Friday, January 26, 2018

Song Of The Day: Off Broadway 'Stay In Time'!


The first time I heard Off Broadway's "Stay In Time" on the radio, it was followed by an Old Style beer commercial featuring an amped up rock tune with the rollicking refrain "You've got style".

I had no sooner got done thinking that the beer commercial was pretty catchy too when the on-air personalities at rock powerhouse WLS not only informed this very anxious listener of the name of the band that had performed the song, but also that, in the two years since its release, the band had split up and singer Cliff Johnson was now doing jingle work, including the Old Style commercial they'd just aired.



Not since I discovered the Beatles in 1973 had I been so excited to learn of a band's existence only to be informed of their demise.

Since, by that time, both Off Broadway albums for Atlantic had been deleted from the label's active catalog, procuring copies took a little doing, but, upon doing so, my turntable refused to play anything else for months.

Having lived in Chicago on and off since '86, I still get that surge of teenage adrenaline whenever "Stay In Time" is heard on the radio. Despite Tom Werman's somewhat tepid production, the song still manages to announce itself, whether coming out of crappy radio speakers at a favorite gyros joint or a gargantuan P.A. system at any number of rock concerts over the years.

Even more amazing than the fact that the supremely hit-worthy "Stay In Time" only hit #51 on the Billboard singles charts is the fact that, as late as '82, the song was still racking up major spins on AT LEAST two of Chicago's biggest rock stations.

By then, of course, Johnson was fronting the Adamany super-group U.S.S.A. with Pete Comita (Cheap Trick) and Tommy Gawenda (Pezband), giving Trick and O.B. fans alike brief hope that this band would soon be filling arenas in their own right.

Despite living in a remote, culture-starved town three hours out of Chicago, I was fortunate enough to catch U.S.S.A. in just such a setting when they opened for Cheap Trick at South Bend's Morris Civic Auditorium in the fall of '82.

Performing a large chunk of material from Off Broadway's On in a manner that added both nuance and muscle to the originals, the high-octane quintet band exuded a confidence that illuminated the stage in a white hot light while Johnson pulled out all the stops as frontman, at one point dropping to his knees mid-song and snorting an imaginary - we presume - line of coke that ran the width of the stage without missing a cue

Awed by the band's high-octane delivery, the chants of "Cheap Trick, Cheap Trick, Cheap Trick!" became less frequent between songs until the Chicago five-piece closed their set with a blistering version of "Stay In Time" that sounded every bit as glorious as the original studio version left the theatre's ornate chandelier's swinging in time and every jaw in the house on the floor.

2 comments:

  1. Very thoughtful of you to share this informative information on my band. If you're in the Chicago area on February 23rd, please join us at Reggie's in Bucktown.

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  2. I'm the daily driver choice for WDRV 97.1FM on June 10, 2019 meaningiget to pick ten songs to play. Stay In Time is one of the ten I picked.

    ReplyDelete