David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 336: Loverboy (Turn Me Loose)

March 21, 2024

In Morgantown, at least in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the local high schools were encouraged to join together for a celebration called "Quadrad," a post-graduation get-together for the four local high schools. It was held at WVU's Mountainlair, the commons area for WVU's downtown campus, which means you had a lot of 17 and 18-year olds hanging out in a bowling alley, pool hall, game room, with access to the Blue Tick Tavern, at a time when the drinking age was 18.

Sound like a good idea to you? No, it doesn't to me either, although I am sure I had no reason for an opinion when that age. Now I wonder why fights never broke out (University High School vs. Morgantown High School, alone, seemed like a bad combination), but a friend reminds me that only nerds went to it. Apparently, yours truly, this nerd, went to two, although I don't really remember my own in 1980, and ironically loosely remember attending, as a blind date for my friend's girlfriend's friend, in 1981. I don't remember her name, much about her, or anything else from that event, sans one detail: some idiot using his pool cue as an air guitar to the opening sounds of Loverboy's "Turn Me Loose."

This summation of a May day in 1981 should tell you everything you need to know about me and about rock and roll. We are both chock full of clichés.

Steve and I mocked the guy, although if the song had been "Sultans of Swing" or "Under Pressure," it might have been one of us to strike the pose (although alcohol would have had to been involved). You see, it's cool to pretend to be John Deacon, but Scott Smith?  C'mon, man. Even this week, when I mentioned this memory to Steve, it was just as strong in his mind as it was in mine. 

What can I say? I can be judgmental, which beyond my own hypocrisy probably isn't fair. Rock and roll is built upon the predictable, and the dude was giving into the moment, taking Loverboy at their word and "turning himself loose." The song's concise, summative chorus ("turn me loose, I gotta do it my way or no way at all") is as predictable as "I love rock and roll so put another record on the jukebox, baby," or "I wanna rock and roll all night and party every day."  As a second or even third generation rock band, Loverboy knew who they were, personifying many other Rock 'N' Roll clichés: the leather, the rebellious attitude, the repetitiveness of a chorus that goes on and on and on: "turn me loose/turn me loose/I gotta do it my way/or no way at all." Yeah, sure Mike Reno steals a bit from Frank Sinatra (and Sid Vicious) with the "do it my way" sentimentality, but such arrogant, boorish behavior is the underlying cliché of so much rock and roll.

We also have to get our (un)healthy dose of sexual innuendo: "I was here to please/I'm even on knees/makin' love to whoever I please." And don't forget to scream: "Fly my waaaay," Reno's "Won't Get Fooled Again" moment. Even the cover to Loverboy, frail woman smoking cigarette standing against a red background, lyrics superimposed across the cover, exudes rock and roll standards.

You know the guys in Loverboy were that pool player at one point in their lives; they just had some talent to discard the pool cue for a guitar. Fantasies about being in a band start (and end) with the ever-steady electric guitar (or bass). Loverboy knew this. Mike Reno and Paul Dean had been playing in numerous bands the previous decade, so when they started collaborating on "Turn Me Loose," one of them recognized that they better start with their Entwistle moment, something that could scream Loverboy's version of "My Generation." To throw in a little more rock and roll cliché, add in a girl. "Turn Me Loose" itself might not have existed if Paul Dean's girlfriend hadn't encouraged him to "turn it loose" and finish it. I wonder if she got all June Chadwick (Spinal Tap reference alert) and recommended the red leather and the headbands (maybe that is what is meant by an "Australian nightmare"). It's only rock and roll, gang, and we like it . . . especially the clichés.

And all of this isn't even a century old. How did teenage boys act out their phallic fantasies before rock and roll? When they picked up their pool cues, tennis rackets, or golf clubs, what motivated them to strut around with them? If Rudy Vallee's "Honey" came on, how did they assert their alternate personas? If they stumbled into a performance of Strauss's Rathausball-Tänze, how did they show their love of the beat? If a young Greek lad heard someone on his pan flute, how did he react?  Uh, maybe it's time I move on here.

Loverboy. "Turn Me Loose." Loverboy. Columbia, 1980. Link here.

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Day 337: The Swan Silvertones "Trouble In My Way"

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