AMERICA – Rich Paschall

With the fiftieth anniversary of the band looming on the horizon, Chicago has no intention of giving up.  Things have changed over the years, but remarkably, the sound remains as vibrant as ever.  Terry Kath, keyboards and bass, died of an accidental gun shot wound in 1978.  Peter Cetera left the band in 1985 for a solo career.  Original drummer Danny Seraphine was dismissed in 1990.  There are two sides (or more) to that story.  Original sax player Walt Parazaider, oldest of the group, does not make all the shows and is increasingly covered by Ray Hermann.  The current lineup as been together quite a while and their most recent album is a winner.  Chicago was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016.

A view from Chicago, the band

Chicago has been around a long time. No, I don’t mean the city, I mean the band. In 1967, five guys from DePaul University recruited a sixth from Roosevelt University and started a band known as The Big Thing. Soon they recruited a tenor, moved to California, and changed their name to Chicago Transit Authority. In 1968 they released a self-titled, double album that included some of their biggest hits and led them down the road to a Hall of Fame career.  After threat of legal action by the home town transit authority, the band shortened its name and the rest is pop history.

Their pop, rock, jazz infused sound was ground breaking.  In an era of bands that included a guitar player, bass player, and a drummer, Chicago’s music majors were letting a trumpet, a trombone and a saxophone lead the way.  It was a sound that led to more groups backed by horns.

As with many bands of the time period, they had their share of songs with social messages.  A war protest song (It Better End Soon), a song following the moon-landing (Where Do We Go From Here?) and a political commentary (Dialogue, Part I & II).  They certainly did not rely on this type of song, but they were not afraid of them either.

As the decades rolled on they just may have relied a little more heavily on ballads and soft rock.  That’s why it is interesting to find that Chicago is back with another album, Chicago Now, aka Chicago XXXVI, with a heavy reliance on the type of horn sounds of their early years and a commentary on the American scene.

America, America is free!
America is you and me!

America, the third track on the newly released album, was actually available for download in the fall of 2013.  With music and lyrics by founding member Lee Loughnane, it is not a throwback to another era, but a push forward for a band that has done something older bands are reluctant to do.  That is, put out an album of new material.

The dream was fading before our eyes
Take some time to revive it.
‘We the people’ must start right now
Don’t expect our leaders to show us how
They don’t have a clue what to do
If they knew how to stop this slide
We’d have seen some signs by now
To turn back the tide.

Lou Pardini provides keyboards and lead vocals for this anthem.  The beauty of the chorus and its tight harmony is in contrast to the attack of Pardini on the verses.  At times he is almost at a growling pace as he delivers his lines and the song’s message.

We can’t keep havin’ you make our rules
When you treat us common folk like fools
It’s time to stand up for our rights
Put congress in our political sights.
Make them pass laws that help us all
The Founding Fathers echo
Will be heard in the hall
By the people, for the people, everyone equal.

If you thought Chicago was gone, even though they tour every year and have periodically released new music, they are “NOW” back and they mean business. Watch the video below for the lyrics and yes, that is the Chicago skyline at the opening.  What did you expect?


Which Ones Hold Your Memories? by Rich Paschall

A lot of people have a song or two that are special to them.  It might be their prom theme song or other high school or college dance song.  It might be their first dance from their wedding.  It just might be the song that was playing when they met or when they first realized they were in love.

The special song could be one remembered from a rock concert or play.  It maybe the one that was on the radio when you were off on a road trip.  You know the one!  Everyone sang along at the top of their voices.  When you meet now and hear that song, everyone sings it again, just like 20, 30, or even 40 years ago.

Here is my top ten list.  They all hold special memories and if I was to write this tomorrow, the order might change completely, except for number one.  That would stay the same.  First I have some honorable mentions from recent years.

I have seen Maroon 5 in concert a number of times in recent years, but I really like Sunday Morning for a memory it evokes.  I also love David Archuleta’s Touch My Hand for the thoughts it gives of being on stage but singing to just one person.  Hunter Hayes touches a chord with the recent Invisible.  I mentioned it previously here.  I will also add One Republic’s Apologize, as in “it’s too late to apologize.”

10.  Ferry Cross the Mersey, Gerry and the Pacemakers.  This 1965 hit seemed to play constantly on a road trip to Galena, Illinois.  You had to love top 40 radio in those days.

9.  Sister Golden Hair, America.  This 1975 number one hit was a favorite of Chicago radio personality Larry Lujack.

8.  Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? Chicago.  Recorded for the band’s first album, Chicago Transit Authority, 1969, it was released as a single the following year.

