Lamm-Interview vom 2. August 1999 mit Lee Leonard, News 12
Robert Lamm interview with Lee Leonard
By Tim Wood
Following is a summary of a television interview that Lee Leonard
of News 12 in New Jersey did with Robert Lamm on Aug. 2, 1999.
This is not intended to be a transcript - Lamm is paraphrased and in
some cases, direct quotes are attempted.
Why did the Chicago sound change?
Lamm: Two things - the huge hit "If You Leave Me Now" was the band's
first worldwide no. 1. It had strings and no brass.
Also, Chicago lost their guitar player (Terry Kath).
"My theory is that most rock bands start on the cutting edge. When they
get mainstream success, management wants more of the same."
Lamm describes the band: "There are eight principals, all partners.
A lot of decisions are bottom-line driven."
Stone of Sisyphus album (not mentioned by name)
Lamm: "Our last album for Warner Brothers was outright rejected. They
said 'We don't like it at all' and asked us to change it."
Chicago refused to change the album, and "We agreed to disagree," Lamm
There was then some discussion about Chicago forming its own label.
Leonard asked Lamm if SOS had been released on Chicago Records, and
Lamm said "yeah."
(The complete CD has not been released by Chicago Records, although
some of the songs have appeared on import compilations.)
Lamm: Chicago started out as a bar band. As the band became more successful,
they toured more and mroe. It wasn't until 1972 that they realized "We're
big." "The 30 years have gone by quickly. I have more appreciation of
our success now than in the early days."
Lamm's background: "I'm a Brooklyn kid." Lamm said he moved to Chicago
after his mother re-married and her new husband was from Chicago.
Lamm said his parents had a great jazz record collection.
His "golden age of adolescence" was during the "doo-wop" era. Then he
moved on to Motown, then the Beatles.
On Phoebe Snow: "She's always been one of my favorites.
On "Sleepin' in the Middle of the Bed Again:" The title is very personal.
10 years ago, Lamm decided to make some major changes in his life.
He moved back to New York and the song is about being back on his
own again in New York and re-examing who he is.
On the song "Will People Ever Change?:" The song was written on the
heels of a recent presidential election.
Lamm discussed the strains of being in Chicago: "It took 20-plus years
to get a handle on doing it."
Family: "I've got three wonderful kids and the best wife I've ever
He doesn't go more than two weeks without seeing his wife. He has taken
his children on the road, one at a time, to see what he does.
About the early Chicago albums: When he listens to the tracks that
the band doesn't perform, he's amazed at them. They are more "edgy"
and more challenging.
"I always wished I could sound like Marvin Gaye."
Asked about bands that tried to sound like Chicago: Yes, he's heard
bands with a similar sound and a three-piece horn section, but no one
has been able to sound like Chicago.
The songwriting and arranging make the band's sound unique.
He mentioned that the band has to fill the concert with songs from
the Chicago 17 era.
"When we have to make a wallop (in concert) we go back to the first
What he listens to: "I've been listening to hip hop and rap. As a
city guy, I understand how that music came to be."
Lamm is trying to write in those styles, with stronger melodies while
retaining the urban sound.
He likes to go to jazz clubs, but does not go to rock shows. He also
likes Brazilian music and is planning to use it on his next solo album.
"It's a very sophisticated sound."
(End of interview)
Robert Lamm-Interview vom Juli 1998 (Long Post)
Hi all! I just wanted to share with you a great interview that was
in this months issue of the LIE (Long Island Entertainment). There's
alot of great stuff here. I hope you all enjoy it.
Chicago's Robert Lamm:
Getting to the "Heart" of the Matter by John Blenn
Robert Lamm has never been one for looking over his shoulder. With his
career in Chicago over three decades old, he's not the kind of guy who
spends much time resting on his laurels or admiring his mega-group's
Even with a new "Best Of" package out, The Heart of Chicago.1967 -1998,
Volume II, he still chooses to look forward. There's a national tour
in progress, a solo album due in the fall and much to look forward to.
Lamm, a New York City resident for much of this decade (He finds The
Village to be vital and inspiring), remains one of the most candid interviews
in the business. He doesn't dodge questions, he doesn't candy-coat and
he's insightful. What make's him truly intriguing is that he never wanders
into being disgusted by what he wishes was better, he just accepts it.
But it's there, the heart of a musician that realizes that sometimes
you have to be a pop star when you'd rather just be a player.
"We wanted to do an original album, top to bottom," begins Lamm on
the new release, "but I think it scared 'em (the record company) because
it wasn't their idea. What Warner Brothers prefers to do was exploit
our '80's catalogue, I think that's what management wanted too, so we
just added a couple of new songs and that was it. We're really excited
about the new songs, "All Roads Lead To You" and "Show Me A Sign," because
they were produced by Roy Bittan and he really gets what we do. He used
to play keyboards in the E Street Band and from day one, he's always
wanted the band to be what the band is".
To me what Chicago was at their absolute best, is a band without boundaries,
a fabulous group of musicians that followed the muse, though the later
stage of Chicago hasn't always been as experimental as they were in
their early days. When the statement is put on the table, Lamm surprise
with his frankness.
"What management...A&R... a label wants, is not necessarily what
a band wants," begins Lamm, "but you do have to strike a balance. I
wouldn't hesitate to say that our first seven, eight, nine albums were
far more interesting than subsequent albums. We've been on tour for
thirty years now and that's where we try to reconcile those two elements,
the types of songs people want out of us and the way we'd like to play.
We'd like to jam in a down and dirty way, open it up for over 2 hours,
but we have such a mixture of fans now.
We could probably get away with it with 18 and 19 year olds if we
were playing college dates, to be self indulgent and explore more things
in the show, Underneath it all, the hits, the radio songs, still lurks
a band that would rather be at the Fillmore East and exploring stuff.
What makes things complicated is that when you do shows, you really
want EVERYBODY to have a good time, and that also requires a balance.
We've changed the show around, added a lot of surprises to the set and
the production has been redone as well, so I think people will enjoy
it. The other three founding members will still play many, many licks
I've heard many, many times, but I do still love it, and we try to find
different little ways to do certain songs but not too different. I still
get nervous when we do tours and I hope that never changes, I hope that
I never get so blas? about things that I don't get nervous, because
that's when your supposed to stop. I'm a musician and I knew early on
that I would be for life, so if people get tired of playing songs that
make people happy, they're probably not doing it for the right reasons.
As an artist, you'd always love to experiment more, but you also have
to want to make fans happy and the sales will let you know what the
popular songs are. There's just not time for everything and if we did
more jamming, we'd do even less songs."
I mention Chicago's "Big Band" album from a few years back on Giant
records, an album of standards from the jazz/swing era and Lamm lights
up at the mention.
"In a way, we snuck that in," says Lamm, excitements rising in his
voice, "we weren't Chicago the radio icon on that album, we were ourselves.
That was an album we really did for us, one that we were really able
to stretch out and play on. It was just taking some great songs that
we all loved and making them Chicago songs. It was just a great time."
It is also a method of album making that Chicago will visit again in
the near future.
