David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 127: The Romantics (What I Like About You)

August 31, 2020

After a day like today filled with potentially exhausting presentations or meetings to conduct, I want to turn to just straightforward simple rock songs. Today was all about The Romantics' "What I Like About You," about as straightforward a rock song as possible: a searing guitar riff, hand claps, harmonica bridge, and lyrics any dunce can remember.

The Romantics were Detroit, Michigan, boys, well before I knew I would have any Detroit in my future life.  They had dozens of fresh, almost Raspberries'-inspired, rock and pop songs that would never blow you away, but would dig into your brain and stay there awhile. "First In Line" and "When I Look In Your Eyes" should have been minor hits from the same debut album that featured "What I Like About You," while "21 And Over" from National Breakout should have kept them more on the radar before their breakout hits "Talking In Your Sleep" and "One In A Million" from their fourth album In Heat solidified them as one of the 80's best pure rock and roll bands.

However, "What I Like About You" in the last six months has become an uneasy listening experience for me. Given that everything now gets seen through the (Zoom) lens of COVID, I can't think of this song without also thinking about its video. Anybody around during the early days of MTV knows what I am talking about, as it is a promotional clip that made me want to wear masks long before the damn pandemic descended (or maybe "ascended") upon us.

What's your beef, you may ask. The "What I Like About You" video is a basic performance video shot in some soulless studio somewhere, literally nothing but the band and their equipment, black leather only broken up by Jimmy Marinos' blood red drum kit, the color scheme of their first album. The cinematography matches the rhythm, cutting from Marinos singing to a stage right shot of the guitarists, Rich Cole (on bass), Wally Palmer, and Mike Skill providing the engine that makes the song a roll-the-windows-down-the-whole-drive-home after any long day, good or bad. Quick cuts go back and forth from individual band members, Wally Palmer's harmonica solo prominently displayed. It might even be cited in the 1980 textbook "Music Video 101" before high concept met high budget.

Nevertheless, in the video, Marinos, who sings lead, is a living, breathing, sweat and spit machine. He creeped me out way before I needed to worry about COVID, especially his "brrrrrr" at the very end, which every time I watch I am convinced has a second of major spittle on his chin, but then when I pause the clip, I can't see it.  Where's Abraham Zabruder when I need him? The link below is to the video; watch at your own risk.

Marinos might like one of us whispering in his ear, but I doubt any of us want him whispering in in our ears. Even if bands could tour right now, I have to assume The Romantics would be barred. Marinos might be barred by his own band mates; Palmer looks to be in the direct line of spittle himself. Marinos was out of the band by 1985, so perhaps the problem was more fluid even at that time.

Let's face it, as I have gotten older, being crammed into small clubs to see live music has been less and less appealing anyway. I am not really good with crowds, or drunks, or chatty audience members, more interested in talking about their sleep than listening to "Talking In Your Sleep." Post-Covid, you may not see me in a club. I am not sure I can get 400 feet within any stage after this pandemic.

But, don't worry, you might still see me speeding down Dailey Road, blaring music, singing at the top of my lungs. I keep my windows up out of respect. It used to just reflect noise ordinances, but now it is also phlegm ordinances.

"What I Like About You." The Romantics. The Romantics. Nemperor. 1980. Video Link here.

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Day 128: Cher "Half-Breed."->

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