April 1969: Chicago Debut as CHICAGO TRANSIT AUTHORITY

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Chicago Transit Authority is the definition of a creeper. Not in the stalking sense, but how the album--released on April 28, 1969-- slowly but surely crept its way into public consciousness and up the charts for literal years.

In retrospect, it was something of a perfect storm for Chicago Transit Authority. While the mainstream was slow to react, Terry Kath and company took their show on the road, honing the already lethal big band. At the same time, free-form FM radio stations across the country eagerly embraced the high-energy blast of brass horns prog-rock level dexterity.

The first single from the album, "Questions 67 and 68" marked the album's arrival, breaking into the Hot 100 to peak at a respectable #71. It was re-released in 1971 to capitalize on Chicago's growing popularity. With "I'm a Man" on the B-side, the reissue peaked at #24 for the week November 20, 1971. The #1 song in America that week: Isaac Hayes' "Theme from Shaft."

The album's second single, "Beginnings," found new life years later. Released in October 1969, the tune didn't even make the Hot 100. Reissued in June 1971 with "Colour My World"--taken from the group's second album, Chicago--on the flip-side, the 45 topped out at #7 on the Hot 100 for the week of August 14, 1971. The #1 song in the country that week: Bee Gees' "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart."

"Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is" has a similar trajectory. The song wasn't even considered as a single until the group had a pair of hits from their second album: "25 or 6 to 4" and "Make Me Smile." Issued in single form in October 1970, the song peaked at #7 on New Year's Day 1971. The #1 song in America that week: George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord/Isn't It a Pity."

Chicago Transit Authority reached #17 on the Billboard 200 for the week of July 19, 1969, setting the stage for even bigger hits and a storied career that still thrives today. The #1 album in the US that week: Hair: Original Soundtrack Recording.

FUN FACT: At the 1970 Grammy Awards honoring the best of 1969, Chicago was up against Led Zeppelin, Oliver, The Neon Philharmonic and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young for Best New Artist. CSN&Y took the trophy.