Old days — good times I remember. Fun days, filled with simple pleasures. Drive-in movies, comic books and blue jeans, Howdy Doody, baseball cards, and birthdays take me back to a world gone away. Memories … seem like yesterday.

This may come as a shock to you, but Matt Wardlaw and I have known each other since we were children. (Lost-like plot twist!) In fact I died in 2004. (Whoops! Skipped too far ahead in the script. Sorry about that. I’m saving that one for my farewell speech, so forget I said it.)

We were army brats whose fathers were stationed in West Germany in the late ’70s. Their mission: to make sure the band Kraftwerk and its electronic rock didn’t become too influential or pretentious. (Our dads were eventually reassigned to the Soviet Union, where they were more successful undermining the international success of the Russian rock band Autograph.) Matt and I were both fans of the not-Chicago-based rock band Chicago, and when we found out they’d be coming to the Grugahalle in Essen on February 12, 1977, we begged our parents to let us go.

I know I’ve insulted Matt many times in the past, but I have to give credit where credit is due — he can cry on cue better than anyone, with the possible exception of Ghost-era Demi Moore. I mean, he can really get the waterworks going, just like a little sissy girl, to the point where you want to smack him across the face and say, “Be a man for once in your life!” He really doesn’t care about his personal dignity when Chicago tickets are on the line, and for that I’m eternally grateful.

Anyway, our moms said they’d take us, and we were thrilled. Matt cried some more, at which point I did smack him. Then he smacked me. Then I cried. Then we laughed. Then I said I was fake crying and fake laughing and smacked him again. This continued until the concert, which took place three weeks later.

It was a great show. I mean, it wasn’t, but we were kids, so what did we know? It was loud, we didn’t have anybody tall in front of us, and we were in the same room with Peter Cetera, Terry Kath, Robert Lamm, Lee Loughnane, Laudir de Oliveira, James Pankow, Walter Parazaider, and Danny Seraphine.

But mostly we were in the room with Peter Cetera. And his teeth. We wanted to meet those teeth. So, after the show we waited patiently near the back door of Grugahalle. Kath filed out, then Lamm, then Pankow and the rest. Everyone except Cetera and his teeth. We asked them where the teeth were. I think it was Lamm who said, “Your English is good, but what do you mean by ‘the teeth’?”

I told Matt I’d go check the front. No sign of Cetera. But when I returned, Matt told me he’d seen those pearly whites up close. Cetera even let him floss those babies. Noooooooooo!

I’ve never forgiven Matt. Did he volunteer to check the front of Grugahalle? No. I did. And I’ve paid for that act of kindness ever since.

Here’s what he has to say about this bootleg: “From an incomplete rebroadcast of their Rockpalast performance in 1977. Runs about 82 minutes. Although the performance itself is a little bit rough, this is the best-sounding boot I’ve gotten from this particular period of Chicago, recorded only a few months before Terry Kath died. My friend who works on the various Rockpalast reissues says that he has a DVD screener of the full show somewhere in his office, and that the band put the kibosh on releasing it, because the quality wasn’t there.”

But they’re playing my favorite song of theirs, “Call On Me,” and if you get high enough, they’ll even play “Old Days” in your head for you. Enjoy! (But seriously, who gets nostalgic about blue jeans? Where did these guys grow up — the USSR?)

A Hit by Varese
Call On Me
Takin’ It On Uptown
If You Leave Me Now
Once or Twice
(I’ve Been) Searchin’ So Long/Mongonucleosis
25 or 6 to 4
Got to Get You Into My Life
I’m a Man

About the Author

Robert Cass

Robert Cass lives in Chicago. For Popdose he's written under the Sugar Water, Bootleg City, and Box Office Flashback banners and collaborated on the series 'Face Time with Jeff Giles and Mike Heyliger.

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