Friday, December 12, 2014

Concert Review: Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band - United Center - December 11, 2014

White hair. White beard. It's December. I just described what one of the most successful and yet undervalued rock stars of all-time currently looks like, but even at 69 years of age his wonderfully spirited on-stage style has not been dampened by the years of time. Seger is still the fist pumping, foot stomping roots rock & roller he has been since his first run on vinyl some 45 years ago.

Bob Seger is one of the most definitive acts of the classic rock era. He is American to the core and he is rock & roll at its purest and finest. His unpretentious and non-elitist brand of rock sets the tone for the time capsule of that now bygone era. When people say rock & roll is dead they are stating truth. We will most likely never hear original music on this level ever again. Occasionally an act may come out of nowhere to loose the overhang of the roots of rock, but as an en masse brand it is over. Which is why in many ways this music is still so beloved, cherished and even adored. I personally know several "young" people who love Bruce Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac, Journey, the Eagles, Led Zeppelin and of course the big kahuna of them all, the Beatles.

Seger is a master craftsman and a superb artist both vocally and stylistically. His compositions of thoughtful storytelling weaving us through the landmarks of life (love, romance, work and the American heartland) continue to tug at the soul. Last night in front of a sold-out crowd at Chicago's United Center he delivered the goods. 

His brand of music is clearly the most trusted root of rock with a nip of country and a nip of blues depending on which classic Seger song you have plugged into. He even manages to deliver some of the subtlest of ballads. When he sits down at the piano to intro one of the most beautiful ballads of the last 40 years he shares that this particular song was his mom's favorite composition of his. I kind of knew where we were going and the opening notes served a hauntingly stunning We've Got Tonight. Get emotional time.

He opened the evening with the explosive Roll Me Away. The descriptive of America as a geographical destination as well as a concept is all over those lyrics and music.

His sit-down guitar time on the title track of his only number one album, Against the Wind had the mid-30s' guy sitting next to us crying. He eventually shared with us that this was his dad's favorite Seger song. The guy's father passed away two years ago, but he shared Seger's music with his dad. Clearly, this was an emotional night for many in the UC house.

Seger's blue collar, non-political, non-angst ridden brilliance covered the masses last night while we all punched the air and stomped our feet to songs that have so much meaning. The poetic Turn the Page was executed superbly and it never fails to get me to sing along (along with everyone else in the venue). No one needed a prompter or big screen with lyrics. The words are embedded on our minds, hearts and lips. Main Street takes us down a sentimental path and Travelin' Man makes you want to stand erect and go on a road trip.

He of course, has to give the funders (a reasonably priced show) of the evening Old Time Rock & Roll. It was named as a song of the 20th century. Yes, he owes this one more to Tom Cruise than to his own spirited interpretation of his own song.

I anticipated the surety of a few moments of happiness and with Beautiful Loser I got my wish early on during the near two hour performance. Shy of two hours by only five minutes.

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Seger still sounds great. If you had closed your eyes you never would have guessed it was 2014 and "Bobby" (his mom called him Bobby) was pushing 70. I felt like I felt the night I saw him back when Night Moves was still charting on the Billboard 100.

He didn't perform several songs I love. He didn't perform You'll Accompany Me, Shakedown, Betty Lou's Gettin' Out Tonight, Long Twin Silver Line (literally one of the greatest rock songs of all-time!) or Feel Like a Number (Mickey Rourke deserves credit for the early 80's resurrection of that classic). Seger could have been on the stage for another hour (why not?) if he played all of the songs we all still know and love.

His band (three members have been with him for a long time - Alto Reed, Chris Campbell, Craig Frost) is as tight as a pair of skinny jeans after a Thanksgiving meal and the lead guitarist (Seger's material is very lead guitar driven) is so good you find yourself paying attention to him as much as to Seger. Backing singers are talented and add to Seger's lyrical content more than the average singers on a stage with a lead act.

The J. Geils Band is the opening act and Peter Wolf still has enough manic energy to deliver a 45 minute set.

Seger is a must on a bucket list, so take advantage of this tour. I suspect his bucket list may include Detroit, Florida and football, even though he has a new album out and the songs (he performed several new songs) on it are all worthy of his formidable catalog.

I have been fortunate to see some of the giants in the last year and I say this all the time. Go and see these artists while you still are able and while they are still able. People are getting older and our days to enjoy these people who have brought so much to our lives will end one day. If for some reason I live to be 90 I will treasure my God, family, true friends and the music.

"I reminisce about the days of old with that old time rock & roll."
Bob Seger    

The U.S./Canada tour continues through March 7, 2015.

Copyright Chicago and Then Some 2014

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Concert Review: Fleetwood Mac at the United Center - October 3, 2014 - On With the Show

Let's start with the undeniable. As they push the 70 year old mark or pass the 70 year old mark (depending on which member you are referencing), Fleetwood Mac doesn't need a disclaimer. They don't need asterisks. They are still an engaging and gifted group of songwriters and musicians and; of course they are one of the greatest rock bands of all-time. No embellishment attached to that statement.

The five of them haven't performed together since their 20 year Rumours reunion tour back in 1997/1998. Those were engine cracking performances and somehow even after nearly 20 years since those shows the Mac clearly is back at least for one more go-round of live performances.  New material is being suggested, so if they are all still alive and healthy we may see them on the road again in 2016.

Fleetwood Mac was blessed with not one or even two gifted songwriters - they had the winning lotto ticket of having three enormously talented composers/lyricists. I love Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie's often powerful pieces of prose set to complex music beds. Having seen Fleetwood Mac perform twice on tour in the last 15 years without McVie, it is delightful to have her back. She balances out the band with her illustrious ballads and pure form of mindful pop. Her voice is near perfection. If you didn't know it, you wouldn't notice much of a difference from her mid-1970's voice.

Nicks has been the biggest star of the band ever since their heyday, but what has always made her special is her love of the group dynamic and her willingness and wisdom to not to want to be the only one on the stage. She's always totally present on-stage and her ability to rock out is still stunning. No woman ever did rock quite like Stevie Nicks. Her Landslide and Silver Springs are gorgeous, timeless and among the best songs ever recorded. Her Gold Dust Woman holds tightly as one of the finest rock vocals of all-time and she does that track justice 37 years later. She even delivers a bit of twirling on Gypsy.

Buckingham is one of the foremost guitarists of the last 60 years and he astounds with his artistry. He's the eccentric one on stage and it works. Kicks and grunts and all. Big Love is a mighty tribute to something long gone, but with his gift for showmanship he brings all the emotions back to life - right on stage. Who else could possibly have turned Tusk into a hit song? It still sounds unique!

They play through 24 songs, all of which are highly recognizable (I counted only five notable hits which weren't performed). Their catalog is deep, rich and diverse. With three singer-songwriters that is inevitable. It's an exact two and a half hour show. Every single second is worthwhile.

Mick Fleetwood and John McVie hold court on drums and bass and clearly add to their all around glorious gifts of music to the masses. In the 1974 film, That's Entertainment, Frank Sinatra proclaims "we will never see the likes of this again" (referring to the golden age of movie musicals). Clearly, anyone witnessing last night's spectacular performance by Fleetwood Mac at the United Center could utter those same words about the classic acts of music that began their careers during the classic rock era.

