Friday, July 10, 2015

The Ides Of March - Part 4

Wrapping up our special Ides Of March Series today with a look at the 4th disc in the brand new box set ... as well as the bonus DVD disc!  Remember, you can order YOUR copy here:    


If you have seen the Ides of March over the past decade or so, you will immediately recognize the opening song of disc four.  "Friendly Stranger" has been used to open the Ides pre-concerts for many years.  I love it!  It IS the "Vehicle Overture" for sure!  This whole CD comprises what has happened from the early 90's to today:  The reincarnation of the Ides!  You get four tracks from the reunion "Ideology" CD, starting with the great "Spirit of Chicago" anthem, featuring guests from other top Chicago bands.  Some great rock music and lyrics encompass "I'd Love Her Anyway" and "Love Don't Choose."  "Age Before Beauty" is yet another really GREAT retrospective of the band that became their signature track from their 1997 CD.  "Moon Out Of Phase" is another acoustic journey.  "One Hit Wonder" is my fave on this CD, as it looks at the Ides and how many outsiders think of them as a "one hit wonder." Their 50 year career really shows they are not the same as Mungo Jerry, the Cuff Links, and the Singing Nun (all mentioned in the lyrics along with many more).  "Come Dancing" gets remixed from their 2010 CD here.  As with each CD in this set, the Ides have another long cover version.  This time, it is the Beatles' "A Day In The Life."  It runs longer here because it is slower, but makes up for the length with the shortness of the last note.  Haha.  I love the new electric alarm clock sound replacing the original's hand wound clock sound.  

Next, there are a couple of live tracks from 2005, as the band remembers playing scratchy 45s in "The Forgotten Oldie." "Pepperhead" looks back at friends of 1959 and foretells of the return of vinyl records BEFORE this new "old" trend got going again!  Ending this CD are six tracks from their 2010 "Still 19" CD.  "Secrets of a Woman" recalls classic Ides sounds, "Soul to Soul" could have been a Toto record back when and "For One Moment" is much more poignant today, with the racial troubles in our streets, than it would have been when released in 2010.  "Still 19" continues the lyrical return to the Ides as kids, even mentioning Jim P's first singing gig in Berwyn, Illinois, of the Beatles' "Tell Me Why" (You can read all about it in his autobiography book from last year). The song even mentions how labels misspelled the band's name back when.  "Live Life" gives hints to live your life NOW or it will be gone when you look the other way.  Closing the CD section of this set of four is Jim's email closing tag line.  It is always "Keep Rockin'."  Throw a little Sugarloaf and Golden Earring together with Ides brass and you gotta "keep rockin'." 
-- Clark Besch      

Since the band got back together, they have continued to record and release new material.  The three brand new tracks on Disc One of this CD Box Set prove that The Ides Of March are still rockin' well into the millennium ... maybe even more so than before.  (As I mentioned earlier, Disc Four ... featuring nothing but new and recent material ... is my favorite disc in the box set!)  Concerts and recording sessions are worked into Jim Peterik's busy schedule.  Along the way he has worked with some of the biggest names in rock and roll show business and his World Stage continues to spotlight both many of the biggest names in rock as well as brand new discoveries.  In between, The Ides continue to put on one hell of a show ... and entertain us with some great new music.  

kk:  Decades later ... after several solo outings and a stint with Survivor ... you decided to reform The Ides Of March.  Was it difficult to approach the original core band again after so much time away from one another?  What had they been doing musically while your career was sky-rocketing in so many different directions?  Obviously they kept their musical chops up to snuff or this couldn't have happened. 

JP:  Ha! At first, not so much. Mike had not touched his drums since we played a one off version of "Vehicle" at his wedding in, I think, 1989. So restoring the "Vehicle" took a lot of love and care. I remember that first rehearsal for our comeback concert at Berwyn Summerfaire where we were literally relearning our songs off the vinyl. It took three months of rehearsal to be ready for that show.   

kk:  Still, this had to be a little strange to approach the guys again after so many years.  But the truth is, after traveling the world with Survivor, you elected to come "home" and get The Ides Of March going again.  How did that come about?  Had you stayed in touch with all the guys during your other adventures?  Was there a very receptive, resounding "yes" from everybody?  Or were there perhaps some hard feelings that they had been left behind and this was more of a "charity begins at home" situation?  (It almost feels like a musical blessing to see all four original members together again on stage after a 50 year run ... proof that in fact sometimes you really CAN go home again ... and, in truth, the band has never sounded better ... but did this all just fall back into place after all those years or was this something that everybody was a little bit apprehensive about for fear it might disappear again?)

