For the last few decades, a particular song has come on the radio prompting me to immediately change the station.
No, it’s not “Girl You Know It’s True” by Milli Vanilli.
The song on my mind is one of those early ’80s power ballads Gen Xers likely remember during pivotal pubescent milestones. Maybe it played in the background of a party as they awkwardly experienced their first kiss. They may have repeatedly played the 45 on their record players while reading Teen Beat during Saturday night slumber parties. I’m sure many have lovely feelings about the American hit that topped the U.S. Hot 100 for three straight weeks in March of 1985.
And no, it’s not “Careless Whisper” by Wham!
The band behind the song I’m pondering definitely doesn’t end with an exclamation point. If REO Speedwagon did have punctuation, it would be much more serious. Maybe just three periods — how the band started out in 1967. According to the REO’s Wikipedia entry, the band was named for a commercial truck built by the REO Motor Car Co., and R.E.O. was an acronym for founder Ransom E. Olds.
They later dropped the punctuation.
From “Roll With the Changes” and “Take It on the Run” to “Ridin’ the Storm Out” and “Keep On Loving You,” a healthy list of big hits have highlighted REO Speedwagon’s long rock career. Attending an REO concert Sunday night, I found myself knowing nearly every word of their biggest hits from my pre- and early-teen years, and singing along with joy. Milli Vanilli, admittedly, came later in my puberty experience. I wish I could blame that one on the rain.
Unfortunately, I only have myself to blame.
I was singing along to the REO songs until they started in on the one that always made me cringe. It’s not that “Can’t Fight This Feeling” is a bad song. It actually has a nice premise, about falling in love with a longtime friend. That kind of thing happens to me all the time.
I’m much more comfortable dating friends than strangers met on Tinder.
There’s no disputing that “Can’t Fight This Feeling” had the type of magical words that easily helped many lovers fall hard in the ’80s. Kevin Cronin’s lyrics, “And if I have to crawl upon the floor, come crushing through your door” gave a scrawny little prepubescent girl like me hope for true teen love. Instead of sitting on the sidelines at the middle school dance, kicking at the floor, I envisioned slow dancing with the kind of guy who would do anything possible for love. Even crawl upon the floor.
That’s expecting a bit much.
My tendency to turn off “Can’t Fight This Feeling” every time I heard it on the radio, a routine that spanned three decades, had everything to do with me being a late bloomer at the whole puberty thing and nothing to do with REO Speedwagon’s hit song-writing talents. Seeing REO in concert gave me a long-overdue appreciation for the band and the impact its music has had on multiple generations. Realizing I knew every word reminded me that maybe I didn’t dislike my prepubescent years as much as I thought. I was lucky to have a safe, healthy childhood, and a sad little middle school dance shouldn’t stick with me into adulthood.
I obviously couldn’t fight my feelings anymore.
The concert gave me a new outlook on a band that proves it can still play like it’s 1985. Or even 1975. Every song seemed to resonate with me now that I’m older — and presumably wiser — than a middle schooler. I’m familiar with riding the storm out, when speaking metaphorically, in love and career. I’ll probably ditch that “Keep On Loving You” idea since that hasn’t taken me very far in affairs of the heart.
Maybe “Take It on the Run” is more my speed.
The highlight of the night was singing along to the Chicago songs, too. Especially when the two bands shared the stage at the end of the night. They started playing REO’s “Roll With the Changes,” which I also have life experience perfecting, and my girlfriends and I couldn’t help but get up and dance. We were well into the chorus when raindrops suddenly started to fall. Uncovered in the lawn section, we decided instead of rushing for cover we wanted to dance in the rain and keep on rolling.
With a loud and resounding exclamation point.
April E. Clark hasn’t found many experiences in life that top dancing in the rain. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.