Posted May, 2015
One of the most played songs in pop music history is “Vehicle” by Ides of March. It hit the airwaves forty-five years ago and reportedly went on to become Warner Records’ fastest selling single in its history.
Last year, the band’s founder, Jim Peterik, published a book, “Through The Eye Of The Tiger,” that chronicles the Ides of March’s history (yeah, they’re still around) as well as Peterik’s many other great accomplishments. I interviewed him for about that book and the article is still posted on Boomerocity.com.
On the heels of that successful book, Peterik and the boys of Ides of March have released a new box set that commemorates the bands fifty years in the business. Jim called me from his Illinois home to chat about the box set and the band. Before doing so, though, he filled me in on how the book did in the market place.
“Well, it’s still going very well. Acceptance has been terrific- lot of great reviews, pretty good sales. I was just in Europe doing a concert in Milan featuring my band Pride of Lions for Frontiers Rock Festival. I couldn’t tell you how many books people brought up to me to sign. It was a good feeling that we’re getting across the pond as well.”
When I asked if there was going to be a follow-up to “Tiger,” Peterik said:
“Oh, hell, who knows? I don’t know if I can live another fifty years. When I’m 105, maybe. There were a lot of stories that had to be cut for various reasons. One, it would have been six hundred pages. The other is that there are a certain amount of stories I may have gotten in a little bit of legal trouble for. What I think I’m going to do, and I’ve already started doing it, is create a website called ‘Through The Eye of the Tiger’. I’m going to be adding stories that were left out for various reasons and change certain names for the not-so-innocent.”
I asked Jim if he ever thought this day would happen when he started the band fifty years ago.
“Oh man, are you kidding? When you’re fourteen or fifteen years old, the last thing you think about is the future. You’re thinking about impressing the cheerleader in the front row. You’re thinking about how much you’d like to be The Beatles. Really, longevity is not on your radar at that point. You’re just having the time of your life. We never did it for the money. Fortunately, money and certain amount of fame came with it, but it was never the game plan. I feel that bands and artists these days have these demographic game plans. You know what, do it ‘cause you love it, and maybe other people will love it, too. Sitting back at fifty years gone, it’s pretty incredible. We still feel like the same band and same people which is great.”
Peterik then shared about the new Ides of March box set.
“We’re real proud of it. It’s a deluxe box set with five discs- four music discs and one DVD. I’ll start with the DVD just because I can. Last year, we did a really great show in Chicago with full
digital sound, etc. It happened to be a really good night. I think it captures the spirit of The Ides of March. The material runs the gamut from The Ides of March hits and classics to The Ides of March spins on a lot of the songs I had the pleasure of co-writing with Survivor, .38 Special, and Sammy Hagar. It’s just a real good show, and the people were so receptive. The sound was so good. In between most of the songs, we have interviews with various band members about high points and what The Ides of March means to them.
“We have a real strong line-up. Aside from the original core four, we have Scott May who has been on keyboards since 1990. We have the best brass section we’ve had probably ever. In addition to the DVD, we have a music video for our new single (if there is such a thing as a single anymore) called ‘Last Band Standing’, which is the title of the whole 50-year commemoration. For that, we were very fortunate to have Steve Cropper, the famous Muscle Shoals musician and writer, come into Chicago and do a show with us. He stayed an extra day and put his funky Telecaster licks on ‘Last Band Standing’. He’s become a wonderful supporter and a great friend. He joined me on stage in Nashville about a month ago at the Tin Pan South Songwriters Festival. We did ‘Sittin’ On The Dock of the Bay’, ‘In The Midnight Hour’, and ‘Knock On Wood’- a few small hits that he co-wrote, you know.
“Three new songs are part of the music package, then it drops down to seventy-five or seventy-six of our songs through the ages. We licensed the best of the PARROT stuff which was a London Records subsidiary, and that included our hit ‘You Wouldn’t Listen’ from ’66. All the Parrot singles after that, and we licensed the best of the Warner years: ‘Vehicle’; ‘L.A. Goodbye’; ‘Superman’ which were all singles. We licensed the RCA/Sony stuff, which included the second two albums, ‘World Woven’ and ‘Midnight Oil’. That was before there was a band called Midnight Oil. Then it picks up in 1990 when we had a reunion. We played our hometown of Berwyn, Illinois, for 25,000 of our closest friends. We haven’t looked back since. We’ve also included the best of our independent releases since ’90 all the way up through the three new tracks.”
