How much, how much do you really know?

In recent months, I’ve been testing my readers’ skills at recalling the words to well-known classic rock songs by offering a series of Lyrics Quiz posts, and I’ll continue to do so periodically.

With this week’s post, I’ll begin branching out into the broader area of classic rock trivia. I came across an old “special edition” of a Rolling Stone Rock Trivia Quiz and decided it was high time I put together my own set of multiple-choice questions for you all to answer.

So here it is: My first Hack’s Back Pages Rock Trivia Quiz! Peruse the 15 questions and multiple-choice possible answers, then scroll down to find the answers and learn more about the topics raised. At the end, there’s also a Spotify playlist of the songs being discussed here.

I hope you get a kick out of this one!

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Van Morrison, 1971

1. “Brown-Eyed Girl” may get more airplay than any other Van Morrison song, but which of his singles charted higher on the US Top 40 listings?

“Moondance”; “Tupelo Honey”; “Domino”; “Wild Night”

(L-R) Ginger Baker, Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood. Who played bass with them?

2. Blind Faith was comprised of superstars Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood and Ginger Baker…and a fourth, much lesser known musician on bass. Who was it?

Trevor Bolder; Ric Grech; Clive Chaman; John Glascock

3. Which of these four songs does NOT feature mandolin?

“Losing My Religion,” R.E.M.; “The Battle of Evermore,” Led Zeppelin; “Wild Horses,” The Rolling Stones; “Friend of the Devil,” The Grateful Dead

David Bowie as Major Tom in “Space Oddity”

4. Major Tom is the main character in David Bowie’s 1969 debut single “Space Oddity.” In which Bowie song does Major Tom make a return appearance?

“Fame”; “Let’s Dance”; “Ashes to Ashes”; “Heroes”

Mark Knopfler

5. On which Steely Dan single does Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler make a guest appearance on guitar?

“Peg”; “Time Out of Mind”; “FM”; “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number”

Ringo Starr on vocals

6. Of these four songs Ringo Starr sang in The Beatles catalog, which one did he write?

“Yellow Submarine”; “Act Naturally”; “Good Night”; “Octopus’s Garden”

Rod Stewart in the 1970s

7. On which song does Rod Stewart encourage you to “spread your wings and let me come inside”?

“Maggie May”; “Hot Legs”; “Tonight’s the Night”; “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?”

8. Which Paul Simon album was originally intended to be a Simon and Garfunkel reunion album?

“Still Crazy After All These Years”
“Hearts and Bones”
“You’re the One”
“The Rhythm of the Saints”

9. Of these lengthy classic rock tracks that occupy an entire album side, which one clocks in as the longest?

“In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” Iron Butterfly
“Echoes” from “Meddle,” Pink Floyd
“Close to the Edge,” Yes
“Supper’s Ready” from “Foxtrot,” Genesis

10. Which of these four artists did not record a song with Paul McCartney?

Elvis Costello
Stevie Wonder
Billy Joel
Michael Jackson

11. Which one of these pairs of artists did NOT record a song together?

Joni Mitchell and Michael McDonald; Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash; Phil Collins and Philip Bailey; Elton John and Freddie Mercury

12. Which album cover from the 1970s was designed by pop artist Andy Warhol?

“Dark Side of the Moon,” Pink Floyd
“Aladdin Sane,” David Bowie
“Sticky Fingers,” The Rolling Stones
“Imagine,” John Lennon

13. Which one of these talented women sings harmony vocals with Neil Young on his hit singles “Heart of Gold” and “Old Man”?

Bonnie Raitt
Linda Ronstadt
Joni Mitchell
Carly Simon

14. Which lead guitarist was never a member of The Yardbirds?

Jeff Beck
Peter Green
Eric Clapton
Jimmy Page

Kris Kristofferson with Barbra Streisand

15. Who was Barbra Streisand’s first choice to be her co-star in the 1976 film “A Star is Born”?

Neil Diamond
Elvis Presley
Rick Nelson
Jerry Lee Lewis

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ANSWERS:

1. “Domino”

Morrison had an acrimonious relationship with his late ’60s label, Bang Records, for whom he recorded “Brown-Eyed Girl.” Although royalties from that tune have padded his bank account every day since its release, he claims to hate it and rarely will play it anymore in concert. It reached #10 in 1967, but his upbeat song “Domino” from the 1970 LP “His Band and the Street Choir” actually reached one rung higher on the charts at #9. “Moondance,” from the 1970 album of the same name, is well-known but wasn’t released as a single in 1970 and performed poorly upon release as a single in 1977, stalling at #92. “Tupelo Honey” and “Wild Night” from the 1971 “Tupelo Honey” album managed only #47 and #28, respectively.

