STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
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Strange as it sounds, The Romantics’ most enduring — and oft-imitated — song didn’t crack the Billboard top 40 singles chart.
“As I’m talking to you, I’m staring at a bottle of Diet Coke, and on the side of it is ‘What I Like About You’,” said guitarist/vocalist and harmonica player Wally Palmar, referring to Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” song lyrics packaging campaign that happens to invoke the title of the 1980 British-Invasion-meets-Detroit-bar-band classic rock song.
Unfortunately, decades later Palmar and The Romantics are still in and out of court fighting for the band’s fair share of royalties for that song, the 1984 hits “Talking in Your Sleep” and “One in a Million,” and their entire ‘80s catalog.
Meanwhile, the band members’ geographic separation between Detroit, Portland and Chicago has made putting out new music since the ‘80s a struggle. Over the holiday season, The Romantics released the iTunes single “Deck the Halls”/“Coming Back Home” and followed it with a pair of ‘60s remakes in “Daydream Believer”/“We Gotta Get Out of This Place.”
Palmar promised both tracks of their Monkees/Animals salute, and selections from the first album all the way through to an upcoming full-length album titled “Up from the Rubble,” at a July 29 show at the ArtsQuest/SteelStacks Musikfest Cafe in Bethlehem. “It’s a good rock ‘n’ roll show. We hope to see the old fans, as well as new fans,” Palmar said, adding that he, guitarist Mike Skill and bassist Rich Cole take turns singing lead vocals.
On the cover of their debut album, “The Romantics,” the band famously donned matching red leather suits. “They were made for us by a friend of ours in Detroit. We were always aiming for the best. Before we were able to afford red leather, the next best thing was we had somebody sew us pants made of vinyl,” Palmar laughed.
For a fascinating trip back in time, click on the Video Bytes section of www.romanticsdetroit.com. Highlights include two of The Romantics’ appearances on “American Bandstand,” a 1983 moment on MTV and even a performance on “Soul Train.” “‘Talking in Your Sleep’ and (the album) ‘In Heat’ was climbing the charts, but then we had a dance mix (of ‘Talking in Your Sleep’) that was climbing the R&B charts,” Palmar explained. “We were all taken aback (at being invited to go on ‘Soul Train’). The chance to meet Don Cornelius? Come on!”
As for the late Dick Clark, he was always great to the band, according to Palmar. “It was certainly a shot in the arm to be on that show,” he said of “Bandstand,” noting that in the pre-internet days, an appearance on national TV had a bigger impact than it does now.