rock And Roll Hall of Fame: Chicago

Introduction

Chicago should be one of the no-brainer members of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. They had 5 #1 albums, 21 Top 10 hits on the billboard chart. Billboard ranks them as the #1 selling band of the 1970’s, and they rank second all time in American bands to the Beach Boys in terms of their success. They have 8 multi-platinum albums, 18 platinum albums, and 22 gold albums [1]. Let’s take a look at their contribution to Rock & Roll music, their career success, and why they have been snubbed by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Chicago’s Contribution

Chicago’s contribution to Rock & Roll was not an insignificant one. For one, they provided Rock & Roll with a template of how a strong producer can shape a band—both in the 1970’s with James William Guercio and in the 1980’s with David Foster. The band also was instrumental in adding jazz and latin sounds to Rock & Roll music in the early 1970’s, right along with other bands like Steely Dan and Santana in the same time period. They were also very important in their providing double disks of much of their work, especially their early work, and even releasing a 4 volume live set long before it became popular for bands like the Clash to release so many disks in the same album. Additionally, their albums Chicago XVI and XVII set the template for the sound of middle-of-the-road rock in the 1980’s. Additionally, the band had one of the epic “lost albums” in “Stone of Sisyphus,” an album with a legendary history like the “Chinese Democracy” or “Smile.” That combination of stellar success, importance as a model for other bands, and mysterious lost works says “Hall of Fame” to me.

Why Chicago Is A No-Brainer For The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

See the introduction. The band had hits in the 1960’s, 1970’s, 1980’s, 1990’s, and 2000’s. They have remained relevant and influential despite the change of time and personnel.

Notable Songs: “25 or 6 to 4,” “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It is?,” “Beginnings,” “Saturday In The Park,” “Feeling Stronger Everyday,” “Just You ‘N’ Me,” “Call On Me,” “Old Days,” “If You Leave Me Now,” “Baby What A Big Surprise,” “Hard To Say I’m Sorry,” “Hard Habit To Break,” “You’re The Inspiration,” “Will You Still Love Me?” “Look Away,” “What Kind of Man Would I Be,” “Here In My Heart”

Why Chicago Isn’t A Member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Voters fail to realize the daring nature of their musical vision and the jazzy quality of their original work and judge them for cheesy 1980’s romantic ballads. Additionally, the band gets less credit for their success than their producers have, and the fact that they were a template for 1980’s middle-of-the-road rock is held against them.

Verdict: Put these guys in—immediately. No one holds popular success against bands like the Beatles or the Beach Boys, so why hold it against Chicago?

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago_discography

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68 Responses to Why Aren’t They In The Rock And Roll Hall of Fame: Chicago

  1. Roy says:

    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 a local night club, 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 the first 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. Inspired by classical music, Chicago also chose to number most of their albums instead of giving them full names. As the 70’s became the 80’s and the demands of the music industry started to change, Chicago was dropped by their 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!” Telling Chicago to get rid of the horn section is like telling Elton John to get rid of the piano, as trombonist 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, but their approach to the horns changed from melodic to harmonic for the most part.

    Chicago’s first 11 albums consisted of songs that were just under 10 minutes long, and songs and suites that were over 10 minutes long. These 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 and suites 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 and suites in their entirety on all the early Chicago albums; it’s the radio versions of the songs that are shorter. The first track that got edited was the 12-minute suite called “Ballet For A Girl In Buchannon” which was written and arranged by Chicago’s trombonist James Pankow, from the 1970 Chicago album (A.K.A Chicago II). From “Ballet For A Girl In Buchannon” came two hits: “Make Me Smile” and “Colour My World.” So, basically, the songs were made shorter because (as Robert Lamm so eloquently 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.

    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, politically intoned and avant-garde. I’m guessing most people in this room 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 guitar works of Terry Kath, it had the Beatles-meet-Motown bass works of Peter Cetera, it had the Buddy Rich-meets-Mitch Mitchell drums 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.

    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. During his eleven years with Chicago, Terry Kath wrote 25 songs for the band. He had a soulful quality to his voice, and his guitar playing was considered to be better than the guitar playing of Jimi Hendrix. Jimi Hendrix himself asked Chicago to tour with him, which they did, after he heard them playing at the Whiskey-A-Go-Go in Los Angeles and said, “I’m pretty good man, but this Kath blows me away”, “Your guitar player is way better than me, and the horns are like one set of lungs.” When Jimi Hendrix says, Terry Kath is a better guitar player than Jimi Hendrix, that means, Terry Kath is a better guitar player than Jimi Hendrix. 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/pianist/keyboardist. Robert Lamm wrote 75 songs for Chicago (the most out of all the members in the group) and his 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 “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 Ballet For A Girl In Buchannon, one of 35 Chicago songs that was written by the band’s trombonist James Pankow, 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 the song, 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, 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.

