Friday 16th December 2016

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I again took the train from the NEC station parking the car there and the fact that the £12 parking charge would be no surprise this time I figured that what with the drive into the city on a Friday night and the Christmas traffic it would be worth the £12.
Birmingham to me is still no treat on the eyes. It’s not a wonderful spectacle and I always feel let down by its dullness as a city.
The new Grand Central for me is nothing but a mishmash of shiny awkward mirrors not pleasing to my eyes at all. The walk from New Street took me through the now traditional German market which has become a tradition of shoddy stalls selling all the same trinkets and fat full food as always only today’s market is hemmed in with car bomb proof concrete barriers. The city once again is being demolished which also appears to be a tradition. The old library is rubble and you have to skirt around the Town Hall through makeshift Paradise walk ways. Birmingham city planners are always trying to improve the city but the finished product always to me appears the opposite.
Alas it is my birth city and I do feel a sense of that it is my home and I hold it in some reverence for that. The bronze bull had his Christmas jumper on but The Iron man was still naked I bet he would have loved to have been equally adorned with maybe a Christmas hat on his iron head.

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A boat load of revellers were going along the canal dressed as The Grinch and they looked like they were having a great time.
I had agreed to Meet Phil in The Flapper pub just by the arena, it was Dead’s-Ville.
I was the only person in there apart from the bar man. He then told me they did not do coffee so I went out across the street to The Prince of Wales which was packed and they did coffee. I informed Phil I would be in there.

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I was pleasantly surprised when I looked at the merchandise stand at the NIA arena in Birmingham to see REO Speedwagon were supporting Status Quo on the so called last of the electrics tour. I really had no idea they were the support.
REO were great and they did a super set at one point doing the intro to Sabbath War Pigs. Quo without Rick Parfitt is almost a tribute band but this gig really rocked I thought they were great. Rossi still held it all together with his banter and he often mentioned Peaky Blinders but didn’t mention Rick at all which I felt was a little strange. All in all it was a super gig. High-lights for me included, In the Army Now, Hold You Back plus a superb medley of amazing hits. I don’t own one Quo album but I knew them all. It was really a professional rocking ride. Four quality guitarists and a hard drummer blasting it full on is a real treat.
A couple arrived next to me just before Status Quo came on. I asked them where they had been until now. It turned out they had travelled from Cornwall to see the gig as a 60th treat for her husband. She aid they had met ten years ago and Quo was playing at a disco and she could not get him off the dance floor. Obviously things had changed since then as they had missed Speedwagon and she said it was past his bedtime and he did nothing more than shove earplugs in and say back to relax.

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REO Speedwagon

In the fall of 1966, Neal Doughty entered the electrical engineering program at the University of Illinois in Champaign, Illinois, coming in as a junior. On his first night, he met another student, Alan Gratzer. They soon started a rock band. Gratzer had been a drummer since high school, and was playing in a local group on the weekends, while Doughty had learned some Beatles songs on his parents’ piano.

Doughty started to follow around Gratzer’s band, eventually sitting in on a song or two. The keyboard player was the leader, but several other band members weren’t happy with the situation. On the last day of the university’s spring semester, guitarist Joe Matt called the band’s leader and told him that he, drummer Gratzer, and bassist Mike Blair had decided to leave the band and start a new one with Doughty.

They made a list of songs to learn over the summer break, and Doughty landed a summer job to buy his first keyboard. On his Farfisa organ, he learned “Light My Fire” by The Doors. The members returned to school in the fall of 1967, and had their first rehearsal before classes even started. They named the band REO Speedwagon, from the REO Speed Wagon, a flatbed truck Doughty had studied in transportation history, and the initials are those of its founder Ransom E. Olds. Rather than pronouncing REO as a single word as the motor company did, they chose to spell out the name with the individual letters each pronounced (“R-E-O”). An ad in the school newspaper produced their first job, a fraternity party that turned into a food fight. They continued to perform cover songs in campus bars, fraternity parties, and university events. The first lineup consisted of Doughty on keyboards, Gratzer on drums and vocals, Joe Matt on guitar and vocals, Mike Blair on bass and vocals.

In the spring of 1968, Terry Luttrell became lead singer, and Bob Crownover and Gregg Philbin replaced Matt and Blair, respectively. Marty Shepard played trumpet and Joe McCabe played sax until McCabe moved to Southern Illinois University. Crownover played guitar for the group until the summer of 1969 when Bill Fiorio replaced him. Fiorio then departed in late 1969, eventually assuming the name Duke Tumatoe, and went on to form the All Star Frogs. Steve Scorfina (who would go on to found progressive rock/album-oriented rock band Pavlov’s Dog) came aboard for over a year, composing with the band and performing live, before being replaced by Gary Richrath in late 1970.

