This was written by Jim Peterik
, who was the group's guitar player and lead singer. He told Songfacts how it 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."