    During his time with Chicago, Peter Cetera wrote 33 songs for the band, but if you were to ask any Chicago fan or Rock music historian to name the first two Chicago songs they think of when they hear someone say the name Peter Cetera, they will all tell you the same thing, what else but the smoochadelic classics, “If You Leave Me Now” from the 1976 Chicago X album, and “Baby, What A Big Surprise” from the 1977 Chicago XI album. The sexiest, the sweetest, the most distinctive tenor voice in all of Rock And Roll history belongs to Peter Cetera mthrfckrs! “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! The two most covered Chicago songs of all time were Chicago’s first two number one hits, both written by Peter Cetera: The Grammy award winning “If You Leave Me Now” from the 1976 Chicago X album, which I mentioned earlier, and “Hard To Say I’m Sorry” from the 1982 Chicago 16 album, which was co-written and produced by David Foster.

    In May of 1985, after 18 years with the band, Peter Cetera left Chicago for a solo career. Let’s just say that things got really ugly and Peter quit. 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 goddamn 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 for over 25 years now and he has written 19 songs for the band’s last 7 studio albums. Now, 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 appeared on 9 of the band’s studio albums and he wrote 21 songs for the band and his husky voice was the perfect complement to both, Peter Cetera, on the top 5 hit “Hard Habit To Break,” from the 1984 Chicago 17 album, and Jason Scheff, on the top 5 hit “Will You Still Love Me” from the 1986 Chicago 18 album. Bill Champlin would go on to sing solo in 1988 on Chicago’s third number one hit, the power-ballad, “Look Away” from the Chicago 19 album.

    Chicago’s original drummer; its backbone, was Danny Seraphine. During his 25 years with Chicago, Danny Seraphine wrote 18 songs for the band and he 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, as Danny Seraphine once said. In 1973, Chicago brought in percussionist Laudir De Oliveira from Sergio Mendez. For seven years, Laudir De Oliveira added Latin flare to the band’s music and his percussion work was the perfect compliment 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 will make your head spin. This 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 1970’s on both the Billboard Top 40 Albums Chart and the Billboard 200 Albums Chart was Chicago! But number one overall was none other than (who else) Elton John! Yeah, that’s right, Chicago couldn’t top Elton John. And now, ladies and gentlemen, the list of the Top 4 charting Rock And Roll bands of all-time on both, the Billboard 200 Albums Chart, and the Billboard 100 Singles Chart. They just happen to be the same four bands on both lists, so I’m only going to say this once. Are you ready?! I said, are you ready?! Wait, let me get into my dramatic announcer voice. Number 01. The Beatles! Number 02. The Rolling Stones! Number 03. The Beach Boys! And at Number 04., Chicago! And in case you are wondering who’s at number 05., 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. 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. Well, you know what they say, things always happen in threes, but I sense a conspiracy! 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 (1967-1991: drums; songwriter)
    08. Laudir De Oliveira (1973-1980: percussions)
    09. Bill Champlin (1981-2009: vocals; keyboards; guitar; songwriter)
    10. Jason Scheff (1985-Present: vocals; bass guitar; songwriter)

    • That’s an awesome rock & roll induction speech, for a very worthy band. How a band can have such a combination of musicianship and popular success despite shifting tastes and not be recognized in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is completely beyond me.

      • Thomas J. Santana says:

        That was great reading. They should have been in the Hall of Fame years ago. What a shame!!!!

      • Yeah, it’s amazing just how petty people can be about such matters. Whoever they ticked off should be over it by now.

      • K Kennedy says:

        It never makes sense when the reasons are ‘politically motivated’. What a great and deserving band this is! Some amazing music!

      • I wholeheartedly agree. It would be so much better if it was about the music, but sadly the politics tend to be involved as well.

      • Jeff says:

        I’ve heard the suggestion that there are other things going on here too, but never anything specific. Does anyone know what Chicago could have done to cheese the voters off? It just doesn’t make any sense to me. And I say again, the Hall itself loses credibility with this exclusion, especially when you look at the people they are inducting every year. They should be ashamed.

      • I have no idea what Chicago did or could have done, personally.

      • Thomas J. Santana says:

        It is insane. I group like Chicago shoud have been in the mind HOF years ago.

      • Yes, they should have been.

  2. Glenn Townsend says:

    I totally agree with everything above. But to add, how many of the current member are still playing and selling out concerts like Chicago. They are more worthy than Abba, and other like them. Between them and the Doobie Brothers, the 1060’s & 70’s were well worth their talents. Thanks for the memories. Glenn Townsend

    • I happen to be an ABBA fan myself, but there’s no way that ABBA belongs in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Doobie Brothers and Chicago don’t. After all, ABBA was pretty solidly pop, and Chicago and the Doobie Brothers are both still relevant rock & roll acts. Maybe the R&R HOF has something against Peter Cetera and Michael McDonald.

  3. Roy says:

    JULY 2011: NOW IN STORES IN U.S., U.K., CANADA AND EVERYWHERE ELSE

    FRONT COVER:

    CLASSIC ROCK MAGAZINE PRESENTS AOR: DON’T STOP BELIEVIN’

    THE MAKING OF A MELODIC ROCK MASTERPIECE

    FOREIGNER

    30TH ANNIVERSARY OF FOREIGNER 4

    CHICAGO: PETER CETERA BLASTS HIS EX-BANDMATES!

