Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: Restless Heart, “That Rock Won’t Roll”

“That Rock Won’t Roll”

Restless Heart

Written by Bob DiPiero and John Scott Sherrill

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

October 17, 1986


#1 (1 week)

November 15, 1986

As new traditionalism was gaining a larger foothold on country radio, a new band emerged that helped keep pop-flavored country afloat.

Restless Heart was first assembled in 1984 by Tim DuBois as a band that could record his songwriting demos.  Verlon Thompson was the initial lead singer, but Larry Stewart was at the mic by the time they started recording.  Stewart was a friend of keyboardist David Innis, and he stepped in because Thompson didn’t like the slick pop that DuBois wanted the band to perform.  Stewart and Innis were joined by lead guitarist and mandolinist Dave Jennings, drummer John Dittrich, and bass guitarist Paul Gregg.  With DuBois’ support, the band was signed to RCA by 1985.

Their self-titled debut album was led off by the top thirty hit “Let the Heartache Ride,” and then produced three top ten singles: “I Want Everyone to Cry,” “(Back to the) Heartbreak Kid,” and “Til I Loved You.”  The lead single from their sophomore set, Wheels, began a string of six consecutive No. 1 hits, including four from this album.

Alas, we’re not getting started on a strong note here.  Restless Heart will produce quite a few delicious pop country confections, but this one is as clunky as its title and central conceit.  It’s the tale of a man determined to get a woman who is resistant to love to fall for him, despite all the warnings about her being a rock that won’t roll.

Maybe with a stronger hook they could’ve gotten this one over the finish line, but even the chorus melody is halting and unsure of itself.  I’m not only surprised that this went to No. 1, but that three much better records were passed over for lead single in favor of it.

Not a good start for this band on the cusp of big success, but things will get much better for the remainder of this album cycle.

“That Rock Won’t Roll” gets a C.

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. I like this one more than you do and would give it a B+ (: I enjoy the harmonies and drums. I really enjoyed the album “WHEELS” by them and like all the singles especially “Wheels” which is one of my favorite songs by them.

  2. this part of the series is becoming some personal nigthmare – i’m obviously a much bigger sucker for pop flavoured country than i ever thought i’d be (although i suspected it somewhat lately – thank you ms. tucker and “just another love”!) feels kinda good though. especially, when listening to restless heart or the amazing ms. tucker.

  3. Kevin, did you miss Cry by Crystal Gayle (Billboard #1 October 25, 1986)?

    I loved That Rock Won’t Roll by Restless Heart. The lead singer did an amazing job singing along with the arrangement and production. This was all over the radio at the time. Great song.

  4. I hate to be the burr under the fandom of Restless Heart’s saddle, but I remember feeling almost threatened by the band’s pop sensibilities. I always liked their harmonies but hated their overall sound. I think I was really tossing back the Kool-Aid “Country Music” magazine was serving up in increasingly large and frequent servings. I blame Rich Kienzle, Bob Allen, and Patrick Carr!

    Hell, I think I had the makings of a gate- keeping zealot at this point of my life. I was particularly vulnerable to the messaging behind the marketing of the New Traditionalists.

    Listening to Larry Stewart sing and the band play now, I wonder what all my indignant rage was about, especially after having lived through the peak of the Bro-country era.

    The lesson?

    Things can always get worse.

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