Sometimes a band is remembered for only one song . Being saucy and direct never hurt in making a song’s lyrics stand out. During the ’80s few rock songs were was as direct and saucy as Romeo Void’s “Never say Never”. The lyric “I might like you better if we slept together” was something of a coming of age song for a new breed of teenage inspired films starting with Reckless in 1984. It was easily one of the first songs I could remember as a young Pentecostal nerd that made me blush then bust out in laughter.
As suggested in the film sequence featuring the song, Romeo Void was a punk like slap in the face of innocent danceable bubblegum pop. In addition to the out of mainstream sound, the look was ahead of its time. Lead singer Debora Lyall projected the kind of biker trash degenerate look that could only be described as pre-emo. She was not the usual skinny vamp and filled video screens with post atomic angst.
Along with fellow San Francisco Institute of Art friends Frank Zincavage (bass), Peter Woods (guitar), Romeo Void was formed. The band would develop their signature sound once Benjamin Bossi came along with his saxophone. That’s how they caught the attention of Rick Ocasek.
In many ways the EP Never Say Never (and the LP Benefactor) were samplings of British ska, punk and sassy new wave. Produced by Ocasek and Ian Taylor, “Never Say Never” was destined to capture the attention of MTV just on the strength of Ocasek’s involvement alone. He was still hot with The Cars and his first solo project Beatitude. Interestingly enough, not long after Ocasek’s own son would go to art school (he was in one of my classes at the Columbus College of Art & Design) and drop out to form his own band.
Lead vocalist Debora Iyall ‘s voice teetered between a sultry Susie and the Banshees-like delivery on “In the Dark” to a famously monotone chant on the title song. Fame came quickly for Romeo Void thanks to that clever lyric and an over saturation on early MTV. Almost as soon as they became famous, their record label tried pulling the rug out from under them because of Lyall’s weight.
The cat was all ready out of the bag by then. Romeo Void’s songs improved to the point of showcasing Lyall’s wonderful voice. The band had a second stab at success with “Girl in Trouble” in 1984.