Along Comes a Woman…And Indiana Cetera!

Despite how I feel about Peter Cetera’s attitude toward his former bandmates Chicago (if you don’t remember, Exhibit A is a good place to start), It is hard to not love his music, or Cetera’s contributions to their success as a group.

Feeling otherwise would rock my credibility as a Chicago fan, and we can’t have that!

The Era of Cetera…

By the early 1980s, Peter Cetera was no longer the Peter Cetera of the 1970s. He had slimmed down, cut his hair, and was taking more of a confident stance in his songwriting. He even released his first solo effort in 1981, a self-titled album that was met with commercial failure. I’ll assume it had something to do with critics only seeing him as part of Chicago. And not only were the changes happening with him, times were a-changing for Chicago as well (oh yes they were). The band was paid by CBS/Columbia in 1980 to leave the label after declining sales and that unfortunate Chicago 13 album failed to garner the earlier successes they had. Donnie Dacus was out, Exhibit A was destined to be forgotten (again, easy to click if you need reference), and Bill Champlain was in by 1981.

You know how I feel about him too, and trust me, it has nothing to do with the music. Because the music is awesome.

In 1984, amidst a rejuvenated success, a new contract with Warner Bros. (oooh, another story for you to read by clicking this!), and David Foster’s mad producing skills, Chicago 17 was guaranteed to be huge!

How huge, you ask?

It was their biggest selling album, all the released singles charted in the top 20, and two words: David Foster (Related: This, this, and this! Oh, and THIS!). By this time Chicago was firmly establishing themselves in reinvention (leaving the gritty behind, and moving on to the power of ballads), finding their voice all over again, and proving those critics who believed they were done in the late 1970s so very wrong.

The fourth of the four charting singles from this album (aside from “Stay the Night,” “Hard Habit to Break,” and “You’re the Inspiration”) was a track from side two, the oh-so-fun “Along Comes a Woman,” which sees Cetera not only singing the lead, but also starring in the video as the dashing hero.

And Along Comes Something Different…

“Along Comes A Woman” was a video that saw Chicago in a different (and kinda cool!) light. If this was part of reinvention, then it was a fun way to do it.

I’m wondering if anyone knew the changes that were coming after this single was released…

Anyway, “Along Comes a Woman” was the fourth and final single released from Chicago 17, and dropped on February 4, 1985. It peaked at #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, and even spent time on MTV. It was clearly released at a time when music videos were a big deal, and was a huge departure from some of the previous music videos Chicago had done.

We have our dashing hero, “Indiana Cetera” (my labeling, of course), who is on the run from some baddies who want what he has.

But he’s good at hiding himself – and the valuable stuff.

Indiana Jones had boulders, Peter Cetera had mud.

But along comes a woman…

And some cameos by those three crazy guys in the horn section…

I seriously lol’d over James Pankow and Lee Loughnane ganging up on Walt Parazaider.

There’s Mandatory Horns…

Indy Cetera being forced to hand over the goods…

A Casablanca costume change…

Cetera gets the girl…

And loses the girl…

And along comes some guys…

I guess he got arrested?

And despite that turn of events, this was a funny and well-done music video. Different is not always a bad thing, and the acting from the horn section really makes this video funny. Cetera shines, but if you’ve seen James Pankow, Walt Parazaider, and Lee Loughnane perform live, you wouldn’t be shocked by anything you’ll seen here.

And along comes a music video…that you can watch by hitting play!

Uploaded by Hasse Hammarlund

I had heard this song because of the “Greatest Hits” album Only the Beginning, but I hadn’t seen many of Chicago’s music videos aside from “You’re the Inspiration” (which everyone has seen). Of the ones I’ve seen, this one is by far one of my favorites music videos. The acting is a bit silly, but you’re laughing too much to notice how hokey it really is.

At least the group got to have their fun, but reinvention happened not long after, as Peter Cetera exited the group in June 1985, ending the Cetera years. The next era was yet to come, but what great way to end this one.

