Classic Rock Corner

Keep The Fire Burnin': The Hidden Wisdom Of REO Speedwagon

It hasn't been around for all that long, yet a pre-Internet existence is growing increasingly hard to recall, particularly when it comes to music. In addition to songs, full-length albums, artist bios and videos, the lines to almost every song ever written are just a click away.

I can't imagine what rock journalism must've been like like before the Web, with critics having to rely on speaker-dulled hearing and multiple replays to flesh out the words to a song. Sure, there was usually a little booklet tucked into the inside cover of an album, but many favored photos over lyrics, perhaps offering some explanation as to why my best friend wholeheartedly believed the lyrics to the Rolling Stones' classic "Beast of Burden" were "I'll never leave your pizza burnin'" until well into college.

It was that line of thinking that had me poking through classic-rock catalogs, and ultimately led to the lyrical (and comedic) goldmine that is REO Speedwagon.

The Midwestern melodic rock band peaked in 1980 with Hi Infidelity, charting multiple tracks in the Top 40 and over 10 million copies sold. Having been born just a year prior to the release, I can't recall a time when classics like "Keep On Loving You" and "Take it On the Run" weren't on the radio. I never made a conscious effort to learn the words; they just seemed to soak in over time, the way I imagine 90 percent of guys I know acquired an encyclopedic knowledge of sports statistics. It's also fair to say I'd also never paid much attention - until this week, that is.

When seen without the accompaniment of Kevin Cronin's soaring vocals, the words to what I'd always considered great love songs seemed anything less than romantic. Even the timeless "Can't Fight This Feeling" came off as, well...let's just say there's a word for men who can't resist the urge to come crashing through a woman's door (and crawl upon the floor) to profess their love: Stalkers. And in Texas we call them "target practice."

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. A few more literal interpretations of The Wagon's classics are listed below.

"Take it On the Run": My friend's roommate's girlfriend's sister's boyfriend's therapist's mom's pharmacist said that you were a cheating tramp, so I'm breaking up with you based on the word of a complete stranger.

"Back On the Road Again": Dear Sarah Sandra. We had some great times together on this Ramada Inn sleeper sofa. I've loved you since the day I met you, which was yesterday, but now it's time to hit the road. Take comfort in knowing that the next time we play a gig in... wherever the hell this is, I'll be sure and look you up.

"Roll with the Changes": Let me know when you're ready to put out.

"Keep On Loving You": I've decided to put the knowledge of your dirty, whoring ways out of my head and keep on loving you.

"Keep the Fire Burnin'": We can make it through long as I've got my little blue pills.

"Like You Do": Babe, the hookers in Times Square ain't got nothin' on you. I mean that.

"Don't Let Him Go": He's the kind of lover the ladies dream about: Handsome and rich with a nice, long "wick." So what if he's constantly pissing you off and running around with other girls? The man drives a freaking Mercedes Benz.

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Lauren Marmaduke
Contact: Lauren Marmaduke