Chicago on Solid Gold? Seriously, Chicago the band on a show known for dancers in gold lame shorts…in the same sentence?!
I’ll let that sink in.
Guess What Allison Found!
Fresh off their post-Cetera lineup change in 1985-1986, Chicago proved they can play the heck out of any venue…even if that venue was known for female dancers in gold lame shorts dancing to the day’s biggest songs. You probably didn’t know Chicago performed on Solid Gold, and neither did I…until now!
But It’s True!
In 1987, Chicago performed not one, but TWO songs from Chicago 18 – Adult Contemporary radio staple (31 years and counting!) “Will You Still Love Me?”…
…and the lesser-known Bill Champlin/David Foster-penned “It’s Alight.” For the record, there were no gold lame shorts-clad dancers slinking around the stage to “It’s Alright.”
Because it would just be weird if they did it to “Will You Still Love Me,” right?
Here’s my point – there were no dancers. Just lots of neon shirts, mustachioed Bill Champlin, and Jason Scheff’s permullet.
I swear, you get a 23-year-old lead singer, and suddenly, you start appealing to the youth!
You’d love to hear/see these songs, wouldn’t you?
Will You Still Love Me For Sharing This Performance?
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I swear, this song has the effect of forcing you to forgive Jason Scheff for something – anything – that he probably has ever done. Every transgression, disagreement, and argument – forgiven when he sings this.
If he threw in a hair flip, this article would be a series of keystrokes I didn’t even realize I made. Because my head probably hit the keyboard upon blacking out.
But wait, there’s more! And Robert Lamm is happy to tell you all about it!
It’s Alright…Oh, Right! That’s the Name of the Song!
Robert Lamm, proud emcee and spokesperson, is happy to introduce their next song, and its singer!
And he used the song’s title to describe it – he’s so funny!
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So, here’s my question: how did this song not see a release? It’s a great song, combining everything we love about Chicago with the sweet 1980s sound that made up the second wave of their legacy. And Bill Champlin, despite how I feel about his attitude toward his time with Chicago, has an amazing voice. His contributions were always a welcome delight.
Plus there’s no denying he truly had the coolest mullet of them all….
…until his gorgeous mane of awesomeness took over.
You know, because when you’re one of the lead singers of a band whose average age (in the mid-1980s) was at least 40, you may forget how “young” you really are. I wonder if Jason Scheff ever actually had that problem…
Fangirl Love And College Acceptance
I write about Chicago alot.
I’m aware of my obvious fangirl love, and it is something I will never deny.
For me, college feels like a lifetime ago, and in reality, it was actually 16 years ago when I received my acceptance letter. The nail-biting and worrying from the time the application goes into the mail to the time the determination letter arrives is the pits, but it is worth it when the hard work pays off.
My high school gradation photo – class of 2001.
A few days after I graduated from college (in December 2005), I was job hunting, when a movie came on HBO that sounded interesting enough to take me away from my job-hunting for a little while. Ironically, it was about the end of high school life struggle of getting into the college of your choice. I appreciated the movie then, but liked it even more a few years later while watching Fox Movie Channel. That movie was How I Got Into College, and is the 100%* relatable story of what we do, and how we stress out, while trying to get into the college we want to attend.
*It is a bit overdramatic.
Me graduating from the college I wanted to attend. College graduation photo from The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey (now Stockton University), class of 2005.
The Theme Song
While I was watching the movie, I took notice of a song that played during the Obligatory Montage Scene that the best 1980s movies are, by law**, required to have.
I also took notice of the song used during said Obligatory Montage Scene, which sounded like someone very familiar, singing a song about staying young. Of course, I wasn’t really well-versed with Chicago vocalists at the time, so it was almost mind-blowing that Peter Cetera would be involved with a song about youth. I mean, he was clearly 40-something in 1989, right?
The truth cracks me up to this day. Silly girl, that’s not Peter Cetera singing about youth, that’s an incredible sound-alike!
“But He Sounds JUST LIKE HIM!”
I forever got Peter Cetera and Jason Scheff’s voices mixed up years ago. As it turns out, that isn’t difficult. Turns out that this “misstep” can be forgiven. For instance, I’ll forgive you for your mistake. It is ok, you are allowed to make that mistake. You are human.
But all that aside, Jason Scheff was the youngest member of a group who had not only been around since the late 1960s, but took over as one of their lead vocalists at the age of 23. That’s a big job – a group that had been together for almost 20 years, you’re barely older than that, and you’ve got an impressive catalog of songs to sing?
He handled himself well. For 31 years.
As a solo artist, Jason Scheff provided the vocals to the Obligatory Montage Scene from How I Got Into College, and while I can’t find that montage on You Tube (probably because the movie is from 20th Century Fox, and I don’t believe their stuff can be posted on You Tube), I can find you that song. And what looks like a music video to go with it.
Uploaded by Sai Guzman
And this is the full song, without any kind of music video attached.
Uploaded by Music 80s AOR
As for How IGot into College, this movie is as difficult to track down as this song was for years!
I did find the DVD of this movie on Amazon, but it is expensive (as of this writing, the DVD is $26.85). Your best bet would be to track down a used copy. I ran into this problem in 2009 when I wanted to buy the DVD of it, and couldn’t even get it. I wound up recording (almost wrote “taping”!) the movie from Fox Movie Channel to a DVD that year. If you haven’t seen it, it is worth the watch.
And as for Jason Scheff, he’s not “young” anymore, but he did continue to make a name for himself as the bassist and lead vocalist of Chicago until leaving the group in October 2016. But during his tenure, he made beautiful music, and even made “Street Player” sound like a halfway decent Chicago song. So he was obviously doing something right, even after he was trying to be “forever young.”
Yeah, I’ll stop.
Allison’s Note: I’ve had this song on my iPod for a few years (since about 2010), but didn’t know at the time who Jason Scheff was. It was actually several years before I really started listening to Chicago and made the connection. I was inspired to write this article after listening to this song the other day, and remember how hard the song (and movie!) were to come across at the time.
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!
Apparently, I’ve been in a hole since the third week of October, because I just found out at the beginning of November that Chicago lead vocalist (well, one of them) Jason Scheff, who has been with the group since the post-Cetera years beginning in 1985, officially left the group as of October 25, 2016. Scheff’s vocals matched Peter Cetera’s, and it was easy to see him slipping right into Cetera’s songs. Upon joining the group in 1985, Scheff was 23 years old, and his first test was the remake of “25 or 6 to 4,” which by the way, is amazing live.