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Vehicle by The Ides of March

Album: VehicleReleased: 1970Charted:
2
31
  • This was written by Jim Peterik, who was the group's guitar player and lead singer. He told us how the song came together:

    "On April 9, 1968 while I was waiting to see one of my favorite groups, The Turtles, at Riverside Brookfield High School in the Chicago Suburb of Riverside, my eyes wandered to the girl standing in front of me - she was a vision in knee socks and orange culottes - long silky hair and huge blue eyes. As I was trying to screw up the courage to say hello, she turned to me and said, 'Aren't you Peterik?' Turns out she had seen the Ides Of March a month previously when we opened for the New Colony Six at Morton West High School. I said, 'Yeah,' and from there the conversation just seemed to flow. Never had I met a girl I had so much in common with. Karen and I sat together at the show, and by 'Happy Together' she had placed her leg on top of mine (a very positive sign for a first date).

    After about six months of great dates, good times, meadows, making out and serenades, Karen informed me that it was over between us, that she wanted to 'See other people." I was thoroughly heartbroken. I spent the next few months writing sad songs, depressive melodies, introspective garbage, and forcing the Ides to do long Blues jams for our show encores (as the audience streamed out of the Grand Ballroom at State Pier). I was also on a mission to find another Karen. There was a girl who looked a lot like her, but when we started dating, I realized that personality was 9/10's of the law. I guess I had to somehow win her back!

    One day I got a call from Karen. My heart jumped into my throat. She asked me if I could drive her to modeling school (she knew I had a pristine white '64 Valiant with mag wheel covers). Instead of playing it cool, I found myself saying, 'I'll be right over.' I figured our proximity would remind her how much she really loved me. It was great riding next to her again, though I had to make sure I controlled my hands and my heart. This pattern continued for a few weeks with Karen asking me to drive her to various appointments and functions. We even sang at a few coffee houses as a duo (we called ourselves "Genesis" predating the famous group by about three years). Though it was great to be with her, the newly platonic nature of our relationship was bummin' me out.