No wonder why the place was packed with middle-agers and young people in their 20's. People looking for significant rock/pop music look no further than the five people who are Fleetwood Mac.

The On With the Show tour just started this week, so the country and the world have plenty of time to grab tickets and go. Don't miss the legends. Memories last.

Set List:

The Chain ( usually, their lead-off song and it sets the tone for the show)
You Make Loving Fun
Second Hand News
I Know I'm Not Wrong
Sisters of the Moon (underappreciated rock song)
Say You Love Me
Seven Wonders
Big Love
Never Going Back Again
Over My Head
Little Lies
Gold Dust Woman
I'm So Afraid
Go Your Own Way

World Turning
Don't Stop
Silver Springs

2nd Encore:
Songbird (Christine McVie on a baby grand)

Copyright Chicago and Then Some 2014 

Thursday, September 25, 2014


"And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make."
The End from Abbey Road
Words and Music: Paul McCartney, John Lennon

The End was the last song on the last album recorded by the Beatles. It is the best album of their storied career. Athletes don't end on quite the same note that many pop/rock stars end on. The Beatles gave up on each other while their members were still all in their 20's. Sad for all of us. Athletes end their careers as their talents, skills and abilities are on the wane. Paul Konerko, a veteran of 18 seasons in major league baseball and a sixteen season veteran of the Chicago White Sox will end his career on Sunday, September 28th, 2014. One could argue Konerko easily could have walked away from the game at the end of the 2013 season, but I will not argue that way. His sixteen years with the Chicago White Sox ties him for the fifth-longest tenure in franchise history. He is second in home runs and RBIs only behind the legendary Hall-of-Famer, Frank Thomas. He is a six-time All Star. As captain he led the White Sox to their first World Series Championship in 2005 after fans waited for 88 years.

I write this as a fan. A fan of baseball. A fan of the Chicago White Sox. It is in my DNA. Well, not literally, but figuratively. My father was born and raised four blocks from Comiskey Park. My mother loves her boys. I shared the greatest moment of Paul Konerko's career with my mom. It was Sunday, October 23, 2005. I was at the first two games of the World Series at U.S. Cellular Field. More importantly, I flew in from Los Angeles where I was living at the time to watch the first two games with family members. Even more importantly, I was with my mother at game two. It was pouring through most of game two, but for the first time in my life it not only didn't matter, I didn't seem to even notice. We had our hoods up on our winter coats and we settled in. Me and my then 82 year old mom watching the Chicago White Sox in the World Series. My mom is now 91 and she rarely misses a White Sox game, although she is now unable to attend those games in person, so dare I say thank God for Comcast SportsNet, the U and WGN.

The Chicago White Sox were my family's team. Historically, we go way back. No one alive in 2005 that I knew was around when they won the World Series in 1917, but here we were. Our team had a remarkable season and they were now up one game and into the second. Paul Konerko who had endeared himself to White Sox fans at that point was up to bat and there it was - a Grand Slam home run to put the Sox ahead in game two. If we could win game two in Chicago we would head to Houston 2-0. The White Sox did win game two as they headed to Houston and they won the World Series in 2005 in a sweep. Houston never saw it coming, but the devoted fans did.

A funny feeling is upon me as we approach the end of Paul Konerko's baseball career. I'm feeling restless, feeling somehow like an end is more than an end. Paul Konerko is the last player from that World Series team still playing as of this season and when he walks off that field it will be the end of that era.  I have never felt this way about an athlete retiring. It's an odd sensation. I feel like there is more to all of this than there is. Intellectually, I know, life will go on and next year I will be cheering on the team. I will hope that the amazing combination of Avisail Garcia, Jose Abreu, Chris Sale, Conor Gillaspie, Adam Eaton and the other players that join or rejoin the team as of April 2015 will combine to win another world series. The concept of dreaming always....

The last two games of his career will take place on Saturday, September 27th and Sunday, September 28th. That's it. I will be at both games. There is consequential artistry in the beginning of a significant career, but there is an even greater art to closing out a career. Konerko, by all accounts has handled himself with grace, integrity, humility, loyalty and dignity in his 18 season career in professional sports. He was a very good player. An exceptionally good player, but seemingly an even better teammate. That is a job well done.

By all accounts, he is a nice guy with a wife and three young children.  He will go to Arizona and try to find something else to do with the balance of his life. After all, he is only 38 years old. Young by almost any standard other than sports. He's got the Gibson Les Paul guitar gift from the Cleveland Indians. Maybe. No, it's too late for that career.

Paul Konerko will be missed. I bought season tickets this year for the very reason that it was Konerko's last season. I will cry. I will stand up with respect. I will wave farewell. I will be in Section 159 on the tribute night looking at the blue seat - which represents where that World Series Grand Slam landed (the last one hit in a world series).

"When you're on the field for the last out of a World Series, on the winning side, there's nothing really even close," Konerko said. "I don't think I've had that type of a feeling before or since."

Paulie!!!! #14 will live long in my heart and in the hearts of many other fans for many years to come. I will take the World Series Champions of 2005 with me to my own grave. I didn't do a thing that season other than relish their victory with every family member that ever lived, walked and breathed. My eldest brother passed from a terminal cancer four years before that now iconic season. He missed it. My dad died from complications due to Alzheimer's three months before the final out in Houston. He missed it. I was back in Los Angeles watching the final two games alone in front of my television. My family had been in their homes in the Chicagoland area. I opted not to go to Houston even though my friends at ESPN said they'd get me tix. For some reason I felt I wanted to be alone. I cried that night. Tears of joy. Thank you Paul Konerko for your loyalty and your long tenure. May you return as a coach at some point when you feel it is the right time. You will be missed.

Only Luke Appling played in more White Sox games in his career. No one played more under the radar than Paul Konerko. He was always underappreciated, but no fan base identifies and connects better to a player. I loved the way he would make an adjustment in the middle of an at-bat. I didn't even know what that was until about six years ago and then I started paying attention to it. He was one of the most honorable players ever to set foot on a field. 

Strong work ethic. Humility. Loyalty. No pretense. Cared about his teammates and his city. Leader. Length of years. Charitable contributions. Teammate. Mentor.

There is something poetic about Konerko. Just something. If he has one more home run left in him (439 is his total) the last two games would be a good showcase to get to 440.
This is the official Chicago White Sox farewell video. I cried.

Farewell Captain and Godspeed.

"The Lord bless thee, and keep thee; The Lord make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up His countenance upon thee and give thee peace."
Numbers 6:24-26

Copyright Chicago and Then Some 2014

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Concert Review: Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band at the Chicago Theater

Ringo Starr is a Beatle. He will always be a Beatle. His future obituary will write him up as a Beatle and his lasting legacy will be that as a member of what is the single most accomplished and gifted music act of the 20th century. The only other artist to rival the catalog of the Beatles is Frank Sinatra. Sinatra recorded for approximately 50 years and the Beatles recorded for a total of seven years, so in the end, the Beatles win.
I’ve seen Ringo Starr and his All-Starr band before, but last night's performance was the most fun one could have at a concert. Ringo doesn't play for the sake of nostalgia and he has wisely hired some of the most talented people in the industry to compose his All-Starr band. The members of this band can say they played a few Beatles songs along the way. As a musician, that alone must be a moment to cherish in your recollected memory train.