2. Ric Grech

Grech was a multi-instrumentalist who had written songs and played bass and violin for Family, a relatively obscure British progressive rock group known for a diversity of styles and lineups. He was tapped to fill out the ranks of Blind Faith, which lasted for less than six months, one brief tour and one album before disbanding. Winwood later invited Grech to join the reconvened Traffic in time for their popular LP “The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys.” The other names mentioned above: Trevor Bolder became bassist in David Bowie’s backup band, The Spiders From Mars; Clive Chaman was the bass player for The Jeff Beck Group for a spell; and John Glascock was Jethro Tull’s bassist from 1976-1979.

3. “Wild Horses,” The Rolling Stones

While this is one of the handful of songs in the Stones catalog that has a strong country music influence, “Wild Horses” does not include mandolin in the instrumental arrangement. There’s plenty of pedal steel guitar, and slide guitar, and Jagger’s vocals have a bit of Southern drawl, all a result of country rock pioneer Gram Parsons hanging out with the band during the 1969-1972 years. On Zeppelin’s “The Battle of Evermore,” keyboardist/bassist John Paul Jones picks up a mandolin to complement Jimmy Page’s acoustic guitar; R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck uses mandolin as the primary instrument as Michael Stipe sings “Losing My Religion”; and guest mandolinist David Grisman’s flourishes on mandolin become increasingly prominent with each successive verse of The Grateful Dead’s “Friend of the Devil.”

4. “Ashes to Ashes”

“Ashes to ashes, funk to funky, we know Major Tom’s a junkie, /Strung out in heaven’s high, hitting an all-time low…” These are lyrics from the chorus of the hit single from Bowie’s 1980 LP “Scary Monsters.” Bowie himself acknowledged in 1990 that the words reflect his own struggles with drug addiction throughout the 1970s. He said he wrote “Ashes to Ashes as a confrontation with his past: “You have to accommodate your pasts within your persona. You have to understand why you went through them. You cannot just ignore them, put them out of your mind or pretend they didn’t happen, or just say, ‘Oh, I was different then.'”

5. “Time Out of Mind”

Although Steely Dan first recorded and performed as a six-man band when they debuted in 1972, they soon became sort of a studio laboratory run by Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, who brought in a wide array of session guitarists, drummers, bassists and background singers to play on the various album tracks. Particularly on their albums “The Royal Scam” (1976), “Aja” (1977) and “Gaucho” (1980), Fagen and Becker tried out as many as a dozen guitarists to play solos before finding the one they were looking for. On the “Gaucho” track “Time Out of Mind,” Mark Knopfler’s spare, fluid style was just what the songwriters were seeking. It was a modest hit, reaching #22 in early 1981. You can also hear Michael McDonald providing guest vocals behind Fagen on this one.

6. “Octopus’s Garden”

From their very first album onward, The Beatles made a point of featuring Ringo on vocals on at least one track. It was sometimes a cover of an earlier rock hit — The Shirrelles’ “Boys,” the Carl Perkins tunes “Matchbox” and “Honey Don’t,” or the Buck Owens hit “Act Naturally.” More often, it was a Lennon-McCartney original they wrote with Starr in mind: “I Wanna Be Your Man,” “What Goes On,” “Yellow Submarine,” “With a Little Help From My Friends.” Ringo tried in vain to write songs, but they ended up being little more than rewrites of someone else’s tune. He came up with the simple country ditty “Don’t Pass Me By” which appears on Side 2 of “The White Album,” and then, during the sessions for “Abbey Road,” he wrote “Octopus’s Garden,” which he regarded as “a sequel to ‘Yellow Submarine.'” George Harrison helped out with a marvelous guitar intro, and John, Paul and George all added harmonies.

7. “Tonight’s the Night”

Almost from the beginning, Stewart projected a playfully naughty image as a lovable rascal who’d love to take you to bed. He hung out with — and sometimes married — attractive, much younger women, and the lyrics of the songs he chose to record and release as singles were fairly obvious in their sexual overtures. “Maggie May” (1971) tells the tale of a young man’s first sexual experience with a much older woman; “Hot Legs” (1978) is about a young woman who drops by only for spirited, casual sex; and “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” (1978) is about a couple of strangers who lust for each other and are at first too shy to make a move but end up doing the deed. “Tonight’s the Night,” though, is the one that features the lyric in question, which was boldly blatant about what he wanted from the young lady.

