Overview of REO SPEEDWAGON’s Smashing Hit Album,”Wheels Are Turnin'” (1984)

REO Speedwagon

A story…

A few weeks ago I went to this huge bookstore where they sell CDs and Vinyl records; I was looking for a REO Speedwagon CD and I asked one of the staff about it. (Not) Surprisingly, the person I asked had no idea who they were and while searching for the CD, they asked me about the band. I thought about it for a second – like, how do I introduce this American old-school rock band to a young European who doesn’t know anything about them. I just said that they are a melodic rock band and moved on (they didn’t have the CD I wanted either ways).

This made me think about it. Similar bands like Foreigner, Journey, Boston, etc. were quite popular in my country (and still are) but somehow REO Speedwagon didn’t really become a thing over here. Anyhow, I just really felt like dedicating a little something to one of my most beloved melodic rock bands and the first album of theirs I heard back in the day. My American readers would of course be well-aware of the band and their career but for the others, I hope you discover something life-changing!

REO Speedwagon formed in the late ‘60s even though many people might think that they are just one of the many ‘80s melodic rock bands. Yes, the early-to-mid ‘80s were indeed the heydays of their career, but they go way back! It would be somewhat difficult to go through every stage of the band and the numerous line-up changes that occurred throughout the years. Ultimately, what you need to know about them is that their early years were quite shaky (but very charming) and REO Speedwagon often reo speedwagon hi infhad a different frontman for every new release. The bell of success rang in the late ‘70s with their “You Can Tune A Piano, But You Can’t Tuna Fish” album. Their melodic rock/pop turn was fully made by the early ‘80s with staple rock albums like “Hi Infidelity” and “Good Trouble”. Both these albums, especially “Hi Infidelity” (1980) set the tone for the early ‘80s music scene and brought tons of recognition to the band. It was that same album that arguably defined the career of the band and remained their most beloved and critically acclaimed release.

“Wheels Are Turnin'”

reo speedwagonStill, if someone who has never heard of REO Speedwagon asks me to recommend him/her an album to start with, I’d pick “Wheels are Turnin’” in a heartbeat. Not only it’s one of their best-selling albums but it also contains some of the catchiest, most uplifting classic rock tunes that came out in the ‘80s. As a matter of fact, it was the first REO Speedwagon album I grabbed and where it all started from me.

The album did make quite the splash on the charts and spawned evergreen rock classics, including that “ballad” everyone knows the words to, “Can’t Fight This Feeling”. Many fans refer to “Wheels are Turnin’” as a “guilty pleasure” – back in the day, releasing a synthesizer-oriented album that early in the decade was still frowned upon; still, I’m certain that everyone was criticizing it but secretly listening to it ( you just cannot NOT fall for those magical melodic rock hooks). Keyboardist Neal Doughty wasn’t just your regular keyboardist; he was a true visionary and his elegant keyboard style was one of the main reasons why REO Speedwagon caught the attention of fans all over the world.

“Wheels are Turnin’” is so much more than the smashing hit single “Can’t Fight This Feeling”. I won’t argue though, this song is one of the main reasons why I was sold back in the day. The moment you hear “I can’t fight this feeling any longer…and yet I’m still afraid to let it flow,” you just start singing and you feel your heart filling up with joy and happiness. Every song on that album has a similar effect on me. The opening track, “I Do’ Wanna Know” is a personal favorite maybe because it has that early-REO Speedwagon vibe, mixed with modern elements. It’s actually the best of both worlds – raw and melodic. It’s most certainly a song that should’ve gotten more attention and recognition. “One Lonely Night” is another worthy track; Kevin Cronin was just born to sing for this genre. “Rock ‘N Roll Star” is an often forgotten rock anthem despite being a fantastic piece of a puzzle. The rest is just as appealing; from start to finish, “Wheels are Turnin’”, is a beautiful melodic bliss. If you are in a mood and need a little cheer, don’t go to the store for a huge box of ice-cream; instead, play REO Speedwagon’s “Live Every Moment” which has to be one of the liveliest and most positive songs I’ve ever heard. The album wraps things up with the title track which to me sounds as if it was made in the mid ‘70s, (that’s a great thing, of course). I’m unconditionally inlove with the piano touches and the riffs on this one.

REO Speedwagon flourished on their 11th studio album, “Wheels are Turnin’”. The guys just wanted to craft a satisfying piece of rock music and they did it. The album is breezy and atmospheric, overflowing with fantastic instrumentation, gratifying riffs and superb vocals. This album is as warm as an afternoon coffee with extra marshmallows.

Now, it’s time to listen to it….


