This is not Blood, Sweat & Tears. The Ides Of March – the Chicago horn band who ended up being a one-hit wonder, definitely was the biggest beneficiary of BST’s success. But the band had been around at least 3 years before Al Kooper ever got his group off the ground. It just so happened that their 2nd LP tore the roof out with three big #2 singles in 1969. So everyone was looking for the next big band rock sound.
Columbia Records was rediscovering their signing of the Chicago Transit Authority. Canada was being turned on by Lighthouse. And Warner Brothers looked to their newest label add-on, The Ides Of March. They had written songs over the years and released singles but never a full length LP. Jim Peterik, the group’s lead singer and gutiarist, (who later started the 80s group, Survivor) had a song phrase and title he was kicking around for years. After being used by a girl whom he really dug, he told her that he felt like he was her vehicle, getting taken along for a ride. Using the phrase I’m your vehicle, baby, he tossed out some quick lyrics one night as a joke, never realizing that anyone might take them seriously or find them creepy (which we’ll get to).
The song is muscular powerhouse right from the opening double trumpet & sax horn lick to ending punch. It’s like a semi that busts through a metal gate and keeps churning down the highway. Funny to think that the recorded take had the first 14 seconds accidentally erased. Luckily they had still take 1 and it was good enough to splice in. Pay attention next time you’re listening and see if you can hear the edit. Peterik had to sing the vocals a few times even though he felt he nailed it on number one. The producer would laugh at the playback and say, “Nice David Clayton-Thomas impression. This one, do in your own voice.” He would look puzzled insisting he was, then record it again as And When I Die was ringing in his ears. It’s no wonder people mistake this for BST, but to Peterik’s credit, many horn rock band’s lead singer consciously or not channeled David’s bluesy growl.
But no amount of horns and testosterone could cover up the fact that the lead singer sounded like Chester the Molester.
Hey, well I’m the friendly stranger in the black sedan
Oh won’t you hop inside my car?
I got pictures, got candy, I am a lovable man
I’d like to take you to the nearest star.
OK, it sounds like social commentary. Maybe he’s even using the friendly stranger persona to pretend he’s Nixon.
I’m your vehicle baby
I’ll take you anywhere you wanna go
I’m your vehicle, woman
By now I’m sure you know
That I love ya. Need ya
I want to, got to have you child
Great God in heaven, you know I love you
OK, so we know he’s lusting after a woman. And we know she’s a child. Maybe it’s Superfly.
Well if you want to be a movie star
I got the ticket to Hollywood
Well if you want to stay just like you are
You know I think you really should
So after all that braggadocio and craving, he gives up. Isn’t the whole point to talk her into submission rather than give her an exit strategy?
In 1970, I bet many didn’t really pay attention to these lyrics. But when you think in retrospect about how hitchhiking in the 70s wasn’t as safe and became more deadly, and that there was an increase in teenage runaways and child abductions, the song begins to sound more like a warning to the next generation to beware. Things are about to change and no is as safe as they thought they were.
Jim co-wrote Eye Of The Tiger in 1982, wherein he could finally afford to live in a gated community.