After three labels on three different albums, things weren’t going great for Cheap Trick. Robin Zander, Rick Nielsen, Tom Petersson and Bun E. Carlos needed to rebuild and find themselves again. One way they did this was by Epic Records re-releasing their stellar live album ‘At Budokan’, but this time they did a 2 CD release of the entire concert. All 19 tracks in order just as one done in the concert the show was from back in 1978. It was the 20th Anniversary of the original album and time to show the fans what all the fuss was about once again but in glorious full setlist detail.
The album came out on April 8, 1998 which was only 20 short days from the release of the official album which makes me wonder why they didn’t just wait a few more weeks. But what do I know. The concert was completely remastered and fully restored with all the tracks. And since we’ve already been through the original album track by track, we will focus on only the songs that were not included on the original.
That means we will kick things off with “ELO Kiddies” from their 1977 debut album. Live the song has even more of the band’s early punk aggression. It sounds rich and full and ready to rock your face off. They go straight in to the Terry Reid cover of “Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace” also from their first album. Tom Petersson starts it off on bass and he gives us a little solo rather than the normal blues guitar opening. We get a two minute instrumental instrumental before the song really gets going. The song rocks more than before and Robin sounds as great as ever.
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.
After the disappointing sales of their debut, the band quickly jumped back in to the studio to work on their second album, ‘In Color’. By September of 1977, the album was done and released. The album was far more polished than the rawness of the debut. I am sure they were hoping for a more radio-friendly sound and hoping for a big single. Which sadly, they did not get in the U.S. However, the band became superstars with this album in Japan. Yep, Japan. When they went and toured that country the next year, they were welcomed with a whole Beatlemania type vibe and the country just loved them. But we will get to that later.
The album cover as interesting. On the front, you have Robin Zander and Tom Petersson on the front riding motorcycles and in vivid color. But when you turn the cover over, you get an upside picture of Rick Nielsen and Bun E. Carlos riding bicycles and in black & white. I loved the contrast between the two pictures as it shows a playful band that doesn’t take itself too seriously and is having a little fun. Although the album is a single LP, you get a gatefold album jacket and in the inside picture is of the whole band in bright, bright color and again split between the same two members on each side, but at least Bun and Rick are not upside down this time.