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| 26 April 2018 | Reply

By Shane Pinnegar

Wally Palmar and The Romantics – featuring fellow original members Mike Skill and Rich Cole, alongside Brad Elvis, who has been on board since 2004 – return to Australia for the ROCK THE BOAT Cruise this October. Best known for their mega hits What I Like About You and Talking In Your Sleep in 1980 and 1983 respectively, the band have been more or less a constant on the touring circuit in their native Detroit and around The States ever since, even releasing their sixth album 61/49 in 2003.

Rock the Boat 2018
Sailing ex Sydney 21 to 28 October 2018 for 7 nights to the South Pacific on Radiance of the Seas visiting Isle of Pines and Noumea, featuring Foreigner and The Romantics and more.

Wally: Is that Shane? Okay, good – just the man I’m looking for!

Shane: Well thanks for your time today, Wally. It’s a bit of a buzz for me – I remember I would have been about 14 when I first saw you guys on TV on Countdown, jumping around the living room. So it’s nice to talk to you.

Wally: Did you see us on the television show? We were there for a three week tour back in 1980.

Shane: I was a baby.

Wally: Shane, you were a young man back then and you’re still a young man right now.

Shane: On that note, happy birthday for a week from today, Wally. [Palmar turns 64 on 27 April this year]

Wally: As a matter of fact, it is, yes.

Shane: Fantastic. Have you got any plans this time round?

Wally: Let me see here, what are we doing next Friday? We have a show next Saturday so I will be flying from Detroit to St Louis next Friday. That’s how I will be spending my birthday – in the plane, well, for a few hours anyway. But that’s okay it’s all good.

Shane: Well, rock and roll man, what can you do! What does it mean to you to still be touring 40-odd years after forming The Romantics?

Wally: First of all, if we were talking even ten, fifteen years ago and someone would have said, ‘oh, you’ll still be playing when you’re 60 years old,’ I would have said, ‘what are you talking about? Not a chance!’ I’m just very happy that, number one, that The Romantics have our catalogue of songs and that out of that catalogue of songs that there’s a handful of them that people still to this day, when they hear them, they recognise the songs and they associate the songs with the band. We’re a very fortunate group. Talented, sure – and fortunate.

Shane: Absolutely. And you’re known all around the world, primarily for those couple of big hits but you guys have done a lot of stuff. I’ve followed your career – we saw you with Ringo Starr’s band a few years back. You’ve had an amazing life!

Wally: There’s been a lot of twists and turns and I have to say, I’ve had some great opportunities – and being in a band with a Beatle was obviously pretty good, too. I have to say, that’s towards the top of the list there! That was a lot of fun – all the different countries that we were able to go to. But even more so, Shane, you have to understand, if there were no songs there, you wouldn’t be going and doing all this stuff.

Shane: Absolutely.

Wally: And even to get back to Ringo, if you’re playing on stage with him, which we were, and I had the opportunity to do two [of my] songs every night with him along with all the other guys songs and everything else. But we’re doing Talking In Your Sleep and we’re doing What I Like About You, and you turn around and he’s playing drums on your songs… that’s crazy, I’m telling you, nuts.

Shane: You loved all the British Invasion bands, so you must have been a big Beatles fan. What was it like the first time you met him?

Wally: I can tell you this – the first time we met, I was kind of taken aback and made sure not to … first of all, make sure that you’re not going to make a fool out of yourself to him and just start talking something stupid! But when I talked with him on the phone, the ice was finally broken when we had the phone conversation and then I realised that he was very aware of The Romantics and especially the songs What I Like About You and Talking In Your Sleep. At that point … and he’s going to be playing drums on them, I go, ‘how bad is this going to be? This is going to be great.’ He was such a sweetheart of a person, and he still is, obviously. He still plays drums great. He sings great, too. All in all, it’s just a fantastic experience.

Shane: It must have been a buzz for you to meet a hero like that. It’s so cool.

Wally: Absolutely, absolutely.

Shane: So you’re doing ROCK THE BOAT 2018 out of Australia in October. Have you done some of these rock and roll cruises before?

