The Romantics: Alive and Well and Enjoying the Weather

By Kevin Gibson

For the second year in a row, it has rained on Louisville's Largest Beach Bash, the WQMF-sponsored outdoor Memorial Day festival which features some of the best local and national music.

Last year, The Romantics trucked it all the way down from Detroit, only to be drenched in a classic Ohio Valley downpour. Still, the band played on, switching to remotes and kissing their leather goodbye.

On May 26, the Romantics returned, and once again the skies opened up and deposited unwanted moisture. This year, though, a tent was placed over the stage, shielding the band from the rain.

In a sense, this is an analogy for the Romantics' musical existence over the past five years. The rain has been falling hard on this band, which boasts three top 40 singles and a gold album.

But you won't hear them complaining. When the showers intensify, the tent goes up and the band plays on.

Romantics lead singer/rhythm guitarist Wally Palmar performing at Louisville's Largest Beach Bash at Waterfront Park. Photo by Kevin Gibson

Lead singer/rhythm guitarist Wally Palmar joked about the weather after the show May 26.

"How about that? We come to Louisville again and it rains again," he said. "We agreed to come back as long as they guaranteed there would be no rain -- somebody lied to us."

The Romantics have been idle for some time. The group's last release came in September, 1985. That's when the rainy season began, and it hasn't let up yet.

The album, titled Rhythm Romance, met with little success, and the Romantics soon lost their recording contract with Nemperor Records, a tiny division of CBS.

The Motor City quartet took to touring. And writing. And touring some more. And writing.

Five years later, they have enough songs for two albums and still no record deal in the U.S. But they are finally beginning to see a break in the weather.

A four-song EP is on its way in Europe, featuring two brand-new Romantics originals and two George Clinton covers. Its rhythm and blues, Romantics-style.

This, along with the many demos the band has done recently, may be just the warm front needed to bring back the sunny skies the band knew back in the days of "What I Like About You," (in 1980) and during the impressive In Heat period (1983-1984).

Palmar said the Romantics have about 20 new songs, many of which were played to an enthusiastic audience at Waterfront Park Memorial Day weekend. The band still churns out old favorites, but mixes in a few new tunes to give the public a taste of what awaits it when a new record deal is finally realized.

"A lot of our stuff is not that communicable except to the avid fans, so we interchange them," said Palmar.

One night it's the tried and true "One Bad Dream" or "Leave Your Night Light On," and the next it will be one of the Clinton songs, like "I Wanna Know," or one of the newer Romantics tunes such as "She Knows How to Rock," which Palmar said has been played before under different titles.

He indicated that perhaps some of its original lyrics were a bit wimpy, and the band changed the song to the current teen-oriented, established rock 'n' roll-type number. Why?

"We get beaten up in the press enough ... saying the stuff is too trite," he said.

Perhaps "basic" is a better word to use. The Romantics don't take the stage to express political attitudes or to alter the audience's social awareness. The band's number one goal is to entertain, and that they do.

As the Beach Bash show was a one-shot deal, the band is now back in Detroit working toward that record deal which is still hidden just behind the clouds. Palmar said there are four of five recording companies that are taking a good, hard look at the Romantics.

"We're getting a good response," he said. "We have four or five (companies) to choose from." He said the band wants a "sincere" label -- one that will go all the way in promoting the new material. Palmar feels the material is worth it.

He said that for the first time it has all been recorded in Detroit. For instance, the upcoming European release is a 24-track recording which still has a less processed sound than much of today's music.

"I really like the way this stuff sounds," he said. "It's got more of a live feel."

Also, the band has strayed from the almost exclusive use of Rickenbackers in the past to the current use of Gretsch and Fender instruments.

"(Rickenbackers) have a great sound, but you can't keep them in tune," he said. "Our guitar tester is pulling his hair out trying to tune them."

Until the record deal is forthcoming, the Romantics will keep waiting and writing. And waiting. And writing.

In picking the songs for the album, Palmar said the Romantics will look to the lyrics for a theme and avoid using songs which may sound similar to one another. He said, though, that it is a nice luxury to have a large selection of tunes to choose from.

"It's only better for us, the more songs we have," Palmar said. "We've got to just keep on writing. That's all we can do at this point."