The Ides of March: Vehicle

This hodge-podge by a Blood Sweat & Tears sound-alike, rushed out to capitalize on the title track's success, fails to live up to that song's campy ludicrousness.

The Ides of March


Label: Collector's Choice
US Release Date: 2006-06-06
UK Release Date: 2006-02-27

Things might have turned out very differently for the Ides of March, a Chicago-based band that formed in the mid 1960s and had a minor regional hit with "You Didn't Listen", a tight, yearning British-Invasion style single built on chiming guitars and harmonies that would fit right in on Rhino's four-disc Nuggets set. (In fact, it's shocking that it's not actually there; perhaps there were licensing issues.) The band recorded enough quality material, the most memorable songs being "Roller Coaster" and "Girls Don't Grow on Trees", to ensure themselves a minor legacy among garage aficionados akin to such well-respected but somewhat obscure bands as the Beau Brummels, the Knickerbockers, and the Gestures. (All this material is collected on a highly recommended Sundazed compilation, Ideology, which is not to be confused with the 1992 reunion album of the same name.)

But then something unfortunate happened. The band, which had evolved into a lite Buckinghams-like combo with the addition of trumpet players, went to a Blood, Sweat & Tears show and witnessed firsthand its bombastic brass arrangements and the full-throated belting of lead singer David Clayton-Thomas. Under that baleful influence the Ides of March recorded "Vehicle", a BS&T sound-alike that went to number two on the Billboard chart. Taking Blood Sweat & Tears's marching-band-jazz-prog suites -- "Spinning Wheel", "And When I Die", "You've Made Me So Very Happy" -- and streamlining them for AM radio, "Vehicle" slotted in perfectly next to other one-hit wonders from the era: "The Rapper" by the Jaggerz, "Ride Captain Ride" by the Blues Image, "Hitchin' a Ride" by Vanity Fare. The single broke nationwide, and the record company pressed for more material so it could rush out an album and capitalize. This inchoate hodge-podge of an album is the result.

Besides "Vehicle", the album features a couple more BS&T knockoffs ("The Sky Is Falling", "Bald Medusa"), a shameless CCR rip-off stocked with clichés about working-class life ("Factory Band"), a Neil Diamond pastiche ("Home"), a sunshine-pop-style track more reminiscent of their early work ("One Woman Man") and a few punchy, brassed-up R&B numbers ("Time for Thinking", "Aire of Good Feeling"). On vinyl, each side of the album closed with an epic cover: side one with a medley of "Wooden Ships" and Jethro Tull's "Dharma for One", side two with an interminable (okay, nine-and-a-half minute) reimagining of "Eleanor Rigby", which the Ides call "Sympathy for Eleanor". On these tracks, the band is as portentous and overblown as you might expect -- like Vanilla Fudge with horns. It's enough to make you yearn for the relative restraint of an Argent record.

Despite its initial massive success, Vehicle receded into obscurity for a few decades and became a campy lost classic, cherished for its sleazy lyrics. They document the seduction strategies of an apparent pedophile ("I'm a friendly stranger in a black sedan, won't you hop inside my car? / I got pictures, got candy, I'm a lovable man and I can take you to the nearest star") before launching into the ludicrous central metaphor ("I'm your vehicle, baby, I'll take you anywhere you want to go"). Something is so perfectly inappropriate about the word vehicle in a romantic context that it inevitably inspires chuckles. Perhaps if that line impressed a woman, one could graduate to "I'm your hydraulic lift, baby, I'll elevate you 40 feet.”

Unfortunately, the song lost all its redeeming comedic qualities when General Motors adopted it in 2001 for an extensive national ad campaign, truncating it, denuding it of its context and rendering it suitable for brand-identity building. Now it's near impossible to hear it without thinking of auto dealerships and trumped-up sales pitches. Though the Ides of March would release several more albums, the band would never again achieve the success of Vehicle, thus the band's legacy in the minds of just about everyone who knows their name (and doesn't think “Vehicle” was actually performed by Blood Sweat & Tears) now consists of a jingle. Lead singer Jim Peterik, however, was not finished wreaking aesthetic destruction on American culture. Ever versatile, in the 1980s he would write songs for .38 Special, including "Hold On Loosely" and "Rockin' Into the Night", and would become the mastermind behind Survivor, the band responsible for "The Eye of the Tiger", "The Search Is Over", and "High on You". Talk about dubious legacies.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.