“One Lonely Night”

“Can’t Fight This Feeling”

“I Do Wanna Know”


References:
P.S. I don’t own any audio or visual material used in this publication. All the rights and credits go to the owners and/publishers.
The publication expresses my personal opinion and in no way is trying to make a generalized statement. Please be kind and considerate when you read and/or comment.
Cheers~

The Story of DOKKEN’s Breathtaking Ballad “Alone Again”

I guess there are a couple of tunes you could totally skip when you craft your “’80s power ballad playlist” but Dokken’s “Alone Again” should definitely not be one of them. In fact, when I talk about Dokken with other rock fans or introduce them to people who aren’t so familiar with their career and music catalog, the discussion always starts with “Alone Again”, the highest point of their 1984 sophomore album “Tooth and Nail”. I think it was because in general I am the type of person who always searches and falls for the power ballads, but it took “Alone Again” literally just a couple of seconds to become an instant favorite and a tune I simply can’t live without; there is just something so magical about that song, Don Dokken’s spellbinding vocals, astonishing melody transformations, jumping from gentle acoustic sounds to heavy electric tornadoes; and those lyrics that fill your heart with nothing but beautiful sorrow. It’s a gorgeous but heartbreaking rock tune and it’s my duty to remind you of it, give you another reason to play it just or introduce it to you for the first time.
[My Rock Mixgtapes] presents the story of Dokken’s “Alone Again”.

  • dokken-tooth-and-nailWritten by vocalist Don Dokken and bass guitarist Jeff Pilson, the power ballad “Alone Again” was released as a single from Dokken’s 1984 album “Tooth and Nail”. After a highly unsuccessful debut album, it was do or die for Dokken. The label barely agreed to give them a second chance but thank God they did, otherwise brilliant songs such as “Alone Again” would’ve remained on a paper, rotting somewhere under a pile of music notebooks.

  • Don Dokken wrote the song back in the 1970s, when he was barely 25 years old. Here’s what he recalls about the birth of “Alone Again” during an interview with the Sioux Falls, South Dakota radio station, KBAD 94.5 FM:

“I wrote it on a little 4-track recorder, put it on a cassette and it ended up in a box for, like, eight years. And the record company, on Tooth And Nail, our second album, they said ballads are the thing. Journey had a big hit with ‘Lights’ and Night Ranger… Everybody had ballads, and we didn’t have any ballads. So I dug out a bunch of times, and [I went], ‘What’s this? ‘Alone Again’ I don’t even remember it.’ So I listened to it, and Jeff Pilson, the [Dokken] bassist, listened to it, and he said, ‘That’s a cool chorus. Maybe we [can] revamp it.’ So we recorded ‘Alone Again.'”
(extract retrieved from http://www.blabbermouth.net)

  • Chart positions have never been a merit for the brilliance, quality or emotional impact of a song and the fact that “Alone Again” barely broke into a top 70 position on the Billboard charts, backs up my claim. Charting at #64 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #20 on the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks Chart most certainly doesn’t make the song unworthy. On the contrary, I do believe that it’s one of the most beloved (though underappreciated) ‘80s power ballads of all time.
  • The lyrics of “Alone Again” have provoked the curiosity of many fans and music journalists and that’s not only in regards to the depressive, post-break up theme they carry. The sensual vocal delivery of Don Dokken truly makes us think whether there’s something more behind those mournful choruses. He was repeatedly questioned about the true story behind those touching words. Here’s what he says about it:

“This is a thing I wrote when I was very young, very naïve. Everybody says, ‘Who’d you write about?’ ‘I don’t know.’ ‘What was the girl’s name?’ ‘I don’t know.’ I must have been in love – it’s a very sad song – but I don’t remember who I wrote it about. I don’t know. It was just a song that came out, I always say, from here [points up above his head] – whatever that higher power is.”
(extract retrieved from http://www.blabbermouth.net)

  • Nothing obscure or overly-poetic about the lyrics; in fact the strength of those words is their simplicity, universalism and the way they are delivered to the public. Losing someone you love with all your heart can be one of the most traumatic and painful experiences of one’s life. You want to see this person “in the morning light” and feel him/her “when it comes to night” but for one reason or another you are all alone and can do nothing but feel sorry for yourself and let the tears “fall like rain”. Yes, for a couple of agonizing moments you will feel like you lost your way but this is life and unfortunately, we have to go through all that and hope that these terrible times will pass as soon as possible.

Alone Again Lyrics

I’d like to see you in the morning light
I like to feel you when it comes to night
Now I’m here and I’m all alone
Still I know how it feels, I’m alone again Tried so hard to make you see
But I couldn’t find the words
Now the tears, they fall like rain
I’m alone again without you
Alone again without you
Alone again without you I said stay, but you turned away
Tried to say that it was me
Now I’m here and I’ve lost my way
Still I know how it feels, I’m alone again

Tried so hard to make you see
But I couldn’t find the words
Now the tears, they fall like rain
I’m alone again without you

I tried so hard to make you see
But I couldn’t find the words
Now the tears, they fall like rain
I’m alone again without you

 


References:
Lyrics, retrieved from: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/dokken/aloneagain.html
Quotes and Extracts, retrieved from: “The Story Behind DOKKEN’s Most Famous Ballad ‘Alone Again”,  http://www.blabbermouth.net/news/the-story-behind-dokkens-most-famous-ballad-alone-again/#L9xtCYpi0LVSdxfS.99

P.S. I don’t own any audio or visual material used in this publication. All the rights and credits go to the owners and/publishers.

The publication expresses my personal opinion and in no way is trying to make a generalized statement. Please be kind and considerate when you read and/or comment.
Cheers~