Thursday, June 09, 2011

One Track Mind: Chicago Transit Authority - Introduction (1969)



While I'm part of what is considered the "second wave" of Chicago fans in that I became a fan of theirs in the eighties when they were riding high on hits like Hard to Say I'm Sorry, You're the Inspiration, Hard Habit to Break, Will You Still Love Me, and to a lesser extent Look Away, it was inevitably their back catalog that held my interest and kept me a fan all these years later. 

I remember, Christmas 1991.  My parents got me my first computer and Chicago's 4 cassette box set, Group Portrait.  I was already intimately familiar with everything Chicago had recorded since 1981 (Chicago 16-21) but I was still rather new to their older material. 

I popped in that first casette and was blown away by the opening track, Introduction, which had been the lead track on their debut album back in 1969.  Terry Kath's soulful vocals and searing guitar, that wall of brass from the horn section, and a tasteful Lee Loughnane trumpet solo that was followed by a fiery Terry Kath guitar solo.  I was hooked!

About a year and a half after that, the summer of 1993, my father took me to my first Chicago concert at the Starlite Theater in Latham, NY.  Latham was about a 3 1/2 hour drive from my hometown.  On that tour they were opening their sets with... Introduction.  The faces and voices had changed somewhat.  Terry Kath had died in 1978, Peter Cetera had left the band in 1985 to pursue a solo career, and drummer Danny Seraphine had unceremoniously and somewhat acrimoniously been fired in 1990.  In their places were Bill Champlin (vocals & keys), Dawayne Bailey (guitar & b/g vocals), Jason Scheff (bass & b/g vocals), and Tris Imboden (drums).  The horn section was still intact though as was original keyboardist/vocalist, Robert Lamm. 

My father & I made the same pilgrimage in 1994 and I had the joy of meeting many of the members of the band including guitarist Dawayne Bailey, bass player Jason Scheff, trumpet player Lee Loughnane, keyboardist Robert Lamm, trombone player Jimmy Pankow, and the 2 guys who were arguably the most gracious with the fans) trumpet player Lee Loughnane and drummer Tris Imboden. 

Since then my knowledge and familiarity with Chicago has grown substantially.  I know their back catalog front, back, left, right, upside down, and inside out.  Some of their material has aged well, some has not.  But Introduction-- no matter how many times I listen to it, it's like hearing it for the first time all over again.  There's a timeless energy to it.  That these guys were in their early twenties when they recorded it.  None of them had even graduated college that they were able to compose and perform material like this just blew my mind. 

And now whenever I hear that song, my mind goes back to those long road trips with my father (my mother joined us when we went to see them in Saratoga Springs, NY with CSN in 1996 and in Toledo, OH in 1997 when they came to visit me while I was working at Cedar Point Amusement Park.  But on both those tours they had dropped Introduction from the setlist).

I opened with a clip of the original line-up of the band performing the song in 1972.  So it seems only fitting that I close with a clip of the band, as I would have seen them in 1993, performing the song in Toronto:

3 comments:

Charlie said...

Some people are at their best at the very beginning. This inspired song blew my mind. The instrumental break in the middle was like nothing I heard before in rock. I think Steely Dan must have been paying attention to that middle section. If you didn't like this you didn't like Chicago. Thanks Darrin!!!

Sean Coleman said...

Though Chicago's records from the mid to late 70s were all over AM radio, I really enjoy the late 60s through early 70s output the best. Excellent write up, sir. Nice clip from '72 as well.

Tender Heart Bear said...

I love Chicago's music. The early to the later music. The videos you put on here are great. This is an awesome song that you put on here. You couldn't have picked a better song.