Chicago Did Hip Hop?!

Oh hell yeah, Chicago did Hip Hop!

The Stone of Sisyphus Rolls On…

Returning to roots is not always a bad thing. However, if you’re Chicago, and your record label doesn’t like change, then, well…your album gets shelved.

I received the Chicago album Stone of Sisyphus as a birthday present. When I received it, I only knew “The Pull,” and “Bigger Than Elvis.” As you know, that’s because I wrote previous articles for both songs. Needless to say, I was excited about this gift. As a nostalgia archaeologist (or “Digital Indiana Jones“), I was fully prepared to immerse myself in deeper meanings and unreleased 1990s glory in a 2000s world.

What I found was the cooler, better-sounding 1990s answer to 1979’s “Street Player,” “Sleeping in the Middle of the Bed.” And guess what, they tried disco, so why not…Hip Hop.

That’s right, Chicago did Hip Hop!

Chicago Did Hip Hop?!

Much of Stone of Sisyphus feels like an experimentation of formats. The album departs from the power ballad rabbit hole of the late 1980s. While some of that is represented here, Chicago isn’t beating us over the head with it. They’re embracing the ability to stretch their creative muscles, hence, “Sleeping in the Middle of the Bed.”

According to Robert Lamm:

When John McCurry and I were cutting the demo, I had the lyrics written, we had the track, and I never really sang a melody. I was just kind of riffing. The rhythm of the words was there, but the melody wasn’t. I went out into the studio to do a rough vocal, and McCurry pushed the talkback button and said, “Why don’t you rap it?” And we both started laughing: OK, let’s try that.

According to Bill Champlin:

I think the record company heard that [“Sleeping in the Middle of the Bed”] and went, ‘Wait a minute – white guys don’t do this.’ Simple as that. I told Robert I thought it was an awesome piece, but you’re running up against racial lines here. I think that’s the first time Robert’s crossed any of those lines in a good long while.

Of course, in 1993, Bill was experimenting with something far more epic than music…Hair, Party of one!

“Sleeping in the Middle of the Bed” combines the sound of then-contemporary Hip Hop music (commonly referred to as Rap during that time), with the sound of Chicago’s “rock with horns.” I haven’t heard anything quite like this since Tom Jones rapped his heart out. And hey, his career was on a resurgence, so it had to work for Chicago, right?

Having alleged sex appeal probably didn’t hurt either.

Looking for the Big Hit…

It matters if I like it, right?

Because I do!

Unlike the aforementioned Disco Disaster known as “Street Player,” this song actually works! It is fun, funky, and experimental to the hilt! The obvious “we’re having fun” vibe is present throughout. And this grouping of lyrics?

I read somewhere that religion is for people
Who want to stay out of hell
I was praying for a sign or a vision or a message
Till you been there you won’t get well
I was sitting in a room I’d never recognize it
With a picture before my eyes
I’ve been sleeping in the middle of the bed again
I’m not sure this qualifies

I’d say a helluva good drug was available when Robert Lamm wrote this song, but he was clean for quite a few years at this point.

That Chicago Hip Hop Song…

Robert Lamm co-penned “Sleeping in the Middle of the Bed” with songwriter John McCurry, who has also worked with Cyndi Lauper, Billy Joel, David Bowie, Alice Cooper, John Waite, Belinda Carlisle, Julian Lennon, Joss Stone, Katy Perry, The Jonas Brothers, and Elliott Yamin. Robert Lamm is responsible for the vocals.

Someone that is quite possibly even more white than Robert Lamm. And Tom Jones.

Walter Parazaider discussed the exploration of this untapped genre:

Robert was just exploring another genre, which we’d been doing since Day One. I hink the only things we haven’t covered are Dixieland and polkas, and give us long enough we’ll probably do that too.

 

Because when you’ve done Disco, Hip Hop, Rock, and Power Ballads, this is naturally the course you must take.

Naturally!

I have to give Lamm kudos – on an album that already was quite the experimental mix, this song definitely stands out. And while “standing out” isn’t always a good thing, this was A Good Thing. I’ll give that it sounds bizarre for someone who had never rapped before (read: a 40-something-year-old white guy who sang in Italian on “Saturday in the Park”) to attempt it, but Tom Jones did it, so why not Lamm? Credit where credit is due, this song was creative in its efforts.

The disco album, on the other hand, was selling out.

“Sleeping in the Middle of the Bed”

And now, the part of the article where I unleash the song on you!

Ladies and gentlemen, Chicago rapping about religion, love storms, and lying dormant in a selected spot on a specified sleeping area.