"Our next album is going to be a Christmas album," offers Lamm, looking
forward, "but it's not your typical Christmas album. There's a lot of
cool arrangements and we approached it not so much as making a holiday
album as making a Chicago album with seasonal songs. We're really proud
of it artistically.... I think it made us all remember how it feels
to play the way you love to play and I think people will be really excited
What else Lamm is really excited about is his third solo album, due
out this fall. Where a lot of members of big bands step out to investigate
their own popularity, Lamm has been making solo albums for the reason
you really do it... he's making music that he loves that doesn't fit
into the context of what Chicago does. Though the band is quite busy
this year, Lamm hopes that time will allow him to do a few solo shows.
"It's kind of an urban, triphopppy thing," says Lamm of his John Van
Epps produced solo album, "I had close to 20 songs for it but we used
10. John (Van Epps) picked the songs because I'm the worst guy at doing
that. It was just a great time, I got to work with a lot of wonderful
people like Phoebe Snow, John McCurry (ex- Cindi Lauper), Eric Troyer,
Jeff Mironoff and John (Van Epps), and it's the first of a three album
deal with Mystic Music. They're a small label, but they're going to
get a single out and a video and they really let me do what I wanted
to do. I also have an album, a trio project with Jeff Buckley and Carl
Wilson that nobody's heard and I know that will be out in the future.
I'm having a great time with my life. Being able to do the solo stuff
gives you the freedom that a band can't always give you because as a
solo artist, the expectations are different. I get to play with Chicago,
which has made everything in my life possible, and I get to go do different
things on my own, so how could I ask for anything more?"
As Lamm gets ready to head another show, I ask in passing if the book
he's thought of doing, from time to time about the life and times of
Chicago, will ever come.
"I don't know," say Lamm candidly, "sometimes I think I should do
it, most times I think that things should be left the way they are.
I know I wouldn't do it until Chicago is over with and, right now, we
still don't see the end of the line. We can still tour, we still feel
we have a lot of music we want to make and as long as people still come
to see us, we'll be there."
For whatever the restrictions the business may place on Robert Lamm,
the people have proven they WILL be there. And Chicago, regardless of
what they might want to do on any given day, will be right there, the
way they want them to be.
Lamm-Interview 1996, Tribune
Robert Lamm Talks about Chicago's Muscial Direction
Tired of Bland Pop, Chicago wants to take back control of it's sound.
(Originally from Indianapolis Star and News) by Marc D. Allan Knight-Ridder/Tribune
News Service, July 25 '96.
Copyright 1996 Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service
Hype is the mother's milk of rock 'n' roll. Bands are forever boasting
that they sound great and that their new disc couldn't be more spectacular.
But not Chicago. Its members are only too happy to tell you how lackluster
their group has been for the past 15 years.
"Once Terry Kath died (in 1978), the hard-driving, hard-blowing Chicago
that we all knew during the 70's went away," says keyboardist and original
member Robert Lamm. "Unfortunately, at the same time, punk and new wave
was upon us, and we certainly didn't fit into that. So it wasn't until
'82, when we started doing this very '80s greed-is-good, pop-love-ballad
stuff that we were able to survive as a band."
Soft-rock hits such as "Hard to Say I'm Sorry", "Love me Tomorrow",
"Stay the Night", "Hard Habit to Break" and "Look Away" enabled Chicago
to sustain a career founded in 1967 on a foundation of jazzy, horn-dominated
But as one ballad led to another, several members grew increasingly
unhappy. They wanted to rock, and they thought the band's live shows
suffered when the sets became too dependent on soft rock.
This summer (1996), Chicago is on the road with Crosby, Stills &
In an interview three years ago, trombonist and founding member James
Pankow put it succinctly: "This band has enormous talent, and that talent
has pretty much been locked up in a closet for the sake of this formula
Lamm feels the same way. "But unlike Pankow, I accept the responsibility
for participating in it," he says.
"But by around 1993, we had all had it up to here with record companies,
with radio," says Lamm, author of Chicago classics such as "Saturday
in the Park" and "25 or 6 to 4."
"I finally got on my little pedestal... and said, 'I have to tell
you guys, I enjoy my standard of living (which is why he didn't quit
the band), but I'm enjoying it less because I would really rather succeed
or fail on our own merits rather than doing what everyone tells us we
Lamm thinks the direction may change with the creation of Chicago
Records, which will distribute the band's future discs.
Chicago's new company won't have the huge publicity budget that the
band's old label, Columbia Records, could provide. But Chicago will
have creative control over its music.
Lamm says the band expects to release a greatest-hits disc _ including
some new songs _ later this year, and a new studio album in 1997.
Meanwhile, Chicago Records has released Lamm's new solo album, "Life
is Good in My Neighborhood," which was borne out of frustration with
the direction Chicago has been heading. The disc's centerpiece is "All
the Years," about the country coming apart at the seams.
"I've always been a songwriter and a singer who wants to sing and
write about things other than love," Lamm says. "Historically, whether
is's 'Does Anybody Really Know What Time it Is?' or 'Dialogue' or 'Saturday
in the Park,' they're not love songs. They're more about the human spirit
or condition. More and more, I was not being fulfilled with Chicago.
After taking a break from songwriting for about 8 years, I realized
I really missed being fulfilled."
He played the songs for producer Phil Ramone (who has worked with
Billy Joel, Frank Sinatra and Sinead O'Connor, among many others). Ramone
told him Chicago fans missed that element of the band and suggested
he write songs in that vein.
"I feel like I'm hitting a mid-life renaissance," Lamm says. "It feels
kind of good."
Lamm-Interview 1996, Calgary Sun
By DAVID VEITCH
Calgary Sun - Saturday, March 1, 1996
His band records for its own independent record label. He wants nothing
to do with major labels and condemns the "corporatethink" that drives
the music industry.
But he's not a moody Seattle grunge type, or an indignant, snot-nosed
He's Robert Lamm, 51, a driving force behind the veteran "rock band
with horns" Chicago, which performs at the Jubilee Auditorium next Saturday.
"We spent a dozen years with CBS and Warner Bros. Everything we suspected
was wrong with big record companies is indeed what's wrong with big
record companies," says Lamm in a telephone interview.
Why the bitterness, especially from a band that has sold more than
100 million albums in its 27-year recording career and remains a popular
The answer partially lies in Stone of Sisyphus, intended to be Chicago's
22nd album (and second to be given an actual title, not a number). Recorded
in 1993, it never has been released. The album was first rejected by
Reprise, which subsequently dropped the band. Chicago's next label,
Giant, also rejected Stone and ushered the group into the studio to
record last year's Night and Day, a collection of big band covers that
sold poorly. Since then, Chicago and Giant have parted company and the
group has formed its own label, Chicago Records, which has reissued
the band's first 14 records and has put out a new Canada-only hits compilation,
Overtime, that features two tracks from The Great Lost Chicago Album.
"It was demoralizing. It was frustrating. But, at that point, our
hands were tied," Lamm says about trying to get Sisyphus released. "We
were in love with the Sisyphus album, so it was a little difficult to
let go of the idea of releasing it in its entirety. But there's
a very likely possibility we'll be releasing the album in its entirety
anyway in late fall."
Lamm is also raiding the vaults, hoping to put together an album of
Chicago out-takes, an album of live performances, and an album of recordings
made by Terry Kath, the group's original guitarist who accidentally
shot himself in 1978.