And along comes an outro…

If you haven’t already noticed, Allison loves Chicago. She writes about it often (did you see all the hyperlinks along the way?). If you like what you see here, whether it is about Chicago or any of the other things she’s written about, you’ll love her blog, Allison’s Written Words. You can follow her antics from Retroist and Allison’s Written Words on her blog’s Facebook page, and she’s also on Twitter @AllisonGeeksOut.

And along comes a swift exit…

VCR retirement

The Retirement of a Legend

It is with much praise and sadness that I announce the retirement of a legend.

Before you freak out about the possibility that something negative happened already in 2017 (and seriously, people, we don’t need to be so edgy!), this wonderful legend gave twenty years to entertaining and archiving for its owner. It is responsible for much of what that owner shares both here and on my blog. While it still worked somewhat, the best years were behind it, and it was time.

I’m talking about my prized VCR.

What did you think I was talking about?

Last Thursday, for the final time, I attempted a tape transfer using my first and only VCR. But the obvious tracking issues, diminished video quality, and the general incompatibility with my television (which I was remedying with a Hauppage PVR to some success) proved that the VCR was, in fact, old and tired.

But just as beautiful as the day I hooked it up, twenty years ago.

This lovely piece of equipment, the Sharp VC-A552, was a Christmas present in 1996. I remember asking for this very specific one. Mind you, this was before the internet was a big deal (and before we had it in my house), so any researching I did solely came from reading Beat Buy sales fliers and walking around electronics stores. I was fourteen years old, and specifically asked for a “Sharp VCR,” since I had a Sharp television at the time (a lovely 13″ set, a Christmas present in 1995). My middle school had these VCRs included in their A/V equipment, and I was fascinated with how it looked, especially that circular set of buttons. Forget 19 Micron Heads, I wanted the Rewind/Fast Forward Knob! And it was more than just a pretty package, it worked nicely too. Even at 14, I knew exactly what I wanted in A/V equipment.

When I got it, I had aspirations of not only watching movies in the comfort of my bedroom (the ones I wanted to watch!), but also of recording EVERYTHING. I set timers, bought VHS tapes, and for ten years, it was a wonderful relationship. I bought my lovely (but not as long-lasting) DVD recorder in 2006, effectively ending my VCR’s recording days, but it got a new lease on life of transferring recordings to blank DVDs. It was actually used fairly regularly until about five years ago, and I think I was just afraid to overuse it.

By the numbers, this VCR outlasted three televisions (including that Sharp TV), two DVD players (including the DVD recorder I semi-retired the VCR for), survived three house moves, and outlived the remote that came with it.

It was a great remote, folks.

Like all good things (and the great first family VCR we had that I unintentionally murdered in 1996), after seeing the obvious decline in quality (I’d noticed it while putting together the various VCR tests I did last year), I felt it was time to finally retire my VCR completely. It was a sad retirement, but one done out of necessity.

But, never you worry about it – my parents gave me their Panasonic VCR (which is twelve years old, and infrequently used), and I now have something to finish all of those ongoing projects I love having a VCR for.

It doesn’t have a Rewind/Fast Forward Knob, but it does rewind at lightning speed.

Which is a little too fast for its own good. And also has a remote that doesn’t work.

Oh well.

Allison is a firm believer of owning items until you run them in the ground. She has run two VCRs and numerous items of clothing into the ground as a result of that theory. If you like reading things in the vein of VCR retirement notices, you should check out her blog, Allison’s Written Words. You can also follow her blog on Facebook, and her on Twitter @AllisonGeeksOut.

Allison’s other most recent retirement? Stinky, her first space heater. 

Bonus content time! Allison wrote several VCR test articles (and made videos to accompany them!). Take a look, if you dare!

Video/VCR Test – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie

Video/VCR Test #2 – “The Land Before Time”

Video/VCR Test #3 – “The Albert Achievement Awards”

Chicago Did Disco?!