8. “Hearts and Bones”

When Simon made the daring decision in 1970 to end his enormously successful partnership with Art Garfunkel, it was because he wanted to explore new musical territories that he felt weren’t a good match for the Simon-Garfunkel tight harmonies. In 1975, the duo reunited, but for only one song, “My Little Town,” which appeared on his “Still Crazy After All These Years” album AND Garfunkel’s “Breakaway” LP. In 1983, following a spectacularly successful reunion concert, video and album in Central Park, Simon and Garfunkel did a reunion tour, and started work on a full S&G album, but the pair had a falling out, and Simon actually erased Garfunkel’s vocal parts and made the album a solo work called “Hearts and Bones.” The other two albums listed, 1991’s “The Rhythm of the Saints” and 2000’s “You’re the One,” had no involvement from Garfunkel.

Pink Floyd’s “Meddle” LP, 1971

9. “Echoes,” Pink Floyd

From the late ’60s through the mid-’70s, progressive rock bands were eager to push the boundaries of rock music, not only in format and influences but in length as well. British artists like King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Jethro Tull and Yes wrote songs that lasted more than 15 or 20 minutes. American and Canadian acts from Frank Zappa and Bob Dylan to Rush and Styx got in the act as well. In 1968, California’s Iron Butterfly was one of the first bands to take up a whole album side, releasing the stoner classic “In-A-Gadda-da-Vida,” but it lasted just 17:05. Yes released “Close to the Edge” in 1972, and its title track was 18:43 in length. Genesis, with Peter Gabriel still firmly in charge, released the 23:06-long “Supper’s Ready” in 1972. The winner, though, is Pink Floyds “Echoes,” from their 1971 album “Meddle,” which edges out “Supper’s ready” by a half minute at 23:31.

10. Billy Joel

You can look at the accessible pop songcraft of Joel from his earliest work onward and assume he’d be a perfect match for McCartney’s similar vein of highly melodic material… but no, they never worked together. In 1982, McCartney teamed up with Stevie Wonder for the massive hit “Ebony and Ivory” and also “What’s That You’re Doing,” both from his “Tug of War” LP. In the 1982-83 period, McCartney collaborated successfully with Michael Jackson on three hits: “The Girl is Mine” from Jackson’s “Thriller” album, and “Say Say Say” and “The Man” from McCartney’s “Pipes of Peace” LP. In 1989, following poor sales of his previous album “Press to Play,” McCartney struck an alliance with Elvis Costello on four of the 12 songs on “Flowers in the Dirt,” as well as Costello’s hit “Veronica” the same year.

11. Elton John and Freddie Mercury

These two bombastic Brits were both prone to big, splashy theatrics in their performances, and they were good friends, so you’d think a duet would’ve been a natural for them, but it never happened. On the other hand, the other three pairs of artists found great results pooling their talents on various recordings. For her “Dog Eat Dog” album in 1985, Joni Mitchell invited ex-Doobie Brother Michael McDonald to perform a duet with her on “Good Friends,” which stiffed as a single at #85 but reached #28 on Mainstream Rock charts. In 1984, for his third solo LP, “Chinese Wall,” Philip Bailey of Earth Wind & Fire collaborated with Phil Collins, who produced the album, played drums throughout, and co-wrote and sang on the international #1 hit “Easy Lover.” Back in 1969, Johnny Cash sang a duet with Bob Dylan on his “Nashville Skyline” album on a re-recording of Dylan’s 1963 tune “Girl From the North Country.”

12. “Sticky Fingers,” The Rolling Stones

One of the earliest examples of a controversial album cover design that made it into production was the infamous tight jeans close-up on The Stones’ “Sticky Fingers” LP, courtesy of Andy Warhol. Although members of his design collaborative, The Factory, actually implemented the design and photography, Warhol conceived of the idea, which Mick Jagger enthusiastically endorsed. The actual working zipper on the original pressing was later removed because it tended to damage albums during shipping. Hipgnosis, a British graphic design group that created album covers for Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Alan Parsons Project and more, came up with the award-winning “Dark Side of the Moon” cover art. Famed fashion and portrait photographer Brian Duffy, who worked often with David Bowie, shot and created the cover for Bowie’s “Aladdin Sane” album. Warhol was rumored to have shot the polaroid photo of John Lennon for his “Imagine” cover, but it was instead taken by Yoko Ono.

