NEW CHICAGO — (Via Columbus Dispatch) Chicago has gone through some changes since it started as a rock band with horns in 1967.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the band’s keyboardist, Robert Lamm.
He’ll be there again when the band performs at the Palace Theatre on Tuesday.
Lamm, 77, is responsible for writing many of the band’s hits, including “25 or 6 to 4” and “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?”
He spent much of his time during the pandemic writing songs for a new, as yet untitled, Chicago album to be released early in 2022. This one is the proposed first of two new albums, and the first by the group since “Chicago Christmas” in 2019.
“My experience of the pandemic was that I actually allowed myself, pretty much every day, to work on songs,” Lamm said, speaking by phone from Knoxville, Tennessee, where he was appearing as part of the band’s current tour.
Robert Lamm, who was a founding member of the rock band Chicago in 1967, says he enjoyed returning to live audiences after a break caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Ever since the early ’70s, we’ve been on the road. Eventually, I didn’t even have a piano at home. I just didn’t have time for it,” he said. “But this year, I allowed myself to think about what I really wanted to say, lyrically. And I allowed myself to reach out to people I wanted to work with. I’m not really worrying about, ‘Is this going to get on the radio is this a Brazilian feel or a jazzy feel or a romantic feel?’ None of that.”
He wasn’t the only one in the band who was working.
“The newer guys in the band, who have only been with us for a decade or two or three (he laughs), this project also allowed them to be creative and contribute songs,” Lamm said.
The new album will take the band in a new direction — something that has happened more than once before.
“Chicago has never been your average pop music or rock music. It’s all over the place stylistically. I think that’s why it took us so long to get into the Rock Hall of Fame,” he said.
Chicago was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2016, and Lamm into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2017.
Lamm had a couple of revelations during his time off from touring.
“One was that I didn’t know what home was. It’s the longest I’ve ever been home for my entire life, and I’m an old guy. I didn’t know that I would like it so much. I want to do it more. And the second was that I married the right woman. My wife is a wonderful, lovely person,” he said.
Lamm has been married to his fourth wife, Joy Kopko, since 1991.
By now, the band has been back on the road since June.
“We’ve played about 50 concerts by now, and we have about 50 more to go,” Lamm said. “It’s been fun rediscovering the thrill of performance, for an audience who might be fans, or might be curious or just might be looking for something to do.”
“We start with material from the very first album, which remains popular. Even though most of our audience these days is younger than us, somehow, they’ve absorbed our music, either through classic radio or listening to their parents’ record collections,” Lamm said.
“There are some acoustic elements, there are some really hard rocking parts, and the show has a beginning, a middle and an end. And it appears to be working. The audiences are standing and cheering. And that makes us feel so good.”
Chicago, recently at NYC’s Beacon Theater, was the first post-pandemic show I’ve seen. WOR’s Tom Cuddy invited me and it was a terrific and sold-out show. What a catalog this group has. I don’t think there’s any other ensemble around that can make that claim … and, they’re still touring and writing. I’d welcome a new album from them anytime. Years back, Lamm had a solo album called Skinny Boy and a few years back, another. Brilliant music and artist. I’m in for sure.
MORT SAHL RIP — (Via Deadline) Mort Sahl, the acerbic comic whose pioneering style paved the way for such boundary-breaking comedians as Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor and George Carlin, died Tuesday at his home in Mill Valley, CA. He was 94.
A friend confirmed his death to The New York Times.
Known for his topical social commentary, he boldly skewered politicians and others in a harsh but clean stand-up act. He hosted the first Grammy Awards in 1959, co-hosted the 1959 Academy Awards and a year later became the first comedian featured to be featured on the cover of Time magazine. He also guest-hosted The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson multiple times during the 1960’s.
Born on May 11, 1927, in Montreal, Sahl’s family moved to Los Angeles when he was a child. After a stint in the Air Force, he graduated from USC in 1950. By the mid-50’s he was doing stand-up, and a 1955 performance was recorded and released a few years later as Mort Sahl At Sunset. It is considered the first stand-up album. A second comedy LP stiffed, but his 1960 disc Mort Sahl at the Hungry I reached No. 22 on the Billboard 200, and his 1973 disc Sing a Song of Watergate peaked at No. 145.
In the late 1950’s, Sahl began landing acting roles, starting with the 1958 Robert Wagner film In Love and War. His subsequent big-screen work included All the Young Men (1960), Johnny Cool (1963) Don’t Make Waves and Doctor, You’ve Got to Be Kidding (both 1967). He also worked on TV, guesting on such series as Pursuit, Playhouse 90, Thriller, Ironside, Emergency! and Love American Style, while performing on The Jerry Lewis Show, The Big Picture, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In and The Hollywood Palace.
