Monday, March 9, 2020

Come Back To The Five And Dime, Jimmy Marinos, Jimmy Marinos!


The first time I saw the Romantics was on American Bandstand in 1980. They played "What I Like About You" in matching red leather suits, the drummer was singing lead vocals and, by the time all was said and done, I had already hitchhiked halfway to the record store to grab their first album.

As an aspiring young drummer, myself, I had taken full notice of the band's hard-hitting drummer Jimmy Marinos, but what made his playing so unique was that he was also singing lead vocals.



Granted, he would not be the first or the last to do so, but it definitely gave the band enough of an angle to differentiate themselves from the multitudes of like-minded garage and power pop acts of the day.

After two follow-up albums that drew critical ire and failed to sell, the band had fallen almost completely off the rock & roll radar until "Talking In Your Sleep" blew up on both radio and MTV, making rock stars out of Wally Palmar, Coz Canler, Mike Skill and drummer/singer Jimmy Marinos,



By then, the red patent leather had been traded in for black snakeskin and Jimmy Marinos now sported a hair-do that made even the guys in A Flock of Seagulls a little jealous. His hair was now both long and tall, just like the man himself, making him look more like a member of Bang Tango or Lords of The New Church.

While Palmar sang on the album's two singles, "Talking In Your Sleep" and "One In A Million", it was Marinos' vocals that drove "Rock You Up", "Got Me Where You Want Me", "Love Me To The Max", and "Open Up Your Door" - songs that were, for many, highlights of both the album and the extensive U.S. tour that followed.

Granted, he also sang lead on the abysmal "I'm Hip", which gives "She's Hot" from the band's previous album, Strictly Personal, a run for its money in the Most Lunk-Headed Song Department.


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He also inexplicably quit the band at the height of their commercial success to start a proto-metal bar band that never got out of Detroit and, before long, even that band had been put on indefinite hold, at which point Marinos must have witnessed a mob hit and entered into the Witness Protection Program, or so it would appear.

After all, what rock & roll maniac with a zebra-stripe drum set walks away from MTV, millions of screaming fans, and the very band he founded (along with Mike Skill) at the absolute height of their career?



To this day, I have never heard a reason why Marinos left the band beyond the usual "ego run amok" rumors and found his next band - the Motor City Rockers - to not be all that far removed from the one he'd just left.

So, why?

As for the remaining Romantics, their decision to carry on without their original drummer and vocalist wasn't all that shocking, but just who could they get to replace Marinos? After all, he was the voice to many of their most popular songs, including the song that would grow exponentially in popularity in the years since his departure, "What I Like About You".

It is that song's popularity, in fact, that has allowed Marinos to remain out of the limelight. Anyone who has ever found themselves singing along to the tune during one of the many commercials, TV shows, or movies probably has no idea how much money that song (which he co-wrote) pulls in on an annual basis, but it is more than enough to keep the lights on for all who wrote it, I suspect.



This suspicion was confirmed by the band's current drummer, Brad Elvis, who playfully kidded in 2008 to a group of folks backstage at the long-gone Abbey Pub that Marinos hadn't left his couch in 20 years, but, in all seriousness, was doing quite alright thanks to the song's continuing popularity.

Even so, would it kill Marinos to occasionally get the itch to gig again? The world needs his voice, his vintage rock & roll swagger, and, most of all, that zebra-striped drum kit, baby!

It certainly makes this writer glad to have seen Marinos with the Romantics for a brief period in 1996 when he rejoined the band for a series of Ribfest-level live gigs and some studio work before once again disappearing into the night.

While original members Wally Palmar, Mike Skill, and Rich Cole carry on performing around the world, Marinos absence is glaring anytime someone other than him sings one of *his* songs, like "Rock You Up", "21 & Over", and the aforementioned mega-smash "What I Like About You".

There's just something wonderfully "punk" about Marinos' vocals that has always provided a great counterpart to the band's more harmony-laden melodic sensibilities. In that sense, Marinos has always provided the necessary edge that the band needed to first differentiate themselves from the wave of power pop bands with whom they were first associated, before escaping Detroit once and for all.

Wherever you are, Jimmy Marinos, allow this longtime fan to say "Thank you" and "Don't be a stranger".

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