    One day in a fit of frustration, I heard myself blurt out to her 'You know, all I am to you is your Vehicle' (The word baby was added later). Just then the light bulb popped up on top of my head and I thought about all the guys like me who don't mind being taken for a ride by a beautiful girl. I said 'See you later' and started writing the song."
  • The Ides Of March formed in 1965 in Berwyn, Illinois - their name came from a line in the Shakespeare play Julius Caesar. Peterik was 14 at the time. The horn section was added in 1968. They were all teenagers when this was released.
  • Peterik: "I've always loved one word titles because of their strong impact. Musically I was working on a very simple minor key progression E minor to B minor. Rhythmically, I was doing the kind of choppy thing I first heard on the first Blood Sweat and Tears album. (The Ides were huge BS&T fans having seen them at the Kinetic Playground with Jethro Tull a few months earlier.) By the end of the day, I had morphed my emotion into a pretty slick 2:51 song."
  • At first, the opening line was, "I got a set of wheels pretty baby, won't you hop inside my car?" Peterik changed it when his friend showed him a government issued anti-drug pamphlet. It explained the perils of drug use and was illustrated with a little drawing of an undesirable type cruising along the curb looking for easy targets. The caption read, "I'm the friendly stranger in the black sedan, won't you hop inside my car?" The lyrics that followed, about the picture and candy, came from a warning his mother used to give him about walking home from school.
  • The lyrics are both a love story and a tale of an unsavory guy who's up to no good. Says Peterik, "To me, the dichotomy is kind of cool. To me, the first line is the most important of all. The original line had nothing going for it. It had no scansion, it had no rhythm to it. When I came across, 'I'm the friendly stranger in the black sedan, won't you hop inside my car,' all other concerns went out the window. At age 18 when I wrote the song, I wasn't thinking about coherency of the song or if one half fit the other half. I was just glad I was writing, just glad I had a song to play live."
  • Peterik: "We totally devalued it as a recording song. It went over great live, and for some reason, we thought it was a great live song but would never be a hit, maybe because it was so simple. We thought so little of it, we put it fourth of four songs on the demo we sent to Warner Brothers. They get it and go, 'Forget these first three, number four is a smash.' We go, 'You've got to be kidding.' At that point, we started thinking, 'Maybe we've got a hit here.' We went to Art Roberts, who was kind of this disc jockey/guru here at WLS, probably the most powerful jock in Chicago because he had the night slot on WLS. The managers brought it to him, and he said, 'That's a smash. All you've got to do is add the answers to the 'Love You, Need You's', and you've got a #1 record.' It's funny that we never thought of adding the answers, the call and response. It seems so obvious now, but that was his idea. We went back in the studio and all the tracks were taken up, so we ended up wild tracking onto a 2-track machine. The vocals you hear on the stereo version are different than what you hear on the mono version because we did them each separately. Nowhere on the master do the background vocals exist. When the song was used in Lock Up with Sylvester Stallone in 1990, you don't hear the background vocals because it's not on the master."
  • Peterik: "The real pivotal moment came at the overdub session. While we were dubbing the brass section, the second engineer pressed the wrong button and erased 13 seconds of the multi-track master (our chief engineer was already on the train home-Thanks Dick!). I still remember the ashen faces in the control room and the hushed expletives being exchanged. The Ides knew something had gone very wrong. In those risky pre-Pro Tools days we had very few options. Our saving grace turned out to be 'Take One.' In about an hour the second engineer asked us to come into the control room. He had taken 13 seconds from the same section of take one and spliced it into the multitrack of take two. Multitrack editing was still in its infancy and the chance that take one's tempo, tuning, attitude and feel were even in the same zip code seemed remote. We listened closely - it was perfect! You couldn't even tell it was a different guitar with five strings. I only had to redo the vocal in that section. (You can find the splice starting at the second 'Great God in Heaven' all the way up to the first note of the guitar solo.) Had the erasure gone through the solo, we would have lost a magical performance that I'm still not sure how I played. Someone must have been moving my fingers because after that I had to learn it note for note off the record."
  • 1970 was a great year to have a huge hit in the US because there were so many pop festivals going on. The Ides Of March played on bills with Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead that summer.
  • Peterik formed Survivor in 1978 and co-wrote their hits "Eye of the Tiger," "High On You" and "The Search Is Over." He sang lead with Ides Of March, but did not sing on Survivor's hits: "When I designed Survivor, it was to be the co-lead singer with Dave Bickler. In the first year of our existence, all the demos and club performances, I was doing basically duets with Dave. You can hear that kind of concept on "Love Has Got Me" on the first album, where I sing the verses and Dave takes over on the choruses. Through the years, certain members of the band didn't want that. They wanted that Journey kind of thing where there's one singer and one focus. I don't begrudge it because it worked. Whether it would have worked as well with me co-singing or taking some of the songs, we'll never know, but I was always blessed with great singers: Dave Bickler through 'Eye Of The Tiger,' Jimi Jameson after that. I couldn't have asked for better singers, so it was kind of a mixed blessing."
  • After this became a hit, Peterik got back together with Karen, the girl he wrote it for. They've been together ever since, and have been married for over 30 years. Peterik told us: "To this day, she doesn't like to be in audiences where I tell that story. She feels very embarrassed by it. She knows it's true, but at the same time, she doesn't want to be thought of as this opportunistic woman who just wanted her guy to drive her around and then when the song goes to #1, calls up to do it again. It happened, but that's really not her."
  • Bo Bice brought this song to a new generation when he performed it on Season 4 of American Idol in 2005. His rendition went over very well, and Bice ended up placing second in the competition to Carrie Underwood. Bice released his version of the song as the B-side of his single "Inside Your Heaven."
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Comments: 21