JP:  I was ready for the call from Berwyn Summerfaire to strike up The Ides again, as was every member to the man. I was in Survivor limbo at the time.  The Ides decided that we would not do the reunion show unless everyone could do it.  Guess what - unanimous.  We did have to add a keyboardist and we called our buddy Danny Hagadorn of DJ's Music for a recommendation. He said one name ... Scott May ... and he's been rocking with us ever since.  

kk:  There is SO much good NEW material included on the box ... the title track, "Last Band Standing", is outstanding, and an immediate great concert staple.  I have always loved "One Hit Wonder" and have gotten several deejays on our list to feature this track when spotlighting one hit wonders on their radio programs.  This track proves that you're as much a fan of this music as you are a creator.  How did this one come about?  A VERY clever idea paying tribute to a who's who of one-hit wonders.  (And I love the fact that you even poke fun at The Ides Of March in this category ... although I've heard you say before "Shouldn't we have had at least 1 1/2 hits???")

JP:  Ha! glad you like the new stuff. Last Band Standing is the first song Mike Borch and I have written since Bald Medusa back in 1970!  It tells the history of the band in around four minutes time and features the Peavey Telecaster licks of one of our heroes, Steve Cropper.  He was in Chicago to do a show with the Ides and stayed an extra days to come to the studio. We were so honored. 

The Ides Of March ... with Steve Cropper ... they even did a few shows together a couple of years ago  

kk:  Over the years you've been fortunate to have had the opportunities to write with any number of great artists ... and your book (as well as the "Songwriting For Dummies" book) captures the exciting feel of finding that special "hook" or special lyric that brings a song home and allows it to connect with an audience.  For the last several years, one of those artists that you've been collaborating with has been Brian Wilson, the genius behind The Beach Boys' sound.  What has that experience been like?  And how did it feel the first time you heard a song that you had helped write come out of the voices of this legendary band? 

JP:  This experience is really beyond words. I consider it right up there with "Vehicle" and "Eye of the Tiger" in terms of personal satisfaction.  It was the perfect storm where everything just clicked. I close my book with me and my family and Larry and his family sitting at the Chicago Theater (after hanging with the Beach Boys backstage) and just pinching ourselves as they played the song we wrote with Brian Wilson - "That's Why God Made the Radio."  Suddenly my mind went back to playing "Fun Fun Fun" and "Dance Dance Dance" on the stage on the Morton West gym - never imagining for a second that we would someday be writing songs for them. Wow!

Disc Four:  I'd be hard-pressed to pick a track I didn't like on this disc.  "Friendly Stranger (Vehicle Overture") is exactly that ... it is this track that opens every Ides Of March concert these days.  "Spirit Of Chicago" features a Midwest Who's Who of talent, including Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick, Frankie Sullivan of Survivor, Dennis DeYoung, formerly of Styx, Jim Peterik protege (and current lead vocalist of Jefferson Airplane) Cathy Richardson, Gary Loizzo, former lead singer of The American Breed and a few others (Jim Ellison, John Melnick and David Carl), all lending a hand to support The Ides on this 1991 track.  "Age Before Beauty", "Come Dancing", and my personal favorite, "One Hit Wonder" also grace this disc.  "Secrets Of A Woman" and "Soul To Soul" BOTH could have been hit singles had the planets been aligned properly.  "Forgotten Oldie" (maybe THAT's where they got my erroneous website information!) and "Pepperhead" fit together hand in glove ... and both tracks were recorded live at The Arcada Theatre in St. Charles, IL, one of our favorite regular hang-outs these days.  The gospel-tinged "For One Moment", the biographical "Still" and the 2010 Rock Anthem "Live Life" liven up the set ... like I said, not a dog in the bunch!

The Ides also do another one of their 9-minute synch-psych-rock pieces, this time to The Beatles' "A Day In The Life", updated to include a digital alarm clock ... and a horn riff right out of Chicago's "Feelin' Stronger Every Day".  This disc's a gem from start to finish ... and shows again why The Ides Of March are still a vital part of the music scene.  (kk)

OK, it's VIDEO time!  I won't go track by track, but you'll get the Ides' magic live show here.  Catch them at Chicago's' great "House of Blues" filmed perfectly by Greg Bizzaro's film staff.  Besides the stories behind the hits and many of the songs the Ides recorded and you have heard so far, there's that period between Ides unions, in the 1980's, when Peterik wrote hits for his band Survivor and .38 Special.  With songs like "High on You," "Caught Up in You," and "Eye of the Tiger" plus others, this DVD adds the missing decade of the 80's to bring the 1965 - 2015 era to completion.  Some highlights include Jim's pronunciation of Berwyn (ala Svengoolie!), a hypnotizing "L.A. Goodbye" (filmed wonderfully) and so many versions of "Vehicle" that it will make your head spin.  That's because there are great vintage clips of the band from 1970 as bonus cuts and even a spotlight dance with Dick Clark circa 1966!  You'll get to see the new video for the song "Last Band Standing" and a fun visit from blues legend, Buddy Guy. 

The House Of Blues concert footage gives the viewer a pretty good idea of what to expect at a live Ides Of March Show.  I can only tell you that when you're there the energy level jumps up about another 3000% ... there's just something about the way The Ides make you "feel" their music.