Chicago's future may be in its own hands now, but the band still faces
a difficult task in resurrecting its moribund record sales. The group
enjoyed success with slick power ballads in the '80s , but these records
alienated many older fans who remembered Chicago as a jamming, rock-jazz
combo responsible for such brassy hits as 25 or 6 to 4, Feeling Stronger
Every Day and Make Me Smile. When slick power ballads went out of style,
so did Chicago.
"It's pretty interesting how the stuff from the first few albums holds
up very nice and, in some ways, better than some of the stuff we did
in the late '80s and '90s," says Lamm.
"There is a strong feeling we want to move as far away from the middle
of the road that we were on, especially in the '80s. That's pretty much
the manifesto. We want to get back to the side of Chicago that most
people relate to, which is the first few albums. That concept; not necessarily
Indeed, that sound would be difficult to re-create. Kath is gone,
and so are two other original members: Singer Peter Cetera, who launched
a successful solo career in 1985, and drummer Danny Seraphine, who was
fired in 1990.
The split with crooner-bassist Cetera was particularly acrimonious,
though Lamm insists the bitterness has "mellowed out." But don't expect
a reunion just yet.
"We have certainly talked to Peter through a third party about either
touring with Chicago, or doing an appearance with Chicago, because we
had heard he was interested in doing that. But it turns out he is not
interested," Lamm says.
I ask Lamm about the band's work in the European market and, quite
unexpectedly, the anti-establishment part of him surfaces again. "I
don't want to quibble," he says, ready to quibble, "but I really resist
calling those regions markets. I think record companies do."
Record companies also call albums: product.
"That drives me crazy. And we're meat that sings. Chicago: Meat That
Sings." That should be the title for your next album, Robert. Much better
than 2, or 6, or 17.
"Yeah, it's got a Zappa thing to it."
Loughnane-Interview von John La Barbera, 1998:
(aus dem "CTA-Scrapbook")
JLB: John La Barbera
LL: Lee Loughnane
JLB: What equipment are you using these days?
LL: The mouthpiece is a Claude Gordon personal and the horn is a Claude
JLB: What is the mouthpiece equivalent to?
LL: Huge. About a 20-drill. I first played it about seven years ago
and I thought I was playing into the Holland Tunnel.
JLB: Considering the charts you have to play, that is amazing. How
did you happen to decide on this mouthpiece and horn combination?
LL: Well, I had been practicing a lot before we did the tour that
followed our 2 1 st album. That's the one with "Chasin' The Wind" and
"Explain It To My Heart. " There was a lot of blowing on that album,
and I knew it was going to be hard to keep that up on the road. As it
happens, the producer of the videos we did to promote the album, had
just worked with the guy who's now my teacher, Paul Witt. Paul was a
student of Claude Gordon and was a fan of our band. He came to the video
shoot to meet me. I was telling him about the practice I was doing and
asked him how I might improve what I was doing. At this point, I didn't
want to go through the rest of my career wondering if I was going to
be able to make the high parts. He suggested Arnold Jacobs in Chicago
or Claude Gordon on the West coast. Claude wasn't available at the time,
so I dug up one of my old Claude Gordon books and started to work with
it. I called Paul and told him I had been wailing with this book, and
he said he'd come over and give me some tips on how best to use the
exercises. The first thing he asked me was where do I put the tip of
my tongue when I tongue the first note. I said, "On the roof of my mouth
like everyone else." I use the syllable "Tah " and the tone starts.
He had me say "Ah" and notice where the tongue was. It was flat on the
bottom of my mouth with the tip behind the bottom teeth. He then had
me do "Ah ee" to illustrate that the tip of the tongue stayed behind
the bottom teeth and the fat of the tongue becomes raised. This was
a real revelation for me, and I started to work with this technique.
I decided to change the way I played right after that, and Paul started
to work with me. He had me do breathing exercises, chest up, like a
gas tank, in the same position all the time. It was either full or empty.
My chest was always up, never collapsed, whether full or empty. I've
been working with this over the last seven years and it's improved my
playing 200%. Claude has a book called Brass Playing Is No Harder
Than Deep Breathing".
JLB: Did you have a block of time off to make this change or was it
during a tour period ?
LL: I had about four to five months off and I went to see Paul every
week. The band had a few engagements now and then during this period.
When I got on stage, I went back to the old way of playing just to get
the job done. But eventually the more I practiced the Gordon method,
the more the new way of playing became automatic. I've been playing
the horn for 38 years and the last seven have made my career. I mean,
when I walk out on stage. it doesn't matter how high or fast the part
is, I know I'm going to play it.
JLB: I remember when I studied with Carmen (Caruso), he'd have me
do the exercises for practice and told me not to take them to the gig;
it would eventually creep into my playing. Do you have a regular routine?
LL: Yes. I start out with some flexibility exercises. This takes me
up to g" above the staff at first and then up to high g"'. I'm also
practicing the "K" tongue, so it's as proficient as the single tongue.
I'm the only one who knows whether I am single tonguing or double tonguing.
I knew I was there when even Paul couldn't tell. This year has been
the easiest year on the road. I'm as fresh at the end of the show as
I am at the beginning, with the exception of the air. If the air is
tired, then the chops will be tired. I do a half hour of breathing exercises
every day. I walk five steps, with the chest up, and take five breaths
in -- then another five paces letting the air out in five. I do that
for 20 minutes. Then I move to six, seven, eight, then nine, and finally
to ten. Once I get ten, I switch to jogging five in and five out.
JLB: Sounds like you take good care of yourself.
LL: I had a heart attack about a year ago. A minor one and I had angioplasti
(daughter River interjects that "we have a fish named Angio"). Since
than I've backed off a little on the intensity of the practice. It was
really a wake up call.
JLB: Were you smoking at the time?
LL: No. I quit smoking at the time I met Paul.
JLB: So the equipment and method change happened at the same time?
JLB: What did you play before that?
LL: I played a Getzen. We had a deal to build a prototype horn. I
probably couldn't blow through it now.
JLB: In what way?
LL: I doubt if it's big enough. This Claude Gordon horn doesn't stop
until it hits a wall. It's huge, about a 0.470. The only time it slows
down and gets a little smaller is just as it comes out of the valves
and out of the bell.
JLB: Tell us about your earliest training.
LL: I studied with a guy named John Nuzzo in Chicago and worked with
the St. Jacome and Schlossburg methods, but not the Arban. His mother
would cook all of these Italian dishes for me every Saturday. We'd eat
and then we'd have the lesson. It was a great experience. I was playing
a Holton, I believe a C47. The mouthpiece was a 10C. Eventually, I went
to a 7C and ended up on a 3C. After that, a mouthpiece by Bob Reeves.
It was a 7C, but shallow and bored out. It was a small air stream compared
to what I have now, but that's the kind of air I had back then. I was
smoking back then. The body adapts to whatever you do. You can smoke
and still be a trumpet player, but you make it harder on yourself. That's
exactly what I did. I kept looking for easier ways to play because I
was competing with the guitars and bass. All they had to do was turn
around and crank it up. We've got to wind up and blow. They think that
we're loud !
JLB: I should point out to those not familiar with the band's live
performances that you play exactly what's on the recordings.
LL: That's right. If we did a lot of over dubbing on the records,
we wouldn't be able to get that sound across live.
JLB: How'd it happen that CTA decided on that horn front line? Was
that a first ?