    BACK COVER:

    CHICAGO: ALCOHOL, COCAINE, INTER-BAND JEALOUSY…
    AND WHY THEY SACKED THEIR TALISMAN, PETER CETERA.

    CONTENTS PAGE 5:

    68. CHICAGO: HOW BALLADS, COCAINE AND TRAGIC HORSEPLAY TORTURED ONE OF AMERICA’S GREATEST BANDS.

    PAGES 68 TO 73 (6 PAGES): THE COMPLETE ARTICLE

    HARD HABIT TO BREAK
    ARTICLE BY DAVE LING

    Their unique and passionate fusion of jazz, soul, rock and pop, of horns and guitars, made Chicago multi-platinum polymath rock stars. But drugs, Machiavellian managerial machinations, tragic misadventure and a turn towards radio-friendly balladry ensured their path was a good deal less smooth than the harmonies on If You Leave Me Now…

    When Peter Cetera was beaten up at a baseball game, it changed his life. In a good way. Although he left Chicago more than 25 years ago, to many people Cetera remains the voice of the band, his falsetto technique gracing mega-hits such as If You Leave Me Now and Hard To Say I’m Sorry. Bizarrely, Cetera’s style is a direct result of singing for a period of time with a wired-shut jaw after getting into a brawl at an L.A. Dodgers match in Summer 1969. “That’s true,” he affirms. “Three guys beat the living shit out of me. They didn’t like a long-haired rock ‘n’ roller in a baseball park. I got a broken jaw in three places, and I was in intensive care for a couple of days. Afterwards I was afraid to open my mouth fully. I actually went on the road, and I was singing through my clenched jaw, which, to this day, is still the way I sing.” The tale of Chicago is a saga of spectacular triumph and heartbreaking tragedy, also in a less obvious sense of management manipulation and deep-rooted internal frustrations. The stats speak for themselves – with record sales of of 130 million, including 21 U.S. Top Ten singles, five consecutive chart-topping albums and 3 Number One singles, 25 of the group’s 32 albums have been certified platinum. And yet despite being among the most commercially successful acts in musical history, Chicago are also critically reviled; often dismissed as a soulless, ruthlessly predictable, ballad-obsessed money-making machine when, in fact, they have played many different types of rock music and undergone several evolutions since forming in 1967.

    Indeed, it speaks volumes of the way that Chicago are perceived that after more than three decades since the senseless death of Terry Kath-the band’s co-founding guitarist who died from an unintentional self-inflicted gunshot wound-some still claim that the group should have done the decent thing and called it a day. Had Chicago done so, readers of Classic Rock Presents AOR would have been deprived of an artistic and commercial rebirth during the early 1980s that was crowned by the melodic, multi-million-selling masterpieces Chicago 16 and Chicago 17 – albums that gave the world such lip-quivering delights as Hard To Say I’m Sorry, Hard Habit To Break and You’re The Inspiration.

    Our story begins with six musicians known as The Big Thing-guitarist/vocalist Terry Kath, saxophonist Walter Parazaider, trumpet player Lee Loughnane, trombonist James Pankow, keyboard player/vocalist Robert Lamm and drummer Danny Seraphine-began combining rock ‘n’ roll with a horn section. Whether they or Blood, Sweat & Tears were the first act to do so can be debated, however their ‘new’ sound made them a hot property on the Midwest club circuit. “Not only were we kids back then but most of the band was studying music,” recalls Robert Lamm now. “Our three-piece horn section definitely gave us an advantage over our rivals.” However, The Big Thing lacked a strong tenor voice and a bass player. “For our first year, I played bass pedals on the organ,” Lamm reveals. “Terry and I had the vocal ranges to cover most but not all of the Top 40 hits that we performed.” Peter Cetera of another local act called The Exceptions was to provide the final crucial element of what became Chicago’s signature sound. In 1968, The Big Thing changed their name to Chicago Transit Authority, relocated to Los Angeles and signed to Columbia Records. Produced by Jim Guercio, who doubled as the group’s manager, the following year’s self-titled debut was a double-disc set. Despite its jazzy and experimental qualities, it sold well. “We were lucky to have formed in an era when people wanted to hear something a little different,” reflects Lamm. “Chicago started out as an experimental band and in many ways we remain one,” Lee Loughnane agrees. “All that later changed were the economics of the business to which we, like all other bands, had to respond.” Right from the start however, Peter Cetera felt like a fish out of water. “Musically, the jazz and blues that the rest of the guys loved was never my cup of tea,” admits the singer, whose taste lay in more mainstream areas. “In a way I never really felt part of the group anyhow.” Coming from the writer of many of the band’s signature hits, this is a serious admission. “I was afraid of being out of work,” reasons Cetera. “It was like a job to me. I had to put up with some stuff I didn’t like.” Following the release of The Chicago Transit Authority, the band abbreviated their name to the more succinct version that is now so familiar, having been threatened with a writ by the real CTA. “That’s true,” confirms Loughnane, “but the real reason that we changed it was to avoid confusion. We were being called by three different names; Chicago Transit Authority, CTA and Chicago. So we eliminated the other two.” In what was either a clever marketing move or a prime shoot-yourself-in-the-foot moment, the band would eventually title most of their ensuing albums as Chicago followed by a Roman numeral. Coupled with the fact that their sleeves stubbornly refused to show the band’s photographs, this was certainly consistent in a branding sense, though it also perhaps subliminally bred the suggestion that each successive release sprang from some production line. “Well, I see the point you are making,” ponders Loughnane wearily, “but the reality behind the statement couldn’t be any more false. Listen to those records and there’s no mistaking the passion, commitment and artistry that went into making them. That’s complete crap.” There was nevertheless a political undercurrent to the band’s earliest music, the artwork of 1971’s Chicago At Carnegie Hall extolling the virtues of the era’s youth grappling with the authorities to change the system. “What with Vietnam and civil rights issues, America was crazy back then,” explains Lamm. “A changing of the guard was about to happen, something that was enrooted in our DNA.”

