Once Upon a Time in the Top Spot: Chicago, “Look Away”

Thursday, December 10, 2015
Once Upon a Time in the Top Spot: Chicago, “Look Away”

27 years ago today, Chicago was sitting atop the Billboard Hot 100 with the second single from their 19th album…and, yes, the album was called Chicago 19, smart aleck. The single, however, was called “Look Away,” and it did wonders to cement the idea that Chicago was doing just fine without Peter Cetera, thank you very much.

Written by Diane Warren, “Look Away” found its way into the Chicago camp when the band's manager, Howard Kaufman, pitched the idea that they might want to consider looking outside their lineup for material for their next album. In fact, Warren also wrote Chicago 19's first single, “I Don't Wanna Live Without Your Love,” although that track was a collaboration with Albert Hammond, a.k.a. the man who contributed to misrepresenting a portion of the west coast's meteorological tendencies with his hit single “It Never Rains In Southern California.”

“Look Away” made its debut in the Billboard Hot 100 in September 1988, and before the end of the year it had completed its ascent to the toppermost of the poppermost. Not that the man who sang it had any idea: in a 1989 interview with The Telegraph, Chicago frontman Bill Champlin acknowledged that he'd been more or less clueless about the degree of the song's success.

“Everybody said, 'I hear your song every day,” said Champlin. “I go, 'What song?' I was kind of oblivious to the whole thing, busy working on new stuff. That's what happens: as everybody else gets aware of what you're doing, you're usually about five or six tunes past it.”

“Look Away” also topped the Adult Contemporary chart, and by the time 1989 came to close, it had achieved an even greater feat: it was the top-ranked song on the year-end Hot 100 chart. Alas, Chicago has yet to find their way to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 again, but they still continue to hit the road on a regular basis, and you can rest assured that “Look Away” generally finds its way into the set list when they do.