LL: I believe it was the first time a band had the horns as the lead
voice instead of just playing percussion backgrounds. The R&B bands
always had horns but not as principal melody instruments. We liked that
too; we used to play R&B in the clubs.
JLB: How did the band get together?
LL: We were in college. Walt Parazaider, Terry Kath, and Danny Seraphine
were in a group called the Missing Links. Terry played bass, Walt played
sax, and Danny played drums. I used to go sit in with them, so that's
how that relationship started. Walt and I were at DePaul University.
I studied with George Quinlan there. Jimmy Pankow was at Quincy College
in Quincy, Illinois. In his second year, he transferred to DePaul. We
used to hear this trombone player in the practice rooms. Walt asked
him if he wanted to play in a band. Since the Missing Links had broken
up, Walt and Danny wanted to start a new band. The idea was to play
in Vegas with suits and slicked back hair and do the dance steps and
all of that. Little did we know that we would be headlining in Vegas
30 years later. We started out wearing T-shirts and jeans.
JLB: I remember when I saw you in Barnaby's, you were pretty casual.
LL: That's the first club to let us play original music. That's also
where we hired Cetera, in that club. He was in a band called The Exceptions.
It was the biggest band in Chicago at the time. All of a sudden we were
blowing them off the stage. Their crowd started coming over to watch
us. We did a battle of the bands, and we opened up for them. Our band
had been together six or seven months at the time. Peter was watching
us from across the stage in that balcony. We opened with Magical Mystery
Tour. It blew him away, and he was in the band two weeks later.
JLB: Did you do any damage with all the hard blowing you had to do
in the band?
LL: Yes. I remember we did a show at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City.
First it was the monkey act, then the diving horse, then us. I hurt
myself on that gig. We did a weekend of three shows a night. I just
didn't have it, and by the end of the gig I had cut the inside of my
lip. That was the first and only time that happened, but it was always
a struggle keeping up. I always felt like I was tearing it down, and
then, the next day trying to build it back up from leather. That's why
I'm loving playing the trumpet now even more than I did then, and I've
always loved playing the trumpet. It's the only thing I ever wanted
to do in my life. The only other thing I know how to do well is drive
a car. So it was cab driver or trumpet player.
JLB: Do you do a special warm-up?
LL: Not really. Nothing special. I just try to get the air going.
I do flexibility studies, the chromatic study in the Clarke book, things
like that. That takes about a half hour. By that time, I've been up
to around high g"'. I take about a five-minute break and then do a pedal
study. That takes me down to double pedal C. The most important part
of this exercise is the isometric I do at the end. When the note stops
and the air is gone, I act as though I'm making a crescendo and it builds
these chest muscles around the rib cage.
JLB: Do you do any other playing besides Chicago?
LL: Not really. Every once in a while, maybe, but when I get off the
road, I like to spend time with the family.
JLB: Who were your early influences on trumpet?
LL: Maynard, Clifford Brown, Doc Severinsen, Marvin Stamm, Snooky
Young, Johnny Audino, Conrad Gozzo, there's so many of them. The Candoli
brothers (Conte and Pete) were also right up there. I used to play along
with my dad's band records of Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, and Tommy Dorsey
because when I first started, the only instrument in rock'n roll was
the tenor sax. I struggle to play the parts.
JLB: Was your father a musician?
LL: Yes. He was a trumpet player. He played the Chicago area and conducted
a band in the Army. All the great players came through his band. He
would cover for them when they went AWOL on weekends to play gigs. My
father was encouraging when it came to playing music but not as a career.
He knew how hard it was. I'm really doing something that's impossible
to do. Not only am I playing trumpet for a living but playing with the
same band for 30 years. Four of the original six are still in the band.
JLB: How about early school years?
LL: I was in the All Star, Catholic High School, Grade School Band.
That's where I met one of my best friends, Rich Rajewski, also a trumpet
player. He was from the South Side and I was from the North. We had
the first and second chairs. When I got to college, I got first chair
in the concert band the first day. It started to take away from my enthusiasm
for practicing. I thought, "I got it!" You know what? I ain't got it.
I still ain't got it now. Playing the horn is a life-long goal. I generally
practice about two to three hours a day.
JLB: Do you consider yourself a jazz player?
LL: No. I can play a little but nowhere near Wynton and players like
that. He's a monster.
JLB: I remember there used to be quite a bit of improvisation in the
early days of the band and less now.
LL: Yes, a lot less now. I'd like to do more of it now but the audiences
don't want to hear it. They don't want to learn. They want to be entertained.
I still love playing the trumpet. We get to create with the writing,
and in the studio.
JLB: For those not familiar with Chicago's music, what kind of range
are we talking about on any given performance?
LL: F-sharp... and g"'. Not constantly. But, the blowing is intense.
I use a clip-on mic, but I don't rely on the amplification. I wear earplugs
so I don't really hear the quality of sound I want to get.
JLB: Do you warm down?
LL: Yes. I start on third space c" and arpeggio down to double pedal
C. I do that until it feels good. Put the horn away and wait until the
JLB: Do you use just the B-flat horn on the gig.
LL: No, I also play a C-trumpet. I use it on the "Ballet for a Girl
in Buchannon " -- the entire classical middle section a la Frank Zappa.
Jimmy wrote that back in '69. I also use flugel on the ballads. I wish
I could solo more using the flugel horn, but it just hasn't worked out
that way. The solos are all on the B-flat.
JLB: Do you do any writing?
LL: I am doing some now but Jimmy is, and has been, the main arranger
in the band. He's taught me a lot. I enjoy hearing something I've written.
It's really a kick.
JLB: What trumpeters do you currently listen to?
LL: Wynton. I still listen to the old records too, like the band Sea
Wind. Jerry Hey came out of that band. I also love driving around and
listening to the classical stations. I know I sound like a broken record
about this Gordon method, but the initial attack with the fat of the
tongue against the roof of the mouth is how many classical trumpet players
get that big sound. You can tailor that to whatever style of music you're
JLB: I know you have another commitment so I'll let you go.
LL: I really enjoyed talking with you John.
JLB: Same here Lee, and I'm looking forward to hearing you tonight.
Loughnane Interview 1995:
Chicago brings 'big band' sound to area
This article originally was published in the Weatherford (TX) Democrat
newspaper on July 11, 1995.
By Tim Wood
Before trumpet player Lee Loughnane achieved musical success with
the popular pop-rock band Chicago, he often played along with his father's
"big band" recordings at home.
Approximately 100 million record sales later, Loughnane is playing
big band music again - but this time, it's part of Chicago's efforts
to rejuvenate itself.
"Night and Day (Big Band)" on Giant Records is Chicago's first release
in four years. It represents a "left turn career-wise," Loughnane said
in a recent interview.
Chicago had recorded an album since releasing the relatively unsuccessful
"Twenty-One" in 1991. But the band and its management firm decided not
to release it. The band's management brought up the big band idea because
it would both satisfy the band's creative desires and be marketable.
The band, which will perform Friday at Starplex Amphitheater in Dallas'
Fair Park, considered 20 classic songs of the big band era. Each band
member selected a few songs and did arrangements of them in their home
studios. They brought the results to rehearsals and began arranging
But instead of recording straightforward tributes to the songs, the
band modernized the songs, incorporating 1990s rhythms and elements
of the easily-recognizable Chicago sound.
