Blogging 101, Day Four: Identify Your Audience – With an REO Speedwagon Story

Today’s Assignment: publish a post you’d like your ideal audience member to read, and include a new-to-you element in it.

Today I’m going to cheat just a bit and use one of the “practice posts” that I wrote over the past two years while this blog thing was germinating in my mind and awaiting my technological know-how. I finally went back to the gym yesterday, and while warming up my creaking joints, I pondered my topic for the Day Four assignment. It just so happened that the first song that shuffled up on my iPod was REO Speedwagon’s  Like You Do from the Live: You Get What You Play For album. As is usual for me, I took it as a sign from the universe.

REO Speedwagon was one of my three favorite bands in high school, along with Rush and Journey. Not to get sidetracked, but I must mention that I never cease to be amazed that, despite my CRS and general tendency to forget stuff, I can sing along perfectly (well, not perfectly key-wise, but lyric-wise) every word to these obscure songs and complex-lyrics songs like The Spirit of Radio. What the heck is up with that? Anyhow, REO was one of my first rock interests so I think it’s prophetic that they are a part of my first foray into the blogging world.

I hereby give you, my ideal audience member, my REO Speedwagon memories and a review of a 2013 REO Speedwagon concert. My “new-to-you” elements are the concert ticket stubs. I think this blog summarizes perfectly what I would envision my typical blog to be like…a current concert review along with my memories of things related to that band. I hope you enjoy it!

REO helped set the standard for one of the things I look for in music: inspiration. Don’t get me wrong; I can appreciate songs of angst and such, but music for me is mainly all about living and making the best of it. Isn’t it great that you can get in your car and turn on the stereo and listen and suddenly start feeling better and confident that you can fix whatever challenge life is presenting to you at the moment? I am, plain and simple, an optimistic person. That nature was reinforced early on by lyrics like REO’s somewhat corny Blazin’ Your Own Trail Again – which were prominently written on a notebook or book cover or some such thing in high school:

Sooner of later you will find a way

To feel like sunshine even on a cloudy day

To feel like morning in the dead of the night

Sooner or later its gonna be all right.

Now don’t go thinking your life’s a mess

Rather start thinkin’ in terms of happiness

And it’s gonna happen

Just decide where you’re going’

Get out in the open

And start blazin’ your own trail again.

My first introduction to REO came in a summer visit to my family’s hometown in Michigan while hanging out with my childhood friend, Jennifer. It was 1979, the summer between 8th and 9th grade. I was living in Puerto Rico (my dad’s job transferred us there) with a single form of access to U.S. radio: Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 – a radio show I eagerly awaited each week like Ralphie in The Christmas Story with his Little Orphan Annie radio show. I sat there every week with a fresh cassette to record some songs with my all-in-one record player/radio/double-cassette with microphone stand stereo system.

I remember flipping through Jennifer’s vinyl albums and being so happy to finally have access to this music! I decided to record two ninety-minute cassettes on Jennifer’s stereo: the first had REO Speedwagon Nine Lives on side one, and Journey Infinity on side two. The second cassette had Genesis on side one and The Cars on side two; I never really got into that tape. But I listened to the other over and over and over and over and over…to this day when I hear Lights and the song comes to a certain spot, I expect it to blip out where I had once accidentally hit “record” in the middle of the song and messed up the tape. Makes me smile every time ;o)

Anyhow, fast-forward – life, not the cassette – to 11th grade and Columbia House, the mail-order record club that advertised in the TV Guide. I ordered REO’s Live: You Get What You Play For as one of my free records, and I repeatedly listened to and sang along to every song. When Hi Infidelity came out, I specifically recall that it was the album I “paid for” in my record club obligation to purchase two albums within the next year (remember that? Did you fulfill your obligation?). I loved that album, though I liked Live a bit more. I always lean towards the raw-er, live albums. It’s so awesome when concert energy comes though on a live recording. Like Kid Rock – his live stuff makes his studio albums sound lame, or Van Halen Live: Right Here Right Now, or Dishwalla Live…Greetings from the Flow State…I could go on and on but you probably know what I mean.

In going through my concert ticket stubs, I find that I went to the following REO shows. I say “I find” because I really can’t think of many memories from the earlier shows, except I know I must have a had a great time, I would have went with Meilani, and I would have bought a concert t-shirt to wear like a badge of honor to school the next day (wish I still had those). I would also guess that Meilani’s mom drove us on the 45-minute ride to the Lakeland Civic Center for some of those early shows. RIP, Doris – you were a cool mom.

