I've started to watch the Chicago Code on Sky. Not because I'm a fan of police dramas, although this one has got potential, but because I'm a fan of Chicago. I fulfilled a pipedream to go there last year for my 50th birthday. The desire to visit came for many reasons, primarily a love of the film The Blues Brothers'. Apparently it bombed at the cinema on its release, although I saw it twice in 3 months. I've also owned two videos of it and now have a dvd of it as well. Somewhere I also have the sequel Blues Brothers 2000 - same story line updated, but again with some real legends in singing and or reprising their roles. In it Dan Ackroyd goes on a Karen style rant about modern music being souless and manufactured, and the passion he puts into that, should put it in one of the all time movie quotes, unfortunately though as it is a musical comedy, it can't possibly say anything of any relevance, unlike Forrest Gump: 'Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know which one you are going to get'. If that is the case, is the Strawberry Creme when your house catches fire, killing your dog - just really doesn't work as believable - how can anything sweet represent the worst of life?
Anyway, back to Chicago. Whilst the Blues is associated with the Deep South, and Jazz with New Orleans, it is Chicago that recorded and commercialised the music. First place to record Louis Armstrong, Birthplace of Chess Records -Etta James, Little Walter and Chuck Berry. Instead of becoming a Musuem to music, it constantly celebrates and enjoys the music, not the history behind it -holding free music Festivals throughout the year. While we were there, there was a Jazz Festival. Whilst much of it was a little too improvisational for my taste, there were afternoon sessions of more traditional fodder. Black Folk and Blues music also have festivals. The Locals take picnics, tourists eat ice creams and relax, and there are little markets, selling obscure and perhaps unavailable music for the whole weekend.
It is also a sporting mecca for me. Many years ago, Channel 4 used to have American Football on, and it took off in the UK - Sunday teatime tv. One of the stars at that time was 'William 'The Fridge' Perry. 300lbs body weight coming at you. Unstoppable. Supposed to be a defensive back, but played the 'prop like' role of the one yard flop over the line, when in the offensive mode (attacking in English). It gave me a new team to support - 'The Bears'.
Then there is also the tallest building in the world (in its day - Sears Tower) to go up. The Art Institute that trained Walt Disney, and Wrigley Field - far more exciting that New York. Wrigley Field was an iconic stadium that I wanted to visit for a long time, but actually going there, for a Cubs game, made a real comnnection for me. A family club,quirky, welcoming, with great history, but now also constantly flattering to deceive. It reminded me straight away of The Baggies. Loveable but ultimately failures.
We also visited Buddy Guy's Blues Club. Unfortunately not in the evening as we had a minor with us. But even at lunchtime, the place was atmospheric, with a local blues artist entertaining the few people that were in there. We also went to the Gospel Brunch - think James Brown in the Blues Brothers - it was this sort of show that inspired that scene. The energy from the (young) choir was incredible, especially from a young women with a deep contralto voice. The vibrations from the voice could shake a building's foundations. The Pastor leading the choir, got so into it, he almost levitated.
Same venue later that day, we saw Crowded House to a packed House of Blues audience. Unfortunately it was all standing, and despite my best pleas, I couldn't get a chair for my mum. Standing for 3 hours isn't easy for a 20 year old let alone someone in their 70s. However, my mother had other ideas. She went missing for about 20 minutes, just as they announced over the PA that there were no re-admissions. 'Oh dear', I thought, 'I'd better try and find her.' As I was walking down the stairs towards the foyer to find her, she walked past me with a 20 something bouncer, completely ignoring me. 'Hang on', I thought, 'What is she up to now?' (She has past history). There was a crowd at the front of the balcony, that the bouncer parted for my mum to walk through. He threw someone off their seat and sat my mum on it. (She later told us that she had been chattinig to the manager downstairs.) So she had the best seat in the house. In the circle, facing Neil Finn, while he sang. It didn't end there though. My mum was talking to a man in the crowd next to her, who when Crowded House were belting out their classics, was perched on the shelf around the front of the circle. All of a sudden 2 bouncers went wading into the crowd by her and pulled him out. He was very drunk, and had sent all the drinks on the shelf flying. It turns out that my mum had been talking to him, and he was a Brit. 'Where are you from?', he asked.
Non- committal, my mum answered 'England'.
'I know that, where?'
'I know Birmingham, where?'
Fed up by this time my mum answered, 'Yoxall'.
'I know Yoxall, my wife and I have been to Hoar Cross Hall'. Adulterers out there, there is no safe place.
Boom Boom Boom Boom - John Lee Hooker - featured in the Blues Brothers and recorded in Chicago.