I asked the writer of “Vehicle” what surprises fans would find in the set.
“The surprises will come on the DVD. Hopefully, they’ll also be surprised at some of the stuff they never heard that should have had a chance and should have been hits in our opinion. But they weren’t.
“What surprised me, and I’m a member of the band, was that while we were having our heyday in ’70 with ‘Vehicle’, some of the biggest names in show business were singing our song. Here I am nineteen years old, and seeing Tom Jones performing ‘Vehicle’ on HIS nationwide TV show and Sammy Davis, Jr. doing the same- pretty mind-blowing. There is footage of Dick Clark introducing ‘You Wouldn’t Listen’ as The Spotlight Dance on American Bandstand. We were in high school. We weren’t even aware of what the world was doing, so those were surprises to me. We found this archival stuff, and it seems, nowadays, you can find just about anything you want as well as a few things you don’t want, it was really cool.
“I think people will also be very enthused to find the live recording of The Ides of March with Buddy Guy doing a very cool version of ‘Vehicle’. We didn’t have VIDEO footage of it, but we created a slideshow around it. I really think they’ll also love Bo Bice singing ‘Vehicle’ onstage on The Jay Leno Show with Richie Sambora doing the lead work.”
As for what one cut or item in the collection would he point people to and say, “THIS is why you should get this set,” Jim said:
“Obviously, the original mono mix of ‘Vehicle’ is so punchy, and you realize why that song is a hit. Every part of it is a hook. You gotta own that. The stereo mix of ‘Superman’, which was our follow-up-, it’s the first time it’s ever been presented. It’s so good with so much energy. I remember we cut that at Sunset Sound in L.A. It was our first trip to L.A. We were playing the Whiskey with Tony Joe White and Stephen Stills. The next day we went to Sunset Sound to cut our follow-up, and we’d never been in a cool studio like that. Sunset was, like, The Mamas & the Papas, The Association, and The Wrecking Crew. There we are, and Mike’s underneath the famous umbrella with his drum kit. We’re cutting this tune, and all of the sudden, all the members of Chase turn up in the control room cheering us on. So when you hear the energy on that record, it wasn’t drugs. We didn’t do drugs. It was all this young energy pouring into this song, and it just about explodes.
“Aside from that, I’m really proud of the three new ones. I know it sounds like, ‘Well, yeah, sure. They’re the newest ones.’ But we went through about eight new songs before we found the magic three. ‘Last Band Standing’ with Steve Cropper is a highlight, and it’s really an autobiographical song. You’ll hear references to some of the great moments of our early career- playing with Led Zeppelin, meeting George Harrison and Janis Joplin. There are echoes of all those great events in our life.
“The second new song is called ‘Who I Am’, and it’s an anthem. It’s to stand up and not be afraid to say, ‘This is who I am’. It’s really pays homage to the great horn bands- Chicago, Blood, Sweat, & Tears, Chase, and yes- The Ides of March. There’s one section in there that gives me goose bumps. It’s at the end of the bridge, and we purposely did a Chase waterfall cascading trumpet arrangement. You’ll swear you’re sitting and watching Chase. I wanted to do that, because I loved Bill. I’d like to think I was an important part of that organization and wrote at least three or four of their tunes. Bill was a pioneer, and we lost him way too soon.
“Our third brand new song is called ‘Too Far To Turn Around’ which kinda mines our obsession with Crosby, Stills, & Nash back in about 1972 and features the harmony of The Ides of March. I wrote it in China last year. I was there doing a solo show for 80,000 people just south of Beijing. I was there alone. I didn’t have a road manager, and here’s me who is not the most together person in the world as far as directions. I made it to China, I got to the stage on time, and the people absolutely went crazy. I’m sitting in my little hotel room in Beijing, and I’m like, ‘Man, I’m really far from home’. I wrote this song, ‘Too Far To Turn Around’. The chorus goes, ‘I’m on the road to where I’ve never been…Beyond the borders of imagining.’ It’s just a neat, neat, neat song. I’m very proud of that one.”
For me, when I think of “Ides of March,” I think “Vehicle.” I asked Peterik if there is a song that he feels better represents the band and all that it is.