Wally: Funny thing is, we have been asked to do them for the last five years and for some reason or another the situation just wasn’t right for us to go and do. Then last year we got asked again, but it was a real good offer, and we had talked with bands that had done them before… and they said, ‘yeah, it’s a blast. Are you kidding me?’ So we came to the realisation you’re never going to know unless you try it out so we all agreed to do last year’s cruise and it turned out we had a great time. More importantly than us – the most important thing was that the people that were on the cruise had a great time and that’s worth it right there.

The first show that we did on the cruise ship, it was like 12 o’clock in the afternoon and everybody was in the pool. That’s great – are you kidding? It was a wonderful scene, wonderful scene.

Shane: I’m sure part of the appeal for the people on the cruise is the immersive nature of it ‘cos you’re on the boat and they get to talk to you and that sort of thing. Does it ever get a bit freaky with people who are a little bit too obsessive?

Wally: It never really got to that. There’s always a way out anyways ‘cos if you’re smart you always travel within a group… [so there’s] somebody with you if there’s any type of situation that you don’t want to be in, there’s a way out of that, too. Fans are fans and that’s why they paid their money to come out there because, like you said, if they’re on the same cruise ship with you, at some point, they’re going to run into you and if they’re fans, they’ll ask for autographs or obviously nowadays they’ll be taking selfies, and everything else. That’s just part of the game and I don’t mind it because they’ve earned it. If we’ve been around for that long a time already, so have they. If they still want to come out and see us and have a great time, it’s not a big deal to sign something for somebody or take a picture with someone.

Shane: That’s lovely, mate. As an aside, I really loved that Empty Hearts album a few years ago. I interviewed Elliot [Easton] at the time that came out and I hear you’ve got a second record coming?

Wally: Yes, as a matter of fact, we have pooled some ideas together… we’ve had writing sessions but now we have to make sense out of the songs. I think we’ll have something very interesting coming out this time. I’m looking forward to that, too. Those are good experiences, there – those are really good people. Elliot, now he’s in the [Rock n’ Roll] Hall Of Fame! Now. I don’t have to really bow down to him when I see him next, buuuuut…

Shane: It’s rock royalty, right?

Wally: Rock royalty, yes. It’s not quite the same thing like when you see Ringo next time, you have to say, when you see him face to face, it will be “Sir Richard” or “Sir Ringo”, whatever. But with Elliot, I don’t think it’s gotten to that point yet unless he demands it. And he’s a very demanding guy. [he’s joking, just in case that doesn’t come across in words!]

Shane: I’m sure he isn’t. He was a lovely interview.

Wally: No, they’re great guys, they’re great guys there.

Shane: For sure. What did you think a few years ago when Poison covered What I Like About You?

Wally: I thought that they did a great job of it because they did it their way. They kept pretty much true to the spirit but they gave it that Poison touch. Bret Michaels did a great job singing it. Then, of course, after they did it, Five Seconds of Summer come out and they have a version of it, too, right?

Shane: And Lillix and some group called The Suicide Machines also did versions… I’m not sure who they are, though.

Wally: Suicide Machines, they’re a band out of Detroit. I’m not sure they’re still functioning as a band. They may do shows now and then but I haven’t seen them playing for a bit now.

Shane: You must feel the respect when someone covers one of the songs that you’ve co-written.

Wally: Yeah, That song came out in 1980, we recorded in ’79 – when we went in to record the song, we weren’t quite sure what song was gong to rise to the top, but once we started to record it and once we started to finish the songs off in the studio, that song in particular had a certain magic to it, you know? It was obvious after it was done and mixed, that that was the lead track. Thank god things worked out the way they did with that. Even to this day, it’s one of those songs where you think, ‘oh, here we go.’ Just when you think you’ve heard the last of it, here it comes. It turns up on something else. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Shane: It has endurance, right? You tapped into something special. It must be a wonderful feeling as an artist.

Wally: Yeah and people still, when they hear it, they kind of light up when you start playing the intro to it. It’s very recognisable and it’s just great.

Shane: What are the chances of having some new music from The Romantics?

Wally: We have been recording over the last two, three years and we’ve put a string of two-sided singles out but we haven’t put them out on like a CD form or Vinyl form as of yet. Over the last couple of years, we’ve put out … one, two, three, four … there’s like five singles plus a Christmas song that we did. So there’s material out there. You’ll just have to look for it a little bit harder! It’s kind of our fault that we haven’t had a chance to find the right outlet for it.

Category: Interviews

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