Chicago, “Call on Me” from Chicago VII (1974): Saturdays in the Park

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Of all Chicago’s many chart hits, “Call On Me” from 1974’s Chicago VII is my favorite. Combining a catchy melody, a good story in the lyrics, an amazing brass arrangement and prominent percussion, it’s a purely enjoyable listen from start to finish.

And those chords. Those oh-so-’70s major seventh and minor-ninth chords! My Chicago VII music book shows the verse as follows: Amaj7. C#m7. Bm&. G#m7. C#9. Dmaj7. C#m7, Bm7. Can you think of a single band other than Chicago and Steely Dan that regularly sent those kind of chords into the Top 40?

I love “Call on Me.” I know I do, and you’ll love it, too. You can count on it.

The song has an interesting back story, as related in the liner notes of the Group Portrait box set. Lee Loughnane, the band’s trumpeter, sketched out a song about the beginning, end, and aftermath of his first marriage. He brought it to Peter Cetera, who “helped” re-write the song (okay, he completely re-wrote it) but let Loughnane have the songwriter’s credit – maybe because Cetera had many credits already and this was Lee Loughnane’s first.

The finished product is quite obviously a Peter Cetera song: He’s there in the rising and falling melody. (If you can find sheet music or a sketch score, trace how the melody line looks like the path of a roller coaster.) He also throws in his trademark “woo-woo” and “yeah-yeah” asides into the lyrics, and sings “Call on Me” very well. But don’t worry, Lee Loughnane gets to play that wonderful brass part, throwing in a high flourish during the second chorus that would make Maynard Ferguson proud.

(Music trivia time: What other song, a big early 1970s chart hit, gave a songwriting credit solely to the artist on the label but was really a collaboration with a long-time bandmate, who also plays on the track? If the answer don’t come easy, click here. Nice work, George!)

My favorite aspect of the song is the percussion. The conga drum part is played by Cuban-born percussion Guillermo Garcia Rodiles, known professionally as Guille Garcia; Laudir de Oliveira also adds other percussion not specified in the liner notes. It was my introduction to conga drums, and I can’t listen to “Call on Me” without playing air congas on whatever surface is closest by. I’m sure many a driver has looked over to see me banging rhythmically on my steering wheel when this Chicago song comes on my iTunes.

Guille Garcia is still active in the music business, and last year was honored with an award in the Latin music community. (They played “Byblos” as he was being introduced!) Sadly, Laudir de Oliveira passed away on September 17, 2017 while performing in Brazil. His contributions to Chicago were many, and he will be missed by all who enjoyed his music.

‘Saturdays in the Park’ is a multi-writer, song-by-song examination of the music of Chicago. Find it here at Something Else! each weekend.

CelticGal

CelticGal

CelticGal grew up in northern Indiana and now lives on the back cover of the 'Chicago XI' album. A fan of Chicago (the Good Parts Version, e.g. the lineups with Peter Cetera) since 1978, she is the author of 'The Famous Becky's Island Chicago Reviews' and 'Becky's Island Music Trivia Quizzes,' found at www.beckysisland.com. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com
CelticGal
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  • Preston Frazier

    Sad and joyous all at the same time. Love this song. Thanks

  • lnh

    definitely on my list of top 5 Chicago songs. love Peter’s soft-n-breezy vocals. ab-so-lute-ly love when the horns come blazing in on the 2nd chorus… especially, as you said, Lee’s “high flourish”. ok I confess that I’m not crazy about the 2nd verse….he’s leaving her because there’s “nothing left to do…..woo-woo”…..WTH?!?! but I guess he makes up for that on the 3rd verse ?. Rest In Paradise, Laudir.

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