Love them or hate them, there's no denying the indelible mark REO Speedwagon has left on multiple rock radio formats. Rare has any band served up as many arena-rock anthems ("Roll With the Changes," "Keep Pushin'") as they have monstrous ballads fit for any wedding, prom or bar mitzvah ("Keep on Lovin' You," "Can't Fight This Feeling"). And now that the band that formed in the '60s has all five members in their 60s -- including bassist Bruce Hall, who just turned 61 on May 3 -- there's reason to suspect that their days of ridin' out the storm will soon be numbered. Not so, Hall said. "As long as we take good care of ourselves and still love it -- and we do love it -- I don't think it'll be over anytime soon."
That's good news for anyone who bought a ticket to see REO on May 10 at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center. In anticipation of that show, Lowcountry Current talked to Hall about the possibility of a new album (he's guessing mid-2015), getting passed over by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (again and again) and myriad REO "best of" albums.
Question. It's been seven years since REO released an album of originals. Any plans of ending the drought soon?
Bruce Hall. We're always writing songs, and we record songs all the time. We haven't worked on an album for a while only because we're not sure where we want to go with (it). There's so many different ways to get music out to the public and, in our case, we had taken the position of waiting to see what format works best for us. If radio is willing to play new music by classic rock bands, it's easier to know where to go with it. But a lot of times, if you're a Cheap Trick or Foreigner or Styx, if you make new music, programmers at radio stations don't know what to with it. I don't know what they think, to be honest with you (laughs).
Q. REO Speedwagon was eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame decades ago but are rarely even mentioned as a nominee. Why do you think that is?
Hall. That's a good question. I wish I knew the answer to that one. The committee that decides that over at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame are ... I don't know why they don't like to think of us too much. I honestly think they're wrong. We've established ourselves as being a good rock band live and sold enough records. Who knows. Hopefully someday it'll happen. I have a couple guitars in there and (frontman) Kevin (Cronin) has a couple guitars that we used for the "HI Infidelity" album.
Q. About 16 years ago you took legal action against REO Speedealer and forced them to change their name, but you have to admit, in hindsight, that's a pretty good name.
Hall. Yeah. It didn't bother me so much as it ... how do I put it? It was more of a management decision more than it was a band decision. I don't know why, to tell you the truth. They were kind of fun. I liked it.
Q. What's the strangest place you've heard an REO song?
Hall. Holy cow, let's see. To tell you the truth, I hear some our songs in the elevator on Muzak, and that's enough to turn your stomach. It just doesn't sound right.
Q. There are so many "best of" REO Speedwagon albums that it's hard to keep track of them all. Can you?
Hall. Our original recording contract (is) with Epic Records. They own the masters of the original recordings and can put together any kind of compilation they want. It's almost surprising to hear there's a new album out by REO Speedwagon. A lot of times we'll just run into one on the road. Someone will go to the mall, and they'll go into a record store and say, "Did you know there's an album by us and it's titled 'this'?" And I'll go, "No," and it's all these songs from other records. That's what they do.
Q. They all pretty much have the same songs.
Hall. That's exactly right. It just doesn't make sense. I don't know what the thinking behind that is, to tell the truth. I don't know why people would continue to buy the same songs over and over again.