Upload via Chicago – Topic

So now, you can tell everyone about that time that Chicago did Hip Hop…and prove it to them!

Not that this comes up in those bar/pub quiz nights, but if it does…

Watch The Peanuts Gang Rocking Out To Chicago!

The Peanuts Gang rocking out to Chicago.

Yep, I’m officially seeking out reasons to write about Chicago.

(Insert Chicago Explanation Here)

I’ll state the obivous: I love Chicago, I’ve seen them in concert, and I write about them ALOT.

I love this song, that song, and such and such album. The concert from 1993 is a Hair Party. I have lukewarm feelings toward Bill Champlin and Peter Cetera (love their singing though!), and OMG have you heard that disco song?!

Anyway…

Who Knew The Peanuts Gang Sang…Like This?!

Now, we’ve always known the Peanuts gang (Good Old Chuck and the Group!) to sing Christmas songs. There was also that time in the 1980s where child actors with actual singing talent played the characters. Every special in the 1980s had musical numbers. The characters came a long way from their over-enunciating days in the 1960s.

But they never quite sang like Chicago.

Until now.

A few years ago, my dad shared this video on my Facebook timeline:

I was just getting into Chicago’s music (thanks I Heart Radio!), but I’d been into Peanuts for years.

This video, my friends, is the work of Garren Lazar. It is just one of several Chicago music videos he made, featuring the Peanuts gang.

Oh yes, there’s more!

“The Peanuts Gang…in the Park…”

Garren has done quite the job of matching mouth movments and the music. What results is nothing short of amazing!

Take, for instance, this song I’ve never heard before…

This one EVERYBODY has heard!

Do you know what time it is?

…time to smile?

The flute solo that got stuck in my head for two days…

Seriously.

This lovely day in a certain open air place…I think it was some warm weather holiday…

This one, complete with all the feels…

I remember seeing this special as a teenager, and being sad. This song does not help!

That other song that signals a start…

I just wanna be…

And ANOTHER song I haven’t heard before!

All uploads via Garren Lazar

You laughed, you cried…you probably sang along. Don’t hide it!

But Wait, There’s More!

Turns out Garren Lazar has a huge playlist of singing Peanuts Gang videos, not exclusive to Chicago music!

Seriously, check this out!

Uploads via Garren Lazar

Thank you so much, Garren Lazar, for sharing you talent for making You Tube music videos a true art form! :-)

Did You Know “The Baby-Sitters Club” Had Their Own Album?

That’s right – those baby-sitters and their Stoneybrook-based club had an album!

One Great Idea After Another…

I’ve been (nostalgically) going back through the Baby-Sitters Club book series since last August. My inspiration came from it being the 30th anniversary of the first book. The series has captivated me as much as an adult as it did when I was nine years old. I know it seems strange to enjoy the adventures of teenage girls navigating through life and running the ultimate business, but I always liked how wholesome the stories are, and how well they hold up. While the covers of the books feel dated, the stories are timeless.

I read the first eighty-eight books between 1992 and 1995, when I decided it was time to leave this important part of my elementary school life behind. I was starting seventh grade, and I guess I felt it wasn’t “cool” to read the books anymore. When I started reading the books, I was young enough to be a baby-sitting charge, but by the time I stopped reading, I was older than the club’s two youngest members (though I was in the same grade as them). I was also baby-sitting myself by that time – I watched my own version of the Rodowsky boys, but thankfully I didn’t have a Jackie Rodowsky on my hands!

 

Of Course, The Baby-Sitters  Club Had a TV Show

Because one great idea deserves another!

Like other popular books series of the time (think Ramona Quimby and those Sweet Valley Twins), the baby-sitters also had their own show – it ran for 13 episodes across one season. It also had the distinction of having the most catchy theme song of them all…

Uploaded by Allison Venezio

This song, I should mention, is now stuck in your head. It’s so catchy!

I’ll definitely have to go into more depth with the television show at some point – I own the episodes (and I’ve written recaps for several), but I gotta talk about the soundtrack.

Songs For My Best Friends

The Baby-Sitters Club: Songs for My Best Friends is a 12-song soundtrack featuring nine tracks specifically written for the series, as well as the ultra-catchy theme for the TV show, “Say Hello To Your Friends.” The album was released on October 13, 1992, featuring the vocal stylings of “The Baby-Sitters Club,” featuring Kelly Sachs. Tracks 1-9 were written by Sachs, Jeff Barry, and Lisa Spiro, while “Say Hello To Your Friends” was written by Glen Roven. It’s also not the version from the TV show, but a remixed version.

The tracks are a flowery assortment of happy, perky tunes, mixed with love, friendship, and empowerment tunes, a reminder that education is important, and of course, the show’s theme song (though a different arrangement of the one heard on the TV show).