"It wasn't a tribute. It was a real attempt to make these songs ours,"
The 12 songs on the album feature the recognizable Chicago horn sound.
But there also an element of funk in their version of Glenn Miller's
"In the Mood." Cole Porter's "Night and Day" starts with the literal
sound of frogs croaking outdoors - then segues into a soulful ballad.
Duke Ellington's "Take the A Train" ends in a cacophony of sound symbolizing
a train wreck. Joe Perry of Aerosmith adds a sizzling guitar solo on
"Blues in the Night," a song first popularized by Jimmy Lunceford and
his Orchestra. And what would a Chicago collection of big band songs
be without the song "Chicago," written in 1922 and made popular by Frank
Sinatra in 1957?
"To me, they sound like originals," he said, adding, "We had great
songs to work with."
After rehearsing for two months in Los Angeles, the band headed for
a recording studio in Vancouver in December of 1994 to record the songs
under producer Bruce Fairbairn, best known for his work with hard-edged
bands such as Van Halen, AC/DC and Aerosmith.
The band's preparation was the best since their very first album,
recorded in 1969, Loughnane said - and the band didn't know much about
Much to the band's surprise, they completed recording the basic tracks
in only one week and completed the rest of their parts two weeks later.
Through the magic of multi-track recording, the contributions of guest
stars Perry, The Gipsy Kings, Jade and Paul Schaffer were added over
the next six months. Also featured is the big band of Bill Watrous,
playing arrangements by Shelly Berg.
The big band won't go on tour with Chicago, but its sound will. Chicago
will perform along with the big band parts, which were electronically
"sampled" from the album.
"It's not cheating," Loughnane said, referring to playing along with
the prerecorded big band sounds. Chicago will be challenged by precisely
re-creating the parts it recorded on the album, he said.
Plans are to perform six of the big band songs at the Dallas concert,
he said. Filling the rest of the concert will be songs from the band's
repertoire of 20 top 10 singles and 12 top 10 albums, five of which
hit no. 1
Having so many hit songs from which to choose helps the band maintain
a well-paced show, Loughnane said. Because so many of the band's 1980s
hits were ballads, it helps to have faster-paced hits from the earlier
years for balance, he said.
Despite 28 years of concert performances, the band strives to perform
each song as if it were for the first time. "We mean business when we
play the songs," Loughnane said.
Audience reaction helps the band as well. On songs like "Does Anybody
Really Know What Time It Is" from the band's first album, Loughnane
can see audience members "go back in time" to the moment they first
heard the song.
Even with just the old hits, "The show works every night," Loughnane
Generating new hits will be a challenge. "Radio cooled off to us,"
Loughnane said. Although Loughnane is high on the new album, it may
have trouble finding a niche in radio, he said.
Radio songs are limited to about five minutes in length, he said,
and the days of the "album cut," - longer songs in which a group could
stretch out musically - are gone.
Regardless of the project's fate, the trumpet and flugelhorn player
plans to stay with the band. Why" "We love it," he said. "I get paid
One indication that the band is here to stay was its decision to form
its own independent record label, named, not surprisingly, Chicago Records.
The label acquired the masters of the 15 albums Chicago recorded for
Columbia Records and is considering obtaining masters for the group's
Warner Brothers releases.
As the label builds up financial capital, plans are to produce and
promote albums by other artists, solo albums by Chicago members and
possibly release group efforts on the label, he said.
But for now, Chicago is taking its mix of its own classics and the
big band classics on the road, having fun along the way.
"It's a kick to play these songs," Loughnane said.
|Danny Seraphine Interviews
Danny Seraphine-Bericht/Interview 2006 Danny Seraphine-Interview 1997
Danny Seraphine Bericht/Interview im US-Schlagzeugermagazin
"Modern Drummer", Juli 2006
Ein sehr interessanter Bericht über Chicago's Ex-Schlagzeuger Danny Seraphine („CTA“- „Chicago 19“) mit Interview erschien in der US-Juli-Ausgabe des Schlagzeugermagazins „Modern Drummer“, hier bei mir als „pdf“- Datei in englisch:
Personal Interview with Danny Seraphine
DS: Danny Seraphine
DM: Do you still play regularly?
DS: I'm starting to play allot more these days, I've been playing
gigs with the two artists on my production company: Lyric and Jason
Perrin, it really feels good to play again, I've missed it more than
DM: Would you play in another band and tour if given the opportunity?
DS: I suppose if the right opportunity came along, a tour with Billy
Joel, Elton, Sting or better yet a real Chicago reunion, meaning Peter
and I with the band, then I would consider touring. If one of my artists
takes off I would probably do their first few tours to show them the
DM: Are there any solo works in the making? do you still write?
DS: I'd like to do a real big band album some day but I'd have to
do some real wood shedding before I do, right now I'm really focusing
on my production company and getting my artists careers going.
DM: Who were your greatest influences earlier in your life and who
has the greatest impact on you now?
DS: Gene Krupa was the single biggest influence when I first started
playing, then I got into Buddy Rich who had a tremendous influence on
me also, I then I got into guys like Elvin Jones, Max Roach, Tony Williams
and Grady Tate and I had the honor and privilege of studying under the
legendary Jo Jones. As far as rock drummers Mitch Mitchell (Jimi Hendrix),
Ginger Baker (Cream), Ringo, Hal Blaine, Steve Gadd, Jeff Porcaro, Bernard
Purdy and John Robinson. (Their really isn't anyone that I'm into right
DM: What exactly is Street Sense Records?
DS: Street Sense Records is my record company. I'm using it as an
alternate way to get my artists to the market place, when the major
record companies pass (don't sign) one of my artists then I release
their music on my company, I still believe in their music even though
the majors don't. As far as I'm concerned their too interested in chasing
trends then manufacturing and promoting quality music. Proof of that
is the lack of excitement in the market place today. They don't establish
long term careers anymore their just interested in fastest hit record
and their really missing the boat as far as I'm concerned.
DM: Name some of the acts that you work with.
DS: Jason Perrin, Lyric and Wakeup Call.
DM: Why did you go into producing as opposed to session or solo work?
DS: I always felt that making records was the ultimate in creativity
and I really enjoy the role of producer, I feel I'm good at it and have
allot to offer my artists. Ive had the honor of working with some
of the great masters of making records and I've learned from everyone
of them. (Phil Ramone, David Foster, Jim Guercio, Tom Dowd) to name
a few. As far as being a solo artist, it just doesn't interest me right
now and I've never been a session player, I love playing in the studio
but you have to be in the loop and I have never been in it.
DM: How did you feel about drumming as Chicago moved more and more
towards using drum machines?
DS: In the beginning drum machines really intimidated most drummers
at first (rightfully so). Here was this machine that played in perfect
time and didn't talk back, at least that's what we were told by producers,
song writers etc., So there was a resistance by us to embrace them so
we simple wrote them off as a fad. We'll they put allot of drummers
out of work, at the time as far as I was concerned they were a scourge.
When I realized they were here to stay I went out and bought a E-MU
R-8 and learned it inside and out, (I was sick of hearing these records
with drum parts programmed by a keyboard player or worse yet a non musician)
and believe me they sounded like it. I programmed all of Chicago 18
(Foster) was really hung up on drum machines, so it worked out well.
