Great Rock Albums of 1984: REO Speedwagon- Wheels Are Turnin’

With the explosion of heavy metal onto commercial airwaves in 1984, it is not surprising that there would be casualties left in its wake. For me, my love for the music of REO Speedwagon would come to an end in this year. In my eyes and ears, their 1984 album, “Wheels Are Turnin’,” was a sell out and I came to the conclusion that the band had abandoned their more hard rock roots and had become a top forty band. The exact phrase I used at the time was “They went from being good and settled for being popular.” Thinking back, was my assessment of them and this album accurate? It is now, thirty years on, that I am revisiting “Wheels Are Turnin'” with a fresh set of ears and a much more open mind.

My very first impression at the time was that they had stayed true to their roots with their first single, “I Do’ Wanna Know.” This lively track is classic REO Speedwagon as I had always known them. It’s a fast hard track where lead guitarist Gary Richrath and keyboardist Neil Doughty show their musical talents off. In fact, if I were to compile a list of my favourite REO songs, “I Do’ Wanna Know” would most certainly be in the top five. Unfortunately for me, came their second single, their ultra successful mega hit, “Can’t Fight This Feeling.” While I have come to appreciate this song more in my mellowing old age, in 1984, I thought that the band where just trying to recapture the success they had with a previous successful song, “Keep on Loving You” from the “Hi Infidelity” album. At the time, that was a big turnoff for me.

The two singles after that were even bigger turnoffs to me. “One Lonely Night” didn’t fire me up in any way nor did “Live Every Moment.” It was here that I went off REO Speedwagon and found myself content to listen to their earlier classics, especially my all time favourite of theirs, “Nine Lives.” As I write this, I am feeling a little bit like a hypocrite. I have said on countless posts of albums that I don’t judge them by their singles, so why did I here? I think the reason was that on so many of their albums, including my fave, the singles from them were some of my favourite songs. I know that sounds a bit weak and that’s why I am asking if anyone knows where I time machine is located so I can got back to 1984 and tell my 23 year old self to give the “Wheels Are Turnin'” album a chance.

Unlike those other albums, some of the best tracks aren’t the singles, “I Do’ Wanna Know” being the exception. That will always be the best track on the album for me. However, with some of the other songs, they do go back more to their harder rock roots. “Thru the Window” and “Gotta Feel More” are great examples of this as is the title track at the end. However, on these songs and even the singles, the guitar talents of Gary Richrath aren’t ignored as he does wail on many of them. “Gotta Feel More” is probably Gary at his best on this album.

Gary Richrath

Track Listing:

  1. I Do’ Wanna Know
  2. One Lonely Night
  3. Thru the Window
  4. Rock N’ Roll Star
  5. Live Every Moment
  6. Can’t Fight This Feeling
  7. Gotta Feel More
  8. Break This Spell
  9. Wheels Are Turnin’

REO Speedwagon

Kevin Cronin- lead vocals, rhythm guitar

Gary Richrath- lead guitar

Neil Doughty- keyboards

Bruce Hall- bass, backing vocals

Alan Gratzer- drums, percussion, backing vocals

So the big question here is did REO Speedwagon sell out with the “Wheels Are Turnin'” album? My answer is possibly. They did have four singles from this album and only one of them I truly liked. However, there is plenty of evidence on the album to show that they hadn’t fully turned away from their harder past. My conclusion is that while I enjoy this album more in my older age, it still doesn’t match up to classics like “Nine Lives,” “Hi Infidelity,” “You Can Tune a Piano But You Can’t Tuna Fish” or “Good Trouble.” For me, those are the greatest REO albums of all time.

Next post: Great Rock One Hit Wonders of 1984

To buy Rock And Roll Children, go to: https://www.amazon.com/Rock-Roll-Children-Michael-Lefevre/dp/1609763556/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1504429543&sr=8-8&keywords=michael+d+lefevre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 Responses to “Great Rock Albums of 1984: REO Speedwagon- Wheels Are Turnin’”

  1. Yes!!! They sold out, but that is okay. They wanted the fame more and how can you really argue with that. Isn’t that what every musician wants. I hated One Lonely night. But I did like most of the other songs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My 56 year old head totally agrees with your point but at the time, my 23 your old one thought they’re selling out was an act of sacrilege! Fortunately, I’m not that angry young man anymore so I can appreciate this album more. I do think that One Lonely Night is the weakest song on the album.

      Liked by 1 person

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