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Monday, October 09, 2006
It's Just a Band...'s not the end of life as you know it.

I've been watching a couple of debates going on for the last couple of weeks, and I decided I needed to get this off my chest. I didn't do it at the bulletin board in question because honestly I don't think some of them really listen to each other, and I didn't want to waste my breath there. There are few places on the 'net where people can get their panties in a twist faster than on a bulletin board dedicated to one's favorite band. Especially when that band has gone through personnel changes over the years.

As some of you know, I'm a dedicated fan of Chicago (so sorry if I've just lost readers by mentioning that, see you tomorrow); if you didn't know, maybe a concert review I posted about a year ago should have clued you in. Chicago has undergone some significant changes over the years. There was the loss of guitarist Terry Kath in the late 70s due to an unfortunate incident involving a gun that was believed to be unloaded, but a bullet was chambered and ready to fire. Donnie Dacus (a replacement for Terry) was fired after a short tenure. Bill Champlin came in to fill more vocal work and keyboards. Peter Cetera, the original bassist and he of the unreal high vocals, left the band under unclear circumstances - some say he left to pursue a solo career, some others believe he was pushed by the record label to go solo. Danny Seraphine, the original drummer, was fired.

All have been replaced, for lack of a better word, because who could really replace Terry? One way or another the voids were filled. While no one can replace Terry Kath, they have a gem of a guitarist in Keith Howland. Jason Scheff doesn't have Cetera's range, but he's no slouch himself either in vocals or bass playing abilities. Tris Imboden fills Danny Seraphane's shoes nicely. The originals will never be replaced, it's simply not possible - it's like trying to find someone who can replace *you* in your life, but suitable replacements can always be found. The fans are seeing that right now, as Walt Parazaider and Jimmy Pankow (from the horn section) have been absent from many a concert, and Larry Klimis and Nick Lane are filling in (and doing a pretty darn good job of it now). That leaves 2 members from the original lineup performing with the band at the moment - after 40 years of touring year in and year out, that's not bad. Most folks would have called it quits with that sort of turnover and time.

There are eras in the band - the Kath years, the Cetera years, the post-Cetera years... some fans break it up by albums instead of by band members. There are some who hate the old stuff, some who hate the new stuff. Folks who think the band sold out, others who don't care. I'm one of the people who enjoys the entire catalog no matter who is in the band. For me, it's still Chicago (Jason's been there 20 years, Bill has been there 25+, I think it's ok to say they're really part of the band and not "newbies"), even if the lineup has changed. They're still making new music, although I'd like to hear more of it in concert instead of the usual hits they play.

But many fans have taken to calling the band a cover band. It's not the original Chicago, and what's the point of going to see them if you're only going to see two of the original members of the band, and a lead singer who's just performing Ceteraoke (as Jason's vocals have been referred to by some). I think calling them a cover band is an insult to those members who have been there for many many years (and a few since the beginning) bringing this music to everyone. If you must call them something, call them a tribute band instead. They're performing the music that the original band performed with amazing accuracy to the vocals and the style. Go figure - a few of them *wrote* those original pieces of music. And a cover band never includes members of the original band. Tribute bands, however, *can* include original members of the lineup.

And why is it such as big deal in the first place when Chicago always established themselves and marketed themselves as a 'faceless' band? I blame whosever idea it was to put Peter Cetera up at the front (of the vocals, of the stage, of the videos) for changing Chicago from this 'faceless' band to one with an old lead singer and a new lead singer.

I think it's insulting all the way around that some folks are insistent that they're becoming a parody of themselves, a cover band, a bunch of sell-outs on a board that some of the members have been known to read in the past, and is linked to from the band's own website. I've considered leaving the community, but like a bad penny I just keep turning up there again and again. As do some others who just want to stir the pot. The Jason-haters decide that they need to either debate who is a better vocalist (Peter or Jason) or they decide to slam Jason as often as they can. Those who think the band died when Terry did do what they can to state that it's not worth listening to Chicago again. Then there are those who love all the eras, but hate all the ballads. It's not a group of people who do this, mind you, it's one person here or another there. But it's enough to make a lot of people roll their eyes and be tired of it all.

Myself included. Myself especially since y'all know what I used to go through as a very visible moderator on a very busy stitching board a couple of years ago. But I refuse to give up and keep trying to help keep the peace, even though I'm not a moderator in this other community.

I just don't understand why folks can't get it through their heads that they can state their opinions, disgusted or not with what's there, and just let it be without starting a flamethrowing thread, like one that was recently started and was titled with one band member's name and the phrase "get your flamethrowers ready". And then the author of the thread said that they didn't think that the topic would get that heated.

It's clear to me that the author didn't think, and others think it was a 'stir the pot' effort, but that's neither here nor there. The admin allowed it to go with 90 responses before shutting it down. Most of the responses were reasonable, but then they inevitably turned towards the dissection of the band again. Just as I've described above.

I know this post will eventually be found by anyone from that board querying 'Chicago tribute band' or 'Chicago cover band' or some other thing I've said and they're going to wonder who I am on the board. That's not hard to figure out if you think about it. Anyway, I know this is a ramble without a lot of construction to it, other than to say what's the point of ranting about what you don't like, and just appreciating what you do have? I know some people just love to complain about what was, or what is, or what will never ever be. Likewise there are people who are content with what was, what is, and accepting that something will never be. There's a big difference between the two but it's hard to get from one to the other.

It is what it is folks... and that's all there is.