Chicago, “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” (1969): Saturdays in the Park

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One of the great triumphs of Chicago’s double LP debut Chicago Transit Authority is the second track, “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” While it was technically considered a rock song way back in 1969, in reality this is intelligent, sophisticated pop – the kind that is rarely heard today. That’s sad because, along with much of what was produced back in that outstanding musical year, this song proved that popular radio hits didn’t have to be lightweight fare.

Written by Chicago keyboard player Robert Lamm, whose songs dominated this outstanding debut album, “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” was one of the septet’s early hits. It’s still popular today on both classic rock and oldies radio stations, and a permanent part of the current touring band’s repertoire.

The song begins with a free-form piano solo by Lamm that borders on atonality at times before the the horn section, featuring Lee Loughnane’s trumpet on James Pankow’s intricate horn chart, kickstarts Chicago’s main arrangement. Lamm’s satisfying lead vocal and nice background harmonies by Terry Kath and Peter Cetera effectively enhance the song.

“I was a teenager walking down the street in Brooklyn, New York where I grew up,” Robert Lamm once said on Chris Isaak’s old TV show. “I walked by a movie theater and there was an usher standing outside taking a cigarette break. I said to him, ‘Hey man, what time is it?’ and he said, ‘Does anybody really know what time it is?’ I remembered that when I was trying to write this sort of Beatle-esque shuffle, and just explore the idea of ‘Does anybody really know what time it is?'”

The 45 RPM record clocked in at 3:20, and did not include Lamm’s solo that extended the original piece out to 4:36. It was Chicago’s third straight Top 10 single, hitting No. 7 in the USA and No. 2 in Canada. No matter how you slice it “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” is a Chicago masterwork.

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