follows is the story of a bunch of hard working street kids from
the East side of Detroit who became one of the most influential
and memorable bands emanating from one of music's most important
Formed on Valentine's Day, 1977, Wally Palmar, Jimmy Marinos,
Mike Skill and Rich Cole -- the original Romantics -- were tough
kids escaping hard work, probably in machine shops or factories,
but they weren't punks. They were a response to the nihilism of
the U.K. punks.
And The Romantics were simple; the best of their music was a joyful
affirmation, epitomized by the chanted "Hey!...uh-huh!" intro
to the remarkable "That's What I Like About You," a song that
still exists precisely in the moment, without before or after.
While it is true that they took much of their simple thunder from
the British Invasion, the band's primary influence was the high
energy excitement of the late 60s Detroit scene. The MC5, the
Stooges, The Underdogs, The Rationals, SRC, The Up. . . The Romantics
took the essence of this scene -- sincerity, irony, spontaneity,
volume -- and translated it to suit their own modern experience.
Their image was innate; they naturally favored short hair and
shorter songs and happened on the infamous red leather suits by
After releasing a single consisting of the first two songs they
had written - ''Little White Lies" and "I Can't Tell You Anything"
-- The Romantics traveled east to build a club audience. Bomp
Records' Greg Shaw sees them in Toronto and funds an EP. The EP
includes "Tell It To Carrie," something of a stylistic matrix
for The Romantics' music to come.
The late 70s U.K. punk movement is diluted and misunderstood in
America, and The Romantics are, like it or not, labeled "New Wave,
" a term for the more palatable selling of punk. The Romantics
consider themselves well removed from the Sex Pistols' negativity.
They don't want rock to go away; they want, as Skill tells a reporter
in 1979: "to still have fun with three chords."
After signing with Nemperor Records in 1979, The Romantics released
their debut LP, recorded in three weeks. Anchored by "That's 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. Distilling the frantic melodies of the Dave Clark
Five and the exigency of the punks, The Romantics evokes a youthful
portrait, haunting in its innocence, a direct contrast to the
tough world they know in Detroit.
A follow-up, National Breakout, was released in 1980, followed
by tours of Europe and Australia. More influences -- surf music,
Motown -- were evidenced, yet the sound was increasingly unique.
"Tomboy," "21 and Over" and "Stone Pony" lived up to the post-punk
battle cry of "Two minutes or bust." The Bomp material was included
on a compilation titled Midwest Pop Explosion (Quark 1980), but
by the time of 1981's Strictly Personal, lead guitarist Skill
departs and is replaced by current guitarist Coz Canler.
The band reaches its commercial peak in 1983-1984 with In Heat,
a platinum album bearing two top ten singles: "Talking In Your
Sleep" and "One In A Million." This should have been the big payoff,
but drummer Marinos departs instead as "success" creates division
and confrontation between management and the band.
The Romantics, with Dave Petratos on Drums, released Rhythm Romance
in 1985. Other than the 1990 greatest hits compilation, "What
I Like About You" (and Other Romantic Hits), Rhythm Romance is
the last record The Romantics cut for Epic/Nemperor.
In 1987, The Romantics endure an inordinate amount of adversity.
The acrimonious fall-out and lawsuit with their former managers
slowed royalty payments and prevented the band from focusing on
recording and touring. In late 1990, the Romantics added former
Blondie drummer Clem Burke to the lineup, and in 1994 they released
a European EP titled Made In Detroit for Westbound Records, containing
fellow Detroiter George Clintons' Funkadelic songs along with
three originals. Later that year, The Romantics received an award
for Outstanding Pop/Rock Recording Artists from the Motor City
In 1992, when Clem had other obligations, The Romantics enlisted
legendary Detroit drummer Johnny "Bee" Badanjek to perform with
them at Rob Tyner's (MC5) Memorial Service, and he continues to
perform and record with The Romantics in additon to Clem.
In 1995, The Romantics settled their 7 year old lawsuit against
their former management and regained control of their publishing
rights and music catalog. In 1996 Jimmy Marinos, the original
drummer, rejoined the Romantics to tour and work on recording
projects until leaving the group in 1997. 1998 and 1999 brought
more touring and recording, and in 1999 The Romantics were presented
with the Distinguished Achievement Award at the Detroit Music
Awards. Always a working band, The Romantics new CD is in it's
final phase and scheduled for release in Spring 2002.
Today, the lineup of Skill, Palmer, Canler and Burke prove themselves
to be virtually reborn as a tough, tight, hard-rocking band who
stomp through a powerful set and provide simple musical images
that capture the true spirit of Rock and Roll.