Our Thoughts On Why Chicago Is Not Yet In The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame!

Somebody asked me today why Chicago wasn't in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame and it caught me a bit flat-footed.  After all, this is a band that created a singular sound by combining jazz-inflected pop with classic soul and gritty R&B while, at the same time, amassing 21 Top 10 singles and selling over 38 million albums.

While it was commonplace for bands like The Beatles and Stones to have multiple albums lodged at the top of the charts in the sixties, Chicago was the only band other than KISS that I saw do it in the seventies.  They also had at least a half dozen songs in almost constant rotation on the radio:  "25 Or 6 To 4", "Saturday In The Park", "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is", "Wishing You Were Here", "Feeling Stronger Everyday", "Baby, What A Big Surprise".  And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Surely, a band as unique, and influential, and as POPULAR as Chicago would be in the RRHOF by now, right?  After all, this is a band that has more massive hit singles than most bands have songs, for crying out loud.

What on earth could possibly be keeping them out of the Hall?

Yeah, I wonder what it could be.  There must be something buried in their past that paints them in such an unflattering light that it plunges their once monolithic cool-factor to a depth from which it can never recover.

Yep, I'm talking about the infamous cover photo for the album Hot Streets. a photo that captures the band in a frivolous moment that, quite frankly, makes the Village People look like Led Zeppelin by comparison.

There is actually so much wrong with this photo that one doesn't know where to begin.  First you've got the guy in the center of the photo, second from left (above), who, for starters, has the same smile that got Kevin Cronin kicked out of REO Speedwagon in 1973.

And that shirt?  How did the pedal steel player from the Oak Ridge Boys get in here?

Yet another questionable decision from a band whose first single after Terry Kath's tragic death was called "Alive Again".  The song came out mere months after Kath had shot himself to death.  I understand the band's desire to declare "Hey, we're still here", but to do so by implying that they'd somehow come back from the dead seemed a little... distasteful at the time.  Mind you, I was 12 when this album came out.

Okay, back to the album cover.  The more I think about it, the more I see a basketball team throwing the game.  For starters, they've got ten guys on the floor (counting the guys on the back cover, comprising the other half of the photo).

If "Country Kevin Cronin" isn't enough of a deal breaker, take a gander at the two dudes to the right of him (above).  First you've got the recognizable golden locks and chiseled chin of bass player Peter Cetera.  Secondly, you've got him holding some Rupert Holmes-looking guy in his arms.

It's probably safe to say that you can count on one finger the number of photographers who've said "Okay, you in the beard, how about you jump into the arms of that other fella" during a photo session and lived,

From the looks of it, this isn't a band looking to "update their image" as much as destroy it completely.  Every other Chicago album cover has featured an iconic reinterpretation of the band's iconic logo, my favorites being the candy bar (Chicago X) and the high-rise (Chicago 13).  It gave the band a bigger-than-life quality and left any suggestion of what the band might look like up to the listener's imagination.

Some rock bands exude coolness.  Every move they make is an iconic, poster-worthy pose destined to be emulated by wanna-be rockers in bedroom mirrors all across the land and, therefore, they belong on the front of their album covers.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Chicago, a band so mix-and-match as to practically define the term.  Hell, maybe if they'd have named the album "Mix And Match", the cover photo might have made some kind of sense.  But, alas, they did not.  Instead, they called the album "Hot Streets".

Having named every previous album numerically, the band was looking to change things up a bit,  throw caution to the wind, and whatnot.  With the world as their oyster, they tossed aside all boundaries and limitations and came up with... "Hot Streets".

Now for the question that has long plagued man-kind: "What came first, the album title or the album cover?"

If the title came first, the graphic designer in most of us would envision a cover image involving a street of some kind.  Hot, perhaps.  A couple of high performance race cars, at night, speeding towards a futuristic city skyline (see my design above).

If, on the other hand, the album cover came first, the band's manager (or anyone else looking out for the band's best interests) should have stepped in and vetoed that line of thinking before it had a chance to take root.

Either that, or give the album a more accurate title:

Superior St. Rehearsal Facility


  1. I am a fan from back in the day and have often wondered about this silly cover and the change-it-up go-for-it album title. The numbering system was infinitely cooler. The picture of the dudes was so wrong. Peter & Danny indeed take the cake in their embrace! WTF! I bought it and actually liked the song Alive Again although I knew it was the wrong song at the wrong time. Miss TK so much! I'm certain they did as well and just didn't know what the hell to do without him around to bitch-slap their fool asses. Give us all a break. It all went completely downhill from here, except if you were on the lawn at one of their shows and they broke into Feeling Stronger Every Day.

  2. This band died with Terry. We all know it. When they get inducted this year, they need to acknowledge that. Thems the facts.

  3. This album cover always struck me as "the band having a good time" and I actually like the cover! Having said that, your blog entry had me laughing out loud. Good stuff man.

    1. Thank you Tom! I agree! People read too much into things/pics they're not involved in. It's all about interpretation. Photography/Art-personal interpretation!

  4. I say screw ya all. This album is great.

  5. Yeah , I spent hours listening to their music, 25 or 6 to 4 was one of the first songs I payed in band (yep, Marching), used Chicago IX as my test album for any sound system I was evaluating, remember feeling so limited playing Colour My World on my trumpet, attended several concerts, felt the senseless loss of Terry Kath's talent as much as Jon Bonham, or Brad Delp, but I am SO shallow, I am going to let one album cover limit the recognition the band receives for a life time of effort and accomplishment. Darren, is it too late to call OSHA for the safety violations on the Chicago IX cover?

  6. Hot Streets was a great album, albeit missing a little more soul from Terry Kath. It was a great comeback, if you will, after Terry's passing. "Alive Again" was an amazing song and a great song and memory of that year, but looking back in hindsight, it was probably not the best title of a song to release, considering the circumstances.

    My wife did pose the philosophical question; Had Terry Kath survived, would "Hard to Say I'm Sorry", "Hard Habit To Break" and "Look Away" ever exist?