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Richrath was a Peoria, Illinois-based guitarist and prolific songwriter who brought original material to the band including REO’s signature song “Ridin’ the Storm Out”. With Richrath on board, the regional popularity of the band grew tremendously. The Midwestern United States was the original REO Speedwagon fan stronghold and is pivotal in this period of the band’s history.

The band signed to Epic Records in 1971. Paul Leka, an East Coast record producer, brought the band to his recording studio in Bridgeport, Connecticut where it recorded original material for its first album. The lineup on the first album consisted of Richrath, Gratzer, Doughty, Philbin, and Luttrell.

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With their equipment being hauled to dates in a friend’s station wagon, REO played bars and clubs all over the Midwest. The band’s debut album, R.E.O. Speedwagon, was released on Epic Records in 1971. The most popular track on this record was “157 Riverside Avenue”. The title refers to the Westport, Connecticut address, where the band stayed while recording in Leka’s studio in Bridgeport and remains an in-concert favorite.

Although the rest of the band’s line-up remained stable, REO Speedwagon switched lead vocalists three times for their first three albums. Luttrell left the band in early 1972, eventually becoming the vocalist for Starcastle. He was replaced by Kevin Cronin. Cronin recorded one album with the band, 1972’s R.E.O./T.W.O. but left the band during the recording sessions for 1973’s Ridin’ the Storm Out because of internal conflicts. Ridin’ the Storm Out was completed with Michael Bryan Murphy on lead vocal. Murphy stayed on for two more albums, Lost in a Dream and This Time We Mean It, before Cronin returned to the fold in January 1976 and recorded R.E.O., which was released that same year.

Cronin’s return came after Greg X. Volz turned down the position for lead vocalist after becoming a born-again Christian. Volz would later accept an offer from Bob Hartman to join the Christian Rock band Petra as lead vocalist.

REO Speedwagon live at DTE on 7-15-2016. Photo credit: Ken Settlepromoted-media-optimized_543e963195543

In 1977 REO convinced Epic Records that their strength was in their live performances. Epic agreed to let them produce their first live album, Live: You Get What You Play For, which was eventually certified platinum. That same year, the band moved to Los Angeles, California, and Philbin was replaced with Bruce Hall to record You Can Tune a Piano but You Can’t Tuna Fish. The album was released in 1978 and received FM radio airplay. The album was REO’s first to make the Top 40, peaking at #29. The album went on to sell over 2 million copies in the US, ultimately achieving double platinum status.

In 1979 the band took a turn back to hard rock with the release of Nine Lives.

The stage was now set for the height of the band’s popularity. On November 21, 1980, REO Speedwagon released Hi Infidelity, which represented a change in sound, going from hard rock to more pop-oriented material.
Hi Infidelity spawned four hit singles written by Richrath and Cronin, including the chart-topping “Keep On Loving You” (Cronin), plus “Take It on the Run” (#5) (Richrath), “In Your Letter” (#20) (Richrath), and “Don’t Let Him Go” (#24) (Cronin), and remained on the charts for 65 weeks, 32 of which were spent in the top ten, including 15 weeks atop the Billboard 200. Hi Infidelity sold over 10 million copies and set the bar for rock bands across the country. The band’s follow-up album, Good Trouble, was released in 1982. Although it was not as successful as its predecessor, the album performed moderately well commercially, featuring the hit singles “Keep the Fire Burnin'” (U.S. #7), “Sweet Time” (U.S. #26) and the Album Rock chart hit “The Key.”

The band came storming back two years later with Wheels Are Turnin’, an album that included the #1 hit single “Can’t Fight This Feeling” plus three more hits: “I Do’ Wanna Know” (U.S. #29), “One Lonely Night” (U.S. #19), and “Live Every Moment” (U.S. #34).

On July 13, 1985, the band made a stop in Philadelphia (en route to a show in Milwaukee) to play at the US leg of Live Aid, which broke a record for a number of viewers. They performed “Can’t Fight This Feeling” and “Roll with the Changes,” which featured members of the Beach Boys, the band members’ families, and Paul Shaffer on stage for backing vocals. 1987’s Life as We Know It saw a decline in sales, but still managed to provide the band with the top-20 hits “That Ain’t Love” (U.S. #16) and “In My Dreams” (U.S. #19). The Hits (1988) is a compilation album from REO Speedwagon. It contains new tracks “Here With Me” and “I Don’t Want to Lose You.” “Here with Me” cracked the top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 and the top ten on the Adult Contemporary chart. They were the last songs recorded with Gary Richrath and Alan Gratzer

The band released a self-financed album entitled Find Your Own Way Home in April 2007. Though it did not chart as an album, it produced two singles which appeared on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary radio chart.

