The Romantics on the cover of White Noise #4 in 1979 (Courtesy of Kevin Knapp)

Formed in 1976, The Romantics created a power pop sound recalling on the British Invasion bands as much as the Detroit proto-punk of the late 1960s. The group’s sound found chart success quickly through the late 1970s and with the start of MTV in the early 1980s.

Based in Hamtramck, The Romantics crossed paths creatively with fellow Poletown bands The Mutants and The Reruns. Guitarist Mike Skill had been in two bands with drummer Jimmy Marinos in the early 1970s including one that had played CBGBs but broke up after the gig. Through a recording session with Sirius Trixon, Skill says met Wally Palmer around 1975. When Skill’s next band fizzled, he peeked in on a show Palmer was doing at Hamtramck High School. Skill called Palmer about forming a band. Palmer brought along bassist Rich Cole. Before the formation of The Romantics, Cole and Palmer were part of a group with members of The Mutants called Harlow – a Roxy Music-glam rock style band.

Skill says big influences on the formation of The Romantics were the energy of the MC5 and late 1960s Detroit music scene coupled with The Kinks as well as The Flamin’ Groovies “Shake Some Action” album (released in 1976) and seeing the fashion style of The Jam. The Romantics not only worked on crafting power pop tunes but also worked on honing a look and high energy show for the stage.

The band took their name from comments made by Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music in a CREEM interview about how Roxy Music was interested in “the romantic era” of music.

The Romantics played their first live show on Valentine’s Day 1977. Skill says by the band’s third live show they played the Pontiac Silverdome – opening for Peter Frampton and The Steve Miller Band. But, before The Romantics even played their first live gig, the group had already recorded a single – “Little White Lies” b/w “I Can’t Tell You Anything” for the band’s own Spider Records imprint in 1977. The band would also release The Reruns’ first single on their label in 1978. The Romantics had their next release, a 7-inch EP, issued by notable west coast label BOMP!. The record did well enough that Nemperor Records, a division of CBS Records, released the band’s self-titled debut in 1980. The record charted at number 60 on the Billboard charts buoyed by the strength of the single “What I Like About You” – a song that would go on to be featured in TV commercials and in other media.

The Romantics would release two more albums over the next year, “National Breakout” in late 1980 and “Strictly Personal” in 1981. But, the band’s biggest album would be 1983’s “In Heat” which reached 14 on the Billboard charts and earned The Romantics their first gold record due in part of heavy radio and MTV play of “Talking in Your Sleep” and “One in a Million”.

The Romantics have had several line up changes over the years, especially drummers which have included Clem Burke of Blondie and Johnny “Bee” Badanjek of Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels and The Rockets.

To date, The Romantics have released six studio albums and continue to tour. Skill has been working on solo recordings including a piece featuring former MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer called “67 Riot”.

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3 thoughts on “The Romantics

  1. The Romantics were a tight, professional band early on. I thought that Mike and Jimmy were probably a team. They seemed to carry on with the focus on the task at hand. The band had tight vocal harmonies on songs that were crafted in the style of journeyman tunesmiths. Jimmy drove the band with his solid playing on the drums. They should have made sure to hang onto him. Mike’s lead lines were stated in a manner that was in keeping with the minimilism of the radio ready songs they played. In other words, he didn’t overplay the songs; as other lead guitar players might have. All-in-all The Romantics put forth a good effort and a good show.

  2. If Max Weinberg ever decides to do volume 2 of the Big Beat,two very likely candidates for inclusion would be Jimmy Marinos and Clem Burke. Volume 1 as many know is a tribute with profiles and interviews with some of the greatest R&R drummers of all time,including Ringo Starr, Charlie Watts and Earl Palmer to name a few/ to even be considered for membership in the Big Beat club you must fully grasp the aesthetic that is the essence of R&R. Part of it is simplicity but that’s only the half of it because knowing how to nail the beat down propels the entire band forward and gives the song a certain kind of majestic transcendance. I still get a lump in my throat every time DEVIL WITH A BLUE DRESS comes on the radio [thanks Mitch] /Johnny Bee’s cataclysmic drum fill in the middle is a goose bump inducing experience only great Rock & Roll can deliver. Johnny’s inclusion amoungst such hallowed company in Volume 1 is fully deserved. It is no coincidence that all 3 drummers I’ve mentioned so far have done stints in the Romantics.When they burst onto the DETROIT scene in the late 70’s there was nothing remotely like them. The look was a nod to the past ,the sound, a buzzsaw clarion call for something new, different and exciting on the horizon. Only accomplished crate diggers like these guys would be cool enough to cover Richard and the Young Lion’ s “Open up your Door” and “Friday at the Hideout” by the Underdogs Wow!

  3. After visiting Jimmy at his house to talk about music I went to an audition for the unnamed band at the time. It just didn’t seem like the right fit. I was like 10 feet taller than the rest of the guys. and I was looking for more of a hard rock style. Afterwards I walked out to the parking lot with Marinos and he asked me what I thought of the name , The Romantics. I said ,” that sounds cool.” So I believe Jimmy originated the name.

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