Episode 260: REO Podwagon Pat and Kyle are joined by Comedian and Radio Personality Brian Noonan to discuss the career of one of Brian's favorite bands, REO Speedwagon. From July 7, 2016
With your host:
Pat and Kyle welcome us to the show. We have another great guest this week. It's radio broadcaster, comedian, and an old friend of Pat's named Brian Noonan! Wait a minute.... Noonan....
Sorry, wrong Noonan.
Brian's daughter Molly is here. Pat and Brian discuss swearing in front of their daughters. Pat makes a habit of not swearing in front of his girls. Brian's said it all, pretty much. Brian and Molly drove cross country for Molly's Conan internship (an esteemed position once held by one Kyle Dodson). The fathers lament these newfound opportunities for the youngsters. "During the summer, I worked at a loading dock," notes Brian.
Pat had an internship at a local TV station in Pennsylvania and he did not enjoy it. They didn't even let him drink from the firehose! Brian can be heard on two radio stations, WGN Radio 720 AM and WTMJ Radio. Jimmy Pardo puts his stamp of approval of Brian's radio skills. Brian is happy with his gigs. He remembers doing local radio to promote his stand up dates and people would compliment him on how good he is on the radio.
Brian thanks Pat for inviting him on the podcast. He's brought notes, he's brought charts and graphs. Brian listed his favorite bands to Pat for show ideas: Van Halen (done with Mike Schmidt), Eagles (promised to Wayne Federman), Bruce Springsteen (already done), REO Speedwagon, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Pat only knows the Skynyrd hits, so REO Speedwagon it is! Pat lit up when he saw REO on the list because he doesn't know anyone else who likes Speedwagon as much as he does. Pat and Brian discuss music formats. Pat doesn't like vinyl, he thinks CDs are the best. He likes the convenience of the CD, along with the physical aspect of it.
After some more used CD talk, the boys start discussing REO Speedwagon, formed in Champaign, IL in 1967 by Neal Doughty. Neal is the only original member still in the band. Their self-titled first album, R.E.O. Speedwagon (note the dots), was released in 1971. The lead singer is NOT Kevin Cronin, but a man named Terry Luttrell. Pat and Brian picked the same song, which is "Sophisticated Lady".
For those that only know the ballads, it doesn't sound like REO Speedwagon. And for those that know Kevin Cronin's voice, it also doesn't sound like REO Speedwagon. They were a bar band, a bunch of rockers. This is the only album with Luttrell as lead singer. The story goes that Luttrell and guitarist/lyricist Gary Richrath were fighting a lot. Eventually Luttrell ruined one of their gigs by refusing to sing, an argument occurred, Luttrell got out of the car in a huff, and Richrath and the rest of the band just LEFT THE MAN ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD!!! And they never talked to him again. Luttrell denies the story. One year later, the band releases album two, appropriately titled R.E.O./T.W.O.. Kevin Cronin is now in the band. Brian's pick from the album is "Music Man".
Brian argues that the REO live album Live: You Get What You Play For is one of the best live albums ever. He picked a lot of songs off it, including a song from T.W.O. called "Golden Country". Pat and Brain compliment Gary Richrath's guitar skills. T.W.O., like the first album, didn't do well, so Kevin Cronin is now OUT of the band.
For the third album, Ridin' the Storm Out, Cronin sang a few songs, but when he left in the middle of the sessions, they got a new man, Mike Murphy. Pat's next pick is an original Cronin-vocal version of a song off the album called "Son of a Poor Man", which can be found on The Essential REO Speedwagon.
Pat and Brian skip the next two Murphy albums, Lost in a Dream and This Time We Mean It, so they jump to 1976's R.E.O., when Kevin comes back into the fold. Keep in mind this is their SIXTH album and they still haven't broke through nationally. They've got a midwest following, but nothing more. Brian's pick is the song "Keep Pushin'". Molly update: Still here. Still conscious.
The song Pat picks for R.E.O. is called "(I Believe) Our Time Is Gonna Come". Pat and Brian note how the band is starting to hit their groove in the studio. You can hear the progression.
Pat interjects the proceedings to discuss Brian's incredible weightless. In 2011, he weighed 378 pounds. He proceeded to lose 160 pounds. BEHOLD!
Brian credits going to his old university and seeing some old photos of himself and just being disgusted. He didn't want to live like that anymore.
Brian started with a little bit of walking, then when he lost enough weight he joined a gym. Now it's a regular routine for him. Good on ya, Brian! It was hard for Brian at first to stop eating all his favorite foods and in such large quantities.
"I used to eat like I had just gotten out of prison."
"I was like Jabba the Hutt," says Brian. He would shovel in food and not move. And he would feel like crap. So he would eat food to comfort himself. And he would not move. A vicious cycle. Now Brian is a man of fitness, a man of healthy eating, and, most importantly, a man of REO Speedwagon.
