16
May 08

CHICAGO – “If You Leave Me Now”

FT + Popular63 comments • 2,849 views

#396, 13th November 1976

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.

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Comments

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  1. 51
    DJ Punctum on 3 Jun 2008 #

    Surprised R2 haven’t considered Tone for presenting POTP; he would be right at home there.

  2. 52
    Brian on 3 Jun 2008 #

    (and also the best one of the lot from that side of the Atlantic were Toronto’s very own Lighthouse ……)

    Thanks for reminding me Marcello !Toronto had a big live R & B community in the sixties & seventies that may account for the popularity of big bands in these parts.
    Might also explain why Chicago were so popular here. David Clayton Thomas also from Toronto.

    For the record some of the local , blue eyed soul bands were Jon , Lee & The Checkmates, The Rougues ( i think Lighthouse Drummer , Skip Prokop , was original drummer ), Tom & Ian and The Soulset, Mandala, George Oliver . They mostly covered the US Soul Hits but had a big following and have actually become identified with the ” Toronto SOund “. Most played out of L’Cog D’or on YOnge Street and the same place was home to Ronnie Hawkins & The Hawks , who later became The Band. Special place, special time.

  3. 53
    Andy Pandy on 25 Aug 2008 #

    Apparently to a lot of Chicago fans and certain members of the band this was the beginning of the end as they went from a “serious/albums orientated” band to one invoved in romantic pop songs. To me this and possibly “Baby What A Big Surprise” and maybe the disco-influenced album that contained “Streetplayer” (sampled and made famous by the Bucketheads “The Bomb”)were the final glimmers of class in a very worthwhile career. This single to me is pretty perfect in every way and the paucity of similar standrard stuff at No1 just goes to show how the quality of No1′s has been on an almost downward trajectory ever since the late70s/80s. And if anyone says they prefer “New Rose” to this I’d have to consider whether they actually really do like music at all.

  4. 54
    DJ Punctum on 26 Aug 2008 #

    (a) I said it.

    (b) I’m right.

    (c) In common with everyone else on this planet, I don’t give a fuck what you consider. Deal with it.

  5. 55
    Mark G on 26 Aug 2008 #

    a) Me too

    b) It’s my opinion, and I also like 25 or 624 better than this

    c) one bracket is better for footnotes

  6. 56
    DJ Punctum on 26 Aug 2008 #

    I mean the guy’s actually two years younger than me and yet he comes across as a dreary old man; it’s depressing and I feel sorry for him. Ah well, DNFTT.

  7. 57
    mike on 26 Aug 2008 #

    a) Thirded. “If You Leave Me Now” is perfectly lovely, but “New Rose” was genuinely life-changing.

    b) I don’t like music; I love it!

  8. 58
    Mark G on 26 Aug 2008 #

    Well, in our 6th form year 6 we all between us had the common room filled with the punk and new wave. When we moved up to year 7, the new 6th year brought in La belle epoch and suchlike. It did seem at the time that the times were changing back…

  9. 59
    DJ Punctum on 26 Aug 2008 #

    In my common room day it was all Canadian hard rock – Rush, Max Webster, April Wine – and I still don’t quite get why they were so popular in my year.

  10. 60
    Mark G on 26 Aug 2008 #

    There were a lot of black armbands when LynSkyn went down, back in the day, there.

  11. 61
    DJ Punctum on 26 Aug 2008 #

    Pity Kid Rock didn’t slash his wrists in sympathy.

  12. 62
    hectorthebat on 19 Jul 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010)
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Q (UK) – The 1010 Songs You Must Own (2004)
    Gilles Verlant and Thomas Caussé (France) – 3000 Rock Classics (2009)
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)
    Grammy Awards (USA) – Record of the Year Nominee
    Sounds (UK) – Singles of the Year

  13. 63
    Larry on 15 Nov 2014 #

    I actually liked this when listening to it just now, so I conclude from that that the ‘Popular’ comments section is changing my taste.

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