"Springfield News Leader"
Interview with Pankow - Springfield News Leader (small town newspaper)
Sunday, 09-Nov-97 20:01:02
CHICAGO WORKS TO STRIKE A BALANCE BETWEEN FAVORITES, NEW SONGS. (headline)
As far as James Pankow of Chicago is concerned, he'd do the show for free. He wants to be paid for the other stuff encountered on the road.
"I think we look forward to those two hours on stage every day", says trombonist Pankow, who helped start Chicago in 1967. "That's not what we are paid for. It's the buses, the airports, the hotels. You know you have been on the road enough when your best friends are your TV remote control and the room service menu."
Pankow, now based in LA with the rest of the group, says it's hard to get away from the fun of performing, no matter how hard it is, "and I think that's why Frank Sinatra worked into his 80's, and Duke Ellington died three weeks after his last gig. You want to go with your boots on."
Chicago's boots are filled. With gold and platinum albums and singles dating back to their 1969 debut on record as Chicago Transit Authority. The name was shortened for their second album in 1970.
They are still selling records. The current Reprise album, "Heart of Chicago 1967-1997," a best of set with two new songs, is gold. One new cut, "Here in My Heart", was a #1 adult contemporary hit last summer.
"This set was a nice vehicle to offer a couple of new songs for the '90's and to take us into other directions as we look into another decade of music," Pankow says. "We'd like to do another album of original material, but we're still thinking about what that would be."
One direction Pankow would like to take is into Hollywood, "although we have never been asked to do a soundtrack. But I think with the musicianship of this band, we could have a lot of fun amd maybe some success. We might also look at the theater. Barry Manilow is doing a Broadway musical, and our ensemble is suited for that. We've also worked with symphonies around the country."
When they do that work, Pankow and company try to strike a balance between new songs and oldies- more than 40 Top 40 hits and counting- to keep their fans happy.
"We know there are certain songs we have to do or they will ride us out of town on a rail. That means 'Saturday in the Park', 'Make Me Smile' and things like that. But it can be tough to get all the songs in that the fans want. If we did all the songs that meant something to people, we would be on stage eight hours.
"We did learn one lesson a few years ago," Pankow continues. "We did a show filled with obscure but musically challenging material for us. The crowd would leave, wondering what we were doing. So we cut that out."
Even with all those hits, Pankow still feels Chicago is a contemporary group.
"We love doing concerts and seeing people of all ages out there. We count our blessings that we are still viable and not some oldies-but-goodies act. When I see 15 year old kids bopping to this music, I know we are still relevant. I thank God for it. Besides, I don't know how to do anything else."