13. Linda Ronstadt

Young went to Nashville in 1971 to appear on a taping of the ABC musical variety show “The Johnny Cash Show,” where Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor were also scheduled to appear. Immediately following the taping, Young invited Ronstadt and Taylor to a nearby studio, where he had assembled some country musicians to record some tracks for a new project that would become the chart-topping “Harvest” LP. It’s difficult to make out Taylor’s voice in the mix of either “Heart of Gold” or “Old Man,” but Ronstadt’s voice is easily identifiable. Young has shared the stage with Joni Mitchell, notably for The Band’s “The Last Waltz” album and concert film. Young performed with Bonnie Raitt at least once, at the Bay Area Music Awards ceremony in 1990. As far as I can tell from online research, Young and Carly Simon have never performed or recorded together.

14. Peter Green

Peter Green was a brilliant blues guitarist who played first with John Mayall and then formed Fleetwood Mac in 1967. He never served with The Yardbirds, a blues-based band later noted for their “rave-up” instrumental breaks. Tony “Top” Topham was the group’s original lead guitarist, but he lasted only a few months and was replaced by hot new blues guitar sensation Eric Clapton. He remained for a year and a half but, as a blues purist, he was turned off by their pop single “For Your Love” and left to join Mayall’s Bluesbreakers (and then Cream). Clapton recommended prominent session guitarist Jimmy Page, who said no and suggested Jeff Beck instead, who was instrumental in their most fertile period on such Yardbirds hits as “Shapes of Things” and “Heart Full of Soul.” Page ended up joining later on bass, then played guitar alongside Beck for several months before Beck grew disillusioned and split. Page stayed on until the group’s disbanding in 1968, turning it into first The New Yardbirds and then Led Zeppelin.

A mock-up album cover of what might’ve been

15. Elvis Presley

In the 1927 and 1945 versions of “A Star is Born,” the story centered on an aspiring actress and declining actor, but in 1975, Streisand was interested in reviving the film by making it about the music business instead. Consequently, when she went looking for a co-star to play the part of the singer on his way down, she wanted someone who could both sing and act. Neil Diamond made the short list as a possible candidate. Rick Nelson might’ve worked, and Jerry Lee Lewis as well, but neither were ever under consideration. (The studio mentioned Marlon Brando, who was ruled out because he wasn’t a singer.). Streisand was eager to get Elvis Presley, who met with them and was interested in taking the part, but imperious manager “Colonel” Tom Parker demanded top billing for Elvis and asked for too much money. He also objected to Elvis portraying someone whose career was in decline. Filmmakers instead settled on Kris Kristofferson, an acclaimed songwriter and actor.

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Only the beginning, only just a start

Periodically, I use this space to pay homage to artists I believe are worthy of focused attention — artists with an extraordinary, influential, consistently excellent body of work and/or a compelling story to tell. In this essay, I take a slightly different tack with an in-depth look at a band with whom I’ve had a love/hate relationship. They’ve enjoyed considerable commercial success with different lineups, playing several very different musical styles from Big Band rock to sentimental ballads to synthesized pop, selling many millions of albums and singles, and are still active into their seventh decade, but I can’t say I count myself among their longtime faithful fan base. That band is Chicago.

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In the long-ago summer of 1969, I was 14 and seriously ramping up my modest record collection. I had abandoned the practice of buying 45-rpm singles and embraced the idea of owning albums instead. I bought LPs by The Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel, and I became drawn to the music of more boundary-expanding artists like Cream, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Steppenwolf and Blind Faith.

My friend Steve was similarly tuned into new bands that weren’t Top 40, and he’d periodically show up at my house with albums he thought I might like. One such record was a double album called “The Chicago Transit Authority.” Its most noticeable characteristic was that it had very prominent horns — trumpets, trombones, saxes — on pretty much every track. This was a substantial departure from the guitars-bass-drums-organ lineup of most bands at that time. No rock band I knew used horns beyond the occasional sax solo.

I was totally taken by this music. Growing up in a household with a father who often played Big Band, swing and Sinatra records, I loved the sound of a vigorous horn section, but as a kid of the ’60s, I also loved rock and roll. Now, on this “CTA” album, I had a merger of these two things — a rock band with horns. How cool was that?