7.  Save The Last Dance For Me, The Drifters The 1960 hit came back around a number of times and by several artists.  If you saw the final episode of season one of Queer As Folk, no further explanation of its meaning to me would be necessary.

6.  Good Vibrations, The Beach Boys  I guess I could have picked several Beach Boys Songs for this spot, especially Heroes and Villains.  They recall a particular era for me.

5.  Color My World, Chicago.  Again off the “CTA” album.  It was a popular theme for dances, proms, weddings.  The late Terry Kath did lead vocals on the hit song.  These days original member and trumpet player Lee Loughnane sings it.  Here it is founding member Robert Lamm on vocals:

4.  Horse With No Name, America  It is a favorite of my closest friend and it became our road trip song.  This 1972 hit was written and sung by band member Dewey Bunnell.

3.  That’s Life, Frank Sinatra, 1966  A friend who ran karaoke often asked me to sing it.  If she had no one to start off her show, she would just announce that I would be starting and play this, even if I was not going to sing anything.  I ended up singing it a lot:

2.  Cherish, The Association.  A friend asked me to write a lyric for his sister’s wedding song.  Someone else asked me after the wedding how I thought to rhyme cherish with perish (as in, “their love will never perish”).  Listen and discover:

1. Beginnings, Chicago  I saw them in concert at DePaul University when the first album was hot and the hits were being released one after another.  This was the theme of many dances and certainly many weddings and proms.  I can not adequately explain the memories that go with this song.  From my seat on Chicago’s lakefront:

Add your favorites in the comments below.  Maybe we will sing along with you.


Just Steve and the Piano, Rich Paschall

Perhaps if you are lucky, you get to meet one of the celebrities you write about. Maybe it is easier in a big city where celebrities will often pass through.  Even then, meeting them at the venue or bumping into them on the street would seem rather remote.  I guess it happens.

Steve Grand lived in the Chicago area and actually worked in the neighborhood.  No, I had never met him.  Before his break-out album, All-American Boy, I had never heard of him so if I passed him on the street, I would not have known anyway.  If you have been following this space, you may have noticed the article presented here on his music.  You certainly would have remembered the publicity photo.

All-American Boy

All-American Boy

In a city like Chicago you might think there would be plenty of opportunities to see a local talent, especially after he has had some success.  Aside from the album release party in 2015 and a one performance appearance in Rent at the Athenaeum Theater, there was no opportunity to see him last year.

There are a number of small clubs where the talent probably makes little money and performs for the experience, exposure or love of the craft.  There are also plenty of big theaters, arenas and stadiums in the area.  Midsize clubs that can seat enough people to draw in talent like Steve are lacking.

Fortunately, a new space opened in Chicago with a room just right for such shows.  Actually, I should say it is a re-done space.  I had been there in a previous incarnation, but this time it seems much more versatile. A club called Seven has opened in a place that has seen a number of businesses over the years.  Maybe this one will stick and bring us a better range of entertainment.

Steve Grand at Seven

Steve Grand at Seven

The club seating is general admission with a twist.  One price level of tickets gets you anywhere in the first three rows, and the second level price gets you a seat anywhere else.  I was early enough to grab a front row seat while others headed to the bar out front or in the performance space.  I did not know until later that I was seated about ten feet from Steve’s parents.

The small stage would not fit many people, but this was just Steve and the piano.  The bulk of the show featured songs from the album, All-American Boy, although he did not play every one of them.  You miss the production values of the album, but being close to the performer and hearing the stripped down instrumentation give the songs a much more intimate feel.  You could tell that Steve slowed some of the songs down from the album version.

At the piano

At the piano

A few cover songs were sprinkled into the mix.  Steve admits that Elton John was an influence on him, primarily because Elton plays piano and sings.  Steve did well with “Bennie and the Jets.”  He also gave us a much better version of “Sorry” than Justin Bieber is giving us.  Not only was there some feeling to the song, but Steve is a better singer.

He could have skipped the cover of Adele’s overdone Hello.  It’s not that it was not a good job, but it immediately calls up a comparison with the rather bombastic version Adele has all over the airways right now.  In truth, Steve toned it down to give it some depth of feeling that all of Adele’s shouting can not provide.

Steve Grand

Steve Grand

We learned that Steve is in fact working on a new album and hopes to have something out later in the year.  He spoke briefly of the amazing year that passed.  As a high-profile gay performer, he was in demand at a lot of Pride events in the historic past year.  He was also invited to play overseas.  This year, South Africa will be on his list of stops.  We hope Chicago will be on the list again.

After the show Steve spent a lot of time to “meet and greet.”  He took pictures with many and signed some autographs.  Throughout the show and afterwards, he was warm and gracious.  He seemed to revel in the rare appearance before a home town crowd in a neighborhood where he used to work.