I love one hit wonders like The Ides of March. For the 3 minutes "Vehicle" is on, they might as well be the best band ever.Biggie - Lansing, Mi
My mom had a green 1970 Oldsmobile we used to call "the Green Bomb"...the radio was always tuned to the oldies stations because she thought modern music didn't have a good message [it was the 80's!] Anyway, I always loved this song growing up, and now that I *am* grown up...it has become my shower-song! Yes, Vehicle by The Ides of March, is my song of choice while showering! Peterik doesn't know it, but we've had lots of good, clean, fun together! ; ]Adrienne - Los Angeles, Ca
All great songs have a great story behind them - it is so cool to know the story behind this one. Thanks Jim for sharing it!Ken - Wilmington, Nc
"Beware of the Ides of March" he said but Julius Caesar didn't, and that's why he was assassinated in the senate-house by his enemies and also by his adopted son Brutus . The great Caesar said " tu quoque, fili" (you too my son) and than he died.Teresa - Mechelen, Belgium
I used to think this song was about a dope pushing pimp, thanks for setting the record straight! One of my favorites from 1970, especially love the horn section.Carol - Clayton, Ca
Got to be one of my all time favorites, I'm from the 60's Once got kicked off home town radio station for playing Love Me Tender.Rob - Muscatine, Ia
I love this song. My dad described the Ides of March to me as "a poor man's Blood Sweat & Tears", and I think he was right but what a song they managed to squeeze out of their one-hit-wonder status! I listen to this on loop every March 15, over and over and it never gets old.James - Gettysburg, Pa
Cool song...you can't help but put the petal to the metal when you here itMike - Hueytown , Al
I've always loved Vehicle and it's a good thing that cops were never around when it blasted my radio back in the day, because my foot would always get heavy! My son, David, met Jim today and loved the show he put on, David even got an autograph for me. Great music, thanks Jim and thanks for the autograph. JaneJane - Prattville, Al
I'm amazed to read that they were all teenagers when this was made. If any song sounds like it was recorded by old pros, it's this one. Great growling vocal, great lead, great horns.... teenagers! I don't believe it.Pete - Ny, Ny
I grew up in Berwyn. My older brother went to school with Jim and the other members of the Ides of March. They ALWAYS won the "Battle of the Bands" contests that were held among tyhe high schools in the area. Without a doubt Jim Peterik is the most famous alumni to come out of Morton West high school. What a great time those days were.Michael - Bolingbrook , Il
Vehicle is a great song, but lets forget about Superman!Jeffrey - Milwaukee, Wi
A great song,one of the all-time best rock songs, and even when i'm not a great fan of tv shows like American Idol, Mr. Bice did a good jobAntonio - Monterrey, Mexico
Their 1966 hit "You Wouldn't Listen" (as "The I'des Of March) is one of the finest recordings from the garage rock era.Rick - San Juan, United States
BO DID AWESOME JOB WITH "VEHICLE", He has an amazing sounding voice!!! I can listen to him for hours. I have purchased his single cd with "Inside Your Heaven" and "Vehicle", and have been playing it over and over again. I also think there should have been 2 American Idol winners this season, because Bo deserved to win!!!
Best of luck to you Bo, in your career!!!
Congratulations to you and your bride!!!
Faithful fan 4-ever!!!

Donna, Rochester NY
Donna - Rochester, Ny
What do you think about Bo Bice's cover of this song? I enjoyed the song when it originally came out and am loving Bo's version.Sally - Fairfax, Va
My Mom used to crank this one (And many others), but she really loved this song...I do too :) I mean Im an "Oldie" and this is definately a "Goodie" still!!Debra - Alexandria, La
Love the horns on this song! I believe that I had read that Led Zeppelin's TRAMPLED UNDERFOOT was influenced by this song, thus the automobile/love connection. Seeing that they toured together probably confirms this.Mike - Indianapolis, In
Ya this song is F'in sweet!Jordan - Wv
One of my all time favorite oldiesRic - Hartsdale, Ny
It dosen't get a whole lot better than thisDave - Pomeroy, Oh