Day 121: A song you like by a band whose name you don’t.

“Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?”
Chicago Transit Authority

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?I may be cheating a little bit here, since you most likely know the band that recorded this song by a much shorter name: “Chicago.” But what a  lot of people don’t know is that wasn’t the band’s original name.

Originally they were known as The Chicago Transit Authority and their debut album, The Chicago Transit Authority, was at the time, actually an eponymous album.

It wasn’t until their second album (and a lawsuit from the real Chicago Transit Authority—yes, the bus and el people) that they decided to change it.

And so, the band’s second album (known today as Chicago II) was released under the band name Chicago. But interestingly enough, that album was also an eponymous album. At the time. Yes, it was originally titled simply Chicago.


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What a mess, huh?

In my opinion, lawsuit or no, the decision to change the name was a good one. “Chicago” rolls off the tongue much more easily than “The Chicago Transit Authority.” It’s clunky and long and just boring. There are just way too many syllables. Your brain is on to something else before you ever even get to the word “Authority.”

Chicago Transit Zzzzzzz…

Plus, I’m not sure that the classic Chicago script logo would have been quite as popular if they kept the whole name. It’s cool and elegant when it’s just Chicago. Fitting the whole original name on a bunch of album covers and simultaneously trying to have interesting cover art would have been a challenge.

And can you imagine if they kept the original name and tried to put a band photo on the cover? This band has, like, 62 members in it. It’s a good thing their albums sold well, because had they not, splitting a royalty check between the equivalent of a baseball team could have resulted in some very small pay days.

But, thanks to songs like “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” “Beginnings”, and “Questions 67 And 68” it didn’t end up being an issue. By the time you get to “Make Me Smile” and “25 Or 6 To 4” (Plus 7 For 9 And 83… oh, sorry, I got carried away) these guys were doing all right for themselves.

However…

They didn’t start to do all right for themselves until after Chicago II came out. That’s right, after the name change. When the singles from Chicago II charted, they then re-released the singles from the first album. It was only then that those singles gained traction. My personal opinion? The shortening of the name was critical to their success. No one on the radio wanted to say the original name. By the time you get to the end you’re parched from all the talking; you need a lozenge. Old people would have that little dot of spittle stuck to their lip. And that’s just gross. You don’t want your band name to result in gross.

So about the song…

I like the piano intro. Which you may not know since they never play it on the radio. There’s actually about a minute or so of free-form piano before the initial horns kick in, and then there’s more piano (which for some reason reminds me of the intro to the original “Bob Newhart Show” which was, incidentally, set in Chicago). And there’s something a little magical about the chorus lyrics. “Does anybody really know what time it is?/Does anybody really care?” (I suspect the guy in “25 Or 6 To 4” does, but that’s another story.) It’s a good message for our modern hustling-and-bustling-always-moving society. Sometimes you need to just throw the clock out the window and take a deep breath.

Much like the breath you would have needed after saying that mouthful of an original name…