Chicago, “Baby, What a Big Surprise” from Chicago XI (1977): Saturdays in the Park

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Selected as the first single from 1977’s Chicago XI, “Baby, What a Big Surprise” furnished the band with yet another humongous hit, peaking at No. 4 on the charts in the autumn of 1977.

Composed and sung by Peter Cetera, this tuneful track proposes the universal theme of relationship insecurity, which in this case means wondering if the object of affection shares your feelings. “Right before my very eyes, I thought that you were only fakin’ it,” croons Cetera in his one-of-a-kind voice at the beginning of the song – attended by the stirring sound of a skittering flute – then confesses his heart was takin’ it. But his mind was “softly changed,” and love is real and returned. Needless to say, the revelation comes as a big surprise, and life is now good. No more wasting time or being alone.

Starting out on a quiet pitch, “Baby, What a Big Surprise” picks up the pace piece by piece, resulting in a top-flight toe-tapper. A lively and catchy chorus, adorned with “oh, oh, woah, oh’s” gives the song a bit of a charming doo-wop touch. Such spine-tingling harmonies are the work of the late great Beach Boy Carl Wilson, along with Cetera’s brother Tim. Crisp acoustics, the tweeting of a piccolo trumpet and strategically situated breaks that tug and twirl are additional perks offered.

Lounging somewhere between Chicago’s vintage poppier moments and the slicker stance the band had recently adopted, “Baby, What a Big Surprise” contains the best of both worlds. Peter Cetera always let it be known how much he enjoyed writing and performing romantic ballads, and he truly shines like the star he is here.


‘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.

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson

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