Just look at this track listing! Those titles!

1. Dance

2. Good Time

3. In Your Shoes

4. Him

5. We Will Inherit The Earth

6. Dear Diary

7. Telephone Talk

8. School is Cool

9. Slumber Party

10. Say Hello To Your Friends

So…how does it sound?

It’s So 1980s Dance!

The songs have a very Debbie Gibson/1980s teenybopper-esque sound. Considering that this was from 1992, that’s probably not what your average eight-year-old in 1992 liked.

Me, on the other hand…

If I had known this existed, it would have been in regular rotation in my Walkman, right alongside my Beauty and the Beast soundtrack. That’s my eclectic music taste for you! I’ve always had it!

So you know it is awesome!

Why didn’t I know this existed?!

Of course, what kind of friend would I be if I didn’t share my new music find with you?

Uploaded by Larry TGroce

Say hello to your flowery, perky earworm!

More Baby-Sitters Club Reads…By Me!

Oh, and if you want to see some of my Baby-Sitters Club recaps over on my blog…

I celebrated my 500th blog post by recapping Claudia and the Mystery of the Secret Passage, Halloween with a not-so-Halloween (but still, Halloween-esque) recap of Dawn and the Haunted House , and Christmas with an actual Christmas episode recap (The Baby-Sitters Special Christmas). I also wrote about a Valentine’s Day-themed novel, and my first Goodreads review on my most recent read from the final series of books.

But this is the post that got this whole crazy train of BSC excitement going!

Say hello to your girlie nightmare, friends!!!  :-)

 

Have You Heard Chicago’s “The Pull”?

Uh oh, guess who discovered – or rather, got pull-ed in the direction of – another Chicago song?

Gee, let me guess…

The Stone of Sisyphus Keeps on Rolling…

Several months ago, I wrote about an unreleased (until 2008) song penned by Jason Scheff, and performed by Chicago called “Bigger Than Elvis.” The song was a dedication piece to Jason’s father, Jerry Scheff, who was a bassist for Elvis Presley. “Bigger Than Elvis” was set to be released as part of the group’s ill-fated 1994 album Stone of Sisyphus. 

The album was to be a return to Chicago’s personal, cultural, and musical roots, and not a strive for hits. The album was completed in secrecy (even from their label), in order to emphasize Chicago’s creative sovereignty, set for a March 1994 release, but suddenly rejected (it was initially well-received) from Warner Bros. Records. This resulted in the album going unreleased for fifteen years, and Chicago leaving the label altogether.

The 1993 “Greek Theater”Concert

Prior to the album’s ultimate rejection, there was one song that made the set list for Chicago’s 1993 Greek Theater concert. It was a song that I had not actually heard before, nor had I seen any concert footage from the 1990s. But I can tell you this: the concert is a total hair party, 1990s-era Chicago is as awesome as any era Chicago, and those horns…fabulous.

Bill Champlin’s hair. That hair is everything you’d expect in glorious hair.

I had total hair envy watching this concert. Can you see why?

Former Member of the Hair Party, bassist, and lead vocalist Jason Scheff had an arguably strong voice that contributed to the group from the mid-1980s and on through the 1990s, right up until his departure in 2016. It didn’t matter who wrote it or if Peter Cetera was the original voice, he could handle any song with a true performer’s glory.

He was the only one without long hair.

Even the horn section had Mandatory Mullets!

“The Pull” Gets Its Big Push in Concert

The 1993 tour was an obvious attempt to promote the group’s upcoming album, and they deviated from the usual set list to play one of the songs from that album. Perhaps this one had the “marketability” they were going for.

I’m not 100% sure, but I do know this – the song was quite catchy, and very reminiscent of mid-1980s Chicago.

Take a look at this amazing video of Jason Scheff giving his all to “The Pull.”

Uploaded by Mr Joe Lynch

Those horns, that sound, this is revived-in-the-1980s-era Chicago. This is everything this group was amazing for and yet, this (and the album it rode in on) didn’t see the light of day for fourteen years. It took ten albums and fourteen years (and Rhino Records) to release this amazing song and album.

The lyrics in “The Pull” tell listeners that no matter what, no matter how far one goes, one’s roots (and past) are always ready to draw one back.

It is truly a powerful song.

Departures, Arrivals, and Stones Finally Getting Their Push

Unfortunately, with the album’s unreleased status, it was the final album for guitarist Dawayne Bailey, whose contract was not renewed following the not release of Stone of Sisyphus. Bailey had been with Chicago during the ushering in of the “new era” in 1986.