I learned alot from watching Now More Than Ever: The History of Chicago, the two-hour documentary on the band Chicago, but I’ll gloss over the most important points:

  1. Lee Loughnane is a softy. If something is cry-worthy, he will tear up.
  2. Peter Cetera has an ego. It only happened after he lost weight.
  3. Bill Champlin has a HUGE ego. It had nothing to do with weight loss, it just has to do with who he thought the star was. If you saw the statement of declination he gave when contacted for an interview (and Jimmy Pankow’s stance on him), you’d understand what I’m talking about.
  4. David Foster has bragging rights – he was interviewed while sitting in front of all his Grammy trophies, after all.
  5. Words are not minced.
  6. Jimmy Pankow is not afraid to mince those words.

Chicago, through much of the 1970s, was much like Chicago in the late 1960s – lots of horns and tough, gritty-sounding rock. Conversely, the 1980s became the power ballad-heavy Cetera years (and later, the Jason Scheff years – he was equally at home covering the grit as well as the power). Oh, and Bill Champlin (and his giant ego) also churned out those incredible power ballads. After all, he did work with David Foster. Foster is a genius, just ask my mom.

As I’m writing this (ok, when I started writing this), I’m listening to one of those Cetera power ballads, Along Comes a Woman. I’ve never heard this song before, but I’ll venture to guess it was from one of those 1980s albums (I checked – it is from Chicago 17, which was Cetera’s final album). If it sounds Cetera-worthy, it is only because he wrote it. But there are horns involved. Because leaving out Lee Loughnane, Jimmy Pankow, and Walt Parazaider would be a sin.

Between the grit and the power, there was this strange and trippy time in the land of Chicago (the band, not the city). It was land they hadn’t ventured into before, and, thankfully, it was abandoned quite quickly. It came of the 1970s music fad better known as Disco. And while groups like Earth Wind and Fire (though I’d liken their version as more along the lines of “funk” than actual disco) and The Bee Gees could do it, Chicago proved there was one thing they just could not (and should not) do.

1979 saw the release of Chicago’s eleventh studio album (titled Chicago XIII, because yeah, Roman Numerals), and while I don’t exactly recognize any of the track listings, there was this one song that just absolutely stands out, and not for the right reasons. And believe it or not,  I had never heard it until the documentary, and I just found out (yea research!) that the album not only had the distinction of being released exactly one month after (August 13, 1979) Disco Destruction Night at Chicago’s Comiskey Park (July 12, 1979), but the song itself was released in September 1979. So it was not only the last gasp for disco (or one of those last gasps), it also sounded like the end of Chicago itself, and it was the actual end of Donnie Dacus’s time with Chicago.

That song, you ask? “Street Player,” of course!

Uploaded by TerrenceSays

I’ll be frank with you – there are alot of songs left off the set list for a Chicago performance. Many (like the songs from Hot Streets and this stinky album) for a good reason, but many from the Power Ballad era as well (I’m questioning some of that). This song neatly fits into the “Left Off For a Good Reason” category, but probably should have been burned for sounding like the worst thing Peter Cetera ever sang. I actually feel bad for him (which is hard for me, considering what I’ve heard about him), but this is a terrible attempt to cash in on a music styling that was basically nearing the end of its life.

And no, Cetera didn’t write this. You can thank Danny Seraphine for this…whatever you want to call it.

The funny thing about this song (besides the concept of it, and the fact that I only just found out it existed) is that I better remember it as the 1995 song The Bomb! (These Sounds Fall Into My Mind), and only because I don’t like that song either. But in actuality, before Chicago made it sound entirely too white (I don’t mean that in a nice way), it was sung by Rufus in 1978 (you know, the group Chaka Khan was part of?). It was co-written by then-Chicago drummer Danny Seraphine for their recording pleasure, and let’s just be grateful he wasn’t sacked ten years earlier than he was for Chicago singing it Rufus.

Apparently, all of Chicago XIII is just like this – stinky and not gritty or powerful. I’m understanding why Columbia paid them to leave the label in the early 1980s…and why Donnie Dacus was kicked out of the group.

