The RomanticsThe Romantics are an American rock band, often put under the banner of power pop and new wave, formed in 1977 in Detroit, Michigan, United States. The band's first show was on Valentine's Day at My Fair Lady Club, in Detroit, opening for the New MC5 in 1977. They were influenced by 1950s American rock and roll, Detroit's MC5, the Stooges, early Bob Seger, Motown R&B, 1960s North American garage rock as well as the British Invasion rockers.
The Romantics achieved popularity in the United States, the Netherlands, Germany, Canada, and Australia on the strength of the band's well-crafted pop songs, high energy shows, and their look: from black vinyl to red leather suits in their music videos, inspired by the Motown artists The Temptations and the Four Tops. Their two best-charting songs were "What I Like About You", which peaked at #49 in the US and #2 in Australia, and "Talking in Your Sleep", which peaked at #3 in the US, #1 in Canada, and #14 in Australia. The two have since become mainstays on '80s, classic rock, AOR, and active rock radio stations. Their debut album, released on January 4, 1980 in the UK, has the distinction of being the first record to be released of that decade.
The Romantics and National Breakout (1977–1982)The Romantics' original lineup consisted of lead vocalist, rhythm guitarist, and harmonicist Wally Palmar, lead guitarist and vocalist Mike Skill, bassist and backing vocalist Rich Cole, and drummer and lead vocalist Jimmy Marinos. All four band members made songwriting contributions to the group, but Palmar and Skill were considered the band's primary tunesmiths. For three years the band was on the road, playing in East Coast and Midwestern venues like Boston's Rathskeller, CBGB in New York's Bowery, Manhattan's Max's Kansas City, and Cleveland's Agora. They were subsequently signed to Nat Weiss' Nemperor record label after a show at Hurrahs, and in September 1979, the band recorded their debut self-titled album with British producer Pete Solley. The group's true record debut was the 1978 single on Spider Records, "Little White Lies" (b/w "I Can't Tell You Anything"), followed that year by the Bomp! single "Tell It to Carrie" (b/w "First in Line"). All of these were re-recorded later for the first LP.
The album sold roughly 200,000 copies and yielded the hit "What I Like About You", which reached #49 in the US, #8 in the Netherlands, and #2 in Australia, where the band was especially popular. As all four members were singers, the straightforward beat of "What I Like About You" lent the opportunity for drummer Jimmy Marinos to take the vocals.
Mike Skill left the band after the release of its second album, National Breakout, in 1980. He was replaced by lead guitarist Coz Canler. This lineup of the band recorded the album Strictly Personal in 1981 with producer Mike Stone, who had produced for Queen. Due to frustrations with the songwriting featured on the record, Rich Cole was replaced by a returning Skill, who took over as the band's bassist.
Commercial success (1983–1986)With Skill back in, the band began playing arenas with the likes of Cheap Trick, the Kinks, and the Cars. Solley was also rehired in 1983 as their producer for their fourth album In Heat. In Heat would be The Romantics' greatest commercial success, and was awarded a gold album in the United States for selling over 500,000 copies. It eventually would sell over 900,000 US copies. In Heat was also awarded a gold album in Canada (for over 50,000 copies sold). The first single taken from In Heat, "Talking in Your Sleep", hit #3 for four weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and reached #1 on the Album Rock Tracks and Hot Dance Club Play charts.
It was also a global success, scoring in many other countries such as #1 in Canada and #5 in Sweden. A second single, "One In A Million", peaked at #37 during the following year on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and also went to #21 on the Hot Dance Club Play Chart. The Romantics' music videos were frequently shown on the cable television network MTV during this period, solidifying the band's popularity. Also during 1983, the Romantics played US and international concert tours in support of In Heat, and appeared on such pop music-themed television shows as Solid Gold, American Bandstand, and Soul Train.
In 1984, drummer Jimmy Marinos left the Romantics, and he was replaced by David Petratos, who would serve as the band's drummer until 1990. This lineup released one album, 1985s Rhythm Romance, which peaked at #72 and only produced one charting single ("Test of Time" #71). Detroit keyboardist Barry Warner was also added to the band for the following 1985–1986 tour. Due to the tour for Rhythm Romance being thwarted by low ticket sales and mounting tension between the band and its management, The Romantics were dropped from the Sony record label.
Reinvention (1990–present)In the late 1980s, the Romantics discovered that their managers had been misappropriating the profits earned by the band from its records and live performances. Additionally, one of their releases (the aforementioned "What I Like About You") had been licensed for use in television commercials without the band's knowledge or approval. Consequently, the Romantics filed a lawsuit against their management in 1987, and the legalities involved prevented the band from recording new music until the mid-1990s.
Former Blondie drummer Clem Burke replaced David Petratos as the Romantics' drummer in 1990. For much of the 1990s, the Romantics played obscure performances in small venues, largely forgotten and out of the public spotlight.
The Romantics' fortunes began to rise again in the middle of the 1990s, as the band's success in its lawsuit against its former management freed the band to record again (and ensured that future earnings from the licensing of Romantics songs would go to the band). The first fruit of the band's new recording activity was the 1993 UK-only EP Made In Detroit. Several Romantics greatest hits packages were issued during the 1990s, as was the live album The King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents: The Romantics Live In Concert, a 1996 release of an October 1983 recording of a Romantics concert in San Antonio, Texas at the height of the band's popularity.
Jimmy Marinos, the Romantics' original drummer, temporarily returned to the band for a series of performances in 1996–1997 (with Clem Burke returning to the Romantics' drumstool after Marinos departed again). In 2003, twenty years after the release of their most commercially successful album, In Heat, the Romantics released 61/49–a more roots rock and blues-oriented record than the band's previous efforts. Although Clem Burke performed as the band's primary drummer on the release, original drummer Jimmy Marinos is featured on half of the tracks. The album was not a great commercial success, but won the Romantics a newfound critical respect that they had not enjoyed during their popular and commercial heyday in the early 1980s. 61/49 also offered proof that despite the band's years out of the public spotlight, the Romantics remain a potent musical unit.
A fourth drummer, Brad Elvis, (formerly from The Elvis Brothers, and currently The Handcuffs) replaced Clem Burke as the Romantics' regular drummer in 2004 after Burke returned full-time to a reactivated Blondie. The Romantics continue to play live concerts today.
Rich Cole returned to the band after a long absence in 2010. Longtime lead guitarist Coz Canler left the band in 2011, allowing Skill to return to the original lead guitarist role he held in the band.
In 2004, the band's album 61/49 was named most Outstanding National Small/Independent Label Album at the Detroit Music Awards, and in June 2011, the Romantics were voted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame.
LawsuitOn November 21, 2007, The Romantics filed a lawsuit against Activision, RedOctane, Harmonix, and Wavegroup Sound over the cover of the song "What I Like About You" used in Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s. While the game developers did secure appropriate rights to cover the song in the game, The Romantics claim that the cover is "virtually indistinguishable from the authentic version" and thus would "[confuse] consumers into believing that the band actually recorded the music and endorsed the product". The lawsuit requested the cessation of sales of the game and monetary damage.
A summary judgment hearing was held on July 9, 2008, and the case was dismissed the next month, with U.S. District Judge Nancy G. Edmunds stating that Activision had obtained the proper licensing for the works and that the band itself no longer held the copyright on the work.