A bit of an interesting time capsule today, as 1980 winds down, the #1 selling album of 1981, “Hi Infidelity” by REO Speedwagon was released. If you weren’t around at the time, it may be hard to appreciate what a massive success this record was, emerging from a pack of AOR pop-rock acts like Foreigner & Journey that were so prevalent during the time. With singer Kevin Cronin’s seemingly sensitive lyrical touch, blended with a mildly harder-edge guitar-rock sound from Gary Richrath and company, the hit singles from this album were everywhere, bridging the gap between Top 40 pop and rock and roll.
At the time, the record was never a huge favorite of mine, as I was trending a bit more rock and roll, but I do remember borrowing it from my friend John as I did appreciate the pop appeal of hits like “Don’t Let Him Go”, “Keep On Loving You”, and of course, “Take It on the Run”. Those songs are still timeless and long-term staples of that era today, even when the band emerges in strange places like a fictional performance on the Netflix show “Ozark”. The rest of the album is hit or miss. Some of the songs like “In Your Letter”, “Tough Guys”, “Shakin’ It Loose” and even “Someone Tonight”, sung by bassist Bruce Hall, are easy and a bit infectious. Others, like “Follow My Heart” and “I Wish You Were There”, are as bland as this overall genre was at its worst.
Somehow, I always thought that another massive hit, “Time for Me to Fly” was on this album as well, but apparently it was on their previous release, “You Can Tune a Piano, But You Can’t Tuna Fish”. Ohh, Kevin… And as seeing as this will likely be my only entry on REO Speedwagon, I have to finish with my favorite REO memory, featuring another classic from that album. The year was roughly 1988, and it was one of those infamous “days after” in college, when my friend Mike and I were struggling for recovery and coherence. As was the tradition, we made it somewhere for a recovery breakfast, and we were returning home in lovely Greeley, CO. Mike was driving his blue sedan, aptly named “Bill The Car”. We pulled up to a stop sign with minimal to no traffic, and the inspiring first chords of “Roll With the Changes” came on the radio. Overtaken by emotion, energy and possibly last night’s beverage ensemble, I leapt out from my passenger seat, jumped to the hood of “Bill The Car”, and serenaded Mike and the rest of the 2200 block of 9th Avenue with a chorus or two as we sat parked at the stop sign. Sometimes, you just have to give in to your inner Kevin Cronin. Rock on Mike, and rock on Kevin, may Bill The Car Rest In Power (RIP).