Forgotten classic: “Don’t You Know What Love Is?” by Touch

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Album-oriented rock band Touch formed in 1978. Their one hit single, “Don’t You Know What Love Is?” was released in 1980 and entered the charts early 1981. The characteristics of “Don’t You Know What Love Is?” relatively complex vocals, and powerful, hypnotic guitar chords, should have made it a lasting rock radio staple. That doesn’t seem to be the case.

Looking for “Don’t You Know What Love Is?” by Touch

Sometimes bits of songs from childhood come to me, and I can’t rest until I find the remainder of it. Provided I remember the lyrics correctly, thanks to the Internet, I can typically find what I’m looking for.

The case of Touch was a bit different. All I could hear was that shouty, slightly distorted chorus asking the title question. The band always reminds me of another band that came after them, such as Honeymoon Suite. And I was left searching the Net for a piece of lyric. Future searches erroneously returned the Foreigner hit, “I Want to Know What Love Is.” The two are different–very different.

The sound of Touch

Why is this so important? Because as a music fan, good music counts, stand out qualities count. When I found the song again, I was not disappointed. The vocals involve the lead singer and the keyboardist taking turns with verses, and then there is the high-pitched delivery of the chorus. The singer sounds incredulous that the object of his affection does not know what love is.

The main guitar riff is a lacerating wonder that puts a number of rock hits to shame. The keyboards are moody, like rock keyboards should be, and the drums used a variety of pounds and trills to keep up rhythmic intensity and interest.

I have mentioned previously about how the factors that determine radio play and chart placement are not true indicators of a song’s value. That is true with “Don’t You Know What Love Is?” by Touch. The song entered the charts in early 1981 and stayed there for six weeks. It peaked at number 69. A rock and roll tragedy.

Touch and AOR

Album-oriented rock had a difficult position in the early 1980s. The closer the years drew to the dawn of glam metal, the greater the difficulty (I think) for some AOR bands to get the industry share they deserved. As a result, slowly, kids of a certain age replaced AOR albums for music that was clearly hard rock, and ultimately, the new generation of heavy metal.

So, as a culture, we lost the band Touch. Thankfully, the band still plays some festivals (see the video). I couldn’t find “Don’t You Know What Love Is?” on the streaming service I use, but it is available in various live and recorded versions on the Net. Thanks to technology, a lost classic doesn’t have to be.

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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