After that little health tangent, we go back to REO Speedwagon. After years of smushing their faces against the glass ceiling with their studio albums, the band puts out their 1977 live album Live: You Get What You Play For. Pat likens it to Kiss Alive! Brian's picked a lot of tracks from it. And like the foolish antics of the court jester, Brian plays the live version of "Golden Country" again. Oh well.
Following the live album, the band finally releases their big breakout studio album You Can Tune a Piano, but You Can't Tuna Fish. It's the first album with longtime bassist Bruce Hall. Pat picks a song called "Blazin' Your Own Trail Again".
Brian's song from Tune a Piano is called "Say You Love Me or Say Goodnight". Pat calls Tune a Piano REO's first great studio album. Brian agrees, the band needed songs that would get on the radio and appeal the different people. "Roll with the Changes" was a rocker for the guys, while "Time for Me to Fly" was a softer song for the ladies. Pat and Brian discuss the headphones. Brian will not wear the giant Beats headphones to the gym.
"Unless I'm going to Douchebag Fitness, I'm never wearing Beats to the gym."
Some more giggles and guffaws leads to the next album, 1979's Nine Lives. And if you thought the album cover for Tune a Piano was bad, check out the album cover for this bad boy.
REO Speedwagon's art department was not as up to snuff as other bands'. But the album did have the hit song and Brian's next pick, "Back on the Road Again".
Pat's pick from the album is called "Heavy on Your Love". Brian then follows this up with another song from the album called "Only the Strong Survive".
Tune a Piano went to #29, Nine Lives went to #33, and now in 1980, finally......... FINALLY..... REO breaks into the stratosphere of arena rock royalty with Hi Infidelity. This was a seminal album for Brian. He saw them at the Universal Amphitheater with his girlfriend where the band was playing FIVE NIGHTS.
The album was massive, NINE MILLION copies sold, and a boatload of hit singles. Brian notes that there are plenty of ballads, but there are just enough rockin' songs to keep the hard rock fans hooked. It's one of Pat's favorite albums, he goes to it all the time. Brian goes with a song called "Tough Guys".
Pat plays the album opener, "Don't Let Him Go". Kyle asks Brian how he got into REO Speedwagon. Brian had been a fan since he got the live album. This was the first REO Speedwagon album that Pat ever bought.
Two years after Hi Infidelity, the band releases 1982's Good Trouble. Pat likens it to Hi Infidelity's little brother. Brian agrees, it's okay. He doesn't have anything from the album.
While Hi Infidelity sold nine million, Good Trouble only sold one million. Pat plays the lead single, "Keep the Fire Burnin'". Then he plays another track called "The Key". Pat and Brian agree that it sounds fine, but it just didn't hook the people as Hi Infidelity did.
Thankfully the band turned that around with 1984's Wheels Are Turnin'. "Can't Fight This Feeling" was the big power ballad off it. Pat plays a different song called "Live Every Moment".
Brian feels like this is the point where the hard rock loving guy fans started to fall off. Two million album copies sold and "Can't Fight This Feeling" went to #1. And then in 1987, REO releases Life As We Know It. Pat plays a song off the album called "That Ain't Love".
There is not an ounce of testosterone in that song or the other hit off the album, "In My Dreams," says Brian. He considers himself to be an emotional wreck because he likes these emotional, sappy songs and he finds himself crying at a sad Hamilton song. After Life as We Know It, the band releases a greatest hits album called The Hits, and then that's it for Gary Richrath. Out of the band. Alan Gratzer, founding drummer, also leaves the band. They are replaced by Dave Amato and Bryan Hitt, respectively.
The lineup of Cronin, Hall, Hitt, Amato, and Doughty has been the lineup ever since. And the first album that the lineup released in 1990 is called.... wait for it.... The Earth, a Small Man, His Dog and a Chicken. Spoiler alert: The 90s are not as kind to REO Speedwagon as the 80s were. Pat plays a song called "Half Way". This is the last album to have an REO Speedwagon song chart on the Billboard Hot 100.
Six years later, the band releases Building the Bridge. Epic Records has finally dropped them. Pat plays a song called "When I Get Home". Brian has been off the REO train for quite some time at this point.
The last REO Speedwagon to date is 2007's Find Your Own Way Home. Pat plays a song called "Dangerous Combination". A country feel. A little talk-singing from Kevin. The album is on Mailboat Records. Not good for the Brothers Speedwagon. Pat has some copies of Brian's standup CDs that Brian will sign and will be given away to some lucky listeners.
Thanks so much to Brian for coming on. Brian is thankful for being on the show and expressing his love and knowledge for REO Speedwagon. We end the show with another pick from Brian's favorite Live: You Get What You Play For (no, it's not "Golden Country"). It's an instrumental called "Flying Turkey Trot".