But even with his departure, Chicago lucked out in the end…

You guys know how I feel about Keith Howland.

Past Exhibits:

Old Days, Good Times Some Didn’t Have! – Hear Keith Howland sing the song Peter Cetera hated to sing!

Christmas with Horns – Howland’s version of “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas” is awesome!

Eventually, Sisyphus did succeed in pushing that stone – Rhino Records released the album as Chicago’s thirty-second album on June 17, 2008. Because when something is good enough, it will eventually get heard.

You can pretty much say someone had “The Pull” to get it released!

Get it, “The Pull…”

Ok, fine.

OMG hair!

Oh, and if you really want to see the full concert, it is AMAZING!

Uploaded by MyyyTunes Concerts

If I Only Knew…Why This Tom Jones Song Is So Catchy!

Yes, we’re talking about Tom Jones.

*Readies the panty launcher*

Guess who’s back from a week-long vacation that included a break from writing?

Guess who hates taking writing vacations?

Methinks my next staycation should involve writing.

Anyway…

Those Weird Songs In My Playlist

A few weeks ago, I talked about the music video for Grateful Dead’s Touch of Grey and how it got the Pop-Up Video treatment.

Pop-Up Video, much like my music playlist, was an eclectic playground for music to roam free. Everything mingled and got the bubble o’facts treatment, and exposed me to music I otherwise wouldn’t have listened to. That, my friends, includes another artist who made a music video for the MTV crowd.

That artist, my friends, is Tom Jones. And the song was “If I Only Knew.”

New Record Label Amid Resurgence

Tom Jones signed with Interscope Records in 1993, and by 1994 released the album The Lead and How to Swing It. This occurrence came on the heels of Jones successfully covering Prince’s “Kiss,” which earned him airtime on both MTV and VH1. With things heading in a positive direction, the time came for another potential MTV crowd-style video.

The video for “If I Only Knew” involves a MTV crowd-type who favors watching Tom Jones sing this song, rather than walk his dog.

My eyes are equally wide over that hat!!!

So, he uses MacGyver-esque ingenuity to walk the dog – a tethered leash on a zipline. Apparently, he has done this before, because the zipline goes through town. And so this dog (and all the other dogs tethered up to this “Lazee-Walker” device) move about the town.

Because their owners are watching Tom Jones’ career resurge.

That’s how MTV is supposed to work, right?

The Song and The Video…Don’t Exactly Match

Of course, I’m not sure how this relates to Tom Jones singing about what he should have known so his love would stay with him, but the video is actually quite funny. And apparently, the dogs are quite attracted to Tom Jones.

And can you blame them?

He does this (among other things)…

Tom’s tickets for the gun show are armed and incredibly dangerous to stare at. No wonder women threw their panties at him in the day – he flashed his jacked arms for them. Women are putty over things like this!

And yet, I (and the dogs in the video) cannot stop watching!

And you’ll probably not be able to stop staring…when you click play!

Uploaded by Tom Jones VEVO

If Tom Jones Only Knew…

Who knew that this song would be successful?

“If I Only Knew” peaked at #11 in the United Kingdom…and #4 on Billboard’s Dance Club Chart in the United States. Of course, the video got airtime AND the Pop-Up Video treatment….which unfortunately is not on You Tube.

In 2011, Tom explained the song to the Mail on Sunday (source – Songfacts.com):

“I did a charity performance with Sting for his Rainforest Foundation in Carnegie Hall. The night was very successful and everybody thought it went well. Jimmy Iovine, a music producer and label boss, called. He had apparently heard about my performance and soon I was signed to Interscope Records.Jimmy knew about ‘If I Only Knew,’ which was by a new group called Rise Robots Rise – they were obscure then, and I think they still are. Nice bunch of fellas, though. They were a white rap group, but it was the big brass riff in there that Jimmy loved and we wanted to make more of a song of it.Trevor Horn was producing it but he knew we needed a melody. He offered to get Lol Creme (from 10cc) to write it but I said that I could do it – and that melody just shot out of my head. I should have had a writing credit but I didn’t because this group were struggling, and I didn’t have the heart to say that I wanted part of the royalties.”

That’s um…incredibly modest of you.

And Rise Robots Rise? This is their version of the song.

Uploaded by KR Moody

And as we drive off into the sunset in our living room on wheels, freshly-walked dog back from his adventure on the Lazee-Walker, with images of Tom Jones trying to seduce us with his giant arms, while wearing our choice hat, we bring my first post-vacation article to a close.

If I only knew why the Pop-Up Video treatment isn’t on You Tube…and why Tom Jones is trying so hard to seduce me…