By Brian Ives
Indeed, this year was the first year Chicago even made it to the ballot, so it was somewhat surprising for them to finally get voted in. But that soon led to the question of whether or not they will reunite with Peter Cetera—the singer for many of their ’70s classics and most of their ’80s hits—for the induction ceremony.
We got on the phone with founding member Robert Lamm to ask him about his feelings on the band’s upcoming induction, which will take place at the Barclays Center in New York on April 8.
Congratulations on your upcoming induction!
You’ve been eligible for a long time: were you surprised to hear that you’re finally being inducted?
Let me say that when the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame started in the ’80s, almost all of the inductees in the first ten years are artists that I listened to when I was a kid, growing up.
But I think that we sort of expected, if only because of the impact of our first album, that we would inducted in the ’90s. When that didn’t happen, we just sort of thought, “Oh, well.” It’s fine: it’s good to be working and making records and it’s good to have longevity. Every year the fans and journalists who are into the band would make a big deal about us not being included. But I’d honestly rather just be working.
Who are you hoping to have do the speech for you guys? I think Questlove is a fan, he’s on the nominating committee, and he did a great speech for Hall and Oates a few years ago.
I was told that the Hall of Fame chooses the person who introduces the artist. My first thought would be somebody like Brian Wilson or Don Henley or Philip Bailey [of Earth Wind & Fire] or even Clive Davis. If Questlove wanted to do it, that would be great – I have no idea if he would be interested, but I have lots of respect for him and the Roots.
Obviously Terry Kath was such a huge part of the band first decade. Will someone from his family be representing him at the ceremony?
The only person who is interested in Terry’s career is his daughter, who has been working on a documentary on him for the last few years, but it’s really about her discovering who he is. That would be the only person I could think of who would be relevant.
What about Peter Cetera and [original drummer] Danny Seraphine – are they going to attend?
Will they perform with you?
So, if people buy a ticket to attend the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony, they’ll see Chicago with Danny Seraphine on drums and Peter Cetera singing, if not playing bass.
In your recent interview with Rolling Stone, you said you didn’t think he’s played bass in a long time.
I don’t think he’ll be playing bass.
Why doesn’t he play anymore?
You’d have to ask him, I don’t know why. Playing an instrument while you’re singing isn’t easy, take it from me. But if you stop doing it, those skills get rusty. I’m not saying that he couldn’t, I think that he just doesn’t want to.
How are feeling about playing it with him again?
I’ve said this before and I’ve said it to him: if there’s ever a time that we can share the stage again, this is it. I think it could have a huge emotional impact on the audience. And I think that that would be a very moving experience.
You told Rolling Stone that you’ve never played with him since he left in the ’80s. Do you think that this could lead to a reunion?
Anything’s possible, in terms of what could be. From the many conversations I’ve had with him, I don’t expect that he’d want to do that. Even if he has a good time at the induction.
I always thought that he left the band because he wanted to balance a solo career and the band, like Stevie Nicks did with Fleetwood Mac or Phil Collins with Genesis.
That’s wrong. He just wanted out. Several times, we’ve been approached to do a tour together, he just didn’t want to do it. We were getting very, very attractive offers from promoters. I said, “Come out with us: you can have your own bus, you can bring whoever you want to bring on the tour, you can sing the songs you want to sing, you don’t have to play bass.”
He said, “I’ll never say never, but I don’t want to do that right now.”
Maybe playing to an arena crowd at Barclay’s will change his mind.
I would be very surprised if he had a change of heart like that.
What songs do you expect to play that night?
Probably “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?,” “Saturday in the Park,” maybe “Beginnings.” But I do think if there’s a jam at the end, I’d think “25 or 6 to 4” would be perfect, because of all the guitar players being inducted. That song has been sampled so many times by hop-hop guys that even N.W.A. could probably get in there.
N.W.A. sampled a lot of R&B songs with horn sections. Maybe you guys could back them during their performance.
That would take a little bit of rehearsal, but we could make it happen.
Over the years, some bands have complained about newer members of the band being included in the induction. This year, Deep Purple are upset that their guitarist Steve Morse and keyboardist Don Airey aren’t being included. You have a lot of guys in your band who have been there for a while, and aren’t going to be inducted. Is that an issue for you?
We really haven’t’ discuss that issue. The younger guys are thrilled and very happy for us, and whatever we need, they will do. I expect that they will all play, so if there’s two drummers so be it. If Peter’s singing and Jason Scheff is playing bass, that’s fine. But we haven’t really broached the subject of whether they should be inducted or not.
You band is a staple on the summer amphitheater circuit. Are you going to do the sheds again this summer?
We’re not doing amphitheaters this year. We’re gonna be playing indoor gigs rather than the sheds, we redesigned our production entirely, we’re going to be doing very long concerts with intermissions.
Would you do a show with the album in its entirety? Your debut, 1969’s Chicago Transit Authority, is a seminal album.
That’s an interesting idea… If nobody had ever done it before, it would be an even better idea. We already play a lot of that album, we open with the first song on the first side. The album is well represented at our shows. We really pay a lot of attention to pacing, whether it’s an hour long show or a three hour show. So to insert 73 minutes might be anti-climatic.