Tag: Chicago the Band

Presty the DJ for Oct. 13

The number one British album today in 1973 was the Rolling Stones’ “Goats Head Soup,” despite (or perhaps because of) the BBC’s ban of one of its songs, “Star Star”:

Who shares a birthday with my brother (who celebrated his sixth birthday, on a Friday the 13th, by getting chicken pox from me)? Start with Paul Simon:

Robert Lamm plays keyboards — or more accurately, the keytar — for Chicago:

Sammy Hagar:

Craig McGregor of Foghat:

John Ford Coley, formerly a duet with England Dan Seals:

Rob Marche played guitar for the Jo Boxers, who …

One death of note: Ed Sullivan, whose Sunday night CBS-TV show showed off rock and roll (plus Topo Gigio and Senor Wences) to millions, died today in 1974:

A Wisconsin earworm of sorts

A Facebook Friend passed this on from Robert Stacy “The Other” McCain:

For the past several weeks, for some reason, I’ve become obsessed with old Chicago songs. Not their later easy-listening pop, but their early stuff from 1969-1972, when they were still avant-garde. And I couldn’t figure out why this happened until I realized that “25 or 6 to 4” had been remastered as a U.S. Army recruiting advertisement:

Fifty years after its original release, Chicago’s signature song, “25 or 6 to 4,” has been reimagined as a hip-hop anthem about finding your inner warrior with fiery new vocals by indie rapper realnamejames. An abbreviated version of the remix first appeared in November 2019 as a part of the launch of the U.S. Army’s “What’s Your Warrior?” marketing campaign, which was developed to showcase the breadth and depth of opportunities for today’s youth to achieve their goals in America’s largest military branch. The track sparked conversation and excitement online, and a full-length version of The “25 or 6 to 4 (GoArmy Remix)” is now available for download . . .

Wow, I feel old. I haven’t felt this old since Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” was the soundtrack of a Cadillac ad. Back in the day, those early Chicago albums were real stoner music. Every hippie was certain that “25 or 6 to 4” was a reference to acid (LSD-25), but in fact the title and lyrics are about keyboardist Robert Lamm’s struggle to finish writing a song in the wee hours of the morning. He looked up at the clock and it was either 3:35 or 3:34 in the morning — 25 or 26 until 4 a.m.

As I say, Chicago was considered quite avant-garde in their early career. Their first three albums were all double albums, and their fourth album was a quadruple live album. They did a lot of long-form instrumental tracks, and one of my favorite Chicago songs, “Beginnings,” was nearly eight minutes long on their first album. It was not until Columbia Records president Clive Davis personally insisted on editing it down to under three minutes that “Beginnings” became a hit single. Similarly, the album version of “25 or 6 to 4” was nearly five minutes (4:50), which Davis chopped down to 2:52. Of course, the guys in the band resented the hell out of this commercial butchery of their art, but it made them rich. Selling singles (45 rpm) to teenagers required getting airplay on Top 40 radio, and back in the day, there was no way you were gonna get a five-minute song on the radio, let alone eight minutes. So these brutal chop jobs were a necessary part of the business. Chicago could indulge their artistic impulses all they wanted on their albums, but in order to sell those albums, they needed radio airplay, which meant hit singles and — chop! chop! chop! — there went half the song.

Nobody understands this stuff nowadays, in the digital age, where everything is Adobe Audition and kids just download music from Spotify, but once upon a time, a recording was an actual performance, recorded analog on tape, which had to be physically cut and spliced to make edits. And there were actual radio stations run by human beings (or soulless monsters, depending on your point view) called “program directors,” so that turning a record into a hit was a transactional sort of enterprise. Even after Congress outlawed “payola,” there was still a lot of shady stuff involved in promoting records to radio. Of course, in the long run, the music was either good or it wasn’t. Most of the mediocre crap that got played on the radio has been forgotten, but the real classics are timeless.

So I’ve been walking around with this song stuck in my head:

What the heck is that final chord? “25 or 6 to 4” is in the key of A-minor, but that final chord is definitely not A-minor. So I actually researched it and discovered that Lamm ended the song this way:

Dm 6/9 …. F9 … B6(add D) … G/A# … B/A

That’s just insane. In case you don’t know, B/A is an inverted B7 chord, with the 7th (A) played as the bass note. It is completely incongruous with an A-minor scale, which is why that final chord leaves the listener with such a weird feeling. Instinctively, you want the song to resolve to the tonic (I) chord, but instead you have this weird progression of complex chords culminating in something that’s just . . . wrong.