Sahl also was a regular on the talk-show circuit, making multiple appearing on shows hosted by the likes of Dick Cavett, Mike Douglas, Dinah Shore, Merv Griffin and David Frost. He did some work on the popular Dean Martin celebrity roasts in the mid-1970s, appeared several times on The Ed Sullivan Show and on celebrity-driver game shows including The Hollywood Squares, The Match Game and Missing Links.
He also was the subject of a 1989 American Masters documentary titled Mort Sahl: The Loyal Opposition, directed and produced by Robert B. Weide, who earned an Emmy Award and an Oscar nom for his docu Lenny Bruce: Swear to Tell the Truth.
His final screen credit was alongside his old friend Jerry Lewis in 2013’s Max Rose.
Following the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963, Sahl would lose a chunk of his stand-up fan base after speaking out against the Warren Commission. But his anti-Vietnam War stance and the general social upheaval of the late 1960’s saw his act come back into vogue.
In the late 2000’s, Sahl relocated to the Bay Area town of Mill Valley, where he would befriend neighbor Robin Williams.
Sahl was married and divorced four times, but he has no surviving immediate family members. A son, Mort Jr., died in 1996.
Comedians like Sahl and Lenny Bruce, early-Bill Cosby and even George Carlin were nothing short of brilliant – taking the news of the day and featuring it in another compelling way. Observational for sure. No blue words for the most part- or cruel language. It’s something that most comedians nowadays can’t even touch. A genius for sure.
PRESTON AWARDED – (via Cleveland.com) The late Billy Preston enjoyed a prodigious career as a performer, with nearly two dozen albums and hits such as “Outta Space,” “Will It Go Round in Circles” and “Nothing From Nothing.”
On Saturday, Oct. 30, the singer, keyboardist and bandleader will receive a Musical Excellence Award from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to recognize his prolific work as a sideman and session hand — for a music who’s-who list that includes Little Richard, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and many more. And it comes at a time one of Preston’s most celebrated collaborations is back in the spotlight.
During January of 1969, shortly after playing with Ray Charles at London’s Royal Festival Hall, Preston was invited by George Harrison to take part in recording sessions with the Beatles that became part of the Let It Be album and film as well as the Abbey Road album. Preston’s contributions have been highlighted recently via new special edition releases of the album and the Get Back coffee table book, and he’ll certainly be featured even more in Peter Jackson’s The Beatles: Get Back, a three-episode, six-hour docu-series running Nov. 25-27 on Disney+.
“It meant a lot to him,” says Joyce Moore, Preston’s former manager and now CEO of the Preston Music Group, Inc. “He absolutely treasured that time and treasured his relationship with the four guys, collectively and independently. They’ve been extremely respectful and extremely conscientious towards him in putting the Let It Be projects together. Billy’s gotten his propers and is getting his proper, absolutely.”
Preston — who passed away June 6, 2006, at the age of 59 from a litany of health issues — first met the Beatles in 1962, when he was a 16-year-old prodigy in Little Richard’s touring band at the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany, and the British quartet opened. Because promoters fed Richard’s group but not the Beatles, Preston, according to Moore, would order extra food and pass it along to the group, which created a strong bond between them. The Beatles even asked Preston to join them on stage to jam, but Little Richard would not allow it.
Fast forward to 1969 and Preston was ushered into a somewhat troubled and unfocused Beatles project. Sessions earlier in the month at Twickenham Film Studios had not gone well, and the group switched to the basement studio in its Apple Corps headquarters to recoup its mojo.
Harrison, who left the band briefly at Twickenham, was returning to the fold and suggested adding Preston to the mix when sessions resumed Jan. 22.
“We’d always got on very well with him,” Paul McCartney remembers in The Beatles Anthology. “He showed up in London and we said, ‘Oh, Bill! Great — let’s have play on a few things.’ So, he sat in on the sessions, because he was an old mate really.”
Giles Martin, who mixed the audio for the new Let It Be reissues as well as the Jackson documentary, says Preston’s presence was crucial to the project.
“He was an enormous influence on this whole thing,” Martin, son of the late Beatles producer George Martin, says. “Billy Preston made them behave. He brought this musicianship; He was younger than they were, and he was a remarkable musician and that made them play. It reminded them they weren’t just the Beatles hanging out; They had to actually play songs. Immediately they seem more focused with him in the room.”
Preston, for his part, noticed some of the tension that was creeping into the band by then. “I think they had lost a bit of the joy of making music,” he once said. “There wasn’t much bickering in the studio…but when we’d break for lunch they’d start to talk about business. I was surprised to learn they’d gotten ripped off so many times. I learned a lot from them about that kind of thing.”
