Writer’s Workshop: You Can’t Go Home Again

I’m going to stay away from the “write a post inspired by the word: childish” prompt, because really, I got nothing there. Instead, how about this one?

What band or TV show would you like to see reunite?

That one is easy: the band CHICAGO.

“But John,” you protest, “Chicago is still around!” And you would be right: There is a band named Chicago that has half the original members. It’s the other half I miss: original bassist Peter Cetera, original drummer Dan Seraphine, and original guitarist (the late) Terry Kath.

Terry Kath was irreplaceable: even the members of the band agree he was the heart and soul of the band, and things were never the same after his death. You could replace him with someone who was technically just as good, who could play his solos and achieve the same sound he had, and it still wouldn’t be the same. Peter Cetera describes his departure from Chicago as “an ugly divorce,” and refuses to have anything to do with the remainder of the group. When he left, he took the songs he wrote with him, including “Wishing You Were Here,” “If You Leave Me Now,” “Baby What A Big Surprise,” “You’re The Inspiration,” and “Hard To Say I’m Sorry,” some of the band’s biggest hits. Dan Seraphine was fired from the band. Why is still somewhat of a mystery to me: he claims the reason was that the band wanted to replace him with drum machines, while other members of the band claim he was preoccupied with outside ventures and not paying enough attention to his drumming. My guess is they’re both right.

In any event, Chicago has become a sort of tribute band, playing the oldies circuit, more content to live off the legacy they built in the 70’s and 80’s than they are in creating new music. (Their most recent album of original material, Chicago XXXII: Stone of Sisyphus, had been recorded in 1993; bootlegs of the album had been floating around Usenet for years before it was officially issued in 2008.) The band has been around since the late 60’s, so I guess they’re entitled.

Right now, I’m listening to Chicago: VI Decades Live (This Is What We Do) on Spotify. It’s a live album, half of which was recorded in 1970 at the Isle of Wight Festival. Already it’s better than their first live album, Chicago IV: At Carnegie Hall. If there was a way to have that band together again, it would be great.

But, you can’t go home again…

37 thoughts on “Writer’s Workshop: You Can’t Go Home Again

    1. I have all the albums from the Terry Kath years, with the exception of the Carnegie Hall album and the Greatest Hits collection. After that, they weren’t worth listening to, far as I was concerned.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Chicago VII was on the dorm jukebox at Townsend Hall at UIUC. It was a favorite for many students. I got my first rock band gig when a couple guys heard me playing and singing Questions 67 and 68 at the dorm piano, a very beat up Mason Hamlin grand.

    Terry Kath’s death was definitely the end for Chicago. I saw them touring with The Beach Boys in 1978 or so, and again at the Paul Mason Mountain Winery in the early 2010s. Definitely NOT the same band.


    1. Chicago VII might have been my favorite Chicago album. They were getting back to jazz and there was a lot of good jamming on it. “Byblos,” with Terry Kath singing it, was a damn good song. Rhino included an alternate take of it on their CD, and honestly, as good as the song was, the alternate take was better.

      Terry’s death put a real damper on things musically. It was like that joke in “Spinal Tap” where Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) is talking about his amplifiers and how they all went to 11, for when they wanted just that little more energy. Terry was ALWAYS on 11. He was the glue that held the band together, and when that was gone, that was it. They weren’t Chicago anymore.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re right, without Terry Kath it wasn’t Chicago. At the show I saw at the Mountain Winery, the only two ‘founding members’ as they called them that night were Jimmy Pankow and Robert Lamm. Walt Parazaider was ill, and Lee Loughnane was away due to a family emergency.

        That show must have happened before 2009 because I’m pretty sure Bill Champlin was onstage. “Baby what a big mistake…”


        1. They’re at the point where, before long, everyone in the band will be someone who came in to replace someone else. From what I’ve seen, Walt Parazaider is no longer traveling with them.

          My Chicago collection ends at XI, the last album Terry was on. After that, I don’t think they were worth listening to. By the late 80’s they had all but phased out the horns entirely. I think if I were a member when Terry died, I’d have just packed it in and become a computer programmer or an engineer or something…. 😉


    1. Cetera wrote a lot of the music for that album and sang practically the whole thing. That was when they decided to go MTV and push Peter to the front, probably because he was the best looking and had that tenor voice.


    1. I performed that tune onstage at least 100 times in two different horn bands. Still love playing the piano part and singing it. Such optimism…


      1. I was thrilled when that song came out, remember? They hadn’t come out with anything new in two years, and I was starting to wonder if they ever would. Montgomery Ward’s had a sale on the album and I rode my bicycle all the way up to Deerfield, where I used to work at the Jewel, and was the first person to buy the album from there, because I got there right as Ward’s opened. Couldn’t wait to get home and play it…


    2. It was a fun song, and the way it starts on the piano, “bang bang bangbang, bang bang bangbang, bang bang bangbang bang,” is a real rush. Mark can tell you more about that.


  2. I didn’t know all this about Chicago so I learned something new and how sad that some are so negative about their band. I would choose the British tv show Viscious. It stars Ian McLellan and Derek Jacobi as gay couple who are together for 49 yrs and arevery caustic and hilarious. It also stars Frances De La Tour whom I love. It’s a great show that was not on long but I love it.


  3. Well, said. I grew up with Chicago on radio during it’s hey-day in the top 40’s. But very often, once a band splits up, it’s never the same even if it comes back together or parts of it try to come together. I can think of a litany of bands that tried the come back thing and never really thrived, then ultimately split up for good.


    1. I can understand that they wanted to try and soldier on through what must have been a traumatic experience, but I think they were just going through the motions after that. Something about people from Chicago, we’re stubborn as hell…


  4. We opened for Tower of Power in Danny Seraphine’s Schaumburg, IL club B’ginnings in 1978. We were managed by the club’s founder John Brocamontes at the time, so it was an easy gig to get. I loved playing and singing our Chicago medley, and our performance that night was pretty good.

    Then I went off to Silicon Valley to be an engineer. That was the last time I performed any Chicago material onstage, trading it for Steely Dan, Boston and Huey Lewis in horn-less bands instead. I had to be practical and make a living. Oh, well…


  5. Interesting question… No bands in particular, but TV shows… Definitely JAG (I was broken hearted when it went off) and Judging Amy. Great shows for my age group, but they were taken off and replaced with series aimed at a younger audience. Figures….


  6. Missed this one the first time around, John. I SO agree with you about Chicago. We won tickets to see them years ago and walked out before the end. Pretty bad to walk out on a free concert. This year they were touring with REO Speedwagon, one of my favorites, and I didn’t bother to get tickets because the venue was about an hour and a half away and I didn’t think it was worth it for just one act!


    1. REO Speedwagon was big in Chicago, because they came from Champaign, where the University of Illinois is.

      At this point, even if I was still able to go to concerts, I wouldn’t waste my time. They want to die with their boots on, I get it, but I have a feeling no one really cares anymore.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Ohhhh I do love Chicago! I didn’t realize how many members had exited though. It really does turn them into more of a cover band when the entire crew is not on stage.


    1. Four of the original seven are gone and the other three are in their 70’s now. Pretty soon it’ll be Chicago in name only. They were my favorite band in high school, too…


You can use Markdown in your comments. Thanks for your comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s