The opening track, the aptly named “Introduction,” had lyrics that came right out and explained Chicago‘s mission:

“We’ve all spent years preparing before this group was born, /With Heaven’s help, it blended, and we do thank the Lord, /So this is what we do, sit back and let us groove, and let us work on you…”

Boy, they worked on me, all right. The great melodies, the infectious rock beats, ferocious electric guitar solos, strong lead vocals and harmonies, and the dominant, thrilling horn parts combined to create something really dynamic. I simply couldn’t get enough of this stuff: “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?,” “Questions 67 and 68,” “Someday,” “South California Purples,” “Listen,” “I’m a Man” and especially the exhilarating “Beginnings,” still one of my all-time favorite songs.

Only eight months later, the band made the unheard-of move of releasing another double album as their second release, this time titled simply “Chicago.” Again, the seven-piece group bowled me over with instantly likable songs (“Movin’ On,” “The Road,” “In the Country,” “Wake Up Sunshine, “Fancy Colours”), smart arrangements and solid musicianship across the board. The chief difference was that this time, the group found themselves riding high on Top 40 charts in 1970 with three big singles: the exuberant “Make Me Smile,” the guitar-driven rock classic “25 or 6 to 4” and everyone’s favorite prom slow-dance tune, “Colour My World.” Now I found myself sharing the magic of Chicago with every pop-loving teen in town, and I found that vaguely unsettling.

At this point the band was touring non-stop, performing nearly 300 gigs a year to capitalize on their chart success. I saw them do a show in a gymnasium at John Carroll University in Cleveland at this juncture and was totally impressed by their energy and tight ensemble playing.

L-R: Robert Lamm, Peter Cetera, Danny Seraphine, James Pankow,
Lee Loughnane, Walter Parazaider, Terry Kath

So it was very disappointing to me when they felt the need to release a third double album, “Chicago III,” in early 1971. Clearly, they had been overworked and stretched thin, because there weren’t more than two or three memorable tracks to be found. Three sides were taken up by grandiose “suites” filled with listless instrumentals, banal lyrics about eating Spam for breakfast (?) and meandering solos with little melody anywhere. If not for the vibrant “Free” and “Lowdown,” it would’ve been pretty much a total washout. Even the record label chose to go back to the debut LP and re-release “Beginnings” and “Questions 67 and 68” as singles since there was nothing suitable on “Chicago III”…

To make matters far worse, Chicago’s next move was a live album, which was in vogue at the time, but they turned a week-long stint at Carnegie Hall into a bloated four-album set completely lacking in the excitement I’d heard in concert only 10 months earlier. I think I listened to it only once, maybe twice, before getting rid of it. One of my worst album purchases ever.

The next summer, the band wisely focused on just nine quality tracks to comprise “Chicago V,” a single album that offered a return to solid melodies, integrated horn charts and great vocals. On the singles charts, “Saturday in the Park” was just about as much fun as “Beginnings” or “Make Me Smile.” Still, the adventurousness and immediacy which had so enthralled me when they entered the scene in 1969-1970 seemed to be missing (for me, at least), even though “Chicago V” became the first of five consecutive LPs to reach #1 on the album charts.

I need to mention one nagging truth about Chicago that bothered me from the outset. They (mostly keyboardist Robert Lamm, evidently) had a penchant for making political statements in some of their songs that, while well-intentioned, usually came across as simplistic and lame. A typical example is “Dialogue (Parts I and II),” which was curiously popular as a single in 1972. With lyrics written as a conversation between an activist and a clueless college student, the track was designed to coax people to take to the streets and speak out against war, injustice, etc. Its awkwardness made me cringe, and still does.

From that point on, I basically lost interest. I can’t deny the continuous stream of hit singles were engaging, even infectious — “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day,” “Just You ‘n Me,” “Call On Me,” “Old Days,” even the Peter Cetera heartbreaker ballad “If You Leave Me Now.” But I couldn’t get motivated to buy the albums. I guess the sheen had worn off for me, and I’d moved on to other bands, other genres.

Terry Kath

Chicago had always been one of those bands that remained an essentially faceless entity. Its members could go out in public and be unrecognized, and they liked it that way. Still, I was among many music industry observers who assumed the band would hang it up in 1978 following the unfortunate death of guitarist Terry Kath, Chicago’s inspirational leader and best instrumentalist. The idea that Chicago was “a rock and roll band with horns” pretty much died with Kath, as his fiery guitar work was the key ingredient in their rock band credentials. Indeed, no less a guitar god than Jimi Hendrix had been quoted in 1970 as saying, “Terry Kath plays better than me.”

But no. The band hired the first of several replacements for Kath, and soldiered on. Chicago, whose Roman numeral-titled albums were a source of some ridicule from those who labeled their music “corporate rock,” endured a comparatively fallow period during which their so-so chart performance matched their tired formula on the records. By 1982, Columbia Records, their label from the beginning, let them go.

