Beyond the ’80s

You probably remember The Romantics as that ’80s band that put out “What I Like About You,” or that ’80s band that did “Talking in Your Sleep,” a song that’s so ’80s, it puts the B-52s to shame. Either way, The Romantics have been pegged as an ’80s band and, really, until their new album, 61/49, came out in September, this was entirely accurate. After all, the band hadn’t come out with new material since 1985.

But 61/49 is no reunion album. Even if you’ve forgotten about them, The Detroit-based Romantics stayed together through the Clinton Administration, Britney Spears, Y2K and everything in between. What hindered the band from releasing new material in the interim was a grueling seven-year lawsuit filed by the band that found the musicians fighting their former management for grossly underpaid royalties and song ownership. A settlement in the band’s favor was finally reached in 1995.

Now, with 61/49, at long last the band is emerging back onto the rock scene. Lead singer/guitarist Wally Palmer said the band was well aware of the challenges it would face.

“We knew what we were headed for, going into this album,” he said. “Certain people at radio stations around the country, they go, ‘Oh, what? Another fucking ’80s band trying to come out with something?’ We knew that we were gonna have that obstacle.

“The only thing that I really want is that we can reestablish a name for ourselves and just make a credible album and just make something that hopefully people will enjoy. That’s all,” Palmer said.

Despite its difficulty in breaking away from the ’80s label, Palmer said he doesn’t mind the fact that the band is often solely identified with the 1980 release “What I Like About You,” or the fact that the song has become ubiquitous in television commercials.

“The song seems like it’s got a life of its own, anyway. Every time you think you’ve heard the last of it, it turns up somewhere else,” he joked. “I (don’t) see any difference of it from getting played on the radio than being played on TV, really. What’s the difference? We’re just fortunate that we have a song like ‘What I Like About You’ in our catalogue.”

As a native of Detroit, as well as a forerunner of its current hot rock scene, Palmer raved about local Detroit bands The White Stripes, The Dirtbombs and The Von Bondies.

And don’t forget the eighth-mile’s Eminem, about whom Palmer said, “You’ve never seen a harder working guy in your life, and I’m serious. I know this for a fact because we work out of the same studios. Once he’s in there, that’s his home away from home.”

“See, that’s the things about these bands,” Palmer continued. “I appreciate anybody that comes out because I know how hard it is to get a break out of that city, believe me. And I appreciate anybody who really buckles down and does their work. I appreciate them, and I applaud them. And I back them.”

As far as his own band’s perseverance through the seven-year lawsuit, Palmer said, “It would have been easy for us just to say ‘Oh, fuck it. I can’t take it anymore, I don’t want to do this, I’m tired of this.’ But we felt we had more to offer. We heard all the (music) that was coming out at that time, and I go, ‘There’s fucking junk out there, man. Our shit’s 10 times better than this. Let’s go and do this.'”

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