The programming sounded like a drummer and David was happy because he
had perfect time. To me the bad side of the drum machine is that its
deprived allot young drummers of all kinds of work, experience i.e.
demos, cocktail bars etc. For that reason alone sometimes I curse Roger
Linn (just kidding) but they've also become a staple and a great song
writing tool, but at what cost, I'm still not sure its worth the gain
(excuse my soapbox.) Fortunately drum machines have found their place
and live music is back, both seem to be coexisting today.
DM: In the early part of your career, you were an excellent drummer,
but in the eighties your drumming seemed to get less intense. Was this
due to the type of material Chicago was playing at that point or was
it just a reflection of your feelings about touring and where Chicago
was going in general?
DS: That's a good point and believe me I had allot of problems with
that and it was a source of constant irritation between myself and the
songwriters. Around the fifth album there was a conscious change in
the direction by the band (song writers) and Jimmy Guercio. They came
to the conclusion that they had to start writing more commercial songs
meaning less time changes, shorter solo's more basic grooves, etc. Consequently
we became a hit machine instead of a band that took its music to the
limits. Now I'm not saying that they were wrong but it was the end of
the Chicago that so many people loved and respected, consequently from
then on we lived and died by our next hit record. It was a double edged
sword in my opinion and we lost many loyal fans at that point, but we
gained legions of (not as loyal fans) also. I was constantly trying
to put my jazz licks into these commercial compositions (Just You And
Me, Old Days, etc.) I guess what Im trying to say is my role greatly
changed in the band and it took me a long time to adjust, but eventually
I gave in to what the song writers wanted me to play as opposed to what
I thought should be played. It was a tough transition for me, and a
sacrifice of my musical integrity in a sense, but I think it was worth
it in the long run, I really believe that you have to compliment whatever
is going on around you no matter how simple or complicated the music
is, that is the essence of a true musician.
DM: How did you get started in drumming?
DS: My uncle is a drummer, he used to play at family functions, weddings,
anniversaries, etc. and I would stand on the side of the stage and watch
him play, I was fascinated by it and started banging on pots and pans.
I expressed a deep interest in learning to play the drums and the rest
is history so to speak, I was nine years old at the time. (I was always
an intense individual, so playing drums was a natural for me.)
DM: I've always respected your desire to constantly improve. I remember
reading an interview from around the time Chicago VII came out where
you mentioned studying brush technique with Jo Jones. What was that
like for you?
DS: Studying under Jo Jones was a incredible experience. He was very
intense and at times pretty tough to work with but he taught me many
things about playing, attitudes and discipline as well as his incredible
brush technique which I used on Chicago 7 "Devil Sweet." To this day
I feel Im a good brush player and a better drummer because of
Jo, he was an great man with intense pride. He always stressed that
I sit up straight when I play and look at the audience in the eye when
Im playing, Im grateful I had the opportunity to study under
him, when he came to see me play at Carnegie Hall and liked what he
saw and heard, well it made me very proud.
DM: How do you feel about Chicago not getting nominated to get inducted
into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
DS: Of course Chicago deserves a place in Rock N Roll history and
Ill tell you why. Never before or since has their been a band
with such exceptional talent (musicianship, vocal ability, song writing)
to attain such a high level of commercial success. It was almost a fluke.
Can you name me one band that has or had as much talent in so many areas
as Chicago (Police, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Yes) and none of those
bands lasted nearly as long as Chicago or sold as many records. Chicago
has lost some of its luster as of late but the band still very much
deserves to be inducted. That would make me very happy.
DM: Have you kept in touch with Laudir de Oliviera at all?
DS: No unfortunately I havent, he is a really nice person. I
hear that he is back in Brazil teaching percussion and doing very well.
Id like to see him someday he is a fun person with a happy spirit.
DM: I've noticed that magazines such as Rolling Stone and Entertainment
Weekly (they give everyone bad reviews though) have consistently given
Chicago bad reviews, do you think Chicago will ever get a good review
from Rolling Stone?
DS: Rap and Alternative has forced many of the really talented artists
to look else where for exposure. Anyway I imagine its been really tough
for those quality artists to sustain their careers, but necessity is
the mother of invention. So theres been some good for these artists
careers, that they otherwise wouldnt have accomplished, theyve
established strong followings in those marketplaces that they probably
wouldnt have gone after. My feeling is that quality music is going
to make a comeback, the major record companies have been chasing trends
and ignoring quality artist for too long and its taken its toll on the
industry. (sales and excitement level are at an all time low)
DM: In years of late some of the most talented music groups and musicians
(such as Toto, Richard Page, and Bobby Caldwell) have been overlooked
in the United States yet in Europe and/or Japan they play to sold out
crowds. Do you think Chicago was received better by Japanese and European
audiences than it was by American audiences? Do you think their musical
tastes are more mature than that of the Americans?
DS: Chicago was a major success first in Europe and Japan but that
changed when we released Chicago II. Its funny when we became commercially
successful over here then our popularity began to fall off over there.
Let me say that Europeans have always embraced/appreciated American
Jazz artists long before we started to realize what a wonderful art
we have in this country. Its only recently that their has been an awareness
in this country (thank god).
DM: Where do you think Chicago would be today if David Foster hadn't
DS: Who knows where Chicago would be today if I hadnt brought
David Foster onto the scene. (Please dont take that the wrong
way Im not blowing my horn here, its just the facts) my friend
Bobby Colomby urged me to consider having David produce the band so
he deserves allot of the credit. I tried to get the band to have David
produce Chicago 15 (thumb print album) but I was out voted by the band
and record company, consequently when that record stiffed people were
ready to listen. I knew we needed a strong presence in the studio, someone
that we couldnt intimidate with our numbers and musicianship,
someone that would co-write and bring new life/blood to our material,
it had become stale we were too incestuous, the band was at an all time
low and David injected new life. Chicago was also Davids first
major success, so it was a two way street.
DM: In hindsight do you believe Peter's departure was good for both
he and Chicago?
DS: No Peters leaving served no one. Chicago was at a all time
high and Peter was at the center of it, its unfortunate because Peter
could/should have done what Phil Collins did but at the time he was
getting some bad advice and we were being stubborn. Peter went on to
have a successful debut but that was it and we struggled on Chicago
18 but we eventually prevailed on Chicago 19 with three top five songs,
but neither of us ever attained the kind of success that we had on Chicago
17. Id like to see Peter go back with Chicago and do a reunion
record and tour, Id love to be a part of it but none the less
Peter is a great artist and he deserves finish his career on top, it
hurts me to see him struggling, hes too good for that. I also
think it would help put Chicago back in the history books, where we
very much deserve to be.
DM: Donnie Dacus seemed to have dropped off the face of the Earth
when Chicago fired him. Do you know what ever happened to him?
DS: Your right Donnie Dacus did disappear from the face of the earth.
He was let go because he really didnt fit into the band, never
did, it was a mistake in the first place. It wasnt his fault either
he was a good guy, he just didnt fit in with the mix, I know it
really hurt him to be let go like that, believe me now I know how that
DM: Although hindsight is 20/20, is there anything you would have
done different in your career?
