Saturday, May 6, 2017

Song of the Day: The Ides of March, "Roller Coaster"

MAY 6, 2017



RELEASED 1966 ON 7” 45


Mention the Ides of March to a fan of 60s/70s rock and they may respond by singing the riff to “Vehicle,” the band’s biggest hit. While that slice of powerful horn rock is certainly memorable, their finest moment came in summer 1966.

The original Ides of March (Bob Berglund, Mike Borch, Larry Millas, and Jim Peterik) attended Morton West high school in the Chicago suburb of Berwyn. Like many boys their age, they were besotted by the Beatles and Stones but also the “second-line” invasion groups like the Searchers, Who, and Small Faces.

By 1966, they’d played at dozens of dance parties and even had original songs, mostly written by Peterik. Their self-penned 45, the beguiling, Kinks-like “You Wouldn’t Listen,” was first issued on a small local imprint, got airplay in Chicago, was picked up for national release by Parrot Records, and propelled itself to the top of the local charts and reached #42 in the country in spring 1966. Heady stuff for teenagers!

Being in a rock band in the mid-1960s wasn’t necessarily a simple thing, especially if you grew up in a traditional family or conservative community. Many parents and school principals didn’t approve of the long hair and wilder clothes of the era. None of the Ides had even remotely long hair when the band started—they all had crew cuts, in fact—and some promotional pictures of the time show them wearing wigs.

Despite this comic image, the group was on its way. Their second 45, issued in August, was another group original. From start to end, “Roller Coaster” blitzed along like its title object, threatening at any moment to careen off the track. Featuring tough, jangling guitars, a strong melody, a powerful, breakneck tempo, and massed harmony vocals with just enough dissonance, this was a perfect American riposte to the new mod British pop.

Perhaps the song was too muscular, too far out. Maybe the production was a shade tinny. The record was certainly raw; Peterik would later admit that one key vocal phrase in the song’s chorus didn’t even use actual words.

Riding on the wave of the Ides’ local stardom, “Roller Coaster” reached the top 20 in Chicago, and hit in some smaller markets, but stalled at #92 on the national Billboard chart. Always trendy, the Ides cycled through various styles, including R&B, pop, and quirky psychedelia, with little success before their big breakthrough, the brassy “Vehicle,” in 1970. They followed up with “L.A. Goodbye,” a breezy slice of CSN-inspired acoustic rock, the following year.

But in my opinion, the Ides' early singles were their best work. "Roller Coaster" remains a first-rate example of the thousands of great old songs buried in the straw pile of history.



  1. Stu, what a great song to feature! Roller Coaster actually DID do OK in NYC where the nation's #1 top 40 station, WABC, gave it PICK HIT status and charted the song for a couple of weeks!
    Clark Besch
    I also sent your posting along to Ides songwriter/singer Jim Peterik who emailed back the below:

    Please post.  Thax Clark and Stuart for keeping this memory alive. The Ides were fresh off the success of our first hit You Wouldn't Listen (number 7 Chicago silver dollar survey and number 42 Billboard) when Parrot records asked us for our follow up.  We had been doing a new song called Roller Coaster at all the teen hope to enthusiastic response.  
    We loaded our gear into Mike Borch's Chevy wagon and drove downtown to the iconic Sound Studios to work again with the immortal Stu Black (You Wouldn't Listen/ides. I confess New Colony 6, Sugar and Spice-cryan shames and more.  
    Our then producer and manager Mike Considine, fresh off the vine and believing himself to be the next Phil Spector told Stu- i want this track Roller Coaster to explode like Summer in The City by the Loving Spoonful.  In other words a shoot load of compression. 
    Two takes later we had our our take.  It was a mess in our opinion but what did we know.  Right!  On the way home as we pulled into Larry's driveway we heard on WLS:  new from the Ides of March a world exclusive/ Roller Coaster.!!' ". Our manager had walked over to the Stone Container building himself to deliver our new smash.  Wow. Those were the days.  Enjoy!
    Jimbo.  And all the Ides.  

    Rock on!!  Jimbo 

  2. In addition to writing a ton of rock hits (Sammy Hagar, .38 Special, co-wrote Eye Of The Tiger), Peterik was in Chase for a bit. Love Is On The Way should have been a huge hit for them.

  3. Thanks, Clark and Doug, for your incisive comments and THANK YOU JIM PETERIK for sharing some of your wonderful memories of creating this marvelous record.