Beginnings-Song of the Day

Beginnings – Spotify

Beginnings – YouTube

I was driving on Mulholland Drive after my SiriusXM show. The highway is a strange combination of inspiration and creepiness. After all, this is where those reporters found the discarded Manson murder clothing. That’s right, long after the killings they read the reports and timed how long they thought it would take to change clothes and they re-enacted the route, stopped the car, climbed down the cliff, AND THERE THEY WERE!

Did you read about the new Manson book, saying Bugliosi’s theory was wrong? I guess it’s like the Kennedy assassination, now that Charlie is dead, there are those with more questions than answers, who don’t buy the party line.

And speaking of questions, that’s the song that follows “Beginnings” on Chicago Transit Authority’s debut double album, a package you had to buy to hear.

1969 was before AOR. We had underground FM which specialized in playing the new and different and lengthy. And CTA’s songs were certainly lengthy, but after the breakthrough of the David Clayton Thomas incarnation of Blood, Sweat & Tears this sound seemed too mainstream. And eventually Chicago would go mainstream, but that wasn’t until the second LP, with “Make Me Smile” and “25 or 6 to 4,” and then the band became known for wimpy ballads and was discarded by hipsters, but…there was that 1974 track, “(I’ve Been) Searchin’ So Long,” which started slowly and quietly, and then transitioned to a horn flourish, evidencing the humanity lost in today’s machine music, and then a sing-songy vocal that’s somewhat endearing…

Then the track starts to march.

And it slows down a bit and goes back into the verse.

Yet, then, more than halfway through, the track starts to gallop, it accelerates and…

For an answer

And suddenly it’s an anthem! With even a guitar solo, but what truly pulls it over the transom and jets it into the stratosphere is the backup vocals. And then it quietly exits and…you can’t wait to hear it again. This was the pre-Napster era, you had limited cash, did you really want to drop it on this double album, “Chicago VII”?

But this isn’t about that era.

This is when the band was finding its way, thrilled just to have a deal, which was gotten by James William Guercio, a legend who got no respect back then and is completely forgotten today. Have you listened to those Buckinghams hits recently? Especially “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” which also featured brass figures, maybe an inspiration for Guercio’s work with Chicago. (And never forget, Guercio ultimately directed a film, “Electra Glide In Blue,” which could possibly be Robert Blake’s best work and was almost great, better than the work of any other person who tried to switch sides from music to movies.)

The initial double album was a special deal, less than a dollar more than a single LP, not the cost of two records. And it grew slowly in the marketplace, via word of mouth, real word of mouth, not the internet kind, and real word of mouth moves much more slowly.

And there was a nearly eight minute cover of the Spencer Davis Group’s “I’m A Man,” written by Steve Winwood and producer Jimmy Miller, another forgotten man, he was there when the Stones did their best album work.

So you could dig into CTA, and it delivered. Some people consider it to be the best debut album ever, that’s what callers into my radio show said.

But I hadn’t listened to it in so so long.

And then I heard “Beginnings” on the radio.

It’s bright and sunny, but not so sunny as to be saccharine.

And one thing’s for sure, the band is functioning on all cylinders, it’s plowing ahead confidently, you cannot help but get on the train.

And I’m twisting and turning through the curves, nodding my head and singing along.

And “Beginnings” is nearly eight minutes long, closer to classical music than pop fodder. It goes through movements. Sure, the horns are prominent, but then there’s Terry Kath’s guitar, a man who would be revered as one of the best if his career wasn’t cut short by a game of Russian roulette.

And there are dynamics and…

You’re listening, and fifty year old music should sound dated, like a period piece, good only for nostalgia, but the truth is “Beginnings” was still fresh.

But somehow horns got a bad name, and got replicated by synthesizers, and instead of having big bands acts play to hard drive, and the inner mounting flame, the sheer joy and exuberance of music, has been lost along the way.

But unlike the lost civilizations of Mexico, this music is hiding in plain sight, waiting to be rediscovered and inspire.

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