Forming in 1967, the band Chicago has never stopped touring, becoming the top selling band of the ‘70s and eventually the second highest-selling American band of all time. “But people my age don’t know the songs or just flat-out don’t know who Chicago is, and I find that fascinating,” says filmmaker Peter Pardini, whose documentary Now More Than Ever: The History of Chicago seeks to give one the hardest working bands in the business its due.
The band played a sizable role in Pardini’s young life – his father was a fan and classic rock radio a staple – but it was Uncle Lou Pardini who provided the inside track, joining Chicago as keyboardist and vocalist in 2009. Pardini was fresh out of film school a year later when the band was looking for someone to shoot behind-the-scenes footage for a Christmas album and Uncle Lou offered his nephew for free. Pardini worked on and off for the band for a couple years when the Eagles documentary came out. “And I thought, ‘Chicago should have an official documentary,’” says Pardini. The feeling was apparently mutual, and Chicago founder and trumpet player Lee Loughnane approached Pardini first.
In production for three years, the two-hour film spans the entirety of the band’s career, with every year from 1967 to the present being represented in some way. Much comes from the band’s own archival footage – a collection of eight millimeter films, piles of photographs and more – supplied by Chicago trombonist Jimmy Pankow, with Pardini filling the holes with dramatic reenactments on 35 millimeter film and, in the case of the corroborated but unrecorded incidents of high-altitude zero-G hijinks, stylized animation. Featured interviews include Grammy Award-winning producer Clive Davis, Eagles manager Irving Azoff, former Chicago musicians and even a word with actor Joe Mantegna, who fought Chicago for gigs in a rival band back in the day.
Premiering earlier this year at the Sedona Film Festival, Now More Than Ever pulled down the “Best In Fest” award, meaning perhaps Pardini’s message is getting through to audiences. “That these guys are brothers and they’re family and they went through a lot together,” he says. “People have this image of Chicago as a squeaky clean ballad band, which they were not.” With new (and unexpected) chapters still being written, Pardini heads to Brooklyn later this week to capture the band’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “So imagine my happiness for the band,” says Pardini, “But also I have to open the edit again.”
Now More Than Ever: The History of Chicago has its final screening at the Sarasota Film Festival tomorrow, Apr. 3, at 7:30pm.
Pictured: Peter Pardini. Photo by Wyatt Kostygan.