Industry experts claim that the golden age of music started in 1960 and ended at the turn of the century. This era gave birth to many great musical acts from the Chicagoland area such as Earth, Wind & Fire, Styx, and The Smashing Pumpkins. However, none of these bands have been around as long as The Ides of March, who last week celebrated 55 years together with a release party for their newest album Play On. Lead singer Jim Peterik spoke with GREY about the history of The Ides of March and also offered some insight on Chicago’s music industry.
The Ides of March Play On
On July 28th, The Ides of March invited family and friends to celebrate the release of Play On at the Jam Lab in Brookfield, IL. The band formed in Berwyn, not far from the recording studio where the event was held, in 1964. They first achieved mainstream success with the release of their hit “Vehicle” in 1970, which became Warner Brother’s fastest selling single. The horn riffs at the beginning of “Vehicle” are so iconic, the song still receives radio play and is featured in movies today.
Frontman Jim Peterik is also known for being one of the founding members of Survivor. Jim co-wrote many of Survivor’s hit songs including “High on You” and the phenomenal “Eye of the Tiger.” But even though Jim and co-members Larry Millas, Bob Bergland, and Mike Borch each worked on separate projects, The Ides never stopped playing together—thus making their 55th anniversary truly special.
The release party for Play On was a wonderful day for the band. According to Jim, most get togethers can be rather stiff, but he knew everyone there was having a genuinely great time. All guests got to be part of The Ides of March history as the band recorded a music video for their upcoming track “Friends Like You”. As the crowd clapped and swayed their hands back and forth, they solidified a moment Jim will never forget.
The Ides of March also performed “Blue Storm Rising”, a powerful new song that sounds just as fresh today as it would have 55 years ago. They are also releasing a remastered version of “Vehicle” featuring Mindi Abair on sax, who gave a show stopping performance at the event. After so many years together, Jim Peterik considers it a blessing to still be able to play with his closest friends and have their entire families join them.
Spotify and Chicago’s Music Industry
With 55 years as an artist, Jim has seen some of the biggest changes in the music industry. Like most rock bands of their generation, The Ides of March were influenced by the Beatles. Other bands like Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago also found similar inspiration and have crossed paths with The Ides as they evolved their style. Jim states that “Every artist is influenced by someone else in one way or another. But once you find your influence, you have to make it your own.”
Jim also states it’s important to remain current with the evolving industry. Two of the biggest pitfalls of the century have been online streaming and piracy. CEO Daniel Ek somewhat saved the music industry with Spotify. By introducing a platform where listeners can stream music legally, Spotify helped put pirating to rest. Artists now get paid through stream shares, but reports claim it can be as low as $0.006 to $0.0084 per stream. With albums growing increasingly difficult to sell, The Ides of March are ecstatic to feature their music on Spotify, but are also still releasing their newest album on CD and vinyl for a touch of old school.
As for what changes he has seen in Chicago’s music industry, Jim says the live scene is the same as it’s always been. Music festivals are the bread and butter of Chicago music. Thankfully, the city keeps its spirit alive with numerous festivals throughout the year. One of these includes Berwyn’s Oktoberfest, which The Ides of March plays next month.
Staying True to Their Roots
In 2010, the city of Berwyn renamed a street in front of Morton West High School “Ides Of March Way”. Later in 2013, the band established A Vehicle for Education, a scholarship to help students pursuing education in the arts. This program is just one of the band’s many achievements and is a token not only to how well The Ides stay connected to their roots, but their willingness to give back to the community.
For new artists struggling to make it in the industry, Jim says, “Do it if you love it. It has to be a passion.” Like any form of art, working in music is a difficult way to make a living. You have to keep playing and never lose your drive. Sometimes that means performing for a crowd of 20 in a small bar. Whatever the challenge, the important thing is to never give up. If The Ides of March album release party teaches us anything, it’s that having supportive family and friends also helps. After their set, Jim walked through the crowd and personally handed out copies of their CD to every guest. Not many music legends stay grounded after being in the industry for so long.
The Ides of March releases their 55th anniversary album Play On on August 16. Their next show will be at the Genesee Theater on October 26th, featuring former Blood, Sweat & Tears member Bo Bice and Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad. After 55 years, their music still sounds as hot as it did back in its “Vehicle” days and The Ides of March is as ready as ever to take the Chicago music industry by storm.
What do you think of The Ides of March’s place in music history? Let us know down in the comments.
This article originally published on GREY Journal.