But I would settle for being Retroist’s girl…forever! Actually, I’m already committed to someone else, but Paula Abdul would not mind being Retroist’s “forever girl.”
I’ve written alot of Chicago song-related pieces in my nostalgic days.
I may have a problem. And if that problem is that I appreciate great music, then so be it!
I actually got the idea to write this while I was sick last week, which doesn’t seem like much of an excuse when I’m always penning Chicago articles, but I figured a preface wasn’t such a bad idea.
A Chicago State of Mind…
This particular “dealing with a sinus infection” day involved watching something totally different from my usual sick day viewing (which is usually Mystery Science Theater 3000). And yet, this is not so different at all. I decided I REALLY wanted to watch my Chicago In Chicago Blu-Ray for the second time. Yes, only the second time since I bought it. I blame watching that Chicago documentary again.
Because nothing quite says “taking care of sinus pain” quite like blaring trumpets, don’t you think?
Old Days, Young Voices
While watching it, I spotted a detail that I must have shuffled aside amid clashing thoughts and randomness the first time I watched. Maybe it is because I listen to the studio albums and the original singers are on those albums, so it can be forgiven.
During the portion of the concert where the guys perform “Old Days,” I realized that the vocals are not that of Jason Scheff, who coverd the Peter Cetera vocals for 31 years, but instead are the vocals of this guy.
“That guy” is Keith Howland, the lead guitarist and vocalist for Chicago since joining the group in 1995. He arrived to audition without an invitation, got a chance meeting with (now former) lead bassist and vocalist Jason Scheff, and was offered the job on the same day of his last-minute audition. He’s still with the group today, though in the first few years, he was not a lead vocalist. That chance came when he sang “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas” for the group’s second Christmas album in 2003.
One thing I was not aware of (and obviously I paid attention to this at the concert) was that he can cover Peter Cetera vocals like a boss. That’s right – Jason Scheff may have had similar vocals to Cetera, but Howland has an impressive sound as well, kind of a rock sound that adds a sense of “newness.” One of those songs he sings in concert is “Old Days,” and he adds a strong, younger voice to it. Keith Howland, I found out, took turns singing this song with Jason Scheff until Scheff left the group, which means they “job shared” the Cetera vocals. Imagine that decision: “Oh, you can sing it tonight, and I’ll sing it tomorrow!”
Sidebar #1: Color me weird, but I have wondered what conversations about stuff like that sound like. Do they think it is as mundane to figure out who will be covering a song, as it is to make day-to-day work decisions like us regular people do everyday?
Do I think too much, and ask too many questions? Perhaps.
Back on track…
This is the video from the concert Blu-Ray, Chicago in Chicago. I think you’ll find it as impressive as I do.
Uploaded by Music on TV1
Keith, do you even know who Howdy Doody is, bro?
Good Times I Remember…
The song was penned in 1975 by trombonist James Pankow (the one who doesn’t mince words on the Chicago documentary), and first appeared on the group’s 1975 album Chicago VIII. You’re obviously familiar with the original version…
Uploaded by exclusivevids 1000
Sidebar #2: The 1970s were a magical time, weren’t they?
Pankow describes the song as a “nostalgic piece about his childhood,” as said on the original Chicago website:
“It touches on key phrases that, although they date me, are pretty right-on in terms of images of my childhood. ‘The Howdy Doody Show’ on television and collecting baseball cards and comic books.”
I also love how Pankow touches on visuals of the time, describing drive-in movies and a time that is gone away. Considering that he wasn’t even thirty years old in 1975 (he would have been twenty-seven, going on twenty-eight in 1975), James Pankow was obviously an old soul for nostalgia.
Does that sound like someone else you know?
Good Times Someone Else Didn’t Have…
Peter Cetera was the song’s original vocalist, and while he sings it with the same passion he sings everything else with, it turns out he wasn’t fond of singing “Old Days” live. The reason, you ask? He hated Howdy Doody. To that, I say “…and? When someone writes a song, but you’re the lead vocalist and the song’s composer asks YOU to sing it, you sing the song!”
And besides, when it is your job, you do the parts you don’t like. You’re getting paid, after all!
I wonder how Cetera would feel knowing that two much younger guys took over a song they probably don’t have a frame of reference for, yet sing like nostalgic old souls.
I had a really hard time finding a clip of Jason Scheff singing the song that wasn’t a well-mastered live version, but You Tube people are the best kind, especially when they post their concert videos:
Uploaded by Lockbxca
I don’t know about you, but regardless of who sings it, or that I don’t relate to the references made in the song, I feel nostalgic no matter what.
Effective songwriting? You bet!
This is hardly Allison’s first Chicago-themed article. She has so many more!
I’ve not heard of Mayer Hawthorne before today. But to be honest working down in the Retroist Vault means I’m surrounded by about 100 years of retro culture. I find I have no real need to venture up to the surface. Which is the only way I can explain to you how I missed Mayer Hawthorne’s song entitled Dreaming as well as his 2011 album, How Do You Do.
In addition to missing Mayer Hawthorne’s album, not to mention Dreaming of course. I also had no idea that he had a music video for it. An absolutely astounding piece of work by Ross Harris featuring Showbiz Pizza’s The Rock-afire Explosion!
I’m not ashamed to admit that many joyful tears started to fill these old eyes watching this video. Not only that, friends. But the video also sneaks in some vintage swag from Showbiz Pizza in regards to the one and only Billy Bob Brockali.
Having pointed that out – Mayer Hawthorne’s video for Dreaming. Also includes the likes of Fatz Geronimo, Mitzi Mozzarella, Beach Bear, Looney Bird, Rolfe DeWolfe and Earl Schemerle, and of course Dook LaRue. Who I must say appears to have an admirer in the video.
For my first Mayer Hawthorne song, I cannot think of a better way to hook me. Granted the song itself is fantastic – has kind of an Electric Light Orchestra vibe to it. Furthermore I think it’s safe to say that Mayer must have been a Showbiz Pizza kid too. There is just too much love shown for the characters of The Rock-afire Explosion for this not to be the case.
Now that you’ve enjoyed Mayer Hawthorne’s Dreaming. Take a moment and listen to The Rock-afire Explosion‘s tribute to the late great Davy Jones.
This video comes courtesy of the The Rock-afire channel and was uploaded after the passing of Jones in 2012. So…you are seeing a new show of sorts!
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.
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…