Four Lame Reasons Chicago (The Band) Isn't In The Rock Hall!

1. Jann Wenner personally hates the band.  Rumor has it that Wenner and the group's manager Peter Schivarelli bumped heads over a noticeable lack of coverage given the band by Rolling Stone, leading Jann to respond by going out of his way to not cover the band.

2. Despite long-term massive commercial success on their own terms, creating their own genre(s) in the process, and being one of the few artists whose FIRST album for a major label was a double-album, much less one that went on to be a million-seller, Chicago was never cool.

Velvet Underground, on the other hand, sold maybe twelve copies of their first album, but they were cool. Then guys like Peter Buck started singing their praises to a very impressionable audience of hardcore music fans. He could have said he listened to fucking Charo and we'd have knocked each other over tracking down her albums. Instead, he plucked Velvet Underground out of obscurity and made them a "must hear".

The mysterious guy with the great weed you always dream of running into at parties (he exists, trust me) would invite you over to turntable..."You need to hear this"...and he'd play you Velvet Underground for the first time. That guy never played you a Chicago album.

3. Despite boasting a guitarist in Terry Kath who left Jimi Hendrix himself in awe, a bass player with some of the most radio-friendly pipes in the business, and no less than five songwriters in the band firing on all cylinders, not to mention their ability to combine horns with rock and, in doing so, successfully fuse jazz, pop, and soul into something challenging yet accessible, the band's musicianship means nothing.  Meanwhile Steely Dan is in the Hall.

4. The band's '80s success is counted against them. Only a handful of '60s act were able to remain relevant into the "me" decade...Moody Blues, The Who, The Kinks, the Stones, McCartney...and Chicago. On paper, no band was more ill-prepared for the MTV revolution than the admittedly non-photogenic guys in Chicago. Anyone needing proof of this need only seek out the Hot Streets album cover below.

Yet, despite it all, when the band teamed with producer/writer David Foster, lightning struck and a new musical genre was born. Sure, they may not have invented the power ballad with "Hard To Say I'm Sorry", "Love Me Tomorrow", "Hard Habit To Break", and "You're The Inspiration" but they sure as hell perfected it. Unfortunately, rock critics and the gatekeepers of cool refuse to admit in mixed company that they crank this stuff when it comes on the radio.

The truth of the matter is that Chicago may not have been the coolest kids in school, but they were the ones who decided to stick to their musical guns, pander to NO ONE, and signed to arguably THE most powerful rock label of the time (Columbia Records) only after the label agreed to let this unproven act release a two-album set as their debut album. Double-albums were reserved for proven acts capable of selling millions, yet Chicago proved themselves worthy by selling a million units themselves. Another Chicago band would pull a similar move for their second album, Being There,, sell far fewer than a million copies, and establish themselves as permanent critic's darlings.

If you're like me, something sure smells fishy.  You don't have to LOVE the band to know that when the likes of Public Enemy and Green Day are ushered into the Hall before them, somebody somewhere is maliciously refusing to grant this more-than-deserving band their day.

Superior St. Rehearsal Facility

1 comment:

  1. A little touchy on Chicago, eh?

    Commercial success only signifies … commercial success, but any Hall Of Fame has to include successes, and for that reason alone, and the points you make, Chicago should be in the RnRHoF, regardless of what I or anyone else thinks.

    With regard to the Velvets, it took me some rime, and until LOADED, to appreciate the band. Yes, much of early VU is unlistenable, and not only because it was pressed poorly, as were many rock albums on MGM and Verve. But it was Lou Reed, and not Peter Buck, who made VU as influential as it was and still is. The (reportedly) Brian Eno quote about the Velvets, that their first album sold 12 copies, but each buyer went out and started a rock band, reminds me that as a society we would have all been better served if each buyer went out and started a same-day dry-cleaning business.

    In all forms of entertainment, art and commerce live side by side. Them's the breaks.

    And another point. As a record buyer, and as someone who worked at the time at an audiotape distributor in Brooklyn, I recall the first Chicago album, CHICAGO TRANSIT AUTHORITY, being sold as a discounted double LP, as were many double LPs at the time by less than stellar sellers. I still have copies of Love’s OUT HERE, and Eric Burdon and the Animals LOVE IS (which by the way, is one of the better albums of all time) that were purchased at either a dollar or two (at $6.98 0r $7.98 list prices, and usually discounted at the time to S4.99 or $5.99 at the time) more than single LPs, while the major acts released double LPs at $9.98, which was twice the single album prices.

    CTA was one of the former double LPs.

    And such discounts carried over into 8-tracks and the then just beginning commercial cassettes. Cassettes were often referred to by label salespeople as CASS sets. Now they’re cah SETTS or kuh SETTS.

    Oh, those salespeople.