After the release of Cheap Trick’s second album, ‘In Color’, the band was getting quite a bit of recognition in Japan. So, a week after third album, ‘Heaven Tonight”, was released, the band did a quick tour in April of 1978 and they didn’t waste any time playing those songs. The band’s reception was nothing short of amazing. It was Beatlemania 2.0 as the Japanese fans went…well…fanatical. While in Japan, they decided to record the shows at Nippon Budokan in Tokyo and release the album in Japan only.
Here is a little fact for you, the recordings done at Nippon Budokan really sucked and the recording is actually the show in Osaka, but don’t tell anyone. Okay, don’t know if that is a fact, but I did read that somewhere so we will continue that statement here as it is cool if it is true. Regardless of where it was recorded, the show is amazing and the release in Japan on October 8, 1978 saw tremendous success, so much so that 30,000 copies of it were sold as imports to the US which prompted the label to finally release it in the US in February 1979 under the name ‘Cheap Trick at Budokan’. The album would go on to be one of the biggest selling albums in the band’s career selling over 3 million copies and go to #4 on the Billboard Charts. Rolling Stones said it was one of the 500 greatest albums of all time in 2003 where it ranked at #426.
The album also introduced us to 2 new songs that had not been released yet and one of those, “Need Your Love” would wind up on their next album ‘Dream Police’. The other song, “Lookout”, was a leftover from their debut and would end up being released as a bonus track on later editions of the album starting in 1998. Due to the popularity of Budokan, the ‘Dream Police’ released date got pushed back as they were still having hit singles from this album. Not a bad problem to have actually.
As you can see from the album cover and the back cover, the band kept up the tradition of having Robin Zander and Tom Petersson on the front cover and then Rick Nielsen and Bun E. Carlos on the back. This was the third album in a row the band used that concept and I think it is brilliant although I wonder how much Rick and Bun E. were peeved not getting front cover treatment. However, this would be the last time they did it so maybe the two guys were tired of it after all.
I think that is enough talk about the album and the history, so now let us talk about the music. The 70’s were a time for classic live albums like Peter Frampton, Kiss, UFO and also this one from Cheap Trick at Budokan.
The album opens with a bunch of screaming kids, the intro of the band and then they go right in the killer track and appropriate track, “Hello There”. Rick’s ripping guitar riff opens and Bun E. starts pounding the drums, Robin greets the fans with the opening “hello there ladies & gentlemen, are you ready to rock” and away we go. It is short and sweet at under 2:30 minutes and the show is off and running with a punk like, rock & roll vibe that ends with a barrage of drum fills by Mr. Carlos that gets the crowd going nuts. They go straight in to “Come On, Come On” which is a slightly laid-back compare to the opened but still rocking enough to keep the energy alive. It’s infectious groove minus the hand-clapping from the studio version, is reminiscent of the Beatles stylings and they even throw in a few “ya’s-ya’s” for good measure.
The first new song is “Lookout” and it is high energy power pop song that plays well live. What is cool is they would play a new song that wasn’t even on the band’s next album due out in one month. Insane to think actually. Robin sounds almost perfect and Tom and Bun E.’s rhythm section are stellar, but it is Rick’s blazing guitar solo that is the enjoyment of this song for me. Rick’s sound is so full and immersive you can’t help but be transfixed by it. They go in to “Big Eyes” next from the ‘In Color’ album. The song is a foot-stomping romp and feels bigger here than even the studio version. The band is so tight and what is different about this one live is Rick takes his playing to another level with even more guitar added to the song. Robin is singing his heart out and keeps this pop rock gem as one of their best tracks with such an infectious chorus.
Next up is the other new song “Need Your Love” which is totally epic at over 9 minutes long. It starts off with a slow groove from Tom and a snare drum beat from Bun E. Rick comes chugging in with a riff and the 3 piece play this groove for a minute before Robin comes quietly before the sound getting a little louder and the first verse kicks in. At about the mid-way point, the song became a jam session for the boys and was a “Hey, Look What I can do” moment for Mr. Nielsen. It is really incredible.
Side 2 kicks off with a cover of the Fats Domino classic “Ain’t That A Shame” and they take this blues treat and rock it out with a small Rick guitar solo bit at the front and huge build up and Bun E. slamming the skins with Tom laying down the groove and then the song kicks in to gear with Robin bringing his bluesy best…well, as bluesy as he can get. It is now really a straight up rock song. Tom’s bass is the driving force as you hear him thumping away as Rick is throwing guitar riffs, chords and the kitchen sink at you. It is a fun ride. The song was released as a single and went to #35 on the Billboard Charts.
Then the band goes in to the first of two classic live performances. First up is “I Want You To Want Me” and it takes an already great song and takes it up a notch. This version was released as a single and went all the way to #7 on the Billboard Charts which is better than the studio version ever did. They stick to the original sound, but live adds so much more to it. Robin sings it with so much heart you really believe that he wants you want him. The great thing about it the song is after singing every line of the chorus, the crowd chimed in time and it really added a lot to the energy of the song.
The next track is the song “Surrender” which was just released the week prior to the show. The song is pumped up to be more of a rocker and doesn’t have that full on punk angst of the studio version but is still a solid track and a favorite version of mine. Playing live gave these songs a different feel and you can’t help but love them.
“Goodnight” comes in next and it is really “Hello There” with the lyrics changed to say goodnight to the audience. It is a brilliant way to end the show and I found a cool, nice surprise. It is a short rocker that ends it all before the band comes back out do the encore with the killer “Clock Strikes Ten”. The song was a single off ‘In Color’ that was released only in Japan so it is perfect to do for an encore for a show in Japan. It starts off with an alarm sound done by Rick on guitar (originally it is a ticking clock). The song then goes to an old rockabilly stylings with that old school 50/60’s rock & roll. I even feel there is even a little Aerosmith vibe going as well. It is a fireball of a song that will get you on your feet and moving which is all we really to end the show with anyway, right!!!
And there you have it. No track listing or score as no song should ever be deleted off a live album. You have to listen to those from beginning to end with no interruptions. This album is a classic, no doubt. The band is on fire, the crowd is really in to it, the song choices are amazing and from beginning to end your ass has been rocked. The only problem with it is it is too short (which gets remedied years later with the full show released -which is a review for a later time). If you want to hear a band that is in their element on stage, look no further than this release. It is simply amazing. The band of Robin Zander, Rick Nielsen, Tom Petersson and Bun E. Carlos never sounded better. You really get caught up in the live feel of the album and that is what you want. This is easily a 5.0 out of 5.0 Stars and that is all I need to say.