Friday, March 20, 2020

Play At Home: We Pick Off Broadway's 5 Best Songs!

As one might expect, my first exposure to Off Broadway came via the band's regional smash hit "Stay In Time" and, while that song continues to have a one-of-a-kind magical quality to it that practically screams "smash hit", for this rock junkie it was but a gateway to a melodic, riff-laden musical universe that has entranced many in and around the Chicagoland area for the past five decades, but that few folks outside of Illinois even know exists.

Their story is no different than that of many other great regional bands who, despite immeasurable talent, charisma, and major label backing, were never quite able to turn that regional hysteria into a full-blown national breakout.

While I would have willingly learned to share Off Broadway with the rest of the world if left with absolutely no other choice, there's just something kind of cool about those great bands that we get to keep to ourselves, so to speak.

One must admit that being able to see one of your all-time favorite bands in the intimacy of a suburban sports bar with an inflatable palm tree decor might seem hideous, but it's still preferable to seeing them only once or twice a year at the local ViagraDome, where it is a "privilege" to pay $20 for parking and twice that for stale nachos and a beer.

In fact, the best place to see Off Broadway in the whole wide world isn't at a stadium or arena, but at what was once a single-family residence in sleepy Berwyn, Illinois that has long gone by the name of FitzGerald's.

There, in a room that holds just over 400 people, a band like Off Broadway can effortlessly transport an entire crowd back to a time when everything was still possible, making even the most jaded rock fans believe in the higher power of music all over again.
And now the list you've all been waiting for, ladies and gents: The 5 Best Off Broadway songs EVER!

5. U.S. Girls

For those Off Broadway fans who also count themselves as Cheap Trick fans, this song from Quick Turns is remarkable for having been co-written by Pete Comita, who, by 1980, found himself replacing Tom Petersson in Cheap Trick.

A year later, both Cliff Johnson and Comita would join forces in the short-lived, but legendary U.S.S.A.

4. Full Moon Turn My Head Around

Seriously, folks, how was this song not released as a single? Sure, it shares a startling similarity to Cheap Trick's "Hello There", but, beyond that, it sounds tailor-made for Top 40 radio circa '79.

3. Automatic

There are two types of Off Broadway fans; those who only own the album with the hit on it ("ON") and those who own, and know every word to every song on, their sorely overlooked second album, Quick Turns, from which this song was taken.

Not only did Quick Turns see the band opting for a slightly edgier sound than their successful debut, but it also featured new bass player Mike Gorman, formerly off Pezband.

2. Bad Indication

Any song that follows "Stay In Time" on an album has its work cut out for it, yet "Bad Indication" effortlessly picks up where its regional hit-bound brethren left off and continues to make the case for ON being one of the best rock albums to ever come out of Chicago.

Of course, the song's secret weapon is drummer Ken Harck, whose rock-solid tom work kicks off the song with authority and then lays down the foundation upon which the rest of the band can proceed to tear yet another roof off of yet another dump.

1. Stay In Time
Was the #1 song ever in any doubt? Also, how often can you say that a band's biggest hit was also their best song? 

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