Cheap Trick was in high gear and on a tremendous pace of album/tour, album/tour and it was getting relentless. After the massive success of Budokan and Dream Police, they went to work on the next album, but this time around they were wanting to try something different. The first thing they did was part ways with long time producer, Tom Werman, who had produced everything except the debut.
The band had always been considered an American version of the Beatles and since they were huge fans of them, why not work with the one of the most famous producers, the fifth Beatle, George Martin. So off to London they went and recorded the album at Air Studios in London. Of course this was a big change for the band and their sound. Gone were the radio-friendly singles and in was a more experimental sound. They took chances and tried new things and whether for the better or not, we will shortly find out.
The band was still in tact with Robin Zander, Rick Nielsen, Tom Petersson and Bun E. Carlos. They finished up the album, but by the time it was done, Tom Petersson was exhausted. He was done as well. The non-stop touring and add to the fact he was not thrilled with the direction of the band and he didn’t even bother showing up in London when it was time to mix the album. And by August 26, 1980, Tom left the band to go record his own album with his wife. Who I think the band feels was part of his problem. Maybe she was their Yoko. The band pressed on and the album saw its release on October 24, 1980.
To further add to the interesting changes in the bands sound, we have the album artwork that was very different stylistically from their previous albums. This one was inspired by Magritte’s Time Transfixed. It was unusual to say the least. My copy, thankfully still has the sleeve insert with a lot more artwork in the same vein as the cover. It is bizarre for sure but any album artwork that has a Darth Vader helmet in it, is fine by me!!
Now it is time to step in to the strange world of “All Shook Up”…or was it really that different? We will see.
The opening track and first single was “Stop the Game” which was written by Rick and Robin. It starts off and ends with this guitar note that drones on like the note in The Beatles song “A Day in the Life” and when it kicks in you hear a lot more Beatles vibes. But it is still Cheap Trick, only slicker and more polished thanks to Martin. The song feels so grand and epic and I really like the changes. Robin sounds great vocally and the music is larger than life with so much going on as it is a lot to take in. The song didn’t make the Top 40 as it stalled out at #48 and then the band saw no Top 40 hits at all for this album.
It immediately transitions in to “Just Got Back” with a tribal drum beat from Bun E. is a rocking, fun track and Robin’s vocals will charm the crap out of you. He goes a little wild and the song is really a Bun E. highlight as well as his drumming throughout is stellar. It is one of my favorite tracks on the album.
Then we get a 50’s rockabilly style with “Baby Loves to Rock”. There is a nod to The Beatles “Back in the USSR” with the lyric “Not in Russia” and an airplane sound in the background. And if that wasn’t enough, they stole the riff from the Yardbirds song “Psycho Daisies”. The song’s big highlight is the guitar solo and bass solo as Tom’s bass gets down and dirty along Rick’s slamming guitar. There are so many sound effects in the background you hear something different every time. A total blast of a track.
Next up is the more subtle, understated song “Can’t Stop It But I’m Gonna Try”. Well, compared to the first three songs on the album. It isn’t a bad track at all, but does lack a lot of the energy and craziness of the earlier tracks.
Then we get to the final song on Side 1, the amazing “World’s Greatest Lover” which actually comes from a line in the song “I Know What I Want” off the Dream Police album. The song is pure Beatles and this time around is a ballad. Robin sounds a lot like Lennon on this one. It actually tells the story of a guy trapped in a foxhole in World War 1 at least that is what I read. Out of all the songs on the album, this one is more the blatantly The Beatles and who better than George Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick to help you get that sound.
The 2nd side kicks off with what I thought was going to be a stellar rock called “High Priest of Rhythmic Noise”, but when they added the spoken word part that sounds like a robot (recorded through a vocoder) really kills it for me. What a distraction and so stupid. The band was going for some cool, futuristic sound, but it is a completely unnecessary mess. If I could get a mix with that stripped out, this would be a really killer track. But with the way it is, I can’t really listen to it.
Next up is “Love Comes a-Tumblin’ Down” which pays homage to the late Bon Scott who had recently passed away. It is a little bluesy, but mostly a bouncy rocker that is uptempo and will get you speeding down the road to keep pace. There is a great Rick guitar solo that fits the song so perfectly. It is as bouncy and quick as the song. There is a spoken part after the solo that you can barely hear in the background and it is read by George Martin.
“I Love You Honey But I Hate Your Friends” is classic Cheap Trick. Another old style rocker and is influenced a lot by Mr. Rod Stewart and his band The Faces which is good enough for me. It is a boogie woogie good time. The band even gives a shout-out to the song in the lyrics to “Daddy Should Have Stayed In High School” from their debut album. This would be another favorite of mine.
“Go For the Throat (Use Your Own Imagination)” opens with some keyboard notes and then some Bun E. drum fills with Tom thumping heavy on the bass and then turns in to a straight up rocker. Tom’s bass on this is prominent throughout and nice to hear more of him. It has some punk attitude with Robin’s vocals and has a lot of back and forth with Robin and background vocals for a cool effect.
The final track is “Who D’King” written with Rick and Bun E. which is Bun E. only co-write. It is a tribal drum beat with hoots and hollers and honestly, it reminds me of Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk. Lyrically, there is nothing to it a lot of “Who D’King of the whole wide world” and chants. It isn’t bad, but it is strange and not what I would expect from the band. It is skippable for me and I wouldn’t feel like I’m missing out.
- Stop This Game – Keeper
- Just Got Back – Keeper
- Baby Loves to Rock – Keeper
- Can’t Stop It But I’m Gonna Try – Keeper (1/2 Point)
- World’s Greatest Lover – Keeper
- High Priest of Rhythmic Noise – Delete
- Love Comes a-Tumblin’ Down –Keeper
- I Love You Honey But I Hate Your Friends – Keeper
- Go for the Throat (Use Your Own Imagination) – Keeper (1/2 Point)
- Who D’King – Delete
The Track Score is 7 out of 10 Tracks or 70%. Not their best score on this, but still not bad. I did enjoy this album and the experimentation. Sometimes I do feel they play the Beatles influence too much on their sleeves but at the same time, why not. They do it well. The first half of the album was really strong and one of the most enjoyable sides for me. The back half slogs along with more misses than hits and brings the album down for me. I can’t say for sure of George Martin helped or hurt, but I am sure he taught them a lot. Overall, I will give the album a 3.5 out of 5.0 Stars is it is an above average album, but no where near the level of what they are capable of doing. Is this the end of the glory years with the band now that Tom is gone? We will have to wait and see.