DS: I have so much to be thankful for so having regrets is a little
like saying Id wish I had been with the Beatles. I guess my only
regret is the way my tenure with the band ended, it kinda left me in
limbo, it should of ended differently, a farewell tour, long good-byes
you know what I mean. But like I said having regrets after accomplishing
so much and experiencing such incredible highs is like tempting the
gods to bring the sky down on you, so I think Ill just be glad
for what I accomplished and did with the band and get on with my life,
I have allot of music and living left in me.
Interview with Pankow - Springfield News Leader (small
Sunday, 09-Nov-97 20:01:02
CHICAGO WORKS TO STRIKE A BALANCE BETWEEN FAVORITES, NEW SONGS. (headline)
As far as James Pankow of Chicago is concerned, he'd do the show for
free. He wants to be paid for the other stuff encountered on the road.
"I think we look forward to those two hours on stage every day", says
trombonist Pankow, who helped start Chicago in 1967. "That's not what
we are paid for. It's the buses, the airports, the hotels. You know
you have been on the road enough when your best friends are your TV
remote control and the room service menu."
Pankow, now based in LA with the rest of the group, says it's hard
to get away from the fun of performing, no matter how hard it is, "and
I think that's why Frank Sinatra worked into his 80's, and Duke Ellington
died three weeks after his last gig. You want to go with your boots
Chicago's boots are filled. With gold and platinum albums and singles
dating back to their 1969 debut on record as Chicago Transit Authority.
The name was shortened for their second album in 1970.
They are still selling records. The current Reprise album, "Heart
of Chicago 1967-1997," a best of set with two new songs, is gold. One
new cut, "Here in My Heart", was a #1 adult contemporary hit last summer.
"This set was a nice vehicle to offer a couple of new songs for the
'90's and to take us into other directions as we look into another decade
of music," Pankow says. "We'd like to do another album of original material,
but we're still thinking about what that would be."
One direction Pankow would like to take is into Hollywood, "although
we have never been asked to do a soundtrack. But I think with the musicianship
of this band, we could have a lot of fun amd maybe some success. We
might also look at the theater. Barry Manilow is doing a Broadway musical,
and our ensemble is suited for that. We've also worked with symphonies
around the country."
When they do that work, Pankow and company try to strike a balance
between new songs and oldies- more than 40 Top 40 hits and counting-
to keep their fans happy.
"We know there are certain songs we have to do or they will ride us
out of town on a rail. That means 'Saturday in the Park', 'Make Me Smile'
and things like that. But it can be tough to get all the songs in that
the fans want. If we did all the songs that meant something to people,
we would be on stage eight hours.
"We did learn one lesson a few years ago," Pankow continues. "We did
a show filled with obscure but musically challenging material for us.
The crowd would leave, wondering what we were doing. So we cut that
Even with all those hits, Pankow still feels Chicago is a contemporary
"We love doing concerts and seeing people of all ages out there. We
count our blessings that we are still viable and not some oldies-but-goodies
act. When I see 15 year old kids bopping to this music, I know we are
still relevant. I thank God for it. Besides, I don't know how to do
Question #1: "Congratulations on your new solo album "Chauncy", what
are your favorite songs off that album?"
Answer #1: "I know this will probably sound cliche but I love all
of them. If I had to pick one or two I would probably say "You Found
The One" and "Mah-Jongg"."
Question #2: "What are your other interests, outside of music?"
Answer #2: "I like to play golf when I have the time and ride motorcycles."
Question #3: "Do any of your songs relate to your life?"
Answer #3: "Yes, many of them do. Especially the ones on my album.
"You Found The One" is about my wife and so is "San Felipe". "Stolen
Years" is about my dad. Most of the songs on that album are about my
Question #4: "Do you have any future plans, such as another solo work,
or West Coast All-Stars?"
Answer #4: "Actually, I'm considering doing another West Coast All-Stars
album and eventually I will do another solo album but right now I'm
just enjoying what's out there right now."
Question #5: "Please describe your experience in making the West Coast
Answer #5: "We went in and did that album in a very short amount of
time. Once again, Champlin was his usual brilliant self and had wonderful
instincts on how to arrange the music. Joseph Williams had a lot to
do with it also. Those 2 guys were very much in control of that project."
Question #6: "What were some of your favorite Chicago songs when you
were growing up?"
Answer #6: "I loved "Just You And Me" and "Feelin' Stronger". Can
you guess which album I loved? (g)"
Question #7: "What songs do you most like to perform in concert?"
Answer #7: "I like doing "Just You And Me". It's very musical and
it gives us a chance to really stretch out during Walt's solo."
Question #8: "Did you always know you were going to be a musician,
or did you have any other possible career plans?"
Answer #8: "I always knew I was going to be a musician. Actually,
I thought maybe I would be a disc jockey at one point but that didn't
last too long."
Question #9: "How did you feel when you officially became a member
of Chicago, and what did they have you play for them?"
Answer #9: "I was ecstatic when I got the gig with the band. It was
what you always dream of happening and when it finally does you just
sit back and try to pick yourself up from the ground from fainting!
When I auditioned I had to play "Hard Habit", "Inspiriation" and "25
or 6 to 4"."
Question #10: "What do you hope to achieve and pass on to others through
your solo music, and music with Chicago?"
Answer #10: "To be honest and good to one another."
Question #11: "Is there any signifigance to San Felipe and the year
Answer #11: "Yes, that's when Tracy and I were first going out."
Question #12: ""Bigger Than Elvis" is a beautiful song, did you play
it for your dad privately before it was released? And how did he react?"
Answer #12: "I gave it to him as a Christmas present that year and
he cried. He really loves that song."
Question #13: "What is your ultimate goal as a musician? As a person?"
Answer #13: "As a musician I hope to always grow musically and never
become unteachable and as a person to always grow and never become unteachable."
Question #14: "What is your most rewarding accomplishment as a musician?"
Answer #14: "Probably when someone comes to me and tells me how my
music has helped get them through rough times or help them celebrate
something or just basically feel good about being on this earth."
Question #15: "What is your opinion of Scheff Salad, and how does
it feel to be so admired?"
Answer #15: "I was and am so honored to have a group of people step
forward and want to put in so much work and not get compensated for
it. When the fan club formed it really was a strong message for me to
follow all of my dreams. I am grateful for all my fans and want to thank
them all. This is for you."
Thanks to Jason for taking the time to participate in this interview!
Please e-mail your comments about "Chauncy" or the interview to firstname.lastname@example.org,
he'll be glad to hear your comments.
Date: Sunday, October 5, 1986
Source: By Lynn Van Matre, Pop music critic.
Section: ARTS Memo: Rock.
Copyright Chicago Tribune
LIFE AFTER CHICAGO IT`S HARD FOR PETER CETERA TO SAY HE`S SORRY
For a man who claims he had trouble mustering up the confidence to
launch a solo career, former Chicago lead vocalist Peter Cetera comes
across as remarkably self-assured.
Most singers release a record and then start gnawing their knuckles,
anxiously hoping their latest effort will hit the big-time (or at least
won`t be an embarrassing dud). Not Cetera, who recently released his
first post- Chicago single, ``Glory of Love,`` and told his manager
to give him a call at his Idaho hideaway when--not if, but when--the
song hit No. 1 on the pop charts. At least, that`s what he says. Is
this guy joking, or superconfident, or what?