    Although their enviable early sales figures suggest otherwise, Robert Lamm believes that it took five albums to establish its real musical voice, a claim perhaps verified in the Summer of 1972 when Chicago V became the group’s first U.S. number one LP, remaining in its lofty position for five weeks. “Becoming huge stars at such a young age was challenging, I don’t think anyone can be prepared for that until it happens,” Lamm remembers. When it did so, we closed ranks and almost sort of took it in turns to parent each other as things got out of control. It was euphoric on some levels and heartbreaking on others.” “Drugs and alcohol and ego clashes got in the way,” shrugs Cetera now. We could compete with many other bands in those respects, but we managed to keep them private.” Indeed, thanks to the fact that their famous logo and not the musicians’ faces appeared on the record sleeves, Chicago enjoyed anonymity on a grander scale. “It still helps to keep us sane,” chuckles Loughnane. “I’m doing an interview by phone with you right now, but if I were to walk past you later I doubt that you could picture my face.” Peter Cetera offers a more sinister viewpoint, suggesting that manager Jim Guercio used the fact that nobody really knew what Chicago really looked like as reminder that nobody in the band was irreplaceable. “It’s another reason why the band kept their mouths shut about so many things,” he points out. Chicago’s inner workings were certainly complex. With so many singers and writers trying to exert their influences upon Chicago’s music, things weren’t always harmonious. “We tried to be fairly civil about the breakdown of what was and wasn’t included on our albums, especially early on,” reflects Lamm. “But everything changed after the tenth album. Once the song If You Leave Me Now showed up in our lives, the band stopped making musical statements and documenting where we were as composers. It began to be more premeditated. We were gunslingers; people wanted hits. Suddenly, everyone in the band expected to be a writer, when at the start there was only Terry Kath, James Pankow and myself.” “Those guys didn’t want to give up a share of anything,” comments Peter Cetera, who had sung the band’s first hit, the Lamm-penned 25 Or 6 To 4, but couldn’t force his way into the creative team until Chicago VI in 1973. It would take four more years before If You Leave Me Now, written and sung by Cetera, transformed Chicago into genuine worldwide superstars. Their first U.S. Number One single, it also topped the British and Australian singles charts, bringing the band two prestigious Grammy awards. It’s staggering to think that, just like many career-defining hits by other acts born as virtual after-thoughts, If You Leave Me Now was recorded at the last minute and almost didn’t make it on to Chicago X. “That’s because if you listened to the previous nine Chicago albums you wouldn’t have heard anything similar. It didn’t show the band as we thought we were,” explains Lamm, “nor indeed in the best light. When it became as successful as it did, everybody was surprised. Some of us resented it because… well, because it just wasn’t cool-certainly it was beautiful, but in our young minds it just wasn’t a cool song.” As a consequence of the If You Leave Me Now phenomenon the band’s record company, along with the general public, came to view Chicago as a ‘ballad band’. “It was decided for us that ballads were our niche,” rues Loughnane. “Yes, we can play ballads and play them well, but we can also play anything we like. And that’s what we still do.”

