Tag Archives: Ides of March

The downside of digging

This weekend seemed so promising.

A friend emailed to say he’d be at a big indoor rummage sale on Saturday with six boxes of records, so stop by.

I’d heard of a new place — new to me, at least — about a half-hour away that had a bunch of records.

A half-hour away in a different direction, on Sunday, there was a record show.

I dutifully made the rounds, as record diggers do, but came up empty.

After the rummage sale, I stopped by Rock ‘n’ Roll Land, one of our indie record stores. Our son had mentioned he’d stopped there not too long ago and found a dollar record he wanted but had no cash. I grabbed his record — a “South Pacific” soundtrack for the musical theater major — and checked out the dollar records for myself. Again, nothing.

When I got home, I checked Facebook. My friend Emery had posted Aretha Franklin’s “Rock Steady” single. Don’t you know, I’d just seen the LP it’s on among those dollar records at RNR Land. So, on Emery’s recommendation …

aretha lp find 032914

I went back to RNR Land and got it later Saturday afternoon, handing Todd a dollar for the second time that day. He and I got to talking about records you wish you’d gone back for while digging.

Mine is a short list.

Earlier this year, RNR Land had an affordable copy of what’s known as “The Cardboard Album” by Soup, a much-loved blues-rock group from Wisconsin from about 1970. One side is live, one side is demos. You rarely see it, and most copies are pricey. Wish I’d grabbed that.

At our last Green Bay record show, I should have grabbed a couple of things. One was a live Ike and Tina Turner record from the mid-’60s, one I’d never seen before. But the guy selling it didn’t have prices on anything. Cute. I don’t play that game. The other was the Small Faces’ “There Are But Four Small Faces” from 1967. That seemed like a cool record, but it was gone when I circled back.

On my swing through Minnesota a couple of years ago, I came across a handful of Ides of March records at Hymie’s Vintage Records in Minneapolis. I bought one. I should have bought more, because I never see Ides of March records.

Here’s a song off the Ides record I did buy that scorching July day at Hymie’s.

idesofmarchcommonbondlp

“Superman,” the Ides of March, from “Common Bond,” 1971. It’s out of print but is available digitally.

This was the follow-up single to “Vehicle.” I had forgotten about it until I sat on stage with Ides lead singer Jim Peterik, guitarist Larry Millas and bass player Bob Bergland during what was billed as a songwriting workshop in February 2011. It really was a storytelling session, which was fine. Here’s a little video of that, and of them playing a snippet of “Superman.”

Please visit our companion blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under March 2014, Sounds

Behold the Ides of March

It was one of those gigs that you unexpectedly learn about, one that you immediately know you have to see.

The Ides of March — the Chicago-area group that in 1970 did “Vehicle,” one of my favorite songs — was playing nearby a couple of weeks ago. So I called down to Sheboygan, an hour south, and got tickets. One ticket was for the show. The other ticket was for something special.

When 3 p.m. rolled around that Saturday afternoon, they ushered about 40 of us out from the wings and out onto the stage of the Weill Center. I grew up in Sheboygan and had not been in the building in 40 years. Back then, it was the Sheboygan Theater, showing movies. It’s since been elegantly restored, and I stood there looking up at the small lights twinkling on the ceiling.

It wasn’t long before the teacher came around and introduced himself. “Hi, I’m Jim Peterik.” Yes, the same guy who led the Ides all those years ago. The guy who led Survivor and wrote some of .38 Special’s most memorable songs. The guy who then got back together with his childhood friends and revived the Ides.

Peterik, guitarist Larry Millas and bass player Bob Bergland — that’s them above — led an afternoon session on songwriting. They shared a few stories, offered a few tips, and played acoustic bits of their songs. They’ve been pals since 1964, when they were in seventh grade, playing in Larry’s basement in Berwyn, Illinois.

In 1966, after the boys had played together for about a year and half, Larry’s mom called Mercury Records in Chicago to convince someone to listen to them. The boys thought they needed a new song so they, along with drummer Mike Borch, wrote “You Wouldn’t Listen” the night before. Mercury didn’t sign them, but London Records did, and its Parrot label released the tune in 1966 as the Ides’ first single. “Not bad for a sleepover,” Peterik said.

“Vehicle,” which became a smash in 1970, was about an ex-girlfriend. “She didn’t want to date me. She just wanted me to be her chauffeur,” Peterik said.

Then, of course, Warner Brothers wanted a follow-up to “Vehicle,” preferably something that sounded a little like “Vehicle.” The Ides came up with “Superman,” which Jim and Larry and Bob sampled during the session.

Even though “Superman” didn’t do as well as “Vehicle,” the Ides were one of the hottest bands going in 1970. They toured with the Allman Brothers, Poco and Led Zeppelin. They also were on a bill with the Grateful Dead, who played so long that the Ides had to cut “Vehicle” from their set.

There was no such problem in Sheboygan. The Ides deftly mixed old Ides songs, new Ides songs, Survivor songs and .38 Special songs. It takes some balls to end your first set with “Vehicle.” But when you end the show with “Eye of the Tiger” as a wild, extended jam, it all makes sense.

Anytime the Ides play in Wisconsin, it’s a bit of a homecoming. They played here often on their way up in the ’60s. To hear Peterik rattle off the towns they played, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were booked by the Catholic priest who moonlighted as a rock promoter back then.

Here’s what the Ides sound like today.

“Keep Rocking” and “I Found Love,” the Ides of March, from “Still 19,” 2010.

The first tune is written by Peterik, Millas and keyboard player Scott May.

