As I gradually learned more about music history it became apparent that there were a bunch of American bands who had enjoyed long careers in the 70s but who were close to invisible here. It seems to me that Britain has never really had an equivalent to the rock radio formats on which Chicago, among others, built a fanbase: individual DJs were left to promote adult-oriented and classic rock, which didn’t give dues-paying rock bands the space they had to build large audiences back home. Of course, I didn’t listen to radio in the 70s, so I’m happy to be corrected on this.Anyway the upshot is that the career of Chicago seemed (and seems) bizarre to me: literally dozens of albums, most of them doubles (or more!), reduced as far as I was concerned to a single soppy hit which I knew better from karaoke than from ever actually hearing the band’s version. And apparently “If You Leave Me Now” is hardly typical of the band’s work (to the extent that its success caused serious rifts). In Popular terms, though, it’s the first of a bunch of limpidly sincere records we’ll be meeting as the British public went ballad crazy.
What works in “If You Leave Me Now”? The hook, certainly – instantly memorable and (often what separates hit from flop, this) fun to imitate. As contrition, though, the track would work better if it was sparer: the opulent instrumentation means “If You Leave Me Now” sounds as much seduction as plea – which I’m sure did its sales no harm. The whole thing is glutinously enjoyable on one level, self-regarding piffle on another: that “oooh-ooh-oooh”doesn’t bring to mind a man desperate to stop his lover departing, just Peter Cetera tossing his hair and making doe-eyes at himself in a really gigantic mirror.