    Chicago came to not one but two forks in the road circa 1977’s Chicago XI album. During its recording they decided they could no longer cope with the demands of their producer/manager Jim Guercio, and sacked him upon its completion. More importantly still, mere months after Chicago XI’s unveiling, Terry Kath unintentionally shot himself during a party at the house of band roadie, Don Johnson. “Terry had been thinking of leaving the group and gone off on a bender. He’d been up for three days taking coke and all that stuff,” remembers Cetera. “When I heard the news I figured I’d probably have to start my own group.” “It was the only time that we seriously considered breaking up,” states Loughnane. “Those feelings were intense, but short-lived – it was only a week or two before we realized that Terry would not have wanted us to split up. The band still wanted to play; the biggest problem was replacing the magic that Terry, who was our musical leader, brought to the band.” “Had Terry survived and been part of Chicago as it went into the 1980s, this band’s history would have been very different,” ventures Robert Lamm. “Terry would have opposed the balladic direction that we were sucked into. He’d put a stop to that, or he’d have left the band.” With new guitarist Donnie Dacus in place, Chicago rang further changes with their 12th album, Hot Streets, in 1978. Co-produced by the group with Phil Ramone, it was their first collection of all-new material to feature a non-numeric title, also to show the band on its cover (though they had been pictured breaking through their now-fabled logo on Chicago’s Greatest Hits three years earlier). “We were moving into a different era,” observes Loughnane, “but people still wanted to have the numbers [instead of titles]. So we went back to that.” In fact, despite selling a million copies, Hot Streets was the band’s first record since their debut to fall short of the U.S. Top Ten, by two places. The following year’s Chicago 13 would peak at Number 21, the poorly promoted Chicago XIV stalling at Number 71. Dropped by Columbia in 1981, Chicago entered a period of stagnation before hooking up with Full Moon Records and a fellow musician whose production and guidance skills would help to take their career to unprecedented new heights. “David Foster was still an untried producer, but he had a vision of how the band should sound,” explains Loughnane. “He chose to highlight the tenor voice of Peter Cetera, and the results speak for themselves.” Having resolved his own chemical and booze issues, Cetera comes clean about his personal goals. “I thought that if I could get Chicago back on its feet, then it would be easier for me to walk away from,” he confides. Due in no small part to the band’s second U.S. Number One single, Hard To Say I’m Sorry, 1982’s Chicago 16 has now sold more than three million copies. It features contributions from Toto’s Steve Lukather, Joseph Williams, David Paich and Steve Porcaro. Two years later, Chicago 17 begat four Top 20 U.S. hit singles including Hard Habit To Break and You’re The Inspiration, establishing itself as the band’s biggest all-time seller (it’s now owned by seven million people). And yet for all of the career regeneration that it brought Chicago, Robert Lamm doesn’t look favourably upon the David Foster-influenced era of the band’s history. “Foster was talented but he was also smarmy. He bought into the whole ballad thing. Once Cetera had started taking over the writing and Foster was on board, then all those outsiders started affecting what we were doing,” he says, irked by writing credits for the likes of Foster, Ian Thomas, Toto’s Williams and Paich and even Lionel Richie that began appearing in the small print. Intriguingly, Donny Osmond and a young Richard Marx were among the backing vocalists to appear on Chicago 17. Cetera addresses this issue of the guest writers and players with his usual candour; “What the other guys are not telling you is that by that point the drugs and the drinking had taken over so much, along with David Foster I was the only one that still could write. Except for Danny Seraphine they were all doing that stuff. I dare anybody to try to deny that it was a very dysfunctional time.” “From the first day we got together, Chicago was a team effort,” says Lee Loughnane in response to the above claim. “We were, in every sense of the word, a ‘group’. Robert Lamm, James Pankow and Terry Kath were the major songwriters in the beginning. Then Peter Cetera, Danny Seraphine and myself. “As we became more and more successful, we all had missteps with drugs, booze and women. One or more of us always stepped up and worked harder and contributed more when the extra effort was needed. That spirit of cooperation still exists today or the band would have broken up years ago. “Peter left the band to pursue a solo career 26 years ago and yet we have continued to average 100 shows a year, including prominent TV appearances on American Idol, The Today Show, The Bachelor, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien, just to name a few. Our live shows this year will take us through the United States, Canada, Mexico and Europe. Suffice to say we are proud of our achievements but we are way too busy to sit back and rest on our laurels. “We wish Peter success in his professional and personal life, but when it comes to making derogatory comments about his association with Chicago, may we suggest that he ‘have a Coke and a smile and shut the f ck up’.” Robert Lamm insists: “To this day, it’s still my opinion that anybody can write a song, but not everybody has the real talent to do so.” In 1985, Cetera severed ties with Chicago and became a solo artist. Warned by the group’s organisation that an annual tour of North America was imminent, Cetera dug in his heels and insisted upon recording a second solo album instead. “Were we disappointed that Peter felt it was more important to do his own thing than to stay with Chicago? Of course we were,” responds Robert Lamm. “But it’s happened so many times before. Whoever starts to believe that he is the band’s ‘main guy’ in a band-the reason for their success-usually wants to work outside that community.” In fact, Cetera claims that he had already cut an “under the table” deal with Chicago’s management that would have brought him extra royalties before the ‘tour or quit’ ultimatum arrived. “They were going to give me extra ‘points’ [percentage of the profits], which I felt I deserved, but management said: ‘Don’t tell the group’-that’s how things were back then,” he exclaims. “So I replied: ‘I won’t say shit’.” But still Peter prioritized a solo album above touring. When a contract arrived and the prevaricated Cetera was told: “If you don’t sign they’ll find someone else.” “So I rang the manager and said: ‘You can tell them to start looking’. It was a relief, to be honest,” he relates. Jason Scheff, son of Elvis Presley’s bassist Jerry Scheff, became the band’s new bassist/singer in time for a final David Foster-produced album, Chicago 18. This was less successful than its two predecessors, but Scheff remains with the band to the present day. “I’d say that makes Jason a pretty good replacement,” professes Robert Lamm. However, while Chicago have remained a popular live draw their profile dipped immensely during the 1990s and beyond. “It was inevitable,” Lamm theorizes. “Each generation has a changing of the guard taste-wise, and the advent of things like grunge affected us. Not to mention the many, many bad decisions the record companies made.” This category must include the vetoing of the group’s Stone of Sisyphus album by Warner Brothers (the parent company of Full Moon) back in 1994. Though deemed unreleasable at the time, the recordings would emerge under the title of Chicago XXXII: Stone of Sisyphus some 15 years later. “We always knew that it was a good record,” professes Loughnane. Warner Brothers told us we had to go back in and record some hits, but they were going through their own period of transition. It was a business decision, not a musical one.”