Preston is credited with playing piano on five Let It Be songs and organ on two, including the title track. He also backed the band during its famed Jan. 30 rooftop concert that closes the film, and when “Get Back” and “Don’t Let Me Down” were released as singles, they were credited to “the Beatles with Billy Preston,” the only time the group gave such a credit. He also recorded on two tracks (“Something,” “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”) on “Abbey Road,” which was recorded after but released prior to “Let It Be.”
The idea of adding Preston to the band was broached but McCartney reportedly nixed it, telling his mates that, “It’s bad enough with four Beatles.”
Preston was, however, rewarded with an Apple Records contract and released two albums with the label — That’s the Way God Planned It in 1969 and Encouraging Words the following year, the latter of which featured the first recordings of Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” and “All Things Must Pass” and is being re-released on vinyl Oct. 29 to coincide with the Rock Hall honor.
Preston went on to play on solo albums by Harrison, John Lennon, Ringo Starr and played at Harrison’s The Concert for Bangladesh. He also made an appearance in the ill-conceived Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band film as the magical golden weather vane and was part of Ringo Starr’s inaugural All-Starr Band in 1989.
The Beatles chapter is significant but also just part of an epic career. Born in Houston, Preston never took music lessons but was playing organ for gospel singers by the time he was 10. Preston appeared on Nat King Cole’s TV show when he was just 11 and joined Cole in “St. Louis Blues,” playing a young W.C. Handy. The stint with Little Richard led to jobs with Cooke and Charles, while Preston’s debut album, 16 Yr. Old Soul, came out in 1963.
Preston began working with the Rolling Stones on 1971′s Sticky Fingers album and was a featured performer on its 1975 Tour of the Americas. He co-wrote “You Are So Beautiful,” which Joe Cocker turned into a hit during 1974, and also stacked up credits with Sly and the Family Stone, Barbra Streisand, Peter Frampton, Elton John, Luther Vandross, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Neil Diamond, good friend Sam Moore (of Sam & Dave) and many others.
All of that certainly makes Preston a worthy Musical Excellence Award winner. But estate manager Moore hopes that his entry into the Rock Hall will be viewed as an honor for his full career — much like Starr’s own induction became back in 2015.
“(A sideman) is not all of who he was,” Moore says. “But I’m thrilled he’s getting in. It’s certainly well-deserved, and it was something Billy had hoped for and wanted when he was alive. It was something that was heavy on his heart all those years, but it wasn’t to be while he was alive.
“So, this is bittersweet. It’s long overdue and warranted and worthy. I’m just sad that he’s not here, because I know how much he would have enjoyed it — not from an egotistical view, just for the acceptance and honor and recognition of which he knew God gave him, which was his genius.”
For music-aficionados, Preston was a class act and this award, though not the main award is long overdue – believe me, long overdue.
SHORT TAKES – What a beautifully written and heartfelt tribute to The Monkees from Showbiz 411’s Roger Friedman-from their Town Hall Show. Take a read: https://www.showbiz411.com/2021/10/26/monkee-time-one-last-time-as-micky-dolenz-mike-nesmith-celebrate-55-years-of-hits-and-memories …
Markos Papadatos wrote a great piece on the new Freda Payne/Mark Bego book in Digital Journal, Freda Payne: Band of Gold A Memoir – take a look: https://www.digitaljournal.com/entertainment/review-freda-payne-shines-on-her-exceptional-new-book-band-of-gold-a-memoir/article … Wednesday night at The Paramount in Long Island, The Monkees did their final-NY-area show.
The last time Micky Dolenz was there was on his birthday (April 2019) and was gifted with a beautiful cake and a neon-piece of art for his Daughters & Dolenz furniture collection … Per Hits: The presale for Adele’s pair of British Summer Time Hyde Park London shows in July of 2022 has begun, and let’s just say demand is intense. Word has it requests for tickets were north of 10 times capacity for two AEG Presents-promoted nights (7/1-2) at the 65k-cap venue—we’re talking 1.3m+ requests for 130k available and highly coveted seats. We also understand that the Kleenex concession will be off the hook. Stay tuned for updates; you may now resume streaming “Easy on Me” and weeping softly … And, still dazzled by Brandi Carlile’s performance of “Broken Horses” on SNL. Take a look:
jeuXAME-A Just sensational!
NAMES IN THE NEWS — Gary Gershoff; Steve Walter; Jackie Stander; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Jeff Smith; Brad LeBeau; Nillie Adams; Dave Peaslee; Bob Small; Bill Amendola; Steve Walter; Sean Harkness; DC LaRue; Randy Alexander; Lush Ice; Heather Moore; Michael Greene; Vinny Rich; Dan Mapp; Jackie Stander; and, CHIP!