Though several of Loverboy's five full-length album releases of the '80s had their share of filler tracks and silly slices of cheesy machismo, the best songs from this one-of-a-kind new wave/arena rock band stand proudly as some of the best music of the decade. Here's a chronological sampling of the essential and enduring classics brought to us by a band never blessed with great critical acclaim but whose appeal stretched far and wide across a decade partial to leather pants and headbands.
As the lead-off track on Loverboy's self-titled 1980 debut, this tune announced immediately and forcefully that the band already possessed a singular sound that would provide separation from its arena rock rivals. The marriage of highly electronic keyboards with Paul Dean's muscular guitar work created a fully unique hybrid of new wave and hard rock that no one else had seemed able to dream up at that point. As for the song itself, Mike Reno provides spirited vocals on top of a solid melodic foundation, allowing the band to dance gracefully between fist-pumping riffage and synth-heavy, radio-friendly pop hooks.
Fueled by one of the greatest bombastic openings in all of rock, this signature tune collects all of Loverboy's musical attributes and delivers a blistering performance that still holds up very well a full three decades later. Despite professional, clean production, the sheer number of weapons used to perfection on this track helps it sound lively and dangerous. The next time you listen to this one, try to isolate its several unforgettable elements, from the synth and bass opening to Dean's brilliant riff to Reno's impressive falsetto screech. Then just sit back and bask in the glory of this arena rock slice of heaven.
For this sleeper track from Loverboy, the band settles into something close to a roots rock vibe and delivers a straight-ahead rock song that is a solid if somewhat forgotten album track of consequence. As established so memorably in "Turn Me Loose," Reno again takes on the persona of swaggering, aloof lover, dismissive of any objects of affection who don't do things "his way." Musically, the chugging rhythms of the verse establish a relaxing mood that melts nicely into the melodic, declarative chorus: "And when you tell me that I'm wrong, in the morning I"ll be gone." Wow, somebody needs a nap and his bottle.
Although the move may elicit gasps from anyone somehow not sick of Friday afternoon replays of the overrated "Working for the Weekend," I'm skipping straight to the second track on 1981's Get Lucky, a tune that I believe represents Loverboy's finest moment of all. In this case, Reno's persona plays the role of green grass on the other side of the romantic fence, as he makes a manipulative argument that his target isn't getting the love and attention she deserves in her current romantic situation. Doug Johnson's keyboards have never been more tasty, and Dean provides a moody guitar lead that complements Reno's deliciously over-the-top vocals.
5. "Lucky Ones"
Although certainly not in the stratospheric territory of the classic "When It's Over," this song from Get Lucky does qualify as the second-best song from that album (OK, "Working for the Weekend" junkies, feel free to take aim at my forehead now). Benefiting from some fine synth work from Johnson and some characteristically punchy riffing from Dean, the song gallops along at a lively pace that deepens Loverboy's status as one of the most entertaining hybrid rock bands of the '80s. In fact, the only other mainstream '80s band I can think of that rivals Loverboy's singular blend of guitar and keyboards is the Cars.