One of the more out of left field musical directions pop took in the early ’80s was, of all things, a rockabilly revival, most notably led by the Stray Cats. As distinctly American as this sound was, the Cats had to go overseas to the U.K. to get noticed, then broke thru in the States a couple of years later. This little sub-genre had a few more players, including the Polecats and my favorite, Roman Holliday (two L’s, please).
Roman Holliday set themselves apart from the rest of the rockabilly revivalists by incorporating more swing elements in their music, complete with a horn section, a move later adopted by the Stray Cats’ Brian Setzer who would make a boatload of cash. Roman Holliday weren’t so lucky – such is the peril of being ahead of the behind times (see, cuz they were a nostalgia-based act and…oh, never mind).
The band’s first single, “Stand By”, got a little chart action and a lot of MTV play, thanks to a cute on the outside video that I didn’t really get at my younger age, until an older sister explained to me that our hero, lead singer Steve Lambert, was losing his virginity to a HO-WAHR (say it in a Gina Gershon in “Showgirls” voice):
Roman Holliday’s second single kept up the swingin’ sound – “Don’t Try To Stop It” was a fun little number with another cute video to match, but didn’t cause much of a stir:
Faced with a middling reaction to their debut, someone in the Roman Holliday camp lost their goddamn mind, since their second full-length album had the group dump their single unique selling point, the swing throwback sound, and instead embraced the most generic ’80s pop/rock schlock possible. The lead-off single was even written by “Mutt” Lange, aka Mr. Shania Twain, for goodness sakes. Gaze upon the horror that is “One Foot Back In Your Door” and weep for Roman Holliday:
Yeah, they broke up after that. Sad, really. But somewhere the JoBoxers, Polecats and Stray Cats of the world secretly smiled. BONUS TRIVIA! Roman Holliday’s original lead singer was actually Peter Noone, formerly of Herman’s Hermits, but he left before they recorded anything. See? Not every decision the band made was bad!
“Stand By” peaked at #54 on the Billboard Pop Singles Chart in 1983.
“Don’t Try To Stop It” peaked at #68 on the same chart that same year.
“One Foot Back In Your Door” peaked at #76 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1985. Yeah, seriously.
Roman Holliday’s debut album is in print as a pricey Japanese import at Amazon.