Chicago, “Someday” from Chicago Transit Authority (1969): Saturdays in the Park

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A debut album is supposed to introduce a band or musician to the world — much like the debutantes who would be introduced for “the season” in high society back in the day.

In that regard, 1969’s Chicago Transit Authority is perhaps the perfect debut album, as it shows the many different facets of this brilliant band. Previous tracks presented Chicago’s musical aesthetic to the world, giving listeners tastes of jazz and light seasonings of the blues with a heavy dose of rock and roll and a bit of experimentation. Before we’d heard a more philosophical side, however, while “Someday” finds Chicago debuting their political bent.

It didn’t start out that way though. Back in the clubs of Chicago and later in southern California, before Chicago started recording what would become this debut album, they used to play a little ditty known as “Girl.” Musically, it was catchy enough but lyrically it was just your garden-variety song about a boy expressing interest in a girl — a story as old as time itself. Thus, there was nothing to set the song apart from all of the others telling the same tale that had come before it.

At some point following the turbulent 1968 Democratic Convention, Robert Lamm gutted the original lyrics and decided to make an historical document of sorts, telling the story of the protests that broke out there on August 29, 1968. The music was already strong, with a rhythm that sunk its teeth in and very listenable shared lead vocals between Robert Lamm and Peter Cetera. So, the music could stay and the vocal arrangement could stay, but Lamm was smart enough to know the lyrics had to be replaced.

A song that had started out telling an age-old boy-meets-girl tale morphed into one capturing an electric political moment in time. It documented the bubbling over of the anger and hurt that occurred outside the Democratic Convention in 1968, following the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy. Robert Lamm made the first of many political statements, and in “Someday” he did so with an exclamation mark. A throwaway love song became a wake-up call, giving Chicago’s listeners a bit of a political gut punch.

Perplexio

Perplexio

Perplexio also maintains a stand-alone blog called The Review Revue, where he explores music, movies and books. He spearheaded 'Saturdays in the Park,' our weekly multi-writer, song-by-song series focused on the music of Chicago. Contact Something Else! at [email protected] reviews.com.
Perplexio
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