Now, this takes me back to high school (shudder – I hated those days). Back in those days, I was a band geek. I stall am a geek, just no longer a member of a band. But in theory, it’s all the same. The reason this song is stuck today is probably because I have a little mini-reunion with some of my high school band members tonight. </sigh>
As a trumpet player the band Chicago (A.K.A. Chicago Transit Authority) was my go to band in my late teens. The way they blended rock, horns and political statements was mesmerizing to me. They used a rather unique lettering or font on the album covers. I even started making any papers I had to turn in at school in this font, at least for any titles and drop cap type of format. Mainly hoping it help hide the usual lame prose I was turning in! Doubt it helped any.
This track is from the first album Chicago Transit Authority released way back in 1969. It was 1970 that I picked up the trumpet, and this song jumped out at me immediately.
While gaining some success as a cover band, the group began working on original songs. In June 1968, at manager James William Guercio‘s request, the Big Thing moved to Los Angeles, California, signed with Columbia Records and changed its name to Chicago Transit Authority. It was while performing on a regular basis at the Whisky a Go Go nightclub in West Hollywood that the band got exposure to more famous musical artists of the time. Subsequently, they were the opening act for Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. As related to group biographer, William James Ruhlmann, by Walt Parazaider, Jimi Hendrix once told Parazaider, “‘Jeez, your horn players are like one set of lungs and your guitar player is better than me.'”
Their first record (April 1969), Chicago Transit Authority, is a double album, which is rare for a band’s first release. The album made it to No. 17 on the Billboard 200 album chart, sold over one million copies by 1970, and was awarded a platinum disc. The album included a number of pop-rock songs – “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?“, “Beginnings“, “Questions 67 and 68“, and “I’m a Man” – which were later released as singles. For this inaugural recording effort the group was nominated for a Grammy Award for 1969 Best New Artist of the Year.
According to Cetera, the band was booked to perform at Woodstock in 1969, but promoter Bill Graham, with whom they had a contract, exercised his right to reschedule them to play at the Fillmore West on a date of his choosing, and he scheduled them for the Woodstock dates. Santana, which Graham also managed, took Chicago’s place at Woodstock, and that performance is considered to be Santana’s “breakthrough” gig. A year later, in 1970, when he needed to replace headliner Joe Cocker, and then Cocker’s intended replacement, Jimi Hendrix, Graham booked Chicago to perform at Tanglewood which is considered by some to be a “pinnacle” performance.
The track I’m linking to below is the original album version, not the radio edit. So it has the original piano intro that is cut for radio. But, more important to me, is Lee Loughnane’s trumpet solo, which is where the radio version usually starts. This solo, along with Chuck Mangione and Maynard Ferguson, is the reason I picked up the trumpet, to begin with.
The song was not released as a single until two tracks from the band’s second album, “Make Me Smile” and “25 or 6 to 4“, had become hits. It became the band’s third straight Top 10 single, peaking at No. 7 in the U.S. and No. 2 in Canada. Because the song straddled years in its chart run, it is not ranked on the major U.S. year-end charts. However, in Canada, where it charted higher, it is ranked as both the 59th biggest hit of 1970 and the 37th biggest hit of 1971.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Does_Anybody_Really_Know_What_Time_It_Is%3F
The original uncut album version opens with a brief “free form” piano solo performed by Lamm. A spoken verse by Lamm is mixed into the sung final verse of the album version. The single version does not include the “free form” intro, and was originally mixed and issued in mono. A stereo re-edit (beginning from the point where the “free form” intro leaves off) was issued on the group’s Only the Beginning greatest hits CD set.
A 2:54 shorter edit (without opening fanfare or piano break, starting at the trumpet solo) was included on the original vinyl version of Chicago’s Greatest Hits, but was not included on the CD version. This shorter edit was included on the CD version of the compilation album If You Leave Me Now. This version was used as a radio edit version. A shorter version at 2:46 (starting midway through the trumpet solo) was issued as a promotional single, which finally appeared on 2007’s The Best of Chicago: 40th Anniversary Edition.
A live version on the Chicago at Carnegie Hall box set presents an expanded version of the “free form” intro, which itself is given its own track.
Various versions of the song receive airplay; the promotional single edit is the version played on certain ‘Classic Hits’ stations and 1970s radio shows. For example, radio station KKMJ would play the promo edit version on its ‘Super Songs’ of the 70s weekend. Classic Hits KXBT would also play the promo edit, and by contrast the True Oldies Channel would play the 3:20 single version. An AM radio station in Boston (WJIB 740 which also simulcasts in Maine as WJTO 730) plays the original vinyl Chicago IX edit.
I apologize for the lame video, but like I said, I used this version since it has the original piano intro. Just start the video to listen to the song, and go do something more visually entertaining.
P.S. If by chance, you need me to help with something, anything, this evening to get me out of this mini reunion please let me know.. Not that I’m looking for an excuse or anything…