Originally the Chicago Transit Authority, before running afoul of Mayor Daley's lawyers, they were a soul/hard rock band with a jazzy horn section. They pushed the envelope with inventive arrangements and semi-ambitious lyrics. As the years passed, they ditched much of the complexity, and the lyrics became vapid or cringe-inducing - they turned into massively successful Top 40 "superstars", with a Dick Clark-produced TV special and everything. Now playing all the hits, on the Rock Senior Tour.

Chicago's transition from hip, complex music to pop music superstars was largly the result of internal pressure from Peter Cetera, one of the founding members. Around 1990, oddly enough, Cetera felt that the group had gotten too soft, and left to pursue a solo career, in which he made more soft rock. Go figure. Robert Lamm, the remaining band leader, tried to move back to harder stuff, but when their project was complete Chicago's own publishing company refused to put out their album.

If you think Chicago's music sounds like a bunch of cliched 70's music, that's only because all that crap that was done in the 70s was by musicians trying to copy the style of music that Chicago put out in the late 1960s. In this way, they're a lot like Nirvana, minus 20 years.

Chicago was the codename of Windows 95, when it was still in production. The other projects at the time were Memphis, and Cairo. Memphis made it into Windows 98, and Cairo never made it into the public eye.

"Chicago" is the name of a font designed for the user interface of the original Macintosh. (All the early Mac fonts were named after cities, such as Geneva, New York, and San Francisco.)

The first several Macintosh models had black-and-white displays. No, not grayscale -- they could only display black and white. Strictly 1-bit color. The UI designers needed a font which would still be readable when dithered, so that they could display "grayed out" menu items. The result was Chicago, whose thick verticals make it easy to read even when only every other pixel is displayed.

Chicago is notoriously ugly in any size other than 12 point. In Mac OS 9, Chicago was finally replaced with Charcoal, a similar font which looks rather better in larger font sizes and when anti-aliased.

Many Mac advocates believe that Microsoft chose "Chicago" as the code name for Windows 95 because it was intended to mimic the Mac OS.

Oh, she's gonna shimmy till her garters break...
--All That Jazz

Length: 107 Minutes

Starring Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renée Zellweger, Richard Gere, John C. Reilly, Queen Latifah, Christine Baranski, Taye Diggs, Dominic West, Lucy Liu.
Directed by Rob Marshall and produced by Marty Richards and Harvey Weinstein. Written by Bill Condon.

A musical replete with murder, corruption, adultery and greed, Chicago first hit the Broadway stage in 1975 with tremendous success. It was revived on the stage in 1996, and again onto the silver screen through the direction of Rob Marshall in 2003. Musicals-turned-movies these days are rare and difficult to pull off, but Marshall manages to keep the razzle-dazzle of the show well intact.

Guess where the show takes place. 1920s Chicago is in full roaring Fitzgeraldian mode; the liquor is pouring and jazz, as opposed to today's heavy metal, is the decadent music blamed for youthful debauchery. Roxie Hart, (Renée Zellweger), cheats on her husband with a man she believes will get her the vaudeville act she'd always longed for. After he callously ends their affair, Roxie promptly shoots the man dead. Quickly carted off to prison, Roxie meets her rival Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones) there, who also managed to cap a few peeps in a jealous rage. The two compete for the attention of their superstar lawyer Billy Flynn (Richard Gere), but Roxie always manages to steal the show.

Zellweger's performance is nicely done; her singing voice proved surprisingly decent in tunes like "Funny Hunny" and "Nowadays." Zeta-Jones' sultry performance of jazz diva Velma Kelly is noticeably stronger, however. Her former work in musical theater is quite apparent as she flits across the screen in finely executed dance moves. Her dark and curvy character and Zellweger's blonde Betty Boop persona seem to highlight their rivalry, yet also exhibits how two very different showgirls can intrigue an audience in their disgusting devotion to vanity. Both actresses do the beloved musical justice.

I found it difficult at first to watch Gere portray a dirty lawyer who sings and dances with such gusto; a risky role for an actor whose dynamics only seem to shift from serious to more serious in most of his prior work. Can Gere's face really contort with glee like that? After several scenes the initial shock of Gere's drastically different role dissipates, and eventually he steals the limelight in a memorable courtroom tap dance.

Queen Latifah helps carry the film also as a hard prison matron who'll play sweet if a cell dweller offers her cash. Latifah's powerful voice makes for a stellar performance of the sultry "When You're Good to Mama." John C. Reilly, who never seems to give a poor performance in movies these days, makes an appearance as Roxie's pitiful husband who can't seem to understand how vile his wife is.

Maintaining a smooth flow in a musical on film — from dance number to action scene to ballad — is critical but not an easy task. In Chicago, the feat is done. The song and dance routines are created in Roxie's imagination as she battles to save herself from a hanging, which allows for unique scene transitions and somehow makes the whole story a bit more plausible. With all its sparkling color and glamour glutton showgirls, the movie might best be described as what you'd get if you chucked "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" and Baz Luhrmann in a mixing bowl.

At the very beginning, Zeta-Jones growls and prowls in a wonderful rendition of "All That Jazz," a sound opening for a fun, glitter-smattered show. It's quite pleasing to discover several prominent film actors have more talent to them than just looking sexy. The two main drawbacks of Chicago would only be the unchallenging recycled plot, and the fact that those who don't like musicals will not suddenly change their mind with this one. Not a life-changer. It's just a simple feel-good flick.

Grade: B+

Rated: PG-13 for sexuality and violence

Chicago: A Love Story

It seems that every music geek has a My First Band story and mine centers around the band Chicago.

For those not familiar with them, the group Chicago started out as one of the so-called 70s "jazz-rock" bands along with Blood, Sweat and Tears. As a new trombonist in 7th grade (circa 1983), I was looking for role models and since they had a horn section, they were obviously meant for me.

I began my journey into Chicago with Chicago Transit Authority, their first album. It was my first exposure to a real warts-and-all "double album" from the wide-open world of late '60s rock. The big CTA tracks that made me happy were "Questions 67 & 68," the Spencer Davis Group's "I'm A Man," as well as the current classic rock chestnut "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is." Many avant-rock fans fondly remember this album for Terry Kath's feedback-laden guitar freakout "Free Form Guitar," but my 7th grade self barely remembers it. It was wonderful to hear a trombonist in a rock band kicking it and being a real part of a real band.

None of the other albums gave me the kick like the first one but I dutifully collected them all, including the turgid four-LP set "Live At Carnegie Hall" (aka Chicago IV). I was proud of my band, like all First Band Fans are, even though by 1983, they had basically dropped the whole jazz-rock concept and had gone straight for the MOR ("middle of the road") pot of gold with hits like "Stay the Night." They were My Band and mine alone.

Since they were My Band, I had to go pay them tribute. Finally, my chance came about two or three years later. With the help of my car-enabled friend Tom, I got to see the band at the Patriot Center in suburban Virginia. I don't remember much of the show but I do remember that every time I saw the trombonist wander my way, I stuck my fist out in tribute. And to my young mind's amazement and surprise, he began returning my salute! In retrospect, doing that while playing trombone was a pretty trick.

I came home from the concert walking on air. But that was the end of my love affair. I didn't know how to go any further as a Chicago Fan. After the trombonist saluted me, what was left? I grew aimless and bored with the band. Not too much later, a classmate named Joy gave me a tape that would change the rest of my life (and of course that is another tale).

In the end, I tried to sell my collection to the nearby record shop Yesterday and Today Records, which was owned by Dischord Records supporter Skip Groff. Naturally, they did not buy a single one and all my First Band records ended up in the trash.

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