Meet and Greet

Meet and Greet

While Steve was meeting people, I spoke with his mother for about ten minutes.  I told her I loved the album but could not follow the story of the last song.  I said that it obviously was not Steve’s story.  She told me that it was indeed based on a real story, and she told me about the high school trip of 2006 to California that he refers to in the song.  She even told me there was a video, which I had never seen.  So I chased it down.  His mother was just as pleasant as Steve, or perhaps I should put that the other way around.



Share in the great thoughts, Rich Paschall

What are your great and random thoughts on any topic? Comment below and remember the more random, the better. Also remember, I have to keep it civil, so you do too.

Donald Trump is on the cover of Esquire as “Hater in Chief.”  Has it come to the point in our history where we will elect someone we all agree is a hater?

Was Marco Rubio really born in Miami?  I want to see his birth certificate.

Ted Cruz was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada and applied to formally renounce his Canadian citizenship, which happened May 14, 2014.  His father is Cuban.

Cruz was a complainer about whether President Obama was born in Hawaii and that his father was not American.

Where are the Cruz “birthers?”  Oh wait, those Republicans do not want too much egg on their faces.

Do you think all these random thoughts are easy?  I have to stop every three sentences and get a cookie.

Is it officially hot chocolate weather?

If my marsh mellows are left over from last year, can I still use them for hot chocolate?  S’mores?

If you do not have a team in the NFL play-offs do you really care?

Do you still watch the Super Bowl just for the commercials?

How many think a concert in the middle of the game is appropriate?  How about before the game so we can cut down on the six to eight hours of pre-game analysis on various networks.

Pre-game analysis on the NFL Network official begins two weeks before the game.

I still want to see the Super Bowl in a snow storm.

Will the NFL have their lawyers send me a cease and desist order for using the words “Super” and “Bowl” along side of one another?  I guess they are a rather unique combination of words requiring a trademark.

Giant flakes of wet snow look really nice coming down, until you have to shovel it up.

Healthy couples with healthy teenage children should be made to shovel their walks or face fines…just saying.

I don’t think I ever made a snow angel and I am not going to start in a wet snow.

I bought a ticket to see an act I never heard of (R5) so that I could see the opener, MAX Schneider.

There are many videos that will show off his singing better than this one, but this one is more fun.

I bought a ticket to see Steve Grand. I had written about the All-American Boy in the past, but never got a chance to see a live performance.



I am excited that Chicago is being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  I have seen them at many venues around town and I was never disappointed.

Chicago in Chicago, August 2014

Chicago in Chicago, August 2014

Tom Law supports some of his music videos via a website called Patreon.  That is where you can be a patron for each video for any amount you wish.  At a high enough level you get to chat with Tom and even get his music a little before it comes out.

Chicago is at the United Center in April.  I have never seen them there.  mmmmm?

Chicago Cub fever is already beginning.  It’s not even time for Spring Training.

Why does the election season have to be so long?  Why?

Why does the baseball season have to be so long?

Some “charities” I have never supported have sent me more mailings over the years than I could count.

Some charities I have supported have sent me so much mail I wonder if they have made any money off me.

Don’t bother telling charities to stop sending snail mail.  It doesn’t seem to help.  It seems to work for email.

I saw a facebook meme that claimed President Eisenhower ended segregated schools by executive order.  I guess they never heard of the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education.

Here’s what I have to say about facebook memes.  “Snopes!”

A 19-year-old Australian boy, Joel Adams, seems to be moving up the charts with one of his own songs solely off social media hype by fans.  At first it did not do well and they were giving it away (I downloaded it.)  You can go to itunes for it now.

I guess it is tough to lip sync your own song.  That is what they are doing in the music videos.  Tom Law says when he does not get it just right, that’s when you cut to another angle or some shot where you do not see him singing.  Ooops, did I give away an industry secret?  Nah.

Winter, Chicago and this guy!


A Tale of Two Cities, by Rich Paschall

Recently The Daily Prompt asked this question: “If you could split your time evenly between two places, and two places only, which would these be?”  Normally I am not a Daily Prompt kind of guy.  I am on the subscriber list, but usually by the time I read the email notice, it is a day or two later and I just delete.  This one sounded rather intriguing, so I stashed it away for later use.

St Petersburg bridgeIf you have been visiting this space regularly, you may have noticed that Marilyn responded to the question when is was posted over a week ago.  If you read SERENDIPITY, her choices would not have been a surprise to you.  If you missed it, you can run right over there now and read her response.  You will find it here.  Don’t forget to come back!

