Such power pop founders as the Raspberries and Big Star may have been woefully underappreciated during their initial run in the early '70s, but by the end of the decade, several of their offspring had taken the style to the upper reaches of the charts — including Cheap Trick, the Knack, and the Romantics. But what set the group apart from their similarly styled peers was their inheritance of the high-energy attack of their Detroit forefathers, as well as their affinity for bouffant hairstyles and matching retro outfits. Formed on the east side of Detroit during 1977, the Romantics' original lineup consisted of singer/guitarist Wally Palmar, singer/drummer Jimmy Marinos, guitarist Mike Skill, and bassist Richie Cole.
Building a local following with their live show, the Romantics issued a single on their own (via Spider Records) — "Little White Lies" b/w "I Can't Tell You Anything" — while a spirited performance in Toronto led to a brief union with the renowned punk/power pop indie label Bomp!, which issued another single shortly thereafter with "Tell It to Carrie" b/w "First in Line." Both singles helped bring the quartet to the attention of several other labels and the Romantics inked a deal with the Nemperor/Epic label in 1979. The band's self-titled full-length debut surfaced a year later (recorded in just three weeks) and is often considered to be the quartet's best due to the inclusion of such gems as "When I Look in Your Eyes," a cover of Ray Davies' "She's Got Everything," and one of the Romantics' best-known tracks: the power pop gem "That's What I Like About You." Although the latter track peaked at only number 49 when originally released as a single, it later became an early MTV favorite and classic rock radio standard and in the '90s, was used in several commercials.
A sophomore effort was issued the same year, National Breakout, which saw the band expand their sound to include such other styles as surf and classic Motown and was supported by an extensive world tour (including the Romantics' inaugural visits to both Europe and Australia). Also issued around this time via the Quark label (a subsidiary of Bomp!) was a compilation credited to Romantics & Friends, entitled Midwest Pop Explosion!, which featured several early tracks. Strictly Personal in 1981 signaled the Romantics' first lineup change with Coz Canler replacing Skill, and while the group's audience continued to grow, the album failed to break the band commercially, something that would be corrected on their next release.
In Heat (1983) would become the Romantics' best-selling album (going gold shortly after its release) on the strength of such Top Ten hit singles as "Talking in Your Sleep" and "One in a Million" and the quartet shed its early raw energy in favor of more streamlined songwriting. Although they had finally obtained breakthrough success, problems between the band and their management became an issue, leading to Marinos' departure. The Romantics decided to soldier on with a new drummer, Dave Petratos, resulting in 1985's Rhythm Romance, an album that saw the group move even further away from their power pop roots and embrace more mainstream rock (both musically and, judging from the album's cover, visually). Rhythm Romance would also prove to be the Romantics' last studio album issued via Nemperor/Epic as a complete falling out between the band and its management led to a lawsuit that prevented the group from touring or recording on a regular basis, leading many to assume that the group had split up. During this period of downtime, a ten-track best-of set was issued, 1990's What I Like About You (& Other Romantic Hits).
By 1990, the Romantics welcomed former Blondie drummer Clem Burke into the fold and the lineup was featured on a five-track EP three years later, Made in Detroit, which featured originals mixed with a few classic Funkadelic covers (additionally, the group played at the memorial service for the MC5's late singer Rob Tyner). In 1995, the Romantics finally settled their lawsuit against their former management and were granted control of both their publishing rights and music catalog once more. A year later, Marinos briefly rejoined the group, but by 1997, their original drummer was out once more and Burke was back in. During the late '90s, several additional best-of collections were issued (1996's Breakout and 1998's Super Hits), as well as several in-concert sets (1996's King Biscuit Flower Hour and 2000's Live, the latter of which was reissued a year later as Hits You Remember: Live). Despite not having issued a full-length studio album in two decades, the Romantics continue to tour.