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!