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REO Speedwagon celebrates 30th anniversary of biggest album

of the Oakland Press

Posted: Wednesday, July 20, 2011

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The world knows REO Speedwagon’s “Hi-Infidelity” as an enormously popular and successful album, selling nearly 10 million copies since its 1981 release, spending 15 consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, and spawning a pair of Top 5 singles — “Keep on Loving You” and Take It On the Run.”

But for the band itself, it’s the album that saved its career.

“We’d made 10 albums, and our live album (1977’s ‘You Get What You Play For’) had gone gold a few years before,” recalls keyboardist Neal Doughty. “But we didn’t have that big hit radio single, and the record company was saying, ‘Guys, it’s time. You can’t just be some underground album band for your while life. We can’t keep putting money into the band forever without you going the next notch up.

“They were nice about it, but I believe if (‘Hi-Infidelity’) had been no good, you and I would not be talking today. We would’ve stopped working 30 years ago.”

Fortunately, “Hi-Infidelity” — which has been re-released this month with a second disc of recording demos — worked for REO. But Doughty, 64, acknowledges “mixed emotions” about having unseated the late John Lennon’s “Double Fantasy” album to take the No. 1 spot.

“(Lennon’s assassination) had hit everybody hard,” Doughty says, “so there was a bittersweet vibe for sure. But, you know, somebody was gonna do it; it just happened to be us. I hope Kim Carnes felt the same way about us when she knocked us out” with her “Mistaken Identity” album.

REO Speedwagon and Bill Ellingboe perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 22, at Rockin’ on the Riverfront on the south side of the GM Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit. Admission is free. Call 313-567-6700 or visit www.gmrencen.com.

Web Site: www.gmrencen.com

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