What would you pick?  Would your home town be included?  Would your current residence be a choice?  Remember, in this scenario you can have any two cities.  Shall it be a northern city for summer and a warmer climate for winter?  I guess you can reverse that if you are in the Southern Hemisphere.  If you are close enough to the Equator, you have no need to move away from the cold.

Maybe you need somewhere exotic as one of your stops.  Fiji comes to my mind.  There must be somewhere in the South Pacific that is warm and inviting.  If you think we must be restricted to cities, then I will say that Nadi, Fiji has about 50,000 people so we will count it as a city rather than a village.  If your home is in Nadi, I guess you can still spend plenty of time on a beach on the other side of the island.

How about a European capital?  I have always found London inviting.  Author Samuel Johnson once famously stated, “…when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”  I guess that could be said of many of the great cities of the world.  I found Rome, Paris and Brussels all to be interesting and vibrant cities.  I have not been to other European capital cities.  Perhaps our choice of two cities should include one unknown and one known.

If you have not been to the other side of the world from where you are, would you chose a city solely on the recommendation of others?   Would you do an internet search of other places, or strictly stay with what you know?

When my father retired and moved from the cold of the Midwest to Florida, I began to understand the attraction of what they called “snowbirds” in the South.  These were the people who kept their homes in the north, but spent the winters in the south.  I loved Tampa, Clearwater, Sarasota and many of the Gulf cities.  I could see doing exactly that.  Perhaps your second city would be in another warm climate.  Arizona? Southern California? Hawaii?

Actually, it did not take me long to settle on two spots.  When I eliminated the fantasies and considered what is most important, I knew the answers.  First would be Chicago.  It is a world-class city with world-class attractions.  It has major sports teams and fine stadiums, old and new.  It has theater and concert venues and the major shows and Rock and Roll acts make it here when they tour.  There is a lakefront that stretches the entire east side of the city, with open parkland, beaches and museums.  Chicago Skyline

Al Capone does not live here.  We are not the murder capital of the country, we are not even in the top 10.  We do get a lot of publicity when there is crime.  Like every big city, we have big city problems.  I would say these problems are increased by the NRA suing the city over any attempt to keep guns away from gangs and criminals, but that is another column.  We have friendly people who celebrate diversity.

You may not have heard of my other choice.  I guess it is not really a city, but rather a small town of about 20,000 people.  It is in the beautiful Alsace region of France.  You will find small towns with ancient buildings sprinkled among the vineyards.  In the distance on top of some of the hills, you will find castles left from centuries ago.  If you say that this will not do, I must pick a larger “city,” I will move a short distance to the north and the lovely city of Strasbourg, capital of the European Union.

Why would I pick such completely different places on two different continents?  Why would I choose places that have  similar climates, where neither will escape the snow and cold?  How could I spend half a year in a big city and half in a small town which holds none of the major attractions?  The answer to me is quite simple.Selestat

The locale is no longer the most important consideration when deciding where to live.  At one time it may have been important.  When I am retired and tired of shoveling snow, maybe I would desire the warm weather locations.  Now it is about family and friends.  Aunts and cousins of various generations are here in Chicago.  Friends made recently and friends since childhood are here too.

In France is one of my best friends.  He spent a year here in 2009 and when he left we maintained our friendship through visits once or twice a year, here and in France.  When I go to France we always see things I have not seen before, so it is great adventure.  If he was somewhere else in France, then I would name that city instead.  Spending time with family and close friends, no matter where they reside, makes their locations the places I want to be.  For now my choices are Chicago, Illinois and Communauté de communes de Sélestat et environs.  Where are your two homes to be?


The Soundtrack of Your Life, Rich Paschall

You have probably heard that phrase before. Oldies radio stations love to use it. They want you to think they are playing the soundtrack of our lives. You know what they mean. They want you to think that they are playing the songs you remember from when you were younger.  That could mean a few years ago or a few decades ago, depending on who they are pitching their playlist at. What is the soundtrack of your life?

After you leave your twenties, your soundtrack is probably set with the most often played and most often heard music. We inevitably love the music of our teens and twenties. It is linked to those big moments that never leave our memory banks. They could be high school dances and proms. They could be college dances and parties. They probably include weddings and select family events. It certainly includes your record, tape, and/or CD collections. In future years our soundtracks will all be held in digital form in some cloud that you can download when you feel nostalgic.

