Happy 50th: Chicago, CHICAGO TRANSIT AUTHORITY
50 years ago this week, Chicago released their self-titled debut album. Well, it was self-titled at the time, anyway. Now it isn’t. Not really, anyway. Either way, though, it was still their debut album, and given that the band is still a going concern after five decades, it’s certainly an anniversary worth celebrating.
When the band that would eventually come to be called Chicago was first formed in 1966, they were called The Missing Links. They soon changed their name to The Big Thing, after which they changed it to Chicago Transit Authority, and that’s when they signed to Columbia Records, went into the studio, and recorded their self-titled debut album.
Produced by James William Guercio at Columbia Recording Studios in New York, CHICAGO TRANSIT AUTHORITY was a double album, which – when it comes to debut albums – is a pretty bold statement to make straight out of the gate. So bold was it, in fact, that Columbia could only be swayed into letting them do it if they also took a royalty cut. The band agreed, and damned if it didn’t pay off: the album hit #17 on the Billboard 200 and did even better in the UK, where it climbed to #9.
That having been said, however, CHICAGO TRANSIT AUTHORITY did not immediately produce any hit singles for the band. In fact, it took until 1970 before “Does Anybody Really Know What Time Is It?” turned into a top-10 hit for Chicago, after which “Beginnings” followed suit, and it wouldn’t be until 1971 that “Questions 67 and 68” hit the top 30, ultimately hitting #24.
It should also be noted that CHICAGO TRANSIT AUTHORITY was so successful for the band that it actually set a record in 1974 when it remained on the Billboard 200 for 155 weeks. Yes, the record has since been broken, but the fact that it was a record at one time should never be forgotten.
50 years on, CHICAGO TRANSIT AUTHORITY remains a remarkable musical achievement, one which you should revisit right about now. Just call it an anniversary present to the band!
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