“I really like ‘Aire of Good Feeling’. That was supposed to be the follow- up to ‘Vehicle’. As much as I like ‘Vehicle’, we open the show to this day with ‘Aire of Good Feeling’. We said, ‘This is going to be our next single!’ Warner Bros. heard it and said it didn’t sound enough like ‘Vehicle’. That’s when Jackson 5 had three that sounded identical, and The Osmonds had three that sounded identical. We went back to the drawing board and basically cloned ‘Vehicle’ which came out as ‘Superman’. You can’t really do that. I mean, I like ‘Superman’, but it ain’t no ‘Vehicle’. I would have rather put out ‘Aire of Good Feeling’. That’s a song I’m very proud of.”
The music business has always been a brutal business to be successful in but it’s especially so today. I asked Jim if an “Ides of March” could start today and be successful in the music business.
“Wow, that’s a million dollar question! Theoretically, if they’re willing to put in the work, yeah. We didn’t have it given to us either. It was all self-motivated. There was no Svengali manager saying, ‘You gotta do this or dress this way’. We did it because we loved it. There’s a band that came through Chicago, The Brede Baldwin Band, which my son, Colin, plays with, opened up for them, called OK Go. They made it through sheer tenacity and being creative. Good songs, but it’s really all about their visual show and their videos. They found a way in. They’re a very tight knit band.
“I think a band has a chance if you have something unique, and you aren’t afraid to go for it. Somebody’s got to inhabit those charts. Somebody’s got to make it. The strongest will survive.”
As for tour plans in support of the box set, Jim shared:
“We’re starting to accumulate gigs now. We do have a healthy developing schedule as far as in-store promotions. We’re kicking it off this Saturday on Record Store Day, April 18. Record Store Day is the day that pays homage to the brick and mortar record stores that are still in existence. There’s more than you think, more than I thought. We’re doing a place called Entourage Music in Fort Wayne, Indiana. We’re driving up there like the old days. This will be the first time the boxed set will be sold publicly. We’re selling some special signed and numbered editions. We’re doing a little unplugged performance, and we have more of those coming up, not only in Chicago but Wisconsin and Indiana, too.
Photo by Kristie Schram
Jim Peterik is well known for being a prolific producer of all sorts of great stuff. Knowing from my past conversation that he never sits still, I asked him what’s on his radar for the rest of the year or two.
“Like I said, we’re doing a lot of in-stores. We do have The Ides of March shows. I have a few Pride of Lion shows that I’m doing. I was just in Milan where we headlined the Frontiers Rock Festival, a two-day fest. Frontiers Records, based in Italy, is the biggest proponent and producer of melodic rock. They have everybody from Toto to Sammy Hagar. You name the Eighties, and they have them. They’ve been big boosters of mine. We’re going into the fifth Pride of Lions album later on this year. Toby Hitchcock and I co-sing, and we just tore it up over there. Simultaneously, two releases came out in a day, both on Frontiers. One with Peterik/Scherer is called ‘Risk Everything’. A new singer I discovered in Chicago, tenor voice, great singer. I put a lot of work into this record, and I’ve very proud of the songs. I don’t sing on this record. I wrote all the songs, except three with Marc, produced it, and play guitar and keyboards.
“The other album out is very dear to my heart. It’s called ‘Torch- The Music Remembers Jimi Jamison and Fergie Frederiksen. That also just came out on Frontiers. We licensed the best of the material from Frontiers catalogs on both artists, some of which I produced and wrote with Jimi. I wrote six new pieces of music which I brought in the talents of, basically, the who’s who of the AR world- Bobby Kimball, Mike Reno, Bill Champlin, Kevin Chalfant, Alex Ligertwood of Santana, and more. We all pulled together for Jimi and Fergie, two great singers that we lost. The proceeds go to their two favorite charities, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and American Liver Foundation.
“I’m doing a Pride of Lion show in Chicago on July 2, and I might actually bring in Marc Droubay who I hadn’t seen in twenty years until I ran into him at Jimi Jamison’s funeral. We re-bonded. This will be historic for me. I haven’t played with him since, like, 1986. He still has the chops. He and John Bonham are of the same ilk. They just lay it down.”
Fans check out where The Ides of March are playing, current news as well as order their own box set of “The Last Band Standing” directly Jim and the band by visiting TheIdesofMarch.com (or by clicking on the widget, below).