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.