REO Speedwagon continues to tour regularly, performing mostly their classic hits.[8] They are popular on the fair and casino circuits, but still team with other acts to play large venues. They teamed up with Styx to record a new single entitled “Can’t Stop Rockin'”, released in March 2009, as well as for a full tour that included special guest .38 Special.

In November 2009, REO Speedwagon released a Christmas album, Not So Silent Night…Christmas with REO Speedwagon. In summer 2010, the band — then touring with Pat Benatar — announced that it would release a 30th anniversary deluxe edition reissue of Hi Infidelity. On December 2, 2009, REO Speedwagon released an online video game, Find Your Own Way Home, produced by digital design agency Curious Sense. The game was the first “downloadable casual game” produced with a rock band and was cited by numerous publications including the New York Times as an innovative marketing product for a music act. Main Street in Champaign, Illinois, named REO Speedwagon Way in honor of the band
REO Speedwagon headlined on the M&I Classic Rock Stage at the Milwaukee Summerfest on June 30, 2011. On March 11, 2012, Kevin Cronin appeared on the Canadian reality TV series Star Académie. He sang a sampling of REO’s hits with the show’s singing finalists.

On November 22, 2013, they announced a benefit concert with Styx titled “Rock to the Rescue” to raise money for the affected families of the tornadoes in central Illinois. The concert was held on December 4, 2013 in Bloomington, Illinois. Richard Marx joined REO on stage for a joint performance of two of his hit songs. Gary Richrath reunited with REO for a performance of “Ridin’ the Storm Out” to end REO’s set at the sold-out concert. Richrath stayed on stage to help with the encore of “With a Little Help From My Friends” along with REO, Styx, Richard Marx, and others. Richrath was originally from the town of East Peoria which was damaged during the storm. Families impacted by the storm and first responders sat near the stage for this special concert and REO reunion.

In early 2014, it was announced that REO Speedwagon and Chicago would be teaming up for 15 dates throughout 2014.

The band’s former guitarist and songwriter Gary Richrath died on September 13, 2015.

REO Speedwagon

Gary Richrath

Died aged 65, was the guitarist and songwriter for the rock group REO Speedwagon from 1970 to 1989.
With his mane of blonde curls and thumping guitar solos, Richrath was the epitome of the 1970s rock guitarist and he wrote several of the group’s more guitar-driven tracks, including Golden Country (1972) and Ridin’ the Storm Out (1973) . REO Speedwagon was to become best known internationally for its saccharine but commercially successful power ballads – the best known of which, Keep on Loving You (1980) and I Can’t Fight This Feeling (1984), both featured Richrath on guitar. When the 21-year-old Richrath had joined the band, however, it was as a guitarist inspired by blues-influenced players like Jeff Beck and he was always best known for his spectacular live performances.
In their heyday REO Speedwagon would play to thousands of fans in vast stadiums and Richrath’s guitar slashing was a highlight of every performance. He was less enthused, however, by REO Speedwagon’s leanings towards more piano-orientated soft rock in the mid-1980s. “Gary wasn’t so big on ballads,” recalled his fellow band member, Bruce Hall. “It wasn’t what he thought was the coolest idea in the world but he contributed to them a lot, honestly. Gary wanted to rock it up and I don’t blame him because we rocked as good as anybody .”

Music File Photos - The 1970s - by Chris Walter
In 1989 Richrath’s battle with alcoholism and his growing musical differences with other band members led to his departure from REO Speedwagon. He subsequently released one solo album, Only the Strong Survive (1992), although he briefly rejoined the group in 2013 for a concert in aid of the residents of central Illinois who had been displaced by heavy storms.
Gary Dean Richrath was born on October 18 1949 in Peoria, Illinois. He played the saxophone at high school, switching to the guitar at the age of 14 after he was given one by his uncle. He then proceeded to teach himself by listening to his idols, Jeff Beck and the Yardbirds, watching other bands and playing gigs at school dances with a group called Mach Four.

After leaving school in 1967, Richrath built up a local fan base with his next band, Suburban 9 to 5. He was still living with his parents and the group would rehearse in their basement. “Dad didn’t always take kindly to us shaking the walls, but Mom was very supportive,” he claimed.

In late 1970 Richrath was approached by REO Speedwagon (named after a flatbed truck studied in “transportation history” by Neal Doughty, a founder member of the band) to take over from the guitarist Steve Scorfina. He would later describe being driven to his audition by his mother, who burst into tears when she saw the lead singer’s long red ponytail. “Mom, don’t worry,” he told her. “I’ll never have long hair.”