``No, I wasn`t joking,`` says Cetera, who was doing a bit of mountain
climbing when his manager called sometime later with the news that ``Glory
of Love`` (also known as the theme from the film ``The Karate Kid, Part
II``), had, indeed, captured the coveted No. 1 spot. ``I really was
expecting a No. 1 hit single.
``Why? Because I just really felt that this song, which meant so much
to me, would mean a lot to a lot of other people, too,`` says the singer,
who seems quietly confident rather than boastful about the matter. ``You
know, there`s an old saying about how if you give yourself 100 percent
(to a project), that`s all you can ask. And I really gave more than
100 percent of myself on that song--and on my whole solo album. It was
the first time in my life that I worked on an album and wanted to listen
to it more than one time when it was done.``
Cetera left Chicago to launch a solo career last year, but waited
until ``Glory of Love,`` from his new solo album, ``Solitude/Solitaire,``
was a bona fide smash before scheduling any interviews. These days,
he has a second single on the way up called ``The Next Time I Fall,``
a pop duet with Christian music superstar Amy Grant.
``If I had done interviews before now, there would have been nothing
to talk about except Chicago,`` he explains. ``It`s not a sore subject,
but it`s much easier to talk about (leaving the band) now that I have
something else to talk about.``
Cetera`s association with his old band dates to the late 1960s, when
he joined some of his fellow students at Chicago`s DePaul University
in a jazz- rock outfit that began as the Big Thing, later became known
as the Chicago Transit Authority and, finally, Chicago. After leaving
the Windy City for Los Angeles, the band had its first Top 10 single
(``Make Me Smile``) in 1970 and continued to have pop hits throughout
the decade (earning nine gold and three platinum albums), despite creative
ups and downs. After a lackluster period in the early `80s, they hit
No. 1 in 1982 with the million-selling single, ``Hard to Say I`m Sorry,``
from the film, ``Summer Lovers.``
But Cetera wasn`t happy with Chicago`s rigorous touring schedule,
``and that jazz-rock music never was me,`` he says. ``I was always the
rock and roller, trying to get out.
``Actually, I had been trying to make the decision to leave Chicago
for years, but I never was in the right frame of mind or had enough
confidence in myself to do it,`` adds the singer, who wrote the band`s
last half-dozen or so hit singles. ``But after I worked my tail off
to get Chicago back on top with `Chicago 16` and `Chicago 17` (the band`s
first million-selling albums of the 1980s, which followed several records
that sold less than half that), I started looking for a graceful way
According to Cetera, his final break with his former bandmates had
less to do with ego clashes or creative differences than with management`s
refusal to allow him time off to make a solo album.
``Basically, Chicago`s management wanted me to do another Chicago
album and go back out on tour with the group immediately,`` he says.
``I said I just didn`t want to do that, and they said if I didn`t, they
would find someone else (to take my place). So I said, `OK, go find
someone else.` It was a mutual thing. They kind of backed me into a
corner, but I think it was actually the best thing for both of us. It
was definitely good for me. And it gives the other people in Chicago
a chance to do their thing again, because I had been kind of taking
over for the past five or six years.
``I`m not going to tell you it was the sweetest of partings,`` acknowledges
Cetera. ``But it was time for me to go, and the relationship (between
us) is still cordial.``
Cetera, who made one unsuccessful, self-titled solo album in 1981
while still with the band, co-wrote the nine songs on ``Solitude/Solitaire``
with a variety of people, including album producer Michael Omartian
and Rufus` Hawk Wolinski. The ballad ``The Glory of Love`` was written
specifically for ``The Karate Kid, Part 2,`` but Cetera describes its
sentiments (``I am a man who will fight for your honor``) as ``basically
me--you know, Don Quixote.
``I think every man sees himself that way,`` he adds, ``and I think
that every lady sees that song as being about looking for the man who
is going to die for her honor. I think the secret dream of everybody
in the world, man or woman, is to be the fairy tale prince or princess.``
Cetera readily agrees that his choice of Christian singer Amy Grant
as a duet partner for his new single, ``The Next Time I Fall,`` was
a little offbeat. But, he adds, that was the whole idea.
``I was looking for somebody who wasn`t that logical a choice,`` he
explains. ``Actually, I was going to use an `unknown` singer until someone
at my record company suggested Amy Grant. I thought she was a great
choice because she was looking to make a pop crossover, and I like what
she stands for. She was real excited about the idea, too. I think I
was a good choice for her, since I have a good reputation as a hardworking
Grant probably also liked the fact that the 41-year-old Cetera is
a devoted father and family man whose days in rock`s proverbial fast
lane are behind him.
``I think that everybody--well, not everybody, but a lot of people
in this business--have that `fast` lifestyle,`` says the singer, who
decided to clean up his act a decade or so ago. ``You smoke and drink
and dabble in this and that, and before you know it, it`s kind of overwhelming.
Either you straighten up and get out of that lifestyle, or you sink
and go the way of old rock stars, and I wasn`t about to do that. So,
one by one, I picked off my vices, and the next thing I knew, I was
writing and singing better and enjoying everything more.``
Did the 1978 death of Chicago lead singer Terry Kath, who accidentally
killed himself playing Russian roulette while apparently under the influence
of alcohol, serve to intensify Cetera`s desire to shape up?
``No, it didn`t have any effect at all,`` he says. ``As a matter of
fact, I think that after that incident, things with us got even worse.
The band was on a downward arc then, and Terry`s death just helped push
us down a bit deeper. None of us were paying too much attention to the
music at that point. We were just into having a good time.``
These days, Cetera`s idea of a good time is ``doing everything that
I have always wanted to do but never had the time for--mountain climbing,
scuba diving, bicycling, camping, spending time with my wife and three-year-old
At the moment, he has no plans for a solo tour. Chicago, meanwhile,
recently released its first post-Cetera album and will undoubtedly be
hitting the road again soon.
``They`re a great bunch of guys,`` says Cetera of his former bandmates.
``I wish them the best of luck, and I hope that they wish me the best
of luck. We had a good run together and a lot of fun. Outside of any
musical problems that we may have had, I have never laughed so much
for such a long time as I did with them.``
FOR CHICAGO, THERE`S LIFE AFTER PETER CETERA
``Peter (Cetera) really wanted to be on his own, and we supported
that desire,`` says longtime Chicago member Robert Lamm about the defection
of his former bandmate for a solo career. ``But at this stage, you can`t
help feeling that the band is bigger than any one individual.``
In fact, while Cetera`s contributions to Chicago`s renewed commercial
success in recent years were considerable, it`s doubtful that most casual
listeners will notice all that much difference between ``Chicago 18``
(Warner Bros.), the band`s first post-Cetera album, and its last few
albums. New bassist/vocalist Jason Scheff (a songwriter and former session
singer whose father, Jerry, played bass for Elvis Presley) fits in perfectly
with Chicago`s comfortably mainstream soft-rock and pop sound, which
shapes up once again as pleasant and commercially successful, if less
than challenging artistically.
The only surprise in the current collection of ballads and medium
rockers, nearly all of them about love and none of them terribly original,
is ``25 Or 6 To 4``--which, longtime Chicago fans may recall, was featured
on the group`s second album and was a Top 10 hit in 1970. What`s it
doing on ``Chicago 18``? The answer is that producer David Foster, who
also handled production for ``Chicago 17,`` suggested that the band
re-record one of their old hits, and the band.....