    Unlike so many of their contemporaries, Chicago never broke up or went on hiatus and continue to tour on an annual basis. “I’m proud and happy that we do-and that we still perform very well,” Lamm bristles. “We still make records too. As someone that began composing in the late 1960s, that brings me comfort” (Chicago release their third seasonal album, O Christmas Three, later this year). Until an appearance three years ago at the Motorshow Music Festival, held in the car park of a remote venue in East London called the ExCel. Arena, Chicago hadn’t visited the UK since the early 1990s. “That was a strange show in a strange place, but we sucked it up and played our little hearts out,” Lamm remembers. “The very fact that we came over at all was because we had hired a new booking agent and insisted on coming to Europe again. It was something for which I had been arguing the case for almost 25 years, and was constantly outvoted. It was pretty ridiculous that we ended up abandoning what had been a loyal and very interested audience for Chicago.” Lamm and Loughnane both agree that in 2011, the David Foster years have left Chicago misunderstood. Pigeonholed in the narrowest of musical terms as some redundant soft-rock behemoth, they receive little credit for the breadth and quality of an extensive catalogue. “There’s very little we could do about that,” Loughnane sighs. “All that radio has ever wanted to hear from Chicago is another version of If You Leave Me Now. And success like that can never be repeated.” Naturally they experience line-up fluctuations, the most recent significant example of which being Bill Champlin’s departure to become a solo artist. The singer and multi-instrumentalist, who received positive reviews for his album No Place Left To Fall, was popular with Chicago fans from 1981 to 2009, though Lamm says that after a 28-year tenure with the band the split with Champlin was “something that needed to happen”. “It should probably have happened twenty years earlier,” he remarks with a dearth of his usual diplomacy. “Bill had joined as we attempted to recover from Terry’s death, but in some ways he never actually joined the band. He kept himself partitioned off. He brought everybody down, though that’s no comment on his musicianship. When we finally replaced him with Lou Pardini it was like a breath of fresh air.” Asked whether Peter Cetera might someday return to Chicago, Robert Lamm replies: No. That would be like remarrying your ex-wife.” According to Cetera the feeling is mutual. “The day I go back to Chicago is the day you can call me up and say: ‘You sold out’,” he laughs. During the build-up to the recording of a new studio album Chicago’s current grouping plays a one-off a special ‘greatest hits’ date at London’s Hammersmith Apollo on July 6-coincidentally the very date this issue of AOR goes on sale. “People come to see us and say: ‘My God, I know every single one of those songs’,” announces Lamm proudly. “I know that isn’t the case with everybody else, especially as I recently went to see Lady Gaga. We’ve been privileged to amass a very strong body of work, so why not show it off?”

    IF YOU LEAVE ME NOW…

    Peter Cetera: what happened next for Chicago’s frontman.

    It didn’t take long for Peter Cetera to establish a successful career without Chicago. His first solo single Glory Of Love, the theme tune to the popular movie The Karate Kid, Part II, topped the American chart in the summer of 1986, also reaching Number Three in the U.K. Its parent album, Solitude/Solitaire, outperformed Chicago 18, selling a million copies and producing another chart-topping single when he duetted with Amy Grant on The Next Time I Fall. Three further solo albums – One More Story (1988), World Falling Down (1992), and One Clear Voice (1995) – were released before the millennium’s end, though for a while Cetera stepped away from music to look after his young daughter. “I didn’t know what to do anymore,” he admits. “I was getting no help from record companies and I felt there was no place for me. I had no confidence left.” An invitation from David Foster led to a benefit concert appearance in 2002, and since then Cetera has made sporadic returns to the concert stage. “I’d love to record again, but the way the business is these days I don’t know if I ever will,” he reveals. Cetera doesn’t give many interviews anymore, and when he does honesty is paramount. “I spent too many years acting like I was happy and that Chicago was the democracy that it pretended to be. People don’t want to hear the bad parts,” he concludes, “but that doesn’t make them any less true.”

    TERRY KATH: BETTER THAN HENDRIX?

    Well, Jimi himself thought so…

    More than three decades after a tragic self-inflicted demise, Terry Kath is remembered fondly by many Chicago devotees as the band’s heart and soul, but also for his immense capabilities as a guitarist. Jimi Hendrix praised Kath several times, calling Chicago’s co-founder “better than me” as an exponent of their shared instrument of choice and even citing him as “the best guitar player in the universe”. Although the precise details of Kath’s unusual death are vague, some versions claiming that he was playing Russian roulette with a 9mm pistol, others that he was merely fooling around with the semi-automatic weapon at a party thrown by a Chicago roadie, Kath is known to have placed the gun to his temple and pulled the trigger, believing – falsely – that there was no bullet in its chamber. He died on January 23, 1978, a week before his 32nd birthday, leaving a wife and a two-year old daughter.

