Forgotten series: The Ides of March – Vehicle (1970)

Now here’s a band that paid some serious dues!

Founded in late 1964, the Ides of March were barely teenagers when they started gigging and cutting discs. Hailing from Berwyn (a Chicago suburb), the band, not surprisingly considering the hour of their birth, was wildly in love with the racket resonating across the miles. Prior to staging a major breakthrough with “Vehicle,” the Ides of March dispensed several stellar singles dripping with the kind of picture perfect harmony pop delivered by the Zombies and the Hollies.

Having acquired loads of local acclaim, the Ides of March eventually attracted the attention of Warner Brothers Records. By the time they signed a deal with the label though, they ditched the Anglophile expressions in favor of a horn rock sound. The title track of this album, which was initially released in 1970, shot to the No. 2 slot on the national charts that spring, and holds the honor of being the fastest selling single in the record company’s history.

Written by lead singer and guitarist Jim Peterik, “Vehicle” was inspired by a girl who always asked him to drive her here, there and everywhere. He had a crush on her but the feeling did not appear mutual. Jim was under the impression the young lady was simply using him for rides. Well, to make a long story short, they did get together, became husband and wife and remain happily married after all these years!

Quaking with booming soulful vocals, funky hard edged frequencies and screaming horns, “Vehicle” yields an admirable job of combining a big-band beat with rough and tumble blues rock, capped off with cushions of gospel styled choruses. Imagine a collaboration between the Chambers Brothers, Steppenwolf and Glenn Miller, and there you have it.

Although the majority of the album grunts, grinds and grooves with brassy maneuvers, the Ides of March were mercurial enough to dress their material in varied contours. Not only was the band putting on the funky soul ritz to great effects, but they also proved to be pretty proficient at the progressive rock game. A lengthy version of “Eleanor Rigby,” which the Ides of March renamed “Symphony For Eleanor,” stands as an astonishing showcase of their diverse talents. Retooled, remodeled and rearranged to the point where it bears nary a resemblance to the Beatles’ recording, the piece hops from genre to genre with both bewitching and bewildering results. A dose of jazz, a bit of blues, a crateful of classical music, a pint of pop, a serving of soul and rounds of artsy-fartsy rock prompt “Symphony For Eleanor,” to be a challenging but interesting listen.

The Ides of March further exert excessive tendencies on a moody pairing of Crosby, Stills and Nash’s “Wooden Ships” and Jethro Tull’s “Dharma For One.” But no matter how fascinating such sojourns are, the band’s original endeavors are the strongest of the lot. “Aire Of Good Feeling” and “The Sky Is Falling” are straight on catchy horn rockers, and then there’s the poignant balladry of “One Woman Man” and “Factory Band,” a romping Creedence Clearwater Revival-influenced rockabilly nugget.

Mixing ambition with commercial aspirations, Vehicle (Collectors’ Choice Music, 2006) is a neat relic that truly captures the daredevil attitude of the era. The Ides of March shut down in 1973, leaving behind a legion of very disappointed fans. Jim Peterik, of course, went on to glean universal fame with Survivor, a slick pop metal band who scored hit singles like “Poor Man’s Son,” “Eye Of The Tiger” and “American Heartbeat” in the early ’80s. But the Ides of March never completely vanished. Due to popular demand and the fact the guys stayed good friends amid the decades, they reunited in 1990 and are still performing today.

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Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson was born the day Ben E. King hit No. 4 on the national charts with "Stand By Me" - which is ironically one of her favorite songs, especially the version by John Lennon. She has also contributed to Lance Monthly and Amplifier, and served as associate editor of Rock Beat International. Paterson's own publications have included Inside Out, and Twist And Shake. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.