Here we are, going into a big holiday week. Thanksgiving is a great holiday in the Keller household. Lately, my beautiful bride will park her semi-truck and take a week off from the women’s wrestling tour in order to stay home to lead two families through the holiday. First, my side of the family, which is small, will feast on Thursday, as Son #1, with his mother’s talent for cooking will help out. Then, on Saturday, my wife will lead a Thanksgiving pitch-in on her large side of the family. She has taken on both Thanksgiving celebrations since my mom’s and aunt’s health have each deteriorated recently and since we lost her mother, the strong matriarch of her family. Still, these gatherings are always precious.
And, all of this makes me wistful for the days long ago where my biggest concern on this holiday was to survive my father’s family and lounge at my mom’s side. And, it is during these longing moments, that I dig deep into my music collection to find those albums that will take me back to those days of my youth. Today, I have dialed the Wayback Machine to the waning days of 1980, when a band from Champaign, Illinois had just released their latest album, Hi Infidelity. Of course, I am speaking about the biggest-selling album of that terrific journeyman band REO Speedwagon. REO had always been pretty well known in central Indiana since they toured the state hard every year. Back in the mid-Seventies, REO was getting airplay here in Indianapolis when they couldn’t use payola to get played anywhere else in the nation outside of the Midwest. But, all of that changed with this album. As a matter of fact, Hi Infidelity became the soundtrack of my senior year of high school.
That particular album broke REO throughout the country and the world. Instead of selling a million albums of their 1978 album You Can Tune a Piano but You Can’t Tuna Fish, they were pushing ten million in sales of this new album. REO had the biggest-selling album of 1981 with Hi Infidelity. And, while this breakthrough seemed to come out of nowhere, those of who had grown up with the band figured it could happen if the band’s songwriting could hit on all cylinders at one time. The band’s album sales had gradually been increasing starting when lead singer Kevin Cronin returned to the band after a short hiatus for an ill-fated solo career. Upon his return, the R.E.O. album sold respectfully. Then, the band met their Seventies requirement by releasing a double live album called Live – You Get What You Play For, which placed the band in the Top 40 for album sales.
In 1978, REO followed up the live album with their best album to date, the Tuna Fish album. That album produced two Classic Rock radio standards “Roll with the Changes” and “Time for Me to Fly”. Then, in 1979, the band’s new album was Nine Lives, but it failed to have the material that their previous album had. But, what that album did was back the band into a corner to get back to their multi-platinum album sales levels of Tuna Fish.a
As we now know, the band hit it out of the park with 1980’s Hi Infidelity. The album spawned three Top 10 singles: “Keep on Loving You”, “Take It on the Run” and “Don’t Let Him Go”, with a fourth, “In Your Letter” peaking in the Top 20. For that year, REO was on top of the world. And, even though their record sales were still big, the quality of songs were decreasing, especially as they moved from good meat-and-potatoes AOR songs to more schlocky ballads and soft rock songs. And, by the end of the 1980s, REO Speedwagon was yet another band primed for the nostalgia tour circuit, upon which they do extremely well.
So, in honor of the release of Hi Infidelity 37 years ago (!!!), may I present My 25 Favorite REO Speedwagon Songs list for you. Hopefully, writing this will get me out of my lost youthful idealism funk and put me back on my chosen track of cynicism and snarkiness about the world in general.
- “Ridin’ the Storm Out” (Live – You Get What You Play For, 1976) (Live – You Get What You Play For, 1976)
- “157 Riverside Ave.” (Live – You Get What You Play For, 1976). A little urban legend from my alma mater, Ball State University. The college’s fraternity row is on Riverside Avenue. As the legend goes, REO Speedwagon honored Ball State’s major support of the band (supposedly, many frats booked them to play in the early ’70s) that REO named this song in honor of BSU’s Frat Row. Now, I am skeptical about this urban legend since there is NO 157 Riverside Avenue. That address would mean the house would be located in the middle of the White River that divides the city. Second, other than David Letterman and former Three’s Company star Joyce DeWitt, few really famous things have come out of BSU. But, the story is still cool.
- “Don’t Let Him Go” (Hi Infidelity, 1980)
- “Tough Guys” (Hi Infidelity, 1980)
- “Back on the Road Again” (Nine Lives, 1979)
- “Shakin’ It Loose” (High Infidelity, 1980)
- “Roll with the Changes” (You Can Tune a Piano but You Can’t Tuna Fish, 1978)
- “Only the Strong Survive” (Nine Lives, 1979)
- “Time for Me to Fly” (You Can Tune a Piano but You Can’t Tuna Fish, 1978)
- “Golden Country” (E.O./Two, 1972)
- “Out of Season” (High Infidelity, 1980)
- “Say You Love Me or Say Goodnight” (You Can Tune a Piano but You Can’t Tuna Fish, 1978)
- “Take It on the Run” (Hi Infidelity, 1980)
- “Keep On Loving You” (Hi Infidelity, 1980)
- “Someone Tonight” (Hi Infidelity, 1980)
- “Can’t Fight This Feeling” (Wheels Are Turning, 1984)
- “In Your Letter” (Hi Infidelity, 1980)
- “Sophisticated Lady” (E.O. Speedwagon, 1971)
- “Keep Pushin’” (E.O., 1976)
- “Like You Do” (Live – You Get What You Play For, 1976)
- “Flying Turkey Trot” (Live – You Get What You Play For, 1976)
- “Keep the Fire Burnin’” (Good Trouble, 1982)
- “That Ain’t Love” (Life as We Know It, 1986)
- “Here with Me” (The Hits, 1988)
- “In My Dreams” (Life as We Know It, 1986)
Whew! Now, I do feel better. I should have taken this writing thing more seriously when I was younger. I could have exorcised many more demons by now.