    PHOTO CAPTIONS

    ‘Appy days: Chicago find harmony on stage at London’s Hammersmith Odeon, 1977. (L-r) Terry Kath, James Pankow, Walt Parazaider, Lee Loughnane.

    The line-up circa Chicago 16:(l-r) Danny Seraphine, Walt Parazaider, Peter Cetera, James Pankow, Robert Lamm, Lee Loughnane, Bill Champlin.

    Peter Cetera today: “I don’t know if I’ll ever record again.”

    Baby, what a big surprise: Terry Kath tinkers with the setlist just before Chicago’s show at New York’s Madison Square Garden, June 12, 1975.

    Jimi Hendrix’s hero: Terry Kath solos on stage at the Hammersmith Odeon, January 1977.

    Have trombone, will travel:James Pankow let it slide.

    Chicago 2011, age having withered them not a jot.

    QUOTES

    “Drugs and alcohol and ego clashes got in the way, but we managed to keep them quiet.”

    -Peter Cetera

    “Had Terry survived, this band’s history would’ve been very different. He would have opposed the ballads or quit.”

    -Robert Lamm

    ARTICLE BY DAVE LING

  4. Jason says:

    Living in the US, how can I get a copy of the AOR July 2011 magazine featuring Chicago?

  5. Fletch says:

    As a long time member of the R&R HOF in the R&R capital of the world, Chicago is the most deserving band not yet inducted. This is often a debate in greater Cleveland. What an oversight.

    • That is a tremendous oversight. I honestly don’t know how a band that good for that long and that popular and that unique (especially with its big-band sound) can be so thoroughly ignored while far lesser bands are inducted each year.

  6. rick donahue says:

    this is a reply to Roy and his speech,
    another comment now in april 2012. what the fck so many of us grew up with this bands music. tell me you don’t recognize and feel good all over when you hear the first few bars of a chicago song. all these words, middle of the road and soft lyrics, mainstream etc, such bull shiit. like you
    have said the other top bands aren’t held to the same scrutiny.
    it has to be political. and, it must have to do with former members being connected to the asshooles who make the decisions. after all the recording industry isn’t known for it’s honesty, they’re right up there with the dirty political consultants and right wing politicians who have run the country into the ground.
    by the way ROY, i don’t understand the shot about “this isn’t boston or kansas, this is chicago” who the fck is making comparisons between boston and chicago.? most of us from boston would never be dumb enough to compare the two cities. boston is a small city way up the coast in new england. you can say quaint, it surely has those attributes. but one can walk the whole place if you want, that’s how small. but, big things come from this small city and i;m not talking sports. for instance,medicine, research, science, colleges, medical schools,three major medical schools within a mile of each other. then there is the several hundred thousand college students that give the old crooked streets life and vitality. that’s some of the things we are, but jealous or comparable to chicago, no way. we love chicago, we love chicago more than we like new york city. chicago is always on the top of the list as the best city, the city that gets it right. gawd, i can’t say enough about chicago. our politics are similiar and maybe our crooked pols are also similiar, you have great sports teams, who doesn’t root for the cubs, even here in boston we do. i don’t like to compare sports teams because first, the players are always changing teams, and second, some of the fanatical fans behave like the assholes they are, and don’t represent the average joe here.
    so don’t go getting snooty about chicago and boston because we are two different places that have some common virtues. i’ve never heard anybody put chicago down.

    • Roy says:

      That comment is about Boston and Kansas, the bands, not the cities, and how some in the media like to lump all the bands named after cities and continents together and say they all suck. It is also a response to a comment made by someone at Rolling Stone about Chicago. A positive one at first. You really have to read into the speech. People in the music industry will totally get it.

      Quote from Rolling Stone:

      Not to be confused with Boston or Kansas, Chicago forged a driving, horn-filled, white jazz-rock-soul sound before staggering into their later romantic ballad era, which eventually led to grizzled-geezer casino tours. Their many platinum-selling hits were catchy enough to stay in your head after just a glance at their title (“25 or 6 to 4,” “Saturday in the Park,” “You’re the Inspiration”).

      Peter Cetera has provided the soundtrack to more sixth-grade slow dances than any other singer-songwriter in history. Odds are if he had a quarter for every time he sung the word “forever,” he’d have another million dollars. 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.

  7. Cory Owens says:

    I think we all miss Terry a lot. I believe he was the soul of the band during those early years.. Firing Danny Seriphine was a big mistake. Listen to his chops on the CTA recording.He belongs there.As former band member of a Chicago cover band in Chicago, I found that people in the clubs related to Chiicago’s music. And by the way, the music was fun to play. This goes back to Northern Illinois University in the early 1970’s. I just turned 65, and I still can remember seeing CTA at the Chicago Opera House in ’67 or ’68. like it was yesterday. Cory

    • As I was born in 1981, I must say that I’ve never been able to see Chicago live, but I totally understand how a lot of musicians have been inspired by their music. Sometimes mistakes happen in bands for bad reasons of personality conflicts, and sometimes people no matter how great or talented just stop being able to get along.

