Cheap Trick is an American rock/Power Pop
band from Rockford, Illinois, that gained popularity in the late 1970s. The band consists of Robin Zander (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Rick Nielsen (lead guitar, backing vocals), Tom Petersson (bass guitar, backing vocals), and Bun E. Carlos (drums, percussion).
Cheap Trick created a substantial fan base through a hard-edged yet melodic pop sound that combines the tunefulness of The Beatles
with the speed and energy of Punk Rock
, making them probably the most popular Power Pop
band. Their biggest hits include "Surrender", "I Want You to Want Me", "Dream Police" and "The Flame." Cheap Trick also performed the theme song "That '70s Song" for That '70s Show
from the second season onward and the theme song "Baby Muggles" for The Colbert Report
. Songs by the band even appear in two of the cult animated films of the early 1980s, Rock & Rule
with "Born to Raise Hell" and "Send Love Through" with Debbie Harry
and Heavy Metal
with "Reach Out".
Cheap Trick continues to tour with the original lineup, and their most recent release, 2009's The Latest
, has gained critical acclaim. The band is most popular in Japan
, where they have remained popular superstars since their first album - what's more, they only climbed to similarly large popularity in the USA with the 1978 Live Album At Budokan
, initially a Japan-only release. They have been often referred to in the Japanese press as the "American Beatles
Bands citing Cheap Trick as an influence include Nirvana
and several dozen Power Pop
bands. Kurt Cobain once said about Nirvana: "We sound just like Cheap Trick, only the guitars are louder."
Some of their famous songs include:
This band has examples of:
- Adults Are Useless: Not really. Mommy's alright, daddy's alright, they just seem a little weird...
- Plus, momma told me, yeah she told me, I'd meet girls like you – and father did say, after all, that your mother's right; she's really up on things.
- Arena Rock: While much of their output is quirkier than that of the usual arena rockers, they influenced the genre and even dipped into it themselves during the Lap of Luxury era.
- Audience Participation Song: "I Want You to Want Me", as evidenced on At Budokan. After the line "Didn't I, didn't I, didn't I see you cryin'?" the audience shouts "CRYIN'! CRYIN'! CRYIN'!", mimicking the echo heard after the line on the studio version.
- Book Ends: Their concerts usually start with "Hello There", and end with "Good Night".
- Bowties Are Cool: A bow tie is part of Rick's usual stage attire.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Rick Nielsen and Bun E. Carlos carry cartoonish stage personas, but Nielsen can carry a set on the strength of his guitar playing alone, and Carlos has superb chops as a drummer.
- Cover Version: Their live version of Fats Domino's "Ain't That a Shame", from Budokan, remains one of their biggest radio songs. Heaven Tonight has a cover of The Move's "California Man". "Don't Be Cruel", the follow-up single to "The Flame" from Lap of Luxury, is a cover of the Elvis Presley classic, and went all the way to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100.
- Driven to Suicide: An oddly recurring theme.
- Drugs Are Bad: The creepy "Heaven Tonight" is about an overdose.
- Epic Rocking: Live versions of "Gonna Raise Hell" and "Heaven Tonight" could get pretty long. "Need Your Love" as well: the version captured on At Budokan lasts nine minutes.
- Intercourse with You: The main theme of She's Tight.
- Long Title: "The Ballad of T.V. Violence (I'm Not the Only Boy)"
- Lyrical Dissonance: "Auf Wiedersehen" has to be