Mike Skill – Photo By MeredithLordEcole
By Keith Sharp
Romantics guitarist/vocalist Mike Skill constantly hears his band’s two biggest hits; “What I Like About You” and “Talking In Your Sleep” being played on North American classic radio but it constantly bugs him that the full potential of those songs were never fulfilled.
Skill performed a pop-up show Sunday, February 27th at the Classic Bowl in Mississauga, Skill, along with Dead Boy’s guitarist Ricky Rat will be performing all of The Romantics classics along with tracks off his new solo release, ‘Skill – Mike Skill’, 12 new tracks which also feature MC5 legend, Wayne Kramer on one track “67 Riot” plus other Romantics’ personnel such as present drummer Brad Elvis on all but two tracks and band guitarist Rich Cole on backing vocals.
“I had been working on my own songs for about four or five years,” said Skill, on the phone from Portland, Oregon, who performs all the lead vocals, bass and guitars, on the tracks which were recorded in his son’s school mobile which Skill converted a part of into a control room to record the songs at night while the school kids used the same facility during the day.
“I sent the finished tracks to Chuck Alkazian to be mixed at Pearl Sound in Detroit and he did an amazing job on the record which was released in October 2021.”
Included in the album’s 12 tracks is a re-recording of “What I Like About You” the band’s breakthrough track from their self-titled debut release. “I wanted to re-release a much rawer version, something like the way drummer Jimmy Marinos (who sang lead vocal on the track) and I envisioned when he wrote the original lyrics and I wrote the music.”
When the band originally emerged from Detroit in 1977, Skill, guitarist/vocalist Wally Palmar, bassist Rich Cole and original drummer Jimmy Marinos adopted a more mod style, influenced strongly by the British Music Invasion, “I was heavily influenced by the Kinks, but although that self-titled debut release broke through radio with “What I Like About You” on indie label Nemperor Records, the band felt it was never promoted properly enough, only reaching #49 on the Billboard singles chart, and they should have been touring in Britain and Europe to capitalize on the track’s North American success.”
Part of the problem was the label’s insistence in The Romantics’ rushing out a second album the following year “Before the first one had been promoted properly,” Skill noted. “So, we adopted a rawer sound for the second album, we were influenced by the likes of The Clash and The Jam but the band’s management fired me after we returned from touring in Australia (where the band enjoyed a strong following) because I had become a thorn in their side, I was asking too many questions about band financing and where all the monies were going. The problem for them, I was one of the two creative thorns in the band.”
Realizing this, Skill was re-instated for the Romantics’ third album ‘In Heat’ in 1983 and promptly delivered “Talking In Your Sleep” which went to No 3 on the U.S. Billboard charts and No. 1 in Canada (going gold in both countries). But despite touring nationally with Cheap Trick, The Kinks and The Cars and receiving strong support on MTV, they again suffered from a lack of international exposure. When their fourth album, Rhythm Romance released in 1985 failed to live up to expectations, parent company Columbia Records dropped The Romantics and to make matters worse, they ended up suing their management for misappropriating funds. “They used “What I Like About You” for a Bud Light beer commercial but the band never saw any of the residuals. Using pop songs for commercials is a common occurrence now, but in those days, we were accused of selling out.”
Litigation dragged into the 1990s which by that time, the music scene was all about grunge and The Romantics were considered passé. But they’ve continued to soldier on, playing theatres and casinos and the majority of the band is still intact and waiting to hit the road again.
“We were supposed to do a number of ‘Lost In The 80s’ Theme shows with the likes of A Flock Of Seagulls, The Vapors, Missing Persons, Naked Eyes, Glass Tiger and others” but they got cancelled because of the pandemic,” Skill allowed. “I don’t mind doing nostalgic shows like that where we do four or five of our hits but I would rather do our own shows.”
And now with social media, The Romantics can spread their musical message globally and get the word out internationally in hope that they can still tour in Europe and the United Kingdom which has been the band’s ultimate goal.
And as for February 27th, “I’ve known Ed Sousa for a long time, he was a big fan of the band when we were playing the Horseshoe and Massey Hall with the likes of Teenage Head and The Diodes back in the ’80s, “ Skill enthused. “I’ve never done this pop-up performance before with just one other performer (Rick Rat) but it should be lots of fun.”
For ticket information for Mike Skill’s concert go to