I've got a whole city to hold down

October 28, 2004

The Paper of Record on Ike Reilly

Posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld

Imagine my surprise this morning, when I opened up the New York Times and found a feature on Libertyville's Ike Reilly on the front page of the Arts section.

Update from Jack Flack: Who wrote this thing, Jayson Blair? You'd think NYT could get Ike's album title right: Sparkle In the Finish, not Sparkle "to" the Finish.

We thought Reilly's Salesmen & Racists was way overhyped, but Sparkle is actually a heck of a record, by the way. You can stream it via Reilly's website. Pay special attention to "The Boat Song (Getting Loaded)," which should be some kind of hit.

Here's a taste of the Chicagocentric content from that Times piece for those of you too paranoid to register there:

A 42-year-old working rock guy with a wife and four kids back in Libertyville, Ill., Mr. Reilly keeps the faith, a hardy version of it, one rowdy, brilliant show at a time.

"Faith is knowledge without proof, isn't it?" he said. "What would the proof be? Sales, a hit single, more press, a new can of pomade? Maybe."

"I've sold my family down the river for this," he said, by way of explaining the stakes. And after 13 years of working as a bellman at the Park Hyatt hotel in Chicago, Mr. Reilly knows how high they are.

"Through a series of events, I rose quickly through the bellman ranks," he said over the phone from his van last week. Working the front of the hotel, Mr. Reilly said, he watched and learned from the swells, the crooks and hookers who came floating in on the tide.

"I was attracted to the romance of it. - still am," he said. "I was immersed in a hardcore union [Ed.: Chicago's once-famously-corrupt HERE Local 1, which Reilly namechecks in song on
Sparkle], surrounded by the immigrant community working the hotel, and witness to a lot of big-money hustles. It kept me in a position of invisible observation."

"Standing there, I saw a cabdriver from Ghana trying to raise enough money to buy a medallion, bums hustling bus fare and booze money, and the power elite of Chicago doing what they do," Mr. Reilly continued. "We live in a class system, and I had an opportunity to watch it up close."