And because you’re dying to see the video of this performance…

Uploaded by You Are Now Entering The “Gretschman7’s” Channel

Seriously, glorious Peter Cetera hair…can you dig it, street player?

No, I can’t.

See what I did there?!

Oh, and apparently, they performed it in 2015, with Jason Scheff singing the lead vocals…

Uploaded by Riky41970

The only reason this version is tolerable is because it is shorter. And forgive me, I saw them perform in 2015, and I don’t remember this from the concert.

Just blame Donnie Dacus for all of this. And Disco. Blame DISCO!

Will you still love Allison for forcing this insane earworm on you? For good times you’ll remember, you can also take a look at her blog, Allison’s Written Words. Hold your mouse key, preferably on the “like” button on her blog’s Facebook page, and then getaway to Twitter, where you can find her at @AllisonGeeksOut. 

She really wants to tell you she’s sorry…that she quoted even more Chicago lyrics than she has in past articles.

Again, not old hat with Allison:

Christmas With Horns

Chicago Proclaims Someone Else is “Bigger Than Elvis”

Will You Still Love the Changing Face of Chicago?

Hard to Say I’m Sorry (That You May Never Have Heard this Chicago Song Before!)

“What Retroist Means to Me…” By Allison Venezio

In salute to the ongoing and unending appreciation for Retroist by the people that are the heart and soul of the site, I (among others) was asked to tell the world (preach from the rooftops, if you will!) what Retroist means to me. Give me eleven minutes, and I’ll be happy to tell you why!

Not exactly short, sweet, and to the point, but it is important to remind our readers and contributors about why we do this.

As we move into 2017, I’d love to continue to give unending thanks for the opportunity that has challenged me, made me excited to write, and given me a huge source of pride and contributed to the happiness I was able to find within myself.

And if my response wasn’t short, this one is:

Allison has been contributing to Retroist since July 2015, and has published a new article almost weekly since then. She has bragger’s rights to a large collection of retro commercials, plus she has a knack for finding the obscure nostalgia we may have forgotten…or never knew about. If you like everything you’ve seen here (check out her Retroist writer’s profile), she has her own blog, Allison’s Written Words. You can follow her blog on Facebook, and her on Twitter @AllisonGeeksOut.

Please express your appreciation for Retroist (and what it means to you) with #ThankYouRetroist. She is huge on solidarity, and feels this is a great step in that direction. She’ll see you in 2017!

Christmas Funk: Earth, Wind, Fire, Holiday

Holiday as one of the elements? Yes please!

I’m all for starting new traditions, especially when they tap my nostalgia bone. Which is near the funny bone. And when those traditions center around Christmas, well, even better. So this year, I’m bringing in the funk!

Last year, in my post-concert excitement (that apparently is supposed to last way past the actual concert date), I rushed to snatch up anything I could find that featured Chicago. And in that flurry, I found alot more songs than I already knew, I bought two concert movies, and even discovered Chicago’s Christmas album. Also in that flurry? I overlooked finding something Earth, Wind, and Fire.

Another one of those “the author took this picture” bragging moments.

Last week, amid the bustle getting ready to start my workday, I just randomly decided to look up Earth, Wind, and Fire and Christmas in the same search. No lie, I entered “Earth Wind Fire Christmas,” and I wasn’t disappointed. Not by a long shot.

Have you ever wanted a Christmas album that sounded remarkably like the 1970s, despite being released in 2014? Then Holiday is your album. Oh my goodness, is it ever!

Source: Wikipedia (By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47040032

Holiday is the twenty-first album (only Chicago had more albums under their belt before they released their Christmas album) for Earth, Wind, and Fire, and was released on October 21, 2014 (seriously!). It is also notable as it is the final album to feature co-founder Maurice White before his death in February 2016.

The album consists of eleven traditional songs of Christmas, and two re-worked Earth Wind and Fire songs from the 1970s – “Happy Seasons” (originally “Happy Feelin'” from 1975’s That’s The Way of the World) and “December” (you better know which song this was inspired by!). If you’ve ever wanted to hear Christmas with funk, you’re not going to be disappointed (I wasn’t at the initial discovery, and I wasn’t once I listened).

