The Romanticsʼ Timeline: Motor City Boys Are Still Going Strong
The original members of The Romantics—Wally Palmar, Jimmy Marinos, Mike Skill and Rich Cole—formally became a band on Valentineʼs Day, 1977. Bred on the mean streets of Detroitʼs east side, they were inspired by the British punk invasion and their hometown rock scene. Nearly 30 years later they are still known for having created some of the most influential and beloved rock and roll of all time. The Romantics cut their teeth on the Detroit sound characterized by the MC5, the Stooges, Bob Seger and the Last Heard, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, the Rationals, SRC, the Underdogs, and infused it with sincerity, irony, spontaneity and, of course, volume. They favored short hair, short songs and popularized red leather suits. Their musical credo, then and now, was a simple, joyful affirmation, epitomized by the "Hey!...uh-huh!" intro to "What I Like About You," the unforgettable, high energy track that still bridges generations, times and musical genres.
Their storied history goes something like this: The Romanticsʼ debut single is the first two songs the band has ever written: ''Little White Lies" backed with "I Can't Tell You Anything." Armed with this new release, the quartet embarks on a tour to test the waters. The late Bomp! Records' impresario, Greg Shaw catches them in Toronto and, rightfully impressed, funds an EP which includes the song, "Tell It To Carrie," a harbinger of the sound of Romantics' songs yet to be. The late ʻ70s U.K. punk movement is diluted and misunderstood in the States, and the Romantics find themselves labeled with the trendy "New Wave" moniker, a safe and watered down version of British punk. Although the Romanticsʼ outlook is a far cry from the Sex Pistols' political negativity, they still want, as Skill tells a reporter in 1979: "to have fun with three chords.” After signing to Nemperor Records in 1979, The Romantics release their debut eponymous LP, recorded in only three weeks.
Anchored by "What I Like About You," "When I Look In Your Eyes" and a cover of Ray Davies' "She's Got Everything," the album is an exemplary pop-rock period piece, haunting in its innocence and a far cry from the tough world they grew up with in Detroit. A follow-up, National Breakout, is released in 1980, followed by tours of Europe and Australia. Influences like surf and Motown are revealed. "Tomboy," "21 and Over" and "Stone Pony" continue in the post-punk two-minute time-limit tradition. As a third album, Strictly Personal is released in 1981, lead guitarist Mike Skill departs and is replaced by guitarist Coz Canler, who returns one album later, replacing Rich Cole. The band reaches its commercial apex in 1983-1984 with In Heat, a platinum album bearing two top ten singles: "Talking In Your Sleep" and "One In A Million." Drummer Jimmy Marinos departs due to differences between management and band. The band encounters an inordinate amount of adversity in 1987. An acrimonious fall-out and lawsuit with their former managers over slow royalty payments prevents the band from focusing on recording and touring. This lawsuit lasts seven years. In late 1990, the Romantics add Blondie drummer Clem Burke to the line-up and, in 1994, release a five-song EP called Made In Detroit for Westbound Records.
The record contains two of fellow Detroiter George Clintons' Funkadelic tunes and three originals. Later that year, The Romantics are named Outstanding Pop/Rock Recording Artists by the Motor City Music Awards and in 1999 are presented with the Distinguished Achievement Award at the Detroit Music Awards in 1999. The critically-acclaimed 61/49 is released in the fall of 2003. Named for the storied crossroads near Clarksdale, Mississippi, where bluesman Robert Johnson made his pact with the devil, "61/49" is a tip-of-the-hat to the roots of rock and roll. In 2004, due to touring commitments with Blondie, Clem Burke recommended the addition of Brad Elvis. Regaled by both critics and fellow drummers for his precision beat keeping and showmanship, Elvis is best known as a member of the Elvis Brothers and Big Hello. In addition to being a staple on classic and contemporary rock radio, television commercials and movies; Sirius/XM Satellite radio has also embraced The Romantics. Their songs can be heard on a number of stations including Little Stevenʼs Underground Garage. 2011 brought the re-emergence of original bass player, vocalist, Rich Cole. With his addition, the band is able to expand their set list and include more songs from their first two albums, as well as new and unreleased material. They are now able to focus in more on harmonies and getting back to their original rock sound that established The Romantics from the very beginning. Currently, Palmar, Skill, Cole, and Elvis are touring and writing songs. In the works for 2012, are new releases and some surprise unreleased, live recordings.