I WILL go over some of the track highlights ... in concert, The Ides are able to feature many of the great tracks that Jim Peterik has been involved with over the years ... as such, they feature not only their own biggest hits (like "You Wouldn't Listen", "Aire Of Good Feeling", "L.A. Goodbye" "Superman" and, of course, "Vehicle") ... but also hits by Survivor ... "High On You", "Is This Love", "The Search Is Over" and "Eye Of The Tiger" ... as well as a couple of tracks written with the members of .38 Special, sitting around Jim Peterik's kitchen table!  ("Hold On Loosely" and "Caught Up In You").   You'll even find some "Behind The Music"-type interview clips woven in and out of the live selections, telling you a little bit more about both the song's ... and the band's origins. 

The vintage Dick Clark / American Bandstand piece from 1966 is outstanding in all its early glory ... and it's SO cool to hear Ron Riley, my favorite jock from that era, on the phone with Dick Clark offering up an example of what sounds are really hot in Chicago right now. 

In between we even get a brand new video showing off the disc's title (and kick-off) track, "Last Band Standing." 

I agree with Clark about the saturation of "Vehicle" clips ... how many of these do we need to see?  But this WAS the vehicle that got them on to the main stage and back then repeated television appearances was the key to getting your latest hit record into the hands of the consumer ... so I DO love seeing these, if only for historical value's sake. 

There are several other concert videos available through The Ides Of March website ... but this one is definitely a "keeper"!  (kk)  

It is hard to find any site that shows the track listings for this massive project, but hopefully, you will learn enough here to get an idea just how much material there is here. 

HEY, if you haven't been convinced by now to buy this set for $50 or so (usually) while it is still in print, well, I guess "You Wouldn't Listen to me!"  Get "Last Band Standing."  You won't regret it! 
-- Clark Besch 

This is a beautifully done box (80 audio tracks and 18 video clips ... a pretty all-encompassing set!) and works as a very  fitting tribute to the talent of our local heroes.  More for the diehards than the casual fans?  Yes, probably so ... or for those curious to know what OTHER sounds they may have missed by Chicago's own Ides Of March.   (All I can tell you is that I've listened into the entire box set four times now ... and am still not ready to put it away yet.)  

In hindsight it seems that Jimmy never really stopped trying to reinvent the band.  Some ideas worked better than others ... but the initial magic of capturing the sound of the horns mixed with his gritty vocals and scorching guitar work has never stopped.  This IS the vehicle that brought them here ... and the journey has yet to stop.  (kk) 

Order your copy of this limited edition box set here:  

Forgotten Hits has been spreading the word about The Ides Of March for sixteen years now.  (Type "Ides Of March" into our website search engine and literally DOZENS of entries will pop up ... including some VERY cool ... and exclusive pieces ... covered nowhere else.) 

A couple of stand-out recent pieces include our review of Jim Peterik's biography, found here:

Ordering Link:  

A few years back we were there for the street-naming ceremony dedicating Ides Of March Way ... you can read our full report here:

kk:  Having gone to Morton West, I know you guys always returned to "home base", even holding what was to be your "farewell concert" there in the early '70's.  Now the street that runs adjacent to the high school is named Ides Of March Way.  What special place in your heart does Morton West hold for you and the other members of The Ides? 

JP:  That school will always be a huge part of our loves and history.  Although it was only four years, it felt like a lifetime. We had some great teachers - my psych teacher, JR Wilson, comes to mind. And the school band, led by Mr McCormick and Joe Frantic was awesome. To have the street that runs in front named for us is truly epic.    

kk:  What's next for The Ides Of March?  You recently did a 50th Anniversary Concert featuring some of the other '60's Chicagoland Headliners.  Might this show eventually see the light of day as a home video release?  Any upcoming shows you care to talk about?  Roughly how many dates a year do you perform with The Ides these days?  Will you be performing quite a bit in the area this summer?  What about a couple more "Chicago Gold" shows like the one organized as The Benefit Concert For Marty Grebb?  Folks are STILL buzzing about that show all these weeks later.  Or a new album perhaps for The Ides?  What do you see when you look down the road? 

JP:  It varies from year to year. Our best year - I believe 2007 - we did 45 shows - most of them significant fairs and fests.  Right now it's all about promoting the box set ... but I've already got some new ones cooking for The Ides including a new Christmas song we will be premiering at our holiday show on December 5th at the Arcada Theatre.  It is also looking good for a reprisal of the Cornerstones of Chicago Rock in 2016.    

The Ides Christmas Show is really something to see ... you'll find our review for THAT concert right here ...  
Would LOVE to see some of our Forgotten Hits Readers at this year's show. And be sure to check The Ides' website for other upcoming shows in your area ... these guys blow the doors off in a live setting.

A final round of ordering links are below ... you'll want to pick up both the brand new, limited edition Ides Of March 50th Anniversary Box Set ...  

As well as a copy of Jim's best-selling (and highly acclaimed biography) ...  

kk:  Thanks agin, Jimbo ... I appreciate it.  
JP:  Thanks to you,  Kent - you're the best!!