Classic Rock - - Aor - In­ter­view: Paul El­liott

“I don’t know any­one could have fore­seen what was go­ing to hap­pen with that record. I guess the stars were lined up. “The first time I played Keep On Lov­ing You on the piano, the guys looked at me like I was from a dif­fer­ent planet. ‘What are you, Barry Manilow?’ That’s what the song sounded like at first. But it was a re­ally im­por­tant song for me, very per­sonal, and I wasn’t about to let go of it.

“I kept play­ing it over and over, un­til one day Gary [Richrath, gui­tarist] plugged in his Les Paul and hit these big chords. Hon­estly, I think he was just try­ing to drown me out. But I said: ‘Dude, that’s per­fect!’ The song had been a lit­tle too sweet. It needed that nasty gui­tar tone. And that’s when the light bulb went on: ‘Ah, that’s how we do this! Kevin writes a lit­tle folk song, Gary trashes it out, and then you got some­thing.’ That’s where it all co­a­lesced for us.

“Take It On The Run was writ­ten by Gary, and it has one of the great­est open­ing lines in rock his­tory: ‘Heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend who heard it from an­other you been messin’ around…’ I wish I’d writ­ten that! Take It On The Run and Keep On Lov­ing You were pretty much the same story but from dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives.

“Keep On Lov­ing You was also the first song where I re­ally ex­posed my life and my re­la­tion­ship to a cer­tain de­gree – maybe too much. The cho­rus is very pretty, but in the verses there’s some nasty stuff in there, man! It was kind of a taboo sub­ject. There are peo­ple that use Keep On Lov­ing You as their wed­ding song. I of­ten think: ‘Hey, did you lis­ten to the verses?’ But what I learned with that song was that the more you ex­pose of your life, the more peo­ple will re­late to it. That’s what re­ally hit the ball out of the park.

“When Hi In­fi­delity hit Num­ber One [in Fe­bru­ary 1981] we were in the midst of a fournight stand at the In­ter­na­tional Am­phithe­ater in Chicago. To see our al­bum at Num­ber One was mind-bog­gling. We or­dered a bunch of Dom Perignon and just yelled like school­boys! It was awe­some! The days of tour­ing in a Chevro­let sta­tion wagon were still fresh in our minds. We had the Num­ber-One record when MTV started out, so that just fu­elled the phe­nom­e­non even more. We weren’t pre­pared for the level of suc­cess and how quickly our lives changed. But to have the Num­ber One record in Amer­ica, it was ev­ery­thing that I’d ever hoped for.”

REO Speed­wagon front­man Kevin Cronin on Hi In­fi­delity.

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