4-4-1981. $15.00. Rock Super Bowl XI (like the NFL would really allow that NOW). Orlando, FL. According to the weather beaten back side, the other bands were Billy Squire, Foghat, and Rossington Collins.
4-4-1981. $15.00. Rock Super Bowl XI (like the NFL would allow that NOW). Orlando, FL. According to the weather-beaten back side, the other bands were Billy Squire, Foghat, and Rossington Collins. I also went to RS XII, which featured the Rolling Stones and Van Halen (the show that made me swear off DLR due to his being so awful four times in a row).
Lakeland Civic Center in Florida. $8.50. Note the ticket is pre-Ticketmaster, back when you had a great time camping out in line all night to buy tickets.
2-6-81. Lakeland Civic Center in Lakeland, FL. $8.50. Note the ticket is pre-Ticketmaster, back when you had a great time camping out in line all night to buy tickets.
2-2-1983. Lakeland Civic Center. $11.50. One of my first Ticketmaster tickets.
2-2-1983. Lakeland Civic Center. $11.50. One of my first Ticketmaster tickets.
12-14-1984. Lakeland Civic Center again. $13.50. Prices going up!
12-14-1984. Lakeland Civic Center again. $13.50.  Prices going up!
9-7-1990. USF Sun Dome, Tampa, FL. Guess I never saw REO the whole time I was in LA (not surprising). Note the
9-7-1990. USF Sun Dome in Tampa, FL. Not sure the cost. I guess I never saw REO the whole time I was in LA (not surprising). Note the “no camera/video/audio” – remember when Rerun got caught taping a Doobie Brothers show?!
9-21-1997. $18.00. Pima County fairgrounds in Tucson, AZ - for the brief, sad stint this swamp girl tried to live in the flipping' miserable desert). But I remember this was a GREAT show! I took my son Adrian, who was 8 at the time. I clearly remember they did Son of a Poor Man, one of my faves - and they seemed like really happy guys having a grand old time doing what they loved to do, even in the midst a dusty desert midway.
9-21-1997. $18.00. Pima County fairgrounds in Tucson, AZ – for the brief, sad stint this swamp girl tried to live in the flipping’ miserable desert. But I remember this was a GREAT show! I took my son Adrian, who was 8 at the time. I clearly remember they did Son of a Poor Man, one of my faves – and they seemed like really happy guys having a grand old time doing what they loved to do, even in the midst a dusty desert midway.
4-25-2009. $49.75. Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, FL. A great venue 'cuz there's not a bad seat in the 2100-seat house. Wow, I went 12 years without seeing REO.
4-25-2009. Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, FL. $49.75. A great venue ‘cuz there’s not a bad seat in the 2100-seat house. Wow, I went 12 years without seeing REO. I found Night Ranger odd – they had a strange stage schtick thing going on.
5-4-2013. $20 - I don't remember if there were fees but I'm guessing there were. Florida State Fairgrounds at the Amphitheater, whatever it was called then. We missed Ted and Styx but saw a great band called We The Kings with happy REO-ish lyrics and a fantastic front man who was much loved by the high-pitched screaming young girls in attendance.
5-4-2013. $20 – I don’t remember if there were fees but I’m guessing there were. Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, FL at the Amphitheater, whatever it was called then. We missed Ted and Styx but saw a great band called We The Kings, who had happy REO-ish lyrics and a fantastic front man who was much loved by the young, high-pitched, screaming girls in attendance.

But let us reverse, or fast-forward – wherever we are – to 1987 Los Angeles, for my only near run-in with REO, though it had nothing to do with the band itself. My roommate Tami and I had found ourselves living alone in our 3-bedroom North Hollywood apartment. We put a “room available” ad up at Los Angeles Valley College and ended up with a pleasant but slightly odd roomie named Suzanne. Suzanne had several college degrees (we had none at the time, and no intention of getting any), attended the Dick Grove School of Music, did not drive, did not wear make-up, and for goodness sake, did not go out and party – although we once took her to the Cathouse, whence she bought a book to learn how to apply make-up. I oft wonder the reason that the universe dropped such a straight-laced bookworm into our decadent little world.

One particular week Suzanne had a performance at a local bar for one of her classes and asked Tami and I to be her roadies. Some of her class band mates came over that evening and Suzanne tells me the blonde, who was probably at least a good 10-15 years older than my 22-year old self, was a certain member of REO’s wife. Over the course of the next hour or so of moving equipment from the apartment to the car to the club, the lovely and pleasant Wife made numerous pointed comments at me about how “Suzanne has such hot roadies.” I had no idea how to respond and no recollection of how I did respond – I know it wasn’t anything sexy or clever or witty. It didn’t dawn on me until later (in one of those “geez you were soooo naïve” moments, of which I have many from that era) that she was clearly hitting on me. Perhaps she was just very friendly, but it’s fun to think that hot REO Wife hit on me, right? To this day I really think she was hitting on me (lol).

Fast-forward again to the 2013 Funshine Music Festival in Tampa. It was one of those good time shows…it didn’t produce one of those mind-blowing concert highs, but REO sounded great and they had a cool set list with some of my favorite obscure oldies. They played Keep Pushin’ and Golden Country, with Kevin Cronin’s famous talk-really-fast-positive-inspiring-pre-song-rant. As I shouted along every word (I can’t really sing), my husband, who is several younger than me, leaned over and said: “What the hell song is this?” I shushed him with “Favorite!” He later referred to the song as “Golden Shower.” Sigh, how I loved the message of that song back when – I thought it was so deep. When they played the late ’80’s stuff, like 1987’s That Ain’t Love, at which point Randee and I were sitting back sipping a beer waiting for it to be over, he tells me: “This is when I first started knowing REO,” and I immediately responded: “This is when I was done with REO.” Ha! It’s not that it was bad…I just never got into that later stuff. They also played Like You Do and the awesome Roll With the Changes and Time For Me to Fly, as well as the Hi Infidelity hits. It was a beautiful Florida spring night and I thoroughly enjoyed singing along and being really happy about life that night. What more can anyone ask for? Live music is magic ;o)

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