      • Thomas J. Santana says:

        Chicago should have been inducted into the Rock -n- Roll Hall of Fame 20 years ago !!!!! Just look at some of the artists that are in the hall of fame, Beastie Boys? Madonna ? Iggy Pop? I can go on and on.

      • I know, that’s why I have a fairly regular blog series on deserving artists that have not made it in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. If an artist like Patti Smith can get in, or Iggy Pop, there’s no reason why bands like Chicago or the Steve Miller Band or the Moody Blues should be on the outside looking in.

  8. Jeff says:

    I just don’t get it. All (famous or popular) bands have drama, surely this is not reason for keeping a legendary group such as Chicago out of the HOF? If in fact there is some kind of grudge or agenda against Chicago or it’s members, the principles should understand that this lessens the legitimacy of the entire Hall. 3 days ago, I spent a day in the hall, and read all of the names on their signature wall, and let me tell you, with no disrespect to anyone in particular, there are many bands there that would not be worthy of polishing a Chicago mouthpiece (to use a crummy metaphor). The R&R HOF needs to move, and move quickly to right a wrong that has existed for far too long.

    • I wholeheartedly agree, but human beings (especially those who see themselves as the gatekeepers of what is worthy in a given field) are not prone to be rational human beings. The whole reason I write about these famous and noteworthy bands that the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has excluded is because of the question of legitimacy.

  9. Jeff says:

    Keep up the good work, Nathan

    • rick3382 says:

      by not including Chicago in the hall of fame makes the hall of fame just another phony venue for promoters to use for their own profit centers. inclusion in the hall of fame has nothing to do with talent. it’s like political people who run for president; they have no talent for the office but they have the money and backers who will make money off their backs.

      • Unfortunately, that does appear to be the way of the world. Politics in general seems to trump talent or success in the eyes of the people who make such choices.

    • Will do; there’s plenty of bands left to talk about.

  10. Roy says:

    Mind if I post an updated version of the speech?

  11. Roy says:

    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. 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 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. 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 two 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, and Baby, What A Big Surprise from the 1977 Chicago XI 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, 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: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, and 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!!!

    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: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, and 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. 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. Well, you know what they say, things always happen in threes. 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)

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

    Al Jardine, Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Bruce Johnston, Barry Gibb, Philip Bailey, Verdine White, Ralph Johnson, Steven Van Zandt, Bruce Springsteen, 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

    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, 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.

  12. Sea Slipper says:

    Answer to this easy question is because the Rock Hall is a joke. You cannot take it seriously if it does not include either Chicago or the Moody Blues, particularly now when they are inducting acts like the Dave Clark Five. Obviously the committee picks its friends.

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  14. Roy says:

    http://bradenbost.wordpress.com/2011/06/28/seven-myths-about-the-band-chicago/

    Seven Myths About the Band Chicago

    MYTH #1: CHICAGO IS JUST AN ADULT CONTEMPORARY BAND FROM THE 80′S.

    MYTH #2: PETER CETERA JOINED CHICAGO AND USED THEM TO LAUNCH HIS OWN SOLO CAREER.

    MYTH #3: THEIR FIRST ALBUM, “CHICAGO TRANSIT AUTHORITY,” WAS SELF-TITLED.

    MYTH #4: “25 OR 6 TO 4″ IS ABOUT DRUGS.

    MYTH #5: GUITARIST TERRY KATH DIED WHILE PLAYING RUSSIAN ROULETTE.

    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.

    MYTH #7: CHICAGO BROKE UP IN THE 80′S.

  15. Roy says:

    The Chicago Blackhawks have won their 5th Stanley Cup in franchise history and their second during Barack Obama’s presidency. Here’s hoping Chicago will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame sometime between 2014 and 2017.

  16. Roy says:

    Does anybody really know what time it is? 25 or 6 to 4! HA HA!

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  19. peter gold says:

    I Heard that Rolling Stone Magazine hates Chicago. It’s absolutely ridiculous that Chicago is not in the Hall of Fame. I like Cat Stevens but tonominate him and not Chicago is dumber than the Government shutting down!!!!

    • There are a lot of stupid things in this world, that is for sure.

    • Was at the HOF this past weekend again, and I really dig the place but this oversight is egregious. I’m not going to get into the specifics, everyone already knows Chicago’s pedigree. It’s asinine that this is even still a discussion. One of the top 10 bands of their era, and a sure fire first ballot hall of fame band. Something doesn’t smell right here. Rush just got it, and as a Canadian, I am pleased, but frankly, Rush is not Chicago. Neither are a lot of the inductees. Someone please correct this, as it takes away from the legitimacy of the Hall.

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  24. alexvoltaire says:

    Absolutely right. Chicago’s chart success and musicianship speak for themselves. Robert Lamm reported that a friend on the Nominating Committee told him that Chicago was the last artist cut from the ballot. Hopefully they can get on the ballot for the 2015 induction- lots of longtime snubs- KISS, Rush, Hall and Oates have gotten in the last two years, this is a good sign that Chicago’s turn might finally have come.

    (And I think we should spend some more time commenting on each other’s blogs- I am also a historian who also dabbles in religious and rock-and-roll writing.)

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