After the disappointing results of the George Martin produced ‘One on One’, the band went back to their earlier Power Pop sound using producer Todd Rundgren. Now, hearing Rundgren was the producer made me think this might get just as experimental as the previous one, but surprisingly it doesn’t. It sticks to a sound of the band’s earlier albums like ‘In Color’ and ‘Heaven Tonight’. As we are now dead in the middle of the new wave movement that Cheap Trick influenced the bands in this genre greatly, it was a strange thing to have them go back in time with their sound and not push the sound further forward. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t sound like the 80’s at times because it does, it is just when they do they classic Cheap Trick sound, it really works well.
The band at the time was still Robin Zander, Rick Nielsen, Bun E. Carlos and newer member Jon Brant. And from what I’ve read, many members of the band feel this is one of their favorite albums. I can’t say I agree with that statement, but we will get to that in a minute.
The album was recorded back in December 1982 at Utopia Sound in Lake Hill, New York which I am guessing is Rundgren’s studio as he has an album called Utopia which I own. But the album didn’t actually see the light of day August 15, 1983 which to me is quite a long stretch between recording and releasing. That would be normal in today’s timeframe with delays on vinyl pressing, but back then turnaround time was much faster. Not sure why the delay. The album charted only as high as #61 and the two singles on the album didn’t break the Top 40 and in fact, not sure if they even charted at all. The album didn’t even go Gold. This was not turning out to be a very shining example of the who the band were.
The band waited two years to record their follow-up to the George Martin produced album, ‘All Shook Up’. During that time, their record label, CBS, sued the band for a whopping $10 million alleging the band was holding out recording a new album to get a better deal. By 1982, the lawsuit was settled and the band started working on their sixth studio album, ‘One on One’.
The band had a new bass player after original member, Tom Petersson left back in 1980. His name was Pete Comita. Well, Pete didn’t last long and was replaced rather quickly during the early recordings of the album. In fact, he doesn’t appear on any of the album. They replaced him with bass player, Jon Brant. Jon came in so late, he is only on three of the songs. Guitarist, Rick Nielsen picked up the slack and played bass on all the other tracks. And the other two members, Robin Zander and Bun E. Carlos were still able to their jobs and quite well.
One thing I found interesting about the album is the cover. You have a new member and yet if you look at the cover, his face is obscured unlike anyone else’s faces. I think this was done on purpose because hadn’t been in the band very long and didn’t contribute much to the album.
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.
The 70’s were a huge decade for Cheap Trick. In just three short years, we were blessed with four studio albums and one of the greatest live albums of all time with ‘Cheap Trick at Budokan’. Not a bad run. Now we are in to the 80’s and this album was sort of a way to end the 70’s with a nice little bonus. The four-song E.P. was released on 10″ Vinyl and was part of Epic Records series called Nu-Disk, but that series was rather short-lived and I don’t know if I’ve found another album from that series.
If I remember correctly, it was believed that some of the songs on here were from a Cheap Trick album that was canned and never released, especially when more songs from this time frame were released as bonus tracks on other releases/compilations down the road. I believe there were 7 other tracks with all but 1 being released. However, I don’t think that was ever confirmed or denied. Most likely, they were working on an album and decided to shift gears in to a new direction which then became the album ‘All Shook Up’ which we will get to next time.
The album was released on June 2, 1980 and contained four tracks. Side 1 were both live songs (cough, cough, sort of) and side 2 were brand new studio tracks (thus the rumors mentioned above). I don’t see any chart information on them so not sure how well the E.P. did, but doesn’t matter to me as I love finding this kind of stuff.
The success of the live album, ‘Cheap Trick at Budokan’, kept delaying the release of the band’s fourth studio album, ‘Dream Police’. And that was a great problem to have. The band recorded the album during ’78 and was ready to be released, but the label thought since ‘Bodokan’ had been imported so much in to the US, why not release the live album domestically. And it certainly paid off. They cleaned up a few things in early ’79 and it finally got a released date on September 21, 1979 as Budokan was blowing up the charts. That momentum set the band up for what would become their biggest commercial album to date. Heck, it only took the album a few months to go platinum. The album spawned four singles across the globe and gave the band two Top 40 songs on the Billboard Charts. Yes sir, Cheap Trick had made it to the big time. An audience that wasn’t ready for them a few short years earlier was finally on board.
Cheap Trick brought back Tom Werner for a third time as producer and this time around, the band experimented with their sound and brought in new elements such as orchestration and even songs that were structured to be more complex and definitely longer tracks as one almost hits 10 minutes. This was a band that was not afraid to try new things and this time around, it paid off…big time!! Band members, Robin Zander, Rick Nielsen, Tom Petersson and Bun E. Carlos were ready to take on the world and now the world was ready for them.