You could spend a lot of time pondering the significance of stuff like that, but that would require a supply of psychedelic drugs, consumed in a basement room with blacklight posters, which was how hippies used to listen to music (according to sources, the professional journalist said).

And so now a hiphop remix of “25 or 6 to 4” is being used for Army recruiting ads. Dude, I never expected to be so old . . .

McCain forgot, or perhaps chose not to include, the ’80s version, with Bill Champlain singing lead vocals instead of Peter Cetera …

… which started the first Chicago concert I ever saw, in Madison in 1987. The correct version started the second half.

What is the Wisconsin connection (besides the fact that all four Chicago concerts I’ve seen were in Wisconsin, that is), you ask? The Facebook Terry Kath Fan Group reveals …

… Chicago guitar legend Terry Kath and his father, Raymond, who owned Kath’s Lake Placid Lodge in Hayward. Terry Kath’s daughter, Michelle, who was 2 when her father died, described the lodge as her father’s “special place.”

Well, it beats having Chicago mobsters using northern Wisconsin as their “special place,” and as you know there was a lot of that.

 

Presty the DJ for Sept. 29

The number eight song today in 1958, one week or almost a month after the end (depending on your definition) of summer:

Today in 1967, the Beatles mixed “I Am the Walrus,” which combined three songs John Lennon had been writing. The song includes the sounds of a radio going up and down the dial, ending at a BBC presentation of William Shakespeare’s “King Lear.” Lennon had read that a teacher at his primary school was having his students analyze Beatles lyrics, Lennon reportedly added one nonsensical verse, although arguably none of the verses make much sense:

The number 71 …

… number 51 …

… number 27 …

… number 20 …

… number eight …

… number six …

… number three …

… and number one singles today in 1973:

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Presty the DJ for Sept. 13

Today in Great Britain in the first half of the 1960s was a day for oddities.

Today in 1960, a campaign began to ban the Ray Peterson song “Tell Laura I Love Her” (previously mentioned here) on the grounds that it was likely to inspire a “glorious death cult” among teens. (The song was about a love-smitten boy who decides to enter a car race to earn money to buy a wedding ring for her girlfriend.  To sum up, that was his first and last race.)

The anti-“Tell Laura” campaign apparently was not based on improving traffic safety. We conclude this from the fact that three years later, Graham Nash of the Hollies leaned against a van door at 40 mph after a performance in Scotland to determine if the door was locked. Nash determined it wasn’t locked on the way to the pavement.

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Presty the DJ for Sept. 11

Today in 1956, London police were called to break up a crowd of teenagers after the showing of the film “Rock around the Clock” at the Trocadero Cinema.

That prompted a letter to the editor in the Sept. 12, 1956 London Times:

The hypnotic rhythm and the wild gestures have a maddening effect on a rhythm loving age group and the result of its impact is the relaxing of all self control.

The British demonstrated their lack of First Amendment by banning the film in several cities.

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Presty the DJ for Aug. 30

Today in 1959, Bertolt Brecht‘s “Threepenny Opera” reached the U.S. charts in a way Brecht …

… could not have fathomed:

Today in 1968, Apple Records released its first single by — surprise! — the Beatles:

Today in 1969, this spent three weeks on top of the British charts, on top of six weeks on top of the U.S. charts, making them perhaps the ultimate one-number-one-hit-wonder:

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Presty the DJ for Aug. 28

The number one single today in 1961 was made more popular by Elvis Presley, not its creator:

Also today in 1961, the Marvelettes released what would become their first number one song:

Today in 1964, the Beatles met Bob Dylan after a concert in Forest Hills, N.Y. Dylan reportedly introduced the Beatles to marijuana:

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Presty the DJ for Aug. 20

Today in 1965, the Rolling Stones released the song that would become their first number one hit, and yet Mick Jagger still claimed …

Today in 1967, the New York Times reported on a method of reducing the noise recording devices make during recording. The inventor, Ray Dolby, had pioneered the process for studio recordings, but the Times story mentioned its potential for home use.

Ray Dolby, by the way, is no known relation to the other Dolby …

Today in 1987, Lindsey Buckingham refused to go out on tour with Fleetwood Mac for its “Tango in the Night” album, perhaps thinking that the road would make him …

The band probably told him …

… but look who came back a few years later …

… only to be told don’t stop at the studio door.

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