It is certain that people from 16 years old to those who saw the beginning of the rock era can tell you the songs that meant the most to them, that held the greatest memories. I feel confident in saying that these songs will come from earlier years. This is not just because it holds true for me, but it does for many of my friends. This is reflected in the crowds that show up to concerts. In the two past years I have seen Fleetwood Mac, The Rolling Stones, Chicago, Reo Speedwagon as well as Barbara Streisand, Barry Manilow, Tony Bennett and Brian Wilson. These stars continue to fill concert venues across the country with people who may have seen them generations ago. The reason is not a mystery. They wrote and performed our soundtrack, and the people who connect with that music continue to go to see them.

Of course, I go to see current acts. I have also seen One Republic, Maroon 5, Hunter Hayes, Lifehouse, Bruno Mars and a few others with more current hits. I like their music, but their songs do not hold the nostalgic connection I feel when I see Paul McCartney or Neil Diamond.  When I saw The Monkees, minus the then recently departed Davy Jones, I heard screaming inside the Chicago Theater as I came through the door. It was as if the place was filled with teenagers and I rushed in to see what was the commotion. Mickey Dolenz was just starting Last Train to Clarksville as the AARP set were reacting as if it was 1966 and they were teenagers. Yes, there were younger people in the crowd.  These songs were not on their soundtrack, but they were ours.

While leaving the Davy Jones songs to a couple of music videos from their 1960’s television show, The Monkees delighted a crowd with an evening of hits. The band’s recording of a Neal Diamond composition, I’m a Believer, was the last number 1 song of 1966 and the biggest selling song of 1967.

One thing the Rolling Stones do not lack after all these decades is energy. Maroon 5 may want to Move Like Jagger, but only Mick can do that, and he still does.

The opening of Moves Like Jagger is shaky as everyone jumped to their feet, so of course I had to also:

Without a doubt, the number 1 song on my soundtrack is Beginnings by Chicago. The 1969 song, written by band member Robert Lamm, failed to chart on its first go around. A rerelease in 1971 when the band was red-hot brought success to a song that was featured at dances, proms, graduations and weddings for many years to come. The album version ran 7 minutes and 55 seconds while the “radio version” ran about 3 minutes. In July 2010 I did not have a camera that could zoom in close or record in HD, but it got decent sound so I have this piece of nostalgia:

THE DAILY POST:  Playlist of the Week


The meaning of the annual celebration, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

German-American Festival, Chicago

German-American Festival, Chicago

It seems every community wants to have an Oktoberfest.  It doesn’t matter if they have any idea what the Oktoberfest actually is.  They just want to have one.  Perhaps some think if they have enough music and beer, then they have a Fest.  Our community is no exception.  Chicago’s largest ethnic group is German-American so we think we know how to have a Fest.  As street festivals go, it is pretty good.  It is not an Oktoberfest like you would find in Germany.

Some of my friends have the Oktoberfest in Munich on their Bucket List.  They think I should want to be a party to this too.  The older I get, the worse this idea actually sounds.  For those who don’t know, around six million visitors show up for the 17 to 19 day festival.  If you do not have a reservation in advance, you are not likely to get into one of the crowded beer halls.  In fact, huge crowds of beer drinkers can get rather unhappy if you run out of beer, as happened at the 200th anniversary in 2010.

The Bavarian festival began in October 1810 when Crown Prince Ludwig got married and invited the people of Bavaria to join in the celebration on the field in front of the city gate at Munich.  The celebration was held somewhat annually and eventually lengthened.  It’s beginning was moved into September and ended with the first weekend in October.  So in many ways this “Volksfest” is more of a September event.  If the 3rd (German Unity Day) falls on a Monday or Tuesday, the event gets extended to include that date.

Stuttgart, Germany

Stuttgart, Germany

Contrary to what many may now think, the event was not always held.  Twenty four fall seasons saw no festival because of cholera, or war, or hard economic times.  But most years the autumnal celebrations go on around Germany and tourists flock to the carnival like events.  For those who like to wander the grounds or can not get into a hall, the outside areas now include carnival rides, food booths and beer booths.  You might find a seat outside, but the fall weather is not always accommodating.

Cannstatter Volksfest

Cannstatter Volksfest

In 2010 a friend who lives in France tried to organize a trip to Oktoberfest, but the reality is you must plan a year in advance in order to get in.  So we made the best decision we could have made.  Together we went to the second largest German Fest which is held in Stuttgart, Cannstatter Volksfest.  Yes, it was crowded and the weather was not the best, but we got into beer halls, drank and ate with people from around the world, stood on our benches and sang songs we barely knew.  It could not have been better.  Perhaps the best part was sharing in the fun with one of my best friends.  Yes, we seem to have fun wherever our adventures take us, but we would not have found an atmosphere quite like that anywhere else in the world.

Note:  Click on the Stuttgart picture for a larger version of the fair grounds.  We did walk around in the rain, just like everyone else.