The second tune is by Peterik. The CD also has a “vintage mix” of “Vehicle” that’s fairly true to the original and a cover of the Beatles’ “A Day In The Life.”

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Filed under March 2011, Sounds

That ’70s song, Vols. 15 and 16

Taking that trip back to 1970 can be a tricky thing. It wasn’t always a sunny day with one glorious tune after another pouring from the radio.

I was reminded of that the other night as I watched “The War at Home,” a 1979 documentary about the anti-war movement in Madison, Wisconsin, in the late ’60s and early ’70s. There was nothing sunny or glorious about cops clubbing student protesters.

The war in Vietnam was a constant presence then, even for a seventh-grader in a Wisconsin town along Lake Michigan. My weekdays went something like this: Get up, watch the CBS Morning News, go to junior high school, come home, watch the CBS Evening News, have dinner, listen to the radio until turning in for the night.

The war dominated those newscasts, yet the radio allowed you to escape from it all. Nothing heavy there, save for two songs.

Forty years ago this week, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young dreamed of bombers turning into butterflies and getting back to the garden.

That week, millions of Americans also embraced a song that declared:

“I don’t need your war machines. I don’t need your ghetto scenes.”

“American Woman” by the Guess Who endures, a great song on so many levels. Think of the song and you think of Burton Cummings spitting out angry lyrics and Randy Bachman grinding out freaky guitar fills. True enough, but the pulse, the cadence, the urgency of the song comes from Jim Kale and Garry Peterson, who drive the whole thing on bass and drums, respectively.

What’s it all about? Bachman explained it this way in a 2008 interview on the Gibson guitar website:

“A lot of people thought ‘American Woman’ was addressing the woman on the street, but it wasn’t at all. The band had witnessed all the desolation going on in America, where there were hardly any young men in any of the towns we went to. They had all been drafted. We would see 18-year-old guys at the airports, with their buzz cuts and their uniforms, with their fathers telling them how proud they were, and their mothers and sisters in tears. It was heartbreaking. So instead of singing ‘Uncle Sam, stay away from me,’ or ‘Richard Nixon, stay away from me,’ it was ‘American woman.’ … Fortunately, by the time radio and the government understood that the song was an anti-war song, it had already reached No. 1.”

The outrage vented in “American Woman” hasn’t diminished a bit. It was there when Lenny Kravitz cranked out his terrific cover in 1999. (That video with a smoking hot Heather Graham didn’t hurt, either.)

It was there when Bachman and Cummings got back together and did it as an acoustic blues shuffle in 2007. Enjoy.

“American Woman 2007,” Bachman Cummings, from “Jukebox,” a 2007 Canadian import. This is the only Guess Who cover on an album full of vintage rock covers.

Speaking of lyrics: Everyone loves “Vehicle” by the Ides of March, which was at the top of the charts with “American Woman” at this time in 1970.

But think about it. This is a song about “the friendly stranger in the black sedan” who winds down the window and leeringly asks “Won’t you hop inside my car? I got pictures, got candy. I’m a lovable man, and I can take you to the nearest star.”

That chorus — “I love ya, need ya, want ya, got to have ya, child” — a little obsessive? What played then as a passionate guy might play today as a stalker. Could you get away with that today?

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Filed under April 2010, Sounds

That ’70s song, Vols. 13 and 14

Here’s proof again of how the Top 40 charts varied from place to place, from market to market, in the spring of 1970.

Forty years ago this week, the great “Vehicle” by the Ides of March was rocketing up the charts at the band’s hometown station — WLS, the Big 89 in Chicago — and at WOKY, the Mighty 92 in Milwaukee.

When “Vehicle” came out, it was a new sound for the Ides of March, which had been a Chicago and Midwest favorite since the mid-’60s. By the time they started recording for Warner Bros. in 1970, they’d added a horn section to the standard guitar-and-drum lineup. That big sound drove “Vehicle.”

“Vehicle” was written and sung by Jim Peterik. After the Ides of March broke up in 1973, he co-founded Survivor in 1978 and co-wrote several hits for .38 Special in the early ’80s.

That is, until the band was persuaded to get back together in 1990, still beloved in their hometown of Berwyn, Ill., a generation later. It has since recorded five CDs and still plays live occasionally. The Ides of March has a handful of gigs this summer, all but one in the Midwest.

“Vehicle,” the Ides of March, from “Vehicle,” 1970.

It makes sense that a regional favorite like the Ides of March would do well in Chicago and Milwaukee, but those charts were far from identical. Here’s evidence of that.

Looking to cash in on Neil Diamond’s success with “Sweet Caroline” and “Holly Holy” on another label, Bang Records tweaked and re-released “Shilo,” which Diamond initially recorded in 1967.

It was No. 15 on the WLS charts in Chicago but nowhere on the WOKY charts in Milwaukee. Go figure.

“Shilo,” Neil Diamond, 1967, from “Double Gold,” 1973. It’s out of print. The original “Shilo” is available on “Classics: The Early Years,” a 1990 CD release. The single version is available on “His 12 Greatest Hits,” a 1993 CD release.

This is the original song, not the version released as a single in 1970. Bang Records remixed “Shilo” in 1970, adding a new backing track to make it sound more like Diamond’s more recent hits on the Uni label.

The “Double Gold” greatest-hits LP was Bang’s final attempt to cash in on Diamond. In 1966 and 1967, he cut 25 songs and two albums for Bang, which chopped, sliced and diced them into four compilation LPs.

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Filed under April 2010, Sounds