REO Speedwagon's music can be split into two distinct eras: the hard-rockin’ ‘70s that emphasized the guitar work of Gary Richrath and the period starting with 1980's Hi Infidelity, when the band steered into more of a pop-based direction with the massive success of both that album and the No. 1 single "Keep on Loving You." We take a look at both sides of the band in our list of the Top 10 REO Speedwagon Songs.
'Say You Love Me or Say Goodnight'From: 'You Can Tune a Piano, but You Can't Tuna Fish' (1978)
Animal-rights activists might have a problem with parts of "You Can’t Tune a Piano, but You Can Tuna Fish." Cue up "Say You Love Me or Say Goodnight," however, and they just might be so distracted by the all-out duel going down between Gary Richrath’s guitar and the backroom keyboard work by Neal Doughty that they forget about the fact that there’s a fish on the LP cover with a tuning fork jammed in its mouth.
'Music Man'From: 'T.W.O.' (1972)
Singer Kevin Cronin made his debut with the band in 1972 on the T.W.O. album. His initial run with REO Speedwagon lasted just one LP: Cronin left after its release, only to return four years later. Before he split, he made his mark with three songs on T.W.O., including this emphatic statement that still finds its way into set lists from time to time.
'Golden Country'From: 'T.W.O.' (1972)
The closing cut on T.W.O. is one of the better Gary Richrath / Kevin Cronin pairings from REO Speedwagon’s catalog. "Golden Country" is a biting political statement penned by Richrath. You can feel the anger seething from his guitar strings amid the progressive organ swells, as Cronin spits out lyrics that are sadly still quite relevant today.
'157 Riverside Avenue' (Live)From: 'A Decade of Rock and Roll 1970 to 1980'
This fan favorite was originally on REO Speedwagon’s 1970 self-titled debut – the only LP to feature singer Terry Luttrell. The title of 157 Riverside Avenue comes from a simple inspiration: It's the address of the house where the band stayed while recording the album. In concert, the title track would develop into an extended monster, with plenty of solos. This live version (with Kevin Cronin on vocals) is from the A Decade of Rock and Roll compilation, clocking in at a mammoth 12-plus minutes.
'Keep Pushin''From: 'R.E.O.' (1976)
Kevin Cronin’s returned to the band for 1976's R.E.O. album, which followed the somewhat ironically titled ‘This Time We Mean It’ LP. This strong call to action served as the lead-off track. It’s become one of REO’s rockin’ anthems in concert over the years and a signature exit phrase for Cronin, who often ends his messages to fans with a simple “Keep Pushin’, KC.”
'Ridin' the Storm Out' (Live)From: 'Live: You Get What You Play For' (1977)
It can be argued that one of the most bad-ass live intros known to man is located at the head of this number from 1977's Live: You Get What You Play For. Boasting a "Twilight Zone" mood at the beginning, the song features Neal Doughty unleashing a keyboard bit that sounds like an air-raid siren as Kevin Cronin yells, “Last song, people!” The track was inspired by the time REO Speedwagon was stuck in the middle of a gnarly storm in Colorado. But "Stuck in Colorado" doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as "Ridin' the Storm Out."
'Roll With the Changes'From: 'You Can't Tune a Piano, but You Can Tuna Fish' (1978)
Kevin Cronin knows how to talk to the ladies: “As soon as you are ready, woman, I am willin’ to make the break that we are on the brink of.” From there, the track offers plenty of love spillin’, deserts burnin’ and an offer to “turn some pages” ... which have nothing to do with Bob Seger.
'Time for Me to Fly'From: 'You Can't Tune a Piano, but You Can Tuna Fish' (1978)
REO Speedwagon have had their share of awesome hooks, as you can see throughout our list of the Top 10 REO Speedwagon Songs. But they've had plenty of great lyrics too. Finding his wings and heading for the door, Kevin Cronin plays the part of the jilted lover who's had enough of it here. He's out for good this time.
'Take It on the Run'From: 'Hi Infidelity' (1980)
“Take it on the run, baby / If that’s the way you want it, baby / Then I don’t want you around.” Under the gun, there are few songs that inspire as much as this huge hit from 1980's Hi Infidelity album. And what's up with this line? “You say you’re coming home, but you won’t say when.”
'Keep on Loving You'From: 'Hi Infidelity' (1980)
Keyboardist Neal Doughty told UCR in 2011 that REO Speedwagon's greatest hit almost wasn’t. “Kevin [Cronin] brought that song in,” Doughty remembered. “He’d written it on piano, and he started playing it for us with just him and piano. We didn’t really like it – we thought that’s too soft for us. But then Gary [Richrath] just picked up his guitar and started adding his part to it, and we went, ‘Oh, this must be one of those things they call a power ballad.’ I’m not even sure we’d heard such a thing before.” It was a good move, because the Hi Infidelity album collared the top spot on the album chart for 15 weeks and has sold more than 10 million copies.