After five decades and one bona fide classic in 1970’s “Vehicle,” the Ides of March are entitled to a little “Swagger.” And that’s just what the group celebrates in the video for the track, premiering exclusively below from its upcoming album Play On, due out Aug. 16.
“‘Swagger’ is really about an attitude,” co-founder Jim Peterik, who was also a member of Survivor and co-wrote hits for .38 Special, Sammy Hagar and others, tells Billboard. “You can be five-foot tall or a giant and have the same attitude, the same swagger, the same confidence. That’s what it’s really about — confidence.” And Peterik adds that “Swagger” was inspired in part by collaborator Mark Farner, the Grand Funk Railroad alumnus who’s also featured in the video, recording his parts and clowning around with Peterik among footage of other swagger-ers such as Mick Jagger (who’s name-checked in the song), Humphrey Bogart, Al Pacino, Michael Jordan, Popeye, Legolas from Lord of the Rings and more.
“[Farner has] done numerous shows with the Ides, and whenever he gets on stage he’s a lion,” says Peterik, who’s also writing songs for a new Farner album. “He’s not a tall guy but you would swear he’s seven-foot tall. He just takes you by the throat. And Mick Jagger — not only ’cause it rhymes with ‘Swagger’ but he’s a guy, a self-made man, probably 95 pounds when he started with the Stones and just took everyone by the throat and convinced everyone he’s a star. That’s what the song’s about, it’s all attitude.”
The rest of Play On features 13 more new songs plus a remake of “Vehicle.” The group, formed as the Shon-Dels, was active from 1966-1973 and peaked when “Vehicle” hit No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. The group was also part of the Festival Express Tour but was not included in the documentary that came out during 2003. The Ides regrouped in earnest during 1990, performing and periodically releasing music ever since. The group released a 50th anniversary box set during 2014 called Last Band Standing, and Peterik — who’s joined by original members Larry Millas, Bob Bergland and Mike Borch — says the troupe hopes to send a message with Play On.
“We just want to tell the world that after 55 years we’re still together and still rockin’,” he says. “We’re still hungry. We never sat on our laurels — we don’t have enough laurels to sit on, really. Half the people thought ‘Vehicle’ was by Blood, Sweat & Tears. So we always feel like we have something to prove. Every Ides concert, to us, is like a tutorial to educate people about our band.”
Those upcoming shows include an Sept. 21 hometown performance in Berwyn, Ill., as well as an official 55th anniversary concert on Oct. 26 concert in Waukegan, Ill., where the Ides will be joined by Farner and Bo Bice — the American Idol runner-up who turned “Vehicle” into a signature tune on the show. That show will be filmed as well. “This whole (55 years) has been kind of a blink of an eye,” Peterik says. “I remember the first time we ever played in front of a pub in Berwyn, Ill., and how that felt. There must’ve been 40 people there, but it didn’t matter. In a way when we step onstage it’s the same feeling — but hopefully for more people.”