Uploaded by That Mimosa Grove

And for some reason, the final song on the album was cut off completely. And I’d be remiss if I forgot it!

Uploaded by Donald Becker

And if you’re really itching to hear more blaring trumpets for Christmas, I covered Chicago’s Christmas album not all that long ago.

A funky Christmas? Some traditions are meant to be funk-ified!

Allison stopped grooving long enough to write this part of the article. If you like what you’ve read here, she has Christmas-ified her blog, Allison’s Written Words. You can follow her blog year ’round on Facebook, and her on Twitter @AllisonGeeksOut.

Back to grooving!

 

Jim Carrey Nails Alan Thicke in This “In Living Color” Sketch

Because I’m so great at paying proper tribute, and instead focus on parodies:

Prince…For Butt Out Jeans!

Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like These “In Living Color” Sketches Parodying Muhammad Ali

If there is a place in hell reserved for people who believe their tributes are well-intentioned, but are actually videos of the recently deceased being parodied on 1990s sketch comedy shows…oh heck, I’ve already reserved my spot there.

Let’s just keep right on going! At this rate, I’ve got nothing to lose.

I found out this morning (the morning that I’m writing this) that Alan Thicke passed away on December 13, 2016. For those of us who grew up in the late 1980s and early 1990s, he was the father of the Seaver family on the sitcom Growing Pains. If you’re like me, you watched it. And if you were a teenage girl in the mid-1980s, you probably watched for Kirk Cameron. I was quite young, and my heart already was reserved for Jason Bateman.

Again, if you have ever met me (or grew up during that time), you understand what I’m talking about.

You may or may not know this, but Alan Thicke had a talk show at one time, called Thicke of the Night. It was syndicated by MGM Television and Metromedia (which means it probably aired on what are now Fox stations). It aired from 1983-1984, was 90 minutes (shortened to 60 minutes), and was meant to capitalize on his successful daytime talk show, The Alan Thicke Show. That show enjoyed a much more successful run on Canadian television from 1976 until 1980.

But one thing really bothers me about the show’s swift cancellation…how the theme song didn’t propel it to unbelievable heights?

Uploaded by West Coast 99

You can thank Thicke AND David Foster (yes, THAT David Foster) for co-composing this song. And if you need further proof that anything Foster composes can sound epic, you probably should read this post I wrote. (Yes, I wrote all of those posts. I also wrote this one).

And then his late night talk show happened. It was supposed to be a rival to The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (no one seemed to know when to not try to rival The Tonight Show back in the day, did they?), but it flopped. We don’t weep for him, because we know everything turned out fine in the end, and he became the White Cliff Huxtable.

What? You can’t tell me you haven’t drawn that comparison at least once!

Flash forward six years after Thicke of the Night’s cancellation. The year was 1990.

There was a new-ish network, approximately three years old. It had shows that have become pop culture icons today, but in 1990, they were considered edgy and sometimes controversial. The network itself couldn’t even hold a candle to the “Big Three.” Times have changed, but in 1990, it was a whole other network chaste system.

One show from Fox’s early days was the variety show In Living Color, which strived to break down cultural walls and be the primetime version of Saturday Night Live. For a few years, it was pretty good. But then that last season happened, and yeah, it was pretty bad.

In 1990, Jim Carrey was a star on the rise. He was a standout talent whose ability to impersonate not only through voice, but through facial expressions and gestures, made him a force to be reckoned with, if you liked his humor. Not everyone did.

Another way he stood out? He was the only white male on In Living Color, which meant he also had to be able to impersonate famous white male celebrities.

One of those impressions was Alan Thicke.

I knew I hadn’t seen any kind of Alan Thicke impersonation on Saturday Night Live before, but I knew I had seen this take on Thicke guest-hosting The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, where Joan Embry brings on one of the rare and exotic species she always specialized in. And wow, Carrey nails his Thicke impression, right down the right perfectly-coiffed wig and voice. Maybe it was that whole Canadian thing, I have no idea.

