My list on Wednesday of the
best and worst rock songs about the city of Chicago prompted a flood of
responses from Sun-Times readers.
I cited as my favorites "Tonight, Tonight" by the Smashing Pumpkins,
"Chicago" by Screeching Weasel, "Full Moon" by Common, "The Woman
Downstairs" by the Handsome Family and "Goodbye to Guyville" by Urge
My choices for the worst were the ubiquitous "Sweet Home Chicago," "Lake
Shore Drive" by Aliotta, Haynes & Jeremiah, "The Eggplant That Ate Chicago"
by Dr. West's Medicine Show, "The Night Chicago Died" by Paper Lace and
"Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" by Jim Croce.
While a handful of correspondents cheered my selections, plenty of others
disagreed, and a few offered some alternative recommendations. We thought it
was only fair to let them have their say--in list form, in keeping with the
FIVE GREAT CHICAGO ROCK SONGS THAT JIM DeROGATIS MISSED
1. "I was sorry to see you didn't list "312" by my favorite
'80s band, Bohemia. After all, 'We ain't L.A., we ain't New York/We ain't
London town/We ain't the fastest and we ain't the latest/And we're not like
Al Capone!' is a pretty great lyric." --Dan Dillon
2. "To leave off Crosby, Stills and Nash's 'Chicago' is
ridiculous. It's a great song in its time, with poignant lyrics." --C.
3-4. "You missed 'Take Me Back' by the onetime rock group,
now elevator music group Chicago. 'Street corners and Tastee Freez' is what
you knew if you grew up in the city. Also, 'L.A., Goodbye' by the
Ides of March--even though L.A. is in the title, the song is really about
coming back to 'the West Side of Chicago.' " --Barry Daniels
5. "Hey, Jim: Check out 'Dead End Street' by Lou Rawls and let me
know what you think." --Don McLeese
THREE REASONS JIM DeROGATIS IS WRONG
ABOUT "SWEET HOME CHICAGO"
1. "Bar bands are supposed to play 'Sweet Home Chicago.'
After they play that, they will probably play 'Wild Thing,' 'Twist and
Shout,' 'Satisfaction,' 'Brown Eyed Girl' and 'Gloria.' And the crowd will
love it, because that is exactly what they want the bar band to play. It's a
formula that works, dude. Don't knock it." --Matt Anderson
2. " 'Sweet Home Chicago' is a great song and fits perfectly with
the classic Blues Brothers theme. Want to totally ruin your credibility,
Jim? Tell us you actually LIKE rap music!" --J. Murrin
3. " 'Sweet Home Chicago' is a classic, no matter how often it's
played. Any time I'm in another city and hear this song, it makes me smile
TWO DISSENTING VIEWS ON "SWEET HOME
CHICAGO" AND "BAD, BAD LEROY BROWN"
1. "Walk into one of Chicago's most 'hip' nightclubs--say, Cubby
Bear or Mother's--pop in a tape of 'Bad, Bad Leroy Brown' or particularly
'Sweet Home Chicago,' and watch what happens: Just about every person in the
bar is smiling, holding on to each other and singing along as loud as they
can. We are proud of those songs, our songs. They are classic, they are part
of the city, they are part of each and every one of us. They are not poorly
done or 'camped up' or 'silly'; to dare to call them such insults not only
the songs and the singers, it insults anyone who's ever sang along to them
at a sporting game or a bar."
2. "THANK YOU for naming 'Sweet Home Chicago' and (God forbid)
'Bad, Bad Leroy Brown' in your worst rock songs about Chicago. 'Leroy Brown'
has sucked since the beginning and has been the bane of my existence as
every bad band at every boring business function I have ever attended here
has played this lame song. And 'Sweet Home Chicago' is emblematic of
everything that is wrong with the tourism approach to the Chicago blues
scene. My old friend Mike Bloomfield is rolling over with every sloppy
FOUR REASONS JIM DeROGATIS IS WRONG
ABOUT "LAKE SHORE DRIVE"
1. "'Lake Shore Drive' is about as authentically Chicagoan as a
song can be. You weren't born and raised in Chicago, were you?" --Adam
2. "'Lake Shore Drive' is one of the most excellent, best songs
ever. Whenever I hear it, the volume goes up." --J. Murrin
3. "I was stunned and sorry to see that you consider 'Lake Shore
Drive' to be one of the worst songs about Chicago. It always brings a smile
to my face and lifts my spirits when I hear it on the radio--especially when
I'm on the bus on Lake Shore Drive--and I remember hearing the boys play it
live many times. Guess it just has good memories for me; sorry it doesn't
work for you."
4. "Aliotta, Haynes & Jeremiah's 'getting high on LSD'--now THERE
was, and is, a great song!!! Where is Rotary Connection when we need them?"
THREE REASONS WHY JIM DeROGATIS IS AN
IDIOT (AND FAILED GEOGRAPHY)
1. "You wrote: 'Paper Lace gets the geography wrong: "And the
sound of the battle rang/Through the streets of the old East Side." Um,
listen, chaps: The East Side of Chicago would be called ... Lake Michigan.'
You need to drive south of Madison once in a while, because if you did you
would know there is an old East Side of Chicago." --A. Perez
2. "Check the phone book or a map: Yes, Virginia, there really is
an East Side. If 4100 East at Avenue A and South 106th Street isn't east,
then I don't know what is." --John Ryan
3. "Eddie Vrdolyak was from the East Side, and he used to run the
place; his brother Petey ran a clique of ironworkers who did most of the
work in the steel mills down there, back when they were running. I'm a
boilermaker and used to work on East Side a lot. I know some good taverns
down there, too--like the Lakeside on Ewing Avenue, which had great fresh
walleye and lake perch for lunch on Fridays."
ONE MORE REASON WHY JIM DeROGATIS IS
WRONG ABOUT "THE NIGHT CHICAGO DIED"
1. "We find 'The Night Chicago Died' to be one of the greatest
songs ever written and-or recorded, whether encompassing the Windy City or
all music in general. We feel you owe a written apology to Paper Lace, and
to those living in Lake Michigan."
--Jim Nayder, host of "The Annoying Music Show," WBEZ-FM (91.5)