Friday, October 9, 2015

Family Friday: After 46 years, the invitation remains . . .

The song opens with two staccato chords from Robert Lamm's keyboard.

A trombone riff from James Pankow follows.

The motif is repeated three more times.  On the fourth repeat, Danny Seraphine joins in with the drums, and then they are off and running, accompanied by the throbbing of Peter Cetera's bass, with tambourine by Walter Paradizer in the background.

And then Terry Kath steps up to the microphone and roars:

Hey there everybody
Please don't romp or roam
We're a little nervous
We're so far from home
So this is what to do
Sit back and let it through
And let us work on you

That is the opening of the aptly named "Introduction", the first track on the album Chicago Transit Authority, and the album that introduced the rock group Chicago to the world.  The album hit the shelves on April 28, 1969.  Listen to it, and you'll find it captures the raw energy and excitement of seven men who wanted to create "a rock-and-roll band with horns", to quote trombonist James Pankow.

They succeeded. 

Originally known as Chicago Transit Authority, they dropped the Transit Authority part when the real Chicago Transit Authority threatened to sue.  Now known as simply Chicago, they followed up with Chicago II, III, IV, V . . . and on it goes.  Wikipedia lists thirty-six albums, along with several live albums and a list of compilations.  They began with seven men, and as of this year, four of the original seven are still with the band.

"Chicagophiles" range across at least three generations, maybe more.  Chicago boasts fans from the early days of the 1970's, to those who never heard of Chicago until recently. 

I became a Chicagophile in 1972.  I was eight years old and fell in love with "Saturday In the Park".  However, I didn't get my first Chicago album until 1976, when I was 13.  One of my Christmas presents that year was Chicago IX, the Greatest Hits album. The day after Christmas, while taking down the decorations, my mother suggested that "I play my new album". 

While one could criticize Chicago for "going commercial" in the 1970's, and for losing their "edge", you could not deny their success.  If you listened to AM radio, as I did during those years, you heard "Just You 'N' Me", "Call On Me", "I've Been Searchin' So Long," "Old Days," "If You Leave Me Now," and others as they rose and fell on the Top 40. 

Tragedy struck on January 23, 1978, when Terry Kath accidentally shot and killed himself.  I've seen this event referred to as "the night Chicago died," and I tend to agree.  They were never the same after Terry died. 

But where others may have given up and disbanded, Chicago did not.  They came roaring back with a new guitarist and a new album, "Hot Streets", one of the very few Chicago albums not to contain a Roman numeral.

Over the years, Chicago has seen its share of changes:  personnel changes, changes in the music industry, changes in musical style.  They have dealt with the death of Terry Kath and the contentious departures of original members Peter Cetera and Danny Seraphine.  They have suffered the attacks of "noted" music critics.  I'm sure there have been times when they've been considered down, out, and gone. 

And yet, they remain. 

They still play, they still tour, they still release music.  Recent concerts have seen them pair up with '70's icons Earth, Wind, and Fire and the Doobie Brothers.  Their fans, both old and new, still turn out, still support them, still love them. 

This week, after 22 years of being snubbed, Chicago has finally been nominated for the first time for induction in Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  At the moment, they are number one in the fan voting. 

James William Guercio's original liner notes from the Chicago Transit Authority album end this way:  " . . . if you must call them something, speak of the city where all save one where born, where all of them were schooled and bred, and where all of this incredible music went down barely noticed; call them Chicago."

Through triumph and tragedy, through vinyl, eight-track, reel-to-reel, cassette, CD, MP3, and streaming audio, through praise and criticism, through changing times and changing music, Chicago still goes on, playing the songs, entertaining the fans, making their statement with their music. 

Because, after 46 years, the invitation remains: 

So this is what to do
Sit back and let it through
And let us work on you.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

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