In this sketch, from the show’s first season, “Joan Embry” brings on the “rare” “Homeboy Sapien Africanas” (forgive me for sounding really white!). I could say more, but you really should see it to believe it.

Uploaded by Ezra Bufford

And after seeing Tommy Davidson wrap (and “Alan Thicke” dance), I’m convinced he probably did this AND invented #whitepeopledancing.

And then Kenny Loggins fans took it a step further.

With all seriousness, rest in peace, Alan Thicke, and thank you for the laughs and being one of those TV dads ’80s babies can remember fondly.

Also remembered fondly?

Uploaded by West Coast 99

Epic.

Allison 100% admires anyone who can compose songs that people will never get out of their heads. That pretty much follows suit with some of the nostalgia Allison writes about over on her blog, Allison’s Written Words. You can follow her blog on Facebook, and find her on Twitter @AllisonGeeksOut.

She’s laughing that you’ll never get that song out of your head.

All-4-One…and All 4 Christmas!

It’s the most obvious time of the year to be into Christmas music. And as I said in my previous article about Chicago’s Christmas albums, I like my staples, but I also like some unconventional Christmas music. Hence, the Chicago Christmas album…and All-4-One’s 1994 effort.

All-4-One. You remember them, right? They came after Boyz II Men, were based in the Los Angeles area (unlike Boyz II Men, who were based in Philadelphia, PA), and had a smooth R&B sound. Ranging in age from 20 to 24 at the beginning of their fame, they were beautiful, soulful, and they even had that one guy with the really deep voice. Now, I’ll confess, playing any music by this group will make me scream like it is the mid-1990s, I’m fourteen years old, and I’m popping their CDs into my Sony Discman.

And I may or may not have screamed the same way over watching All-4-One perform on one of the David Foster concerts.

Uploaded by All-4-One (Official Channel)

Ok, I definitely screamed like someone who would throw their panties (but that didn’t happen!). Why would anyone…

I’m sure it has happened, folks. No, I’ve never done that!

All-4-One, consisting of members Jamie Jones, Delious Kennedy, Alfred Nevarez, and Tony Borowiak – all of whom are still a quartet today – released their first album in 1994, a self-titled effort. So naturally, when you have a hit album, a Christmas album is probably circling nearby.

Case in point:

OMG, yes. This. This album. This album spent the whole month of December in my Discman. I didn’t own any “traditional” Christmas albums in 1996…I owned this. I played the heck out of this CD for at least three years. It also has the distinction of being one of my first CDs in addition to being the first Christmas album I ever owned.

All-4-One puts the soulful spin on the traditional Christmas songs, giving them a 1990s R&B sound. If you think all R&B music sounds the same, you’re not fooling anyone. 1990s R&B had a sound all of its own, and while these guys were probably pegged as riding Boyz II Men’s coattails, they knew how to stand out the right way.

I’d love for you to bask in the warm glow of 90s R&B, with an album that was truly All 4 Christmas.

You see what I did there?!

Oh fine, just click play.

Admit it, your Discman/Walkman-toting ’90s childhood came screaming back just a little, didn’t it?

So, I ask you fine readers: What was your first Christmas album back in the day? I’d love to hear from you!

You can contact me on Twitter @AllisonGeeksOut to tell me what your first Christmas album was!

Allison was a Walkman/Discman-toting ’90s child, and she’s proud to admit it. She didn’t buy her next Christmas album until the year she graduated high school, but this was her first, and she’ll always treasure it…even if she can’t find her copy and had to listen to it on You Tube (thank goodness for You Tube!). If you like what you’ve seen/heard here, she’s got a whole blog of Christmas craziness (until December 25th, of course, then it just becomes craziness as usual!), over at Allison’s Written Words. You can follow her blog on Facebook, and her on Twitter @AllisonGeeksOut.

She really would love to know what your first Christmas album was!