Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Ides Of March Get Their Way

We were amongst the crowd in Berwyn last weekend when The Ides Of March were honored with the dedication of "Ides Of March Way", a stretch of pavement not far from Morton West High School where the four original members of the band graduated High School between 1966 and 1968.

Despite a BEAUTIFUL day, the festivities were moved inside the Auditorium of the High School to better accommodate the crowd that had gathered to pay tribute to our "Local Boys Done Good."

In a VERY moving ceremony, Jim Peterik remarked that had somebody told him that the path he used to walk to school every day ... from Oak Park Avenue to Riverside Drive and then over to Home Avenue ... would one day be named "Ides Of March Way", he wouldn't have believed it in a million years.

Founding members Larry Millas, Jim Peterik, Mike Borch and Bob Bergland started the band (as The Shon-Dels) while still in grade school back in 1964. A year later they recorded their first record "Like it Or Lump It" on their own record label (which went absolutely nowhere ... but is probably worth a FORTUNE today, assuming you could even FIND a copy!!!)

Legend has it that Peterik named the band after Troy Shondell, who topped the charts here in Chicago with "This Time" back in 1961 ... he reportedly liked Troy's name so much that he named the band after him!

Of course, a year later another group called The Shondells, an all-girl outfit from Cincinnati, came out of nowhere and "bubbled under" on The Billboard Pop Singles Chart with a song called "Wonderful One" in 1962 ...

And then in 1964, a kid from Niles, Michigan, named Tommy James named HIS band The Shondells and recorded a little track called "Hanky Panky", which went completely unnoticed for two years ... until a deejay in Pittsburgh started playing it one night, propelling the record to #1 in 1966, thus putting an end to ANYBODY else using the Shondells name from that point further.

At this point The Shon-Dels became The Ides Of March, a name suggested by bassist Bob Bergland, who had just finished reading "Julius Caesar" in High School. The name stuck ... and their first single under that name hit pay dirt here in Chicago where "You Wouldn't Listen" went all the way to #7 (and just missed making The National Top 40 when it stopped at #42 in Billboard Magazine.) It SHOULD have been huge ... it's a GREAT track that totally captures the pop sound / garage band sound of that era.

Another minor hit followed ("Rollercoaster", #92 in Billboard and #19 here in Chi-Town) and then they released a track that dabbled with horns for the first time called "My Foolish Pride", a personal favorite of mine, that didn't chart at all.

In 1969 the band put together an audition tape for Warner Brothers records consisting of four songs ... they had added horns permanently to the line-up by this point, after again dipping into The Morton West and Morton East High School musicians pool ... and one of those tracks, "Vehicle", catapulted them to the major leagues the following year.

The song topped the charts here in Chicago and went all the way to #2 in Billboard Magazine. It literally hasn't been off the radio since ... and I swear that a day doesn't go by when I don't still hear it today ... and that's true of whatever city I happen to be in at the time. It truly has become a Rock Classic ... and a few years ago was introduced to a whole new audience when Bo Bice recorded the song after performing it on "American Idol."

"L.A. Goodbye" became a #2 Chicagoland Hit (and deserved a FAR better fate than it got on the national charts, where it peaked at #72 in Cash Box Magazine.) After a few more failed singles, the band split up in 1973. (In fact, I was at their so-called farewell concert, also held at Morton West High School that year.)

The late '70's and early '80's saw Jim Peterik form Survivor, who went on to have their own fair share of Top 40 Hits, including the chart-topper "Eye Of The Tiger" from the Sylvester Stallone film "Rocky III" ... as well as Top Ten Smashes like "High On You", "The Search Is Over", "Burning Love" (from "Rocky IV") and "Is This Love". In addition to co-writing these songs, Peterik also composed hits for the Southern Rock Band .38 Special ... but in 1990, the City of Berwyn asked The Ides Of March if they would consider reuniting for one night to headline the city's "Summerfaire" Concert Series. The band agreed and have been together again ever since ... adding twenty more years with all four original members still intact ... making it now 46 years since they first started rehearsing in a Berwyn basement!

Berwyn Mayor Robert Lovero and Joseph Keating of School District 201 were both on hand to pay tribute to the band and congratulate them on their many accomplishments and always acknowledging their Berwyn roots ... as was Joanne Zendol of District 100 (who was able to work about a dozen Peterik song titles into her speech!), the legendary Dick Biondi (who earlier this year received a similar honor when "Dick Biondi Way" was dedicated downtown to commemorate Dick's 50th Anniversary of first broadcasting on WLS Radio, a position he STILL holds today!) and Monsignor Daniel Mayall, Pastor of Holy Name Cathedral, who offered prayer and blessings for this accomplished group of musicians. (In his final prayer, he asked "How do I address you, Lord? There are so many ways and you go by so many different names ... Holy Spirit? ... Heavenly Father? ... no, today it's 'Great God In Heaven'", which brought the crowd to its feet in honor of one of rock's most famous lyrics.)

It was clear that each member of the band was emotionally touched by the ceremony ... as was most of the audience. (For me personally, this was the first time I had been in The Morton West Auditorium since I was presented with my own High School Diploma on the very same stage where The Ides Of March were being honored this day!)

The band then closed the show with four KILLER musical selections: "L.A. Goodbye", "You Wouldn't Listen", "Eye Of The Tiger" and, as Peterik noted "The 'Vehicle' that got us all here today". It was an OUTSTANDING performance and a well-deserved honor for Berwyn's Favorite Sons. (Remarkably, a Berwyn street naming honor has happened exactly ONCE prior to this day!)

The Ides Of March just recently released their first album of all new material, "Still 19", their first since 1973!!!

Our heartfelt congratulations go out to Jim Peterik, Larry Millas, Mike Borch, Bob Bergland, Chuck Soumar, John Larson, Scott May and Dave Stahlberg, still performing today as The Ides Of March (with all four original members since 1964!!!) Way To Go, Guys ... we love ya!!!

-- Kent Kotal
Forgotten Hits