This didn’t stop them from shopping around for another label and producer. Full Moon Records took the bait, and with notorious Canadian pop producer David Foster at the helm, Chicago re-emerged with an altogether different sound, still carried by bass player Peter Cetera’s strong tenor voice but now doing material written by outside songwriters, with almost no horns in sight. Veteran musician Bill Champlin joined the ranks, playing a substantial role in the soft-rock sounds favored by Foster and Cetera. The resulting album, “Chicago 16,” found a new, younger audience who responded favorably to the ’80s version of the group. Cetera’s smooth “Hard For Me To Say I’m Sorry” put them back at the top of the singles chart.

No longer filling stadiums or arenas, Chicago was now playing smaller halls as they built their new audience. I was reviewing concerts for a Cleveland newspaper at the time, and saw them at the Front Row, an intimate theater-in-the-round venue, and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the show. The new songs didn’t do much for me, but it sure was great to hear the old stuff, both the hits and deeper album tracks.

Peter Cetera

Lamm, who had been such an important singer and composer for the band, became almost invisible as Cetera assumed the role of Chicao’s pretty-boy front man singing songs co-written for him by Foster and others. These tunes charted well (“Hard Habit to Break,” “You’re the Inspiration,” “Along Comes a Woman”), but their success went to Cetera’s head, who left the band in 1986 for a solo career and chose not to maintain ties with the group. He was famously absent when the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016.

A guy named Jason Scheff, a bassist with a tenor voice eerily similar to Cetera’s, joined in 1986, and he and Champlin became Chicago’s primary singers for the next five years, and through the ’90s and 2000s as well. Scheff got off to a rocky start when Foster made the misguided decision to feature a radical reworking of “25 or 6 to 4” as the first single from “Chicago 18,” which thankfully stalled at #48. Still, it was newcomer Scheff’s vocals that carried “Will You Still Love Me?” and “If She Would Have Been Faithful…”, both Top 20 hits.

Over the past 30 years, Chicago has remained a commercially viable band, touring periodically and releasing numerous greatest hits packages, a Christmas collection and even a winning tribute to Big Band music (a couple tracks are included in my Spotify playlist). But “Chicago XXX” in 2006 has been their only studio album of new original material since 1991.

Recently, I was urged to sit down and watch “Now More Than Ever: The History of Chicago,” an award-winning documentary on the band, its successes and struggles, and I gotta tell you, it was an entertaining and eye-opening two hours well spent. It incisively tells the band’s story from initial rumblings up to the mid-2010s, and I urge anyone with even a passing interest in Chicago’s music to check it out. It’s currently available on Amazon.

I learned, for instance, that the three guys who have been Chicago’s consistent horn section for the entire life of the group — sax man Walter Parazaider, trombonist James Pankow and trumpeter Lee Loughnane — were all classically trained musicians who were headed for careers in the symphony until they were bitten by the rock and roll bug. That threesome, and Lamm and Kath, each logged thousands of hours practicing and gigging with fledgling bands in the Chicago area, honing their musical chops until they met up in 1967. Their mission, said drummer Danny Seraphine, was to blend the musical trends and traditions of their city — blues, jazz, rock, Big Band — into a brand new style and a new band that they initially called The Big Thing.

The excesses that plagued so many ’70s groups — The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin — took their toll on Chicago as well, according to the documentary. Original manager/producer Jim Guercio had played fast and loose with the band’s finances, pouring them into a new studio in Colorado and failing to pay royalties. Cocaine use among the band was rampant and destructive, negatively affecting interpersonal relationships. New members didn’t join the lineup seamlessly.

Chicago has always had its detractors. A review of the documentary in The Chicago Reader by a fellow named Bill Wyman (not the former Stones bassist) described it this way: “It’s an altogether fitting testament to Chicago’s hippie self-absorption and dopey excesses, all far out of proportion with both the amount of listenable music Chicago produced and its musical importance.” Ouch.

The venerable horn section: Pankow, Parazaider and Loughnane

But I’ll always have a soft spot for Chicago, if only for those first two groundbreaking albums that dared to fully integrate horns into a professional rock band. Thanks, guys, for bringing that dream to fruition all those years ago.

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The Spotify playlist below is, as you’d expect, heavy on the first two albums, but there’s also a hefty dose of material from their later work. Nearly every studio album is represented with at least one track in order to provide you with a representative cross section of Chicago’s entire career arc.