Richrath’s songwriting skills and on-stage presence helped to raise the profile of the group, and by the late 1970s REO Speedwagon was heading towards mainstream success and touring extensively. Its popularity was sealed with the release of the album Hi Infidelity (1980) which marked a move towards a more “pop” sound and spawned four hit singles, co-written by Richrath. The album sold more than 10 million copies. For Richrath, however, it was a direction in which he did not wish to go, and after several difficult years he left the band. Throughout the 1990s, Richrath struggled with alcoholism, and although there were times when he seemed to have overcome it, his health was permanently affected.

In 2016, the band went on tour with Def Leppard and Tesla.

The band performed with Pitbull the song Messin’ Around live on the ABC TV show Greatest Hits in 2016, that version of the song was also released as a single on iTunes.

The band  played a great set tonight at The Barclay Card Arena supporting Status Quo 16th December 2016.

REO Speedwagon live at DTE on 7-15-2016. Photo credit: Ken Settle

Time For Me To Fly

REO Speedwagon

I’ve been around for you
I’ve been up and down for you
But I just can’t get any relief
I’ve swallowed my pride for you
I’ve lived and lied for you
But you still make me feel like a thief
You got me stealin’ your love away
‘Cause you never give it
Peeling the years away
And we can’t relive it
I make you laugh
And you make me cry
I believe it’s time for me to fly

You said we’d work it out
You said that you had no doubt
That deep down we were really in love
Oh, but I’m tired of holding on
To a feeling I know is gone
I do believe that I’ve had enough

I’ve had enough of the falseness
Of a worn out relation
Enough of the jealousy
And the intoleration
I make you laugh
And you make me cry
I believe it’s time for me to fly

Time for me to fly
Oh, I’ve got to set myself free
Time for me to fly
And that’s just how it’s got to be
I know it hurts to say goodbye
But it’s time for me to fly

Keep On Loving You

REO Speedwagon

You should’ve seen by the look in my eyes, baby
There was somethin missin
You should’ve known by the tone of my voice, maybe
But you didn’t listen
You played dead
But you never bled
Instead you lay still in the grass
All coiled up and hissin
And though I know all about those men
Still I don’t remember
Cause it was us baby, way before then
And we’re still together
And I meant, every word I said
When I said that I love you I meant
That I love you forever

And I’m gonna keep on lovin you
Cause it’s the only thing I wanna do
I don’t wanna sleep
I just wanna keep on lovin you

And I meant every word I said
When I said that I love you I meant
That I love you forever

And I’m gonna keep on lovin you
Cause it’s the only thing I wanna do
I don’t wanna sleep
I just wanna keep on lovin you

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Hold You Back

Status Quo

How d’you know the music when you don’t know the score
Do you think that you can make it when you don’t need no more
Is it really the reason when it is not a need
Are you trying hard to write it before you can read

Hold you back, hold you back, and slow you down
Hold you back, hold you back, slow you down
Hold you back, hold you back, slow you down
Slow you down, you’ve gotta try

Does the clock that you’re watching ever tell you ’bout the time
Does the song that you’re singing sound to you like a rhyme
Will there be an answer when you stop asking why
All because of the jigsaw that makes up a lie

Hold you back, hold you back, slow you down
Hold you back, hold you back, slow you down
Hold you back, hold you back, slow you down
Slow you down, you’ve gotta try

How d’you know the music when you don’t know the score
Do you think that you can make it when you don’t need no more
Is it really the reason when it is not a need
Are you trying hard to write it before you can read

Hold you back, hold you back, slow you down
Hold you back, hold you back, slow you down
Hold you back, hold you back, slow you down
Slow you down, you’ve gotta try

Hold you back, hold you back, slow you down
Hold you back, hold you back, slow you down
Hold you back, hold you back, slow you down, slow you down
Hold you back, hold you back, slow you down

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Burning Bridges

Status Quo

Building dreams has always been my way
Making time and living for the day
Burning bridges never made me cry
I could walk away with no goodbye
Easy take or easy leave them all
‘Til you scratch the writing on the wall

It’s on and off and on again
Going on and then
Taking all I got again
Bleeding me, leaving me dry
You’re hanging on for what you can
Dragging out the pain
Taking all I give again
Faking it, making me cry

One day some day I may slide away
Turn around and call it all a day
Even though I’ve fooled myself for years
I can’t escape this ringing in my ears

It’s on and off and on again
Going on and then
Taking all I got again
Bleeding me, leaving me dry
You’re hanging on for what you can
Dragging out the pain
Taking all I give again
Faking it, making me cry

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