Chicago: A Hard Habit to Break

In my previous post, I discussed a cassette tape that I made by taping it from the radio. Ironically, I made it with my friend Caleb, who (as an audiophile) would never deign to make a tape from the radio. The sound quality would never be up to his high standards.

For the second side of that tape, I copied the album Greatest Hits: 1982-1989 by Chicago. Chicago has always been a personal favorite, especially this particular album. I don’t care for much of what they’ve done before or since. Though I’d still like to see them in concert someday.

Most unfortunately, my ex-fiance and I considered this “our album.” We had planned on telling the DJ at our wedding that all of the songs from this album had to played at some point during the evening.

The first track is “Hard to Say I’m Sorry/Get Away.” Written by the usual teaming of Peter Cetera and David Foster (with Robert Lamm as well), it’s a power ballad with a short little ditty at the end. As good as this track is, the short-lived boy band Az Yet had the better version by far.

“Look Away” is written by Diane Warren, my favorite song writer; a living legend in the songwriting field. When I started listening to the old 93Q in Toledo (which is now an Oldies/Classic Rock station with a mundane lineup compared to the more raucous lineup, which included ESPN personality Steve Mason before he was famous), I remember this song specifically as one of my personal favorites.

I first heard this album in the car when my parents and I were on our way to some destination that I’ve forgotten. I also don’t remember which song that I heard first, but it hit me how much like this song the arrangements and vocals sounded. So I immediately put my book down and asked, “Is this the same group that sings ‘Stay the Night?'”

“Stay the Night” was a staple on the muzak when I worked at Taco Bell. I loved it. Which turned out to be a good thing because it was played repeatedly, usually two or three times per day.

My dad told gave me a resounding yes, and informed me that that very song was also on this album! I was excited and started to listen more intently to this album. As it happened, I liked all of the songs on it. Needless to say, I borrowed the tape from my dad to listen in my own car.

Eventually, I copied the tape onto the B side of the tape I had made with Caleb in the previous post. My ex bought an official cassette tape of this album as it became “our album.” I later bought a CD version, which I still have only because my wife doesn’t actually understand the significance of this album in the mythos of my ex and I.

Until she reads this, of course!

When my ex and I had broken up (one of the many, many, times that happened), to try to win her back I convinced her to come out in my car and I played her this power ballad, “Will You Still Love Me.” I don’t remember the circumstances of our breakup, but I know that I had somehow messed up big time. Therefore, its lyrics made a powerful point:

I am just a man who never understood / I never had a thing to prove / Till there was you / You and me / Then it all came clear so suddenly / How close to you that I wanna be

She took me back. I’m not sure, looking back on it, if that was for good or for ill. But it is what it is, I guess.

Despite the strong connection to my ex, this remains my favorite Chicago song of all time. I blast it whenever I hear it on the radio. My daughter seems to like it, so I guess she won’t mind if I keep blasting it. She need not know its significance in Daddy’s past.

Although I can’t remember which song was playing when I realized that I recognized at least one song from this album (“Stay the Night”), I’m almost sure it was this song.

I really have little to comment on this particular track. It was never my favorite, but I still enjoy hearing it. Not surprisingly, it was written by David Foster and Peter Cetera.

I’ve always thought it would be amusing to re-work secular pop music with Christian lyrics while leaving as much of the song in tact as you could. This would be a prime candidate for such a transformation:

Tell me, what kind of man would I be? / Living a life without any meaning? / And I know you could surely survive without me / But if I have to live without you / Tell me what kind of man would I be?

Of course, instead of a woman being the object of this song, it would be God. But, that would sort of contribute to the misconception that people go around raping and pillaging until they discover God, then they suddenly become good Christians and never commit another atrocity. We all know that’s false. I’ve already discussed the morality-ethics distinction on JCM, so I’m not getting into that here. I want to reminisce about old music.

Signature Chicago song: “You’re the Inspiration.” Perhaps another candidate for conversion into a song with Christian lyrics, assuming that you meant God to be the meaning in your life, and its inspiration.

The short-lived boy band Az Yet came out with a remake of “Hard to Say I’m Sorry,” which featured back up vocals by Peter Cetera. Simultaneously, Cetera released a cover of this song with back up vocals by Az Yet.

“I Don’t Wanna Live Without Your Love” is the second of the two songs written by Diane Warren, this one with her former partner in crime Albert Hammond. Warren has had quite a string of chart toppers beginning in 1983, and this song was no exception. Good song.

If “Love Me Tomorrow” wasn’t the song playing when I realized that I knew some of the songs on this album, it was certainly this song. Of course the title of this post derives from this song, because Chicago is a hard habit for me to break. Especially this album. The songs are all so great.

Okay, I actually don’t like this song. NEXT!

I’ve been considering entering the realm of Christian fiction. As an apologist who argues that personal appearances of God mean something only to believers, I would never have God make a personal appearance to a character; rather, I would have the character realize the power of the Holy Spirit is directing his life in more subtle ways. That’s the way God works in real life. If I’m not mistaken, for all of the personal appearances of God recorded in the Bible, only one converted an unbeliever (Saul, and he actually believed in God himself, but not Jesus as Messiah).

This song is an example of how God works in mysterious ways. When a lover cheats, it’s a painful discovery. However, this song puts a positive spin on personal tragedy. The writer is glad (looking back) that his previous lover cheated, as it enabled him to meet someone much better for him: “If she would have been faithful / If she would have been true / Then I would have been cheated. . . .”

Also, let’s not forget that this song contains the best lyric of all time: “It’s a paradox / Full of contradictions.” I burst out laughing the first time I realized what was said.

If “Will You Still Love Me” is my favorite Chicago song of all time, then “We Can Last Forever” is my second favorite Chicago song of all time. I think I can first remember hearing it on the muzak when I worked at Taco Bell. Like “Stay the Night,” this was played quite frequently. The lyrics are nicely written (by then-Chicago newbie Jason Scheff with John Dexter) and the music is quite catchy.

And that’s my trip down memory lane with Chicago. What a great CD.

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