Like a pregnant woman who knows there is something out there that will meet her need, I occasionally have a hankering for some new music so I go to the iTunes store and try to fill the empty space. That’s right, I’m still buying music because I am so old-fashioned. Sometimes I find what I am looking for immediately, but there are times when I troll too long, get frustrated, and end up buying something I regret later.
Remember Chicago? Not the city, but the funky musical group, at least they were funky at one point and then somehow they turned into group whose primary focus was producing music for elevators. I remembered Chicago as I was looking around from music the other day, and swept up in a wave of nostalgia and consumer frenzy I purchase the 39 songs on Chicago’s The Very Best of Chicago: Only The Beginning. I feel a little betrayed and it is my fault for not taking the whole album out for a test drive. Chicago might have had 39 hits but 24 of them must have been hits in South Africa. (Note the subtle Rodriguez allusion that is no longer subtle since I wrote this sentence.) It was like I bought a tourist guide to the city of Chicago that is three hundred pages long, but two hundred of the pages are dedicated to the Cubs.
My ear can pinpoint the moment that Chicago started to suck, it was the moment they decided to stop blowing horns. The horn section of Chicago was great. Whoever decided to replace the horns with a synthesizer should be taken to the Hague and tried for crimes against humanity, and I don’t mean just the person that decided to do this for Chicago, I mean every single person involved in music during the 1980s who added a synthesizer and took away a horn section. It makes me a little sick to think I was somehow involved in these crimes, I listened to synthesizer music, I danced to synthesizer music, and I even thought that when Eddie VanHalen started playing the electronic keyboard that it was a good idea. My only defense is that my brain wasn’t fully developed at the time. I am certain that I could provide plenty of evidence to prove that I was temporarily insane for a period of 10 years: I wore bell bottom jeans, I had a perm, I thought Leif Garrison was cool (this alone would seal the deal.)
For the historians out there, something happened to Chicago around the year 1982 (again, speaking of the group, not the city). The songs pre-1982 are pretty awesome but almost everything after that is bad. They had a couple hits with Peter Cetera and I liked the songs at the time, but now I am ashamed of myself. We all make mistakes. I am sorry.
The real reason Chicago started to suck isn’t really funny, but life often isn’t, the lead singer Terry Kath died of an accidental gunshot wound. I don’t remember any news of his death in January of 1978. I don’t want to sound overly sentimental here, but I think Kath’s death should rank up there alongside with the deaths of Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Kurt Cobain. Spend ten minutes listening to Make Me Smile, Colour My World, and Saturday in the Park and then tell me that we did not lose one of the great vocalists in American rock history.
Why didn’t Chicago pack it in and call it good? I don’t know, but I wish Chicago had turned the amps off and left the stage.