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.
The band finally started to catch on to the world with the release of their third album, “Heaven Tonight”. The album was released on April 24, 1978 and what is interesting is four days later they were touring Japan and played at a little arena called Nippon Budokan and we will get to that story in the next review. First, we need to talk this album. The band’s third album, which in some circles is considered the best, but it is way too early to make that call. This one though does bring the best of the first two albums in to focus. It has some of the first albums raw sound and then it takes some of the power pop sounds of the second and makes a pretty damn fine combination. The album did well as it charted at #48 on the Billboard Charts and going Gold a year later. By 1995, it has since been certified Platinum.
There are also two big firsts on this album. The first is they finally had a single chart with “Surrender” as it went to #62 on the Billboard Hot 100. The other first is more of a recording history fact in that this is the first recording to ever feature a 12-String Bass…yep…that is a right…12 strings. Not the wimpy-ass 4 string bass, nope four strings are for pussies. Only bad ass bass players play a 12 String bass!! Okay, I have no idea if that is true, but it sounds good…to me at least.
This is also the second album in a row to feature only Robin Zander and Tom Petersson on the cover similar to ‘In Color’. Based on the cover, it looks like a standard background, but when you flip it over you see Rick Nielsen and Bun E. Carlos standing in bathroom. Yes, great place for a group photo. As a result, the record company wanted to call the album ‘American Standard’ as that is a very popular brand of plumbing supplies. Thankfully, that was nixed and they went with the ‘Heaven Tonight’ title.
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.
Welcome to the new series The Cheap Trick Collection Series. That means we will be going through every Cheap Trick album that I have in my collection whether it be on studio album, live album, compilations, singles or whatever it may be and it doesn’t matter if it is on Vinyl, CD, 7″ Single. We will go through them in chronological order starting with their 1977 debut and all the way up to the 2021 release ‘In Another World’ and most things in between…not all as I don’t have everything. Currently I’m missing some live albums, some greatest hits albums and even the Christmas album which I don’t think I can convince myself to buy (not a fan of Christmas albums). So, why don’t we get started with the debut, self-titled album from 1997, ‘Cheap Trick’.
Cheap Trick’s roots stem back to a band called Fuse which Rick Nielsen formed back in 1967 with Tom Petersson back in Rockford, Illinois. They recruited Bun E. Carlos on drums and they moved to Philadelphia where they changed their name for a short time to Sick Man of Europe. was formed back around 1973 and then lead singer, Randy “Xeno” Hogan, left the band shortly there after in 1974. They quickly replaced Randy with lead singer Robin Zander and the current line-up of Rick Nielsen, Tom Petersson, Bun E. Carlos and Robin Zander was born. By 1975, they recorded a demo and they played a ton of shows. They shopped the demo around and by very early 1976, they were signed to Epic Records. Epic Records didn’t waste much time and got the band in the studio to record their first album, simply titled ‘Cheap Trick’.
Now the above story is what Wiki has you believing, but if you read the back of the album sleeve, you get a different history of the band. One that has them spending a lot of time in Europe (which they did) and forming the band while they were there. That European influence the guys had opened them up to so many different sounds and influences that broaden the scope of the type of music they would perform. If you have the sleeve, give it a read.
Cheap Trick is the fine wine of Rock & Roll…they keep getting better with age. Okay, that was extremely cheesy if not entirely true! They are now on their 18th Studio album after 44 years together. To top it off, it has only been around 15 months since their last one, ‘Bang, Zoom, Crazy…Hello’. The new album picks up right where that album left off. ‘We’re All Alright!’ even takes it to the next level.
The album title, ‘We’re All Alright!’, is a line straight out of their classic song “Surrender” and the whole album is classic Cheap Trick. The album is a fast paced, juggernaut of pure Cheap Trick rock. The songs are generally around 3 minutes and the album flies by at only 33 minutes (45 for the deluxe edition). The album consists of new songs and some old songs that were never recorded or released.
For a band where the members are well into their 60’s, they sound so alive and refreshing and sound better than bands that are half their age. Robin Zander’s vocals are amazing and sound like he did when he was a kid. Rick Nielsen’s guitar work on the album is the highlight for me. So many great riffs and solos that music today is sorely missing. Tom Petersson’s work on the bass keeps everyone in line and adds the finishing touches to each song. Daxx Nielsen (Rick’s son) on drums has that old Cheap Trick sound and keep the band going at a heart stopping pace.