Greg Rolie from Santana and Journey (although he doesn't play any Journey songs), Steve Lukather from Toto, Richard Page from Mister Mr. and the wonderful guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Todd Rundgren are joined on the stage by drummer Gregg Bisonette and saxophonist/percussionist/vocalist, Warren Ham.
Rundgren's presence on this stage may be worth the $210.00 (with fees) to see this travelling All-Starr act, so his contributions with the out-loud Bang on the Drum All Day, the sweetly inspired I Saw the Light and the touching anthem, Love is the Answer provided a worthy show in around 15 minutes.
Richard Page delivers a vivacious version of of the 80's hit Kyrie and slides us back to a bygone day of great pop with Broken Wings. He is the one man on stage Ringo allows to debut a new song, You Are Mine. A lovely love song that would have balanced itself up to hit status 30 years ago, but in today's marketplace this song wouldn't work unless you had a 20 year old woman singing it.
Greg Rolie pounds out some classic Santana songs, including Evil Ways, Black Magic Woman and the always sing-along worthy Oye Coma Va. Rock and roll never sounded so fresh - forty plus years after the release of these songs.  
Steve Lukather gets us firmly planted with some superb lead guitar work on radio staples, Rosanna, Africa and Hold the Line. Lukather centers the night with some dream work on guitar.  
They are clearly a timely group since the show started exactly on time (8:00) and ended on the nose at 10:00. It was a mischievious night of fun and it didn't take long for you to realize this isn't your typical concert material. For one, they all genuinely seemed to be having a wildly good time and it was obvious to all, that these musicians all liked each other. Jokes were flying back from stage left to stage right and lo and behold, they weren't all scripted.
Ringo wants to have a good time on stage and that is what you get with one of his shows. The legendary Chicago theater played host to the 2014 Starr tour and it was indeed an entertaining night of raucus delight.  Of course, we get some of the great Ringo singing lead Beatles songs, including the still absolutely fantastic Yellow Submarine.  Ringo states with tremendous clarity, "if you don't know this song you are in the wrong venue." Could you possibly have a wider array of giddy smiles throughout the hall going on and on with "we all live in a yellow submarine?" Who else could have come up with something so creative and fun without being stupid, except the fab four.
Ringo goes back and forth with some famed Ringo vocals from the Beatles (Don't Pass Me By, Honey Don't, Act Naturally, Boys, I Wanna Be Your Man, Matchbox), but he never gives us a 2014 tour version of Octopus’ Garden so that was my big "what?" of the evening, but we do get some spot on renditions of his 1971 hit, It Don't Come Easy and the George Harrison penned, Photograph.
It's difficult to believe that Ringo Starr will be 74 years old in a few days. His energy level would rival any man half his age. I didn't count how many times peace and love were mentioned throughout the performance, but in this crowd it seems a mildly ridiculous preaching to the choir test of words and they even end the performance with John Lennon's Give Peace a Chance, although Ringo at that point is conspicuously off the stage.
Check out the legends. These are artists we rarely get to enjoy and life is indeed brief and fragile. Thanks to all of them for putting on a wonderful show. Yes, they got by with a little bit of help from their friends.      
It’s all fun, fun, fun. Wait, that’s a Beach Boys song.         
Good time in the old town last night. Take advantage of these performances. Someday soon, these guys will be too old to deliver some of these classic tunes.
Copyright Chicago and Then Some 2014

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Best Ice Cream in the Chicagoland Area

I love ice cream. Packed. Soft-serve. Gelato. Frozen Yogurt (actually, I only love TCBY's frozen yogurt - it is the country's best yogurt). It's officially summer and summer is the season for multiple outings for cold treats. I have a deep emotional attachment to those moments when my mom and dad would take us out for ice cream during those summer nights of my childhood and youth. History bubbles up with memories as I dip into glorious ice cream. I have nostalgia for my youthful family memories, but the ice cream is even better today - or so it seems.  

For the last year we've been scouring the entire area for the best ice cream. These are places we have experienced either once or in some cases, multiple times. These locations are not necessarily in any particular order, but if you want to indulge in some good ice treats, check them out. Please leave comments, since we want to hear about other good ice cream locales.

The Brown Cow – Superb ice cream and the ambiance is delightful. 
    7347 W. Madison Street, Forest Park

Chocolate Peanut Butter on the right side!  

Cool Creations –What a gem and it’s a relatively unheard of gem. I would never had known of its existence if I hadn’t been chatting up ice cream locations with the garage door fixer upper.  I have been chatting up ice cream locations with everyone I encounter. Cool Creations is in a an old Baptist church built in 1852. The ice cream is a gift to the palate. Outdoor seating and indoor seating available. 1950's ambiance! 
937 S. Hamilton, Lockport

Plush Horse – A great American getaway for decades in the south suburbs.  Two locations offer up a good reason to share in the excitement of getting your calcium. Yes, tell yourself that one.  This is good for my bones! You will not get more for your money than the ice cream dished out or coned out at the Plush Horse. Their Popcorn M&Ms flavor is near out of this world. Original and outstanding. This flavor alone is worth a trip to the Plush Horse.
Two locations: 12301 S. 86th Avenue, Palos Park (original location)
7903 W. 171st Street, Tinley Park

                                                               Plush Horse Cones
Bobtail - Bobtail is pretty sophisticated. Their ice cream is homemade and wildly creative. This place doesn't mess around with second rate flavors. Have fun! 
2951 N. Broadway, Chicago
1114 Central, Wilmette

Original Rainbow Cone – You can’t go wrong with an Original Rainbow Cone. A famous and almost downright iconic refreshing treat in the city of Chicago.  I love to look at a rainbow cone. Makes you smile. Well, it makes me smile.
9322 S. Western, Chicago

                                                      Original Rainbow Cone

Mamma Rosetta's Gelateria – Some of the best gelato you will ever indulge in. Inside and outside seating is available. Don't be fooled by the cup size. This gelato is so rich that a medium packs a lot more than you think. Flavors are all excellent. You can't figure out which ones to go with, because you want them all.   
30 Oak Street, Frankfort 

Zarlengo’s Italian Ice and Gelato – This place is a bit south, but it’s worth the drive. Daringly delicious ice treats being served up since the early 1980's. 
257 W. Joe Orr Road, Chicago Heights 

Jack Frost – Excellent location for wildly good soft serve ice cream. Their dipped cones are out of this world. Outdoor seating is available. The building resembles a small Swiss Chalet.
5329 159th Street, Oak Forest 

Dairy Palace - All around good ice cream in both the hand packed and soft serve worlds. They even make a strawberry soft serve on site. Love this place, since they play music from the 1950's. Think a moment from the film, American Graffiti.
Downtown Tinley Park

Capannari Ice Cream - An entertaining ice cream locale filled with good flavors. A packed list of events to boot. 
10 S. Pine Street, Mount Prospect

2 Sisters – Custard. Yes, it’s good.  Very, very good. It’s a small location in a strip mall, but if you are anywhere near it, you should check it out.
4734 147th Street, Midlothian

Dairy Bar - The little red draped building serves up some holy cow good soft serve ice cream. They've been there since 1955.
1015 Harlem, Glenview 

Batavia Creamery - A wide assortment of different flavors are the highlight of this ice cream delight. Outdoor seating is a wonder on a hot day. 
4 N. Island, Batavia
Oberweis – Yes, chains are included if they offer up the creamiest ice cream in the 75 mile spread of the covered area. Lots to offer in these throwbacks to Americana. The music from the earlier days of the rock/pop era serve as a delightful backdrop, but the cleanliness of the locations and the super fantastic ice cream keeps you coming back. 
Various locations throughout the suburban Chicagoland area

Don't fear the chain. Baskin Robbins has superb ice cream in a variety of flavors and they are pretty much all over the place. Also, the American superstar of ice cream chains is Dairy Queen. When you travel along the nation's highways you begin to expect to see signage for the DQ and it is somewhat comforting to know they are there. 

Copyright Chicago and Then Some 2014     

Friday, June 6, 2014

Long Weekend Trip Out of Chicago - Presidential Libraries/Museums (Hoover/Truman/Eisenhower)

                     ROAD TRIP

It's difficult to get more quintessentially American than a visit to a Presidential Library and Museum. Visiting the Presidential Libraries/Museums is one of the few bucket list items on my own personal journal of things to do and you can visit two of them during a pleasant long weekend out of Chicago.

While it would be easy to fly directly to Kansas City, Missouri, there is a certain poetry to the drive through large swaths of endless rows of farms and green tree filled hills. Missouri is a beautiful state with lots of hills, valleys and non-treadmill inclines. This is in no way a boring drive through the Show Me state. It's lovely from start to finish.

The trip begins in Chicago and you drive the smooth stretch of I-55 down through to Springfield with a turn toward Hannibal, Missouri. We stopped in Hannibal to visit Mark Twain's boyhood home, but the real destination was toward Kansas City, Missouri and then to Abilene, Kansas.

I'm a history buff, specifically a U.S. history buff, but you don't have to be a buff to appreciate the massive historic encounters at these two superbly enthralling venues.

You can get to Kansas City in a day's drive and we parked ourselves (well, actually we parked with the valet) at the downtown Marriott in Kansas City. The hotel is this side of gigantic, but the service on all fronts was professionally generous. The rooms are large and clean and everyone we encountered from the valet to the greet staff to the check-in staff to the security guards were all kind and helpful. The food in the lobby bar was even excellent.  I still haven't forgotten the outstanding soft pretzel appetizers we ordered while watching a sporting event.

The Harry S. Truman Library and Museum is a short distance from the hotel. The facility is located in the lovely suburban area of Independence. Truman was born in Lamar and he died in Kansas City, but Independence was home for much of his life. It's a large library featuring the triumphs of one of our most to the point Presidents. He was humble and yet he was a born leader. He certainly didn't appear on the surface to be a man who would lead the nation out of the Second World War and into what is perhaps the most consequential period in American history outside of the flush years directly after the American Revolution. Truman famously said "if you can't take the heat, then get out of the kitchen." Leadership comes in a wide variety of personality types, but every President since Truman has latched on to Trumanisms.

                                                      Truman Library and Museum

Obviously, Truman's life cannot be diminished to a few paragraphs, but clearly he was one of the most remarkable people who enlivened the American century. He, his wife Bess and their only child are buried on the grounds of the Library/Museum.

The highlights here are the film, the sections on Postwar America, the Recognition of Israel, Upset of the Century (think Thomas Dewey) and the Courtyard.

The even more intriguing part of the twofer Library/Museum visits was to come in Abilene, Kansas. We saddled up for our journey to one of the outposts of the American west. Dwight David Eisenhower who brilliantly forged the campaign known as D-Day has one of the most significant of the Presidential Libraries/Museums.  The content at this museum is unusually large and you need a full day to navigate the wide array of historical points. Quite frankly, if you are an avid history buff you could use two days in this Library/Museum.  I was mad at myself that we had not allowed enough time at this vast arena of information. The World War II sections were particularly satisfying to this buff. Again, even if you are a casual observer to American history you will appreciate these places for contemplation; and ultimately be grateful for the experience of having this nation to call home. Whether you personally agree with the ideology of a President these places reflect the arc of American history and politics has nothing to do with the libraries/museums.

                                                      Eisenhower Museum & Library

Eisenhower's resting place is solemn and thought-provoking. His childhood home is on the property and there are two buildings housing the mighty and bountiful displays of artifacts, documents and historical archival footage. On a side note, it is a pity Mamie Eisenhower wasn't recognized for her style. Every single outfit on display in Mamie's section (Ike's wife) would and could be worn by me today.

I cried during multiple spins around ever changing rooms and the chapel is a graceful resting place for not only Eisenhower, but for anyone wanting a few moments alone to rest in God's grace.

                                                        Eisenhower's Boyhood Home

To visit Eisenhower's Library Museum you will need 2 1/2 hours out of Kansas City. Then you need the time back. Just allow as much time as possible. On the way back to Kansas City you can have dinner in the gorgeous town of Lawrence, Kansas which houses the University of Kansas. Great town filled with affordable eateries and some nice stretches for stretching your legs on a walk around campus or around town.

Practically everything you witness here is a highlight. Glorious day of lounging in the history of two decades of Eisenhower's brilliant and understated leadership.

On our return trip to Chicago we ventured a different way home instead of taking the Missouri route back. We climbed north to Clarinda, Iowa. Clarinda is a small town on the Southwestern edge of Iowa. Since Truman and Eisenhower both defined or were definers of the World War II era it seemed more than appropriate to stop in this town to pay our respects to the Glenn Miller Birthplace Museum. The Glenn Miller Orchestra was the most successful of the Depression/World War II era big bands and they even were the first music artist to sell a record reaching one million in sales. Miller joined the Army Air Force band and lost his life in service to his country. The museum is a small place filled with music, photographs, posters, films, documents and original long play albums. It's a wonderful diversion on the road back whether you are in the mood or not.

If you are heading eastbound, then you can take in a third Presidential Library and Museum. The Herbert Hoover location is in West Branch, Iowa. The Hoover Library/Museum is small, but it is a delightful location and you learn a tremendous amount on the life of the 31st President. The property is lovely. Don't miss it if you enjoy and appreciate history.  

We love weekend journeys out of Chicago and particularly when you can take some luxury time in the good weather of spring, summer and fall.

Take this jaunt and enjoy the history you breathe in.

Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum, Independence, Missouri. 816 268 8200 or

Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, Abilene, Kansas 785 263 6700 or or

Glenn Miller Birthplace Museum, Clarinda, Iowa 712 542 2461 or

If visiting the Presidential Libraries is on a bucket list, please note the other Presidential Libraries and their locations:

Abraham Lincoln, Springfield, IL
Franklin Roosevelt, Hyde Park, NY
John Kennedy, Boston, MA
Richard Nixon, Yorba Linda, CA
Lyndon Johnson, Austin, TX
Gerald Ford Library, Ann Arbor, MI (Museum is located in Grand Rapids, MI)
Jimmy Carter, Atlanta, GA
Ronald Reagan, Simi Valley, CA
George Bush, College Station, TX
William Clinton, Little Rock, AR
George W. Bush, Dallas, TX

Copyright Chicago and Then Some 2014   

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Concert Review: Barry Gibb - The Mythology Tour (Bee Gees) at the United Center, Chicago

It’s a sad story to lose three of your siblings (Andy Gibb passed in the late 1980's) before any of them reached the age to qualify for Medicare, but fortunately Barry Gibb’s wife of 44 years (yes, that is correct) convinced him he needed to get out there and play music. Thankfully, for us he is still playing that music and doing it brilliantly.  
Last night’s performance at Chicago’s United Center (home to the Blackhawks and the Bulls) was certifiably one of the finest live shows I’ve ever witnessed. Barry Gibb has received a multiple number of honors over his 48 year career, but knowing the Bee Gees are the only act in history to write, produce and record four number one hits in a row may be the most stupendously over the top achievement any music artist could even dream of. Obviously, the Bee Gees were one of the most commercially successful (even beyond their work on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack) and critically acclaimed acts in all of music history; and Mr. Gibb's show provides a well-rounded look at the career of the Bee Gees.   
Most people think of the aforementioned Saturday Night Fever soundtrack when they think of the Bee Gees, but the brothers Gibb were a heady act of great renown before that 1977 splash of music paint hit the walls of the waning years of the disco generation. Those tunes remain some of the finest songs of the now defunct era, but shockingly they still hold up nearly four decades past their first turn of the 33 1/3. 
Gibb’s entrance onto the stage was overwhelming. He wasn’t on stage for three songs before an extended crush of a standing ovation was given. Gibb seemed flush with the feeling of good will. He genuinely was surprised by all of that fan love. He also seemed troubled to hear the shouts of WE LOVE YOU BARRY every time some 60 plus year old yelled it out while he was singing one of his multitude of stunningly beautiful love songs. As much as I enjoy and have enjoyed the music of the Bee Gees I simply didn’t remember all of these beautiful and in some cases downright obscure ballads. I loved every minute of it.  At many concerts the last thing you want to hear is an obscure “slow song,” but not at a Gibb concert. Those whopper sized donuts of love were welcomed with open arms in Chicago. After listening to them, you ask yourself, what music do people today fall in love to?  
Gibb can still hit and hold the notes; and that famed falsetto is still working at its peak. This man resides comfortably in the glory of superbly crafted music. He is a gifted songwriter both lyrically and musically. Many of his compositions are orchestral which opens a wide path for all of the critical acclaim he has received.  
There were so many highlights that you could say the entire list of thirty songs were the highlight. It was one big reel of pop genius. The monumental Lonely Days sounded like the original track and it was hard to believe that all of this came about via nine musicians and three back-up singers. To Love Somebody never sounded as good. How Can You Mend A Broken Heart was performed solo in this showcase, because Maurice’s daughter was out sick (Samantha is touring with her uncle). Barry's son Steve is on stage with his iconic dad. Steve is a guitarist who favors metal and tattoos. He is a nice driver of lead guitar work, so it's family, but it's always been family for Barry Gibb.    

Stayin’ Alive still has the ability to get the heart pumping and I literally dare the shyest among us to not at least move an arm. Some of the great classics from the late 1960’s and early 1970’s were meshed with the finely tuned upbeat songs and Gibb never missed a beat. The ballads are all here. I’ve Gotta Get a Message To You, Run To Me, and Words 
Gibb takes on Night Fever and More Than a Woman with a hanging from the ceiling disco ball. We get a rousing round of songs he wrote for other artists, including the powerful drama of a tune, Woman In Love.

He pays tribute to Bruce Springsteen with a lovely rendition of I’m on Fire. Springsteen has been playing Stayin’ Alive on tour, so it was payback time in their mutual love fest. Gibb said Springsteen is the greatest live act in music. Springsteen is, but Gibb is high on the list of great live acts, even at his current age.   
The great “One” was played as though it were an overture number from a musical out of the 1940’s. The stunning panorama of gorgeous ballads kept coming. If you have never heard Morning of My Life or With the Sun In My Eyes do yourself a big life favor and download these tracks. His current versions are almost a little too penetrating to the soul; and it all kept going. When was the last time you said at 11pm on a Tuesday night you wanted to stay out and listen to the music?!    
My only dilemma: my two favorite Bee Gees songs were not performed. Why on earth Fanny (Be Tender With My Love) was not added to the set list is slightly off my radar of thought. One of the most beautiful love songs ever wasn't played at the United Center. Love You Inside Out is so blatantly and ballistically brilliant it should be played no matter where he goes and this song missed the set list as well. 
The Mythology tour ends in California shortly, so hopefully Mr. Gibb will have enjoyed himself so much on this tour that he will carry himself back to the stage within the next couple of years. The ticket prices were reasonable. Shockingly, he didn’t sell out the venue. That is bizarre, but as the aging boomer population retreats into their own isolated cocoons we may see less and less of the great artists of the latter half of the 20th century taking to the road. There aren’t many of them left, but Barry Gibb was and remains one of the most resourcefully talented people the music industry ever had their hands on.  

Final Note: Jared & the Mill opened for Gibb in Chicago. The five man band from Arizona were strikingly good; and shockingly the audience paid attention to their detailed and finely performed set. I highly recommend checking out their music. 
Copyright Chicago and Then Some 2014

Saturday, February 1, 2014

A New Day is Coming: Interview with Midwest Born Rock and Roll Legend Tommy James

Tommy James. My first recollection of his music came via a sister who was eight years older than me. Her collection of 45's included several songs that featured orange and yellow swirly marks which were labeled Roulette.

The rub on the back is the recognition that certain voices and people are the most notable representatives of a moment. I grew up loving movies and books.  I've worked in television my entire adult life, but it is faith, family and music that defines my own life. I know exactly where I was when I heard of the deaths of John Lennon, Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley. As much as I treasured the films of Steve McQueen, Natalie Wood and Paul Newman I couldn't tell you where I was when any of them passed on. I've been to the graves of Lennon (well, not his grave, but his memorial site in Central Park), Sinatra and Presley. Faith, family and music have walked me through many passages.

Music assists while falling in love and falling out of love. Music makes you jump for joy and weep with heartbreak. Classical music has calmed me to sleep. I've spent many a Saturday morning  cleaning my house to the beat of a superb three chord classic. Music has kept me comforted while driving literally across the nation. Music makes me re-identify with my youthful self. Songs you grew up with or came of age to leave a mark on your life. Most of the people I hung out with during those long ago years are no longer in my life (well, virtually some of them are), but I still hang on tightly to the music.

I was a little kid when Crystal Blue Persuasion was released. I love this song. It's my all-time favorite pop song. I love it so much I have requested its play at my one day funeral. It touches my soul, my heart, my mind. It will be played between How Great Thou Art and Amazing Grace.

The Midwestern born and raised Tommy James is performing at the Rialto Theater on Valentine's Day. If you have never seen him live do yourself a big life favor and check out a live performance. He is a performer worthy of your time. He is one of the master craftsmen of the rock/pop era 76 million baby boomers grew up with.

I had the pleasure to interview him on a cold and snowy day during the already famed 2014 winter. As John Steinbeck once wrote, this is the winter of our discontent, but I assume Tommy James would recommend I take things in stride. 

Judith: Tommy, I read your autobiography, watched your taped performance at the Bitter End and  lounged around listening to much of your timeless catalog over the weekend. Your autobiography, Me, the Mob and the Music: One Helluva Ride with Tommy James and the Shondells is wildly entertaining and highly educational. I understand it is being turned into a feature film and Barbara De Fina is producing it. What's going on with this project?

Tommy James: We have our screenplay writer and we've sealed distribution. Everything in Hollywood takes forever. It's like watching hair grow. It's nothing like the record business. It's vastly different. The music industry allows you to take your excitement and go into the studio almost immediately and it's done quickly. In the film business, everything takes time. I've gotten a good education.

Judith: A film often sits in development for five years. It's nothing like television. Having worked in television all of my adult life I know first hand that television is a quick turnaround business. If you  pitch something in February you could literally have a show on the air by the fall.

Tommy James: I've heard a project could even sit in film development for ten years. Hopefully, it won't take anywhere that long. When Martin Fitzpatrick and I wrote the book we were going to call it Crimson and Clover. We started out writing a nice music book about the songs. We were about a third of the way in and we realized if we don't tell the whole Roulette story we are cheating ourselves and everyone else for that matter. I was nervous finishing this version of the book, because some of the guys were still walking around. We then put the material on a shelf for about three years. The last of the Roulette guys passed on and we figured we could finish the book. As soon as we finished the book we had an immediate response from Simon and Schuster and I was flattered by that. I had never been an author before. Simon and Schuster does Presidential memoirs, so this was a great publishing arena for us. We were thrilled they picked up the book. It was released about four months later, so that process went quickly.

As soon as we released it we began getting calls for the movie and Broadway rights. Barbara De Fina called us and she's a heavy hitter, so this was another big situation. Barbara produced Goodfellas, Casino, the 90's version of Cape Fear and Hugo. She works with Martin Scorsese often. She's an A-list player and we were thrilled she took our story. We finally got our distribution and financing. You need all of this to make it move along nicely. Every person who comes on board is a separate negotiation. It's quite an undertaking with getting the whole crew together. The next couple of years should be interesting.

Judith: I will admit I've read quite a few shady rock and roll bios over the years, but the whole Morris Levy Roulette situation one-upped most of what I have read. In the book you talk about the  creative freedom you had in the recording studio. You got the creative freedom, but you lost out on thirty to forty million dollars. Most people wouldn't have walked away so quietly losing that sum of money.

Tommy James: When you look back at the situation we made a good chunk of that back, but that was only one source of revenue. We had BMI, commercials and touring and all of the rest of it. Mechanical royalties were just not going to happen under Roulette. We had to ask ourselves what do we do? We may have taken our own lives into our hands and try to get off the label, but we stuck it out, because we were having amazing success at Roulette. We ended up with 23 gold records and we sold over 110 million records. Did we want to interrupt all of that? The answer was no. I think we made the right decision. First of all I get to tell this story. Also, I don't believe we would have had the freedom we had at Roulette at any other label. My first hit record was Hanky Panky in 1966. The song had been recorded a couple of years prior to this, but it got bootlegged and it exploded in Pittsburgh. That explosion took us to New York. The song taking off was unexpected. Looking back  it really was a mini miracle. At that time, I couldn't put the original band back together since we had recorded it two years earlier. The way the song broke is one of those only in America stories and then I came to New York to sell the master we made. I had meetings with most of the major record companies and we got a yes from everybody. Columbia, RCA, Atlantic and the now defunct Kama Sutra. The last place we took the record to was Roulette. Roulette was a nice independent label, but I was more excited about the prospect of going with Columbia, which was one of the big corporate labels.

I went to sleep that night feeling really great and I woke up the next morning around 9:00.  The phone rang and all the labels that were positive and saying yes the day before were now saying listen Tom we gotta pass and I was like what do you mean you gotta pass? Finally, Jerry Wexler at Atlantic told us the truth that Morris Levy called all the record companies and said this is my record. He told them to back off and they all did. We were apparently going to be on Roulette whether we liked it or not. That was the first offer I couldn't refuse.

At any rate that is literally how we ended up at Roulette. We learned who they were and what was going on incrementally. We'd meet somebody up in Morris Levy's office and a week later we'd see them on television being led out of a warehouse in New Jersey in handcuffs. That kept happening. Roulette, in addition to being a legitimate label was also a front for the Genovese crime family. One of the five families. At the time, we couldn't talk about any of this.

Judith: Tommy, you certainly have one of the more unique stories in the history of recorded music. Actually, that's an understatement.

Tommy James: If we had gone to a corporate label we would have gotten lost in the mix, particularly with a fluky first song like Hanky Panky. We could have been a one hit wonder. We probably would have been assigned to and turned over to an in-house A&R guy and gotten lost in the numbers. That's the last anyone would have heard from us. At Roulette they actually needed us. They hadn't had a hit in three years, so Roulette left us alone. They allowed us to morph into whatever we could become. I'm sure that wouldn't have happened at any other label. We were given the keys to the candy store. The downside was we weren't going to get any mechanical royalties. We learned crime doesn't pay.

Judith: There were a lot of moments in your book that touched me. You wrote that "In many ways, the summer of '63 was the last great summer in America. Never again would we be quite so optimistic or unapologetically carefree." That's such a powerful historical truth and you put it down in two sentences.

Tommy James: That was in high school. I had a job in a record shop and I worked there after school and on the weekends. Of course they let me promote my band out of the shop and I learned so much at that record shop. When the Kennedy assassination happened it was right at the middle of this gigantic pre-release promotion of the first album by the Beatles. Every week in the record store there would be something new about the Beatles. The Kennedy assassination happened right in the middle of my carefree summer and the Beatles landing in America. This is forever in my mind and I have those two events cemented together. The Beatles first release and the Kennedy assassination.

Judith: I think most Americans that were alive and old enough to remember those events at the time think like that. This horrible tragedy followed by this monumental musical and pop culture explosion.

Tommy James: I had just gotten my driver's license in the summer of '63. I was 16 years old. I had a car. My girlfriend and I travelled to my band's dates. We'd play a lot of dates on the water. Lake Michigan. Clear Lake. The gigs were on the beach. The tragedy of JFK's assassination was awful for all of us, so the Beatles were the only thing that made 1964 bearable.

Judith: Speaking of that time. You didn't write political songs. Was there a conscious decision not to write political songs? Did you say I don't want to write For What It's Worth?

Tommy James: The only political song we wrote was also semi-religious. Sweet Cherry Wine. I'll be honest with you. We were such creations of commercial top 40 radio there wasn't any call for us to write political music. It would have been kind of strange if we had. We really made it as sort of a garage band.

Judith: Well, you were one heck of a great garage band!

Tommy James: Thank you. We made it with this almost silly record, Hanky Panky.

Judith: Tell me about the changes in the studio. Where and when did you gain that creative freedom from Roulette?

Tommy James: We worked our way into it. We kept getting more involved in the studio. We were producing our own records soon after the release of Hanky Panky. We started producing with Mony Mony, but we officially had our names on the label as producers with Crimson and Clover. None of this was intentional. As I said, we were creations of commercial radio.
Tommy James in the studio today.

Judith: Crimson and Clover is such a fantastic piece of pop music. Obviously, you had covers of so many of your songs, most notably with Tiffany's I Think We're Alone Now and Billy Idol's version of Mony Mony.  In researching your life and music I was surprised to see all of these covers and there are so many of Crimson and Clover. That must be the ultimate compliment for musicians and songwriters. I know you wouldn't want to give preferential treatment to anyone, but was there one cover were you said that is so spot-on and it's even better than my own version.

Tommy James: There were a few of them. I'm flattered and honored whenever any artist thinks a quick way to a hit record is to cover one of our old songs. We've had over 300 cover versions done of our songs from Billy Idol to Dolly Parton to the Boston Pops. It's hard to say what my one favorite would be. A couple of favorites would have to be R.E.M's version of Draggin' the Line in the Austin Powers movie. In 2012, Prince recorded an amazing version of Crimson and Clover. That song appeared on the first all digital album and it went to #1. The album's title is Lotus Flower. One of my favorites is the version of I'm Alive by Tom Jones. Dolly Parton and I did a cover of Crimson and Clover.

Judith: How did the partnership on that track come about with Dolly Parton?

Tommy James: She wrote me a sweet letter asking me if I would do Crimson and Clover with her. She has this sweet and lovely voice and she did a down home country interpretation of the song. She did her half of the song in Nashville and I did my end here in New York. We ended up getting together to perform it together at Radio City Music Hall when she was on tour shortly after she recorded it.

Judith: Your songs have been used a great deal in films and in commercials. When an ad agency  wants to use your song in a promotional campaign or an artist wants to record one of your songs what is the process like?

Tommy James: Most of them go through the publisher. When they use a song for a commercial or a film it's called a sync license. When Dolly contacted me directly that was somewhat unusual, because usually you go to the publisher first to make sure it's available. Sometimes an artist will be hired or an artist just wants to cover a song, but sometimes for films and commercials they will use our original recordings. We also have several different versions of our songs.

Judith: Who oversees your publishing catalog?

Tommy James: Sony now handles my publishing and the masters that I own. They're huge. They even bought out EMI and they own BMG.

Judith: I love Draggin' the Line. What a get happy song! Did you ever have a dog named Sam?

Tommy James: (laughs) I had a cat named Sam!

Judith: That song is so visual. It probably had the first environmentally friendly reference in any pop song that I can think of. Hugging a tree when you get near it. Love that line!

Tommy James: All of the tree huggers love it!

Judith: I would think some environmental group would use that song as a theme.

Tommy James: I wrote that song at my farm in upstate New York. I honestly don't think I could have written that song in the city. I was inspired by my surroundings.

Judith: A group called Alive 'N Kickin' had a huge hit back in 1970 with your composition of Tighter, Tighter. Why didn't you record that track? It's a great song. You also produced it for them.

Tommy James: I recorded it, but I just didn't like what I was hearing. The Shondells and I were on a six month hiatus and I wanted to get back in the studio. I wrote and recorded Tighter, Tighter and I just really didn't like the way I was singing it. I rewrote it as a duet for Alive 'N Kickin'. They had a male and a female lead singer. They put their guitar and their keyboard on top of the track that we already recorded and I produced their vocals and it became a number one hit. It was my first outside production.

Judith: If you hadn't been a songwriter and musician what do you think you would have done with your life professionally?

Tommy James: Instinctively, I would say I don't know. I might have gotten involved in science or engineering. I never wanted to do anything other than play music. It's not like I had a brain surgery background to fall back on. This is what I did and I what I loved from my childhood.

Judith: Your book details your relationship with your parents. In many ways they remind me of my parents. They were hard-working, classic American people right out of the depression-World War II era. How much of your family and your Midwestern roots reflected your life in words and music?

Tommy James: Growing up middle class in the Midwest is one of the healthiest of American lives. It's the best place and way to view reality. To see things and to take things in. You have a significant advantage in life if you are a middle class Midwesterner. Everything you see and do creatively reflects that and you sort of instinctively know what average people want, because you are one of them. My background has helped me a great deal in my music. It's hard to point to this or that and say this is something you are because you are from a particular place, but it's definitely a frame of mind.

Judith: I love the fact that you have a female manager. How long has Carol Ross been with you?

Tommy James: We've been together since 1987, so it's a near 30 year relationship at this point. Carol has an incredible background. She was an actress. She appeared on the first Billy Cosby show, she was on Gunsmoke, The Wild, Wild West and she was a dancer on Dick Clark's Where the Action Is. She was the head of publicity at MCA working with Elton John. She worked with Billy Joel and Paul McCartney and she has a great grasp of the music.

Judith: I had the opportunity to work with Dick Clark when I worked at ABC. He was a terrific man.
I know you think quite highly of him.

Tommy James: Dick was a good man and a good friend. His stature in the business was one-of-a-kind.

Judith: There were a few sad moments in your book and perhaps none sadder than your brief description of the legendary Gene Krupa's final years.

Tommy James:  It was terrible to view. We were told he was on heroin. At the time, he had a small band. A combo. He'd be slumped over between shows. It was a terrible way to see one of your musical heroes.

Judith: I love the big band era and the great American songbook. I could listen to Glenn Miller's orchestra all day long.

Tommy James: Me too. I love all of the singers and the sounds.

Judith: When you look back on it all are there go-to songs or artists?

Tommy James: I love the music from the 1950's. That was when I started listening to music. I love Jo Stafford. Jo Stafford was the greatest female singer I ever heard. I loved a lot of the crooners who came out of the big band era and then bumped right into the first generation of rock and rollers.

Judith: Frank Sinatra loved Jo Stafford and it's an intriguing time in history when musical genres were switching.

Tommy James: Definitely. I don't want to get too long winded, but there is a very interesting moment in 1956/1957 if you were to look at a jukebox you would see two generations completely overlapping. On the jukeboxes at the time you would get the crooners: Nat King Cole, Perry Como, Theresa Brewer and on the same jukebox you would see the first of the rock and rollers. Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Eddy Cochran, Gene Vincent. There was a knock down, drag out fight between the crooners and the rock and rollers. There's never been a time like that. That's what makes Dick Clark such a prominent figure in music history. He came in with his clean-cut, good looks and his articulate approach and made mothers feel safe with the music. Dick Clark saw to it that rock and rollers won that war, even though the best of the crooners survived successfully.

Judith: My name is Judith and I found your song, Judy.

Tommy James: You're unlucky. It was the first song I ever wrote and recorded. One of the worst records ever made.

Judith: It's on YouTube.

Tommy: I wrote it for the first girlfriend I ever had.

Judith: Well, any song with a take on my name is a song I love. The famed Chicago disc jockey Larry Lujack recently died. If he did today what he did to you then he would be facing all kinds of lawsuits.

Tommy James: Larry was a friend of mine and yes there would be lots of lawsuits. He would be held libel for something. I detail the story in my autobiography, but when I played him the rough mix of Crimson and Clover I had no idea he was recording.  I walked out of the studio and he then played the rough mix on the air. I didn't sue him or the station. The truth is WLS was my favorite radio station of all time. I spent my childhood and my teen years in Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin, so I always got WLS which was a 50,000 watt radio station. I loved it. They broke so many of my records I couldn't complain much. They blasted the rough mix and then I never got a chance to remix it. That was the record.

Judith: You should be in the rock and roll hall of fame. Period. Period. Period.

Tommy James: I would like it to happen when the movie comes out. I try to be magnanimous about this stuff. When it's my turn I will go in.

Judith: I know you are a Christian. I'm a Christian. The guy running audio today is a Christian. I read you came to Christ after watching Billy Graham on television over 40 years ago. Have you ever recorded Christian music?

Tommy James: I did a Christan album of new songs called Christian of the World back in 1971. At the time, no secular artist had done anything like that before. Well, Elvis Presley recorded a couple of Gospel albums, but no one else had gone in that direction. This was several years before Bob Dylan recorded his Christian albums. It was contemporary Christian music before anyone had coined the term. If I did it today it would be very politically incorrect, but I didn't care. At the time I was a baby Christian, so the music is what it is.

Judith: What are your biggest professional regrets, if you have any?

Tommy James: Not going to Woodstock.  I stayed on my Hawaiian vacation and I should have gotten off the beach and flown to New York. At the time, I just didn't want to go. Of course, not meeting Elvis Presley when I had the opportunity. Elvis asked me to go to Graceland and I didn't go. I went to Nashville to do an album since my lawyer told me to leave New York for a while to avoid a gang war. I worked with a couple of guys who worked with Elvis. Scotty Moore and D.J. Fontana. At some point while we were doing the album Elvis was going to come over. Scotty had called Elvis and Elvis was going to take us to dinner, but then out of nowhere he couldn't come. Scotty thought he was high. I spoke with him and he invited me to his home - Graceland. We were running late with the album and I never got there. Big regret.  He was dead not long after that experience.

Judith: You need to get on Daryl Hall's Live at Daryl's House  program. I love that show. It started on YouTube.

Tommy James: The YouTube people asked me to start a channel so in a few weeks it launches. I'm doing some new music and every couple of weeks we will have a new song up on the Tommy James channel. It's called Inside Tracks with Tommy James.  YouTube will be our new record label.

Judith: Tommy, thank you so much for spending so much time with me to discuss your life in music. I love so many of your songs. Mony Mony, I Think We're Alone Now, Hanky Panky, Mirage, Crimson and Clover, Sweet Cherry Wine, Draggin' the Line and of course, my all-time favorite pop song, the beautiful Crystal Blue Persuasion.

Tommy James: Thank you and I'll see you at the show.

The Tommy James autobiography, Me, the Mob and the Music: One Helluva Ride with Tommy James and the Shondells is one of the best music bios I've ever read. The book is honest, forthright and informative about the music industry and it's entertaining to boot! Check it out. You can purchase a copy on Amazon or on

 Soon To Be a Major Motion Picture

Copyright Chicago and Then Some 2014


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Concert Review: Chicago (the band) with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra is considered one of the finest orchestras in the world, so to be in their presence was quite a high point even if they weren't performing some of the compositions they are used to performing. There was no Mahler, Haydn, Handel, Bach or Beethoven on the play list at last night's performance in the famed orchestra hall, but there was a durable rock/pop/jazz fusion act on the bill.

Chicago is now pushing near the edge of fifty years of performance and their first time ever endeavor with accompaniment by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra didn't fail, in spite of a few grievances along the way of the two hour show.

There were many highlights to the night. One of them was the skillfully played I'm A Man which is one of their original recordings, although not an original song by Chicago. The percussion team of Tris Imboden and Walfredo Reyes Jr. took this oldie and goodie to the top level extreme in percussion. Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa would have been pleased with their determination and dedication to the beat and time.

The ballads of note were Hard Habit to Break and Look Away with a down near stunning vocal interpretation by relative newcomer to the band, Lou Pardini. Original member Lee Loughnane's vocal on the classic and beautifully structured Colour My World was glorious in its simplicity. Loughnane should have been used more on vocals, but then again he needed to play the trumpet. His styling of this oft-heard piece of music was lovely.

Beginnings, which remains one of their staples appears better in its original arrangement and tempo, but this reworked version will have to do. I appreciate this song so much I'll take what I can get.

Hard To Say I'm Sorry/Get Away is clearly one of the stellar achievements in a 47 year career and it is played beautifully with the full majesty of the CSO. Make Me Smile survives as their greatest musical accomplishment.  This song alone guarantees their status as one of the most significant musical acts of the latter part of the 20th century.  Brilliant, and unfortunately too short of a monumental piece of music.

The band closed with 25 or 6 to 4 and the song was elevated by the full orchestra's play of the piece.  It was a fabulous way to end the show.

The guys are entertainers and they obviously are superb actors or they thoroughly enjoy their work to this day. Original horns/woodwinds members Walt Parazaider, Lee Loughnane and James Pankow revel with joy and anticipation throughout the show.

The audience was star studded with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, four Aldermen and Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman. The audience decided to boo the Mayor. Politics aside, this type of frat party (and that is not a compliment) behavior is inappropriate, particularly in a venue of this type. Societally, we have become a bunch of tacky types and we seem to enjoy our hillbilly status. One of the founding members (Walt Parazaider) introduced this celeb crowd and what he should have done when the booing started is to reprimand the audience with a gentle poke of "the band and the orchestra would appreciate your respect for the office of the city we all have represented." Seriously, artists shouldn't just stand there and take it.  First Amendment rights are precious, but booing at these types of events is uncalled for.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra was not fully engaged in much of the show, so that was disappointing. Considering they have one of the unequaled horn sections on planet earth it seemed ridiculous not to have them contributing to this music, particularly since Chicago is a brass-centric band. The CSO should have performed at least one piece of music without the band. The audience was cheated out of their magnificence.  Orchestrations of My Kind of Town and Chicago would have added a nice touch since it was an all Chicago night. Since four of the members of the band have some classical music in their backgrounds why didn't they engage in a classical piece of music?

Richard Kaufman, conductor of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra served as the conductor for the evening. I can't imagine CSO conductor and music director Riccardo Muti doing this type of event, but then again maybe he was off performing elsewhere. You can catch Muti back at the hall on Thursday, January 30 with Yo-Yo Ma, although Muti did connect with the band for a photo op.

One of my favorite songs was not included in the play list. Dialogue is such a great back and forth vocal with differing worldviews that I would suggest it should always be included in their set list. Superb track that is undervalued, even by the band. Dialogue is one of the most thought provoking songs of the rock era. One must think, but while you are thinking you are still engaged in being entertained. Great tune.  

The only down note of the evening was when the normally sophisticated Robert Lamm looked at the audience and said this is the youngest audience the CSO has ever seen. Clearly, he doesn't know who is attending the CSO's performances since their audiences skew younger than this crowd.

This same weekend the band will be inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Unfortunately for them they have to perform with Robin Thicke and pretend that is a good thing. They will have to perform a song that gives glory to the exploitation of women and rape. How many times can one say "bitch" in a song and seemingly get away with it?

Chicago has famously not been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame even though they were eligible for induction over 20 years ago. If you get the chance to see them in concert take that opportunity.  Life is brief and fragile and Chicago are one of the great acts of the last 50 years of music.

Current Members of the Band: Robert Lamm, Walt Parazaider, Lee Loughnane, James Pankow, Jason Scheff, Keith Howland, Tris Imboden, Walfredo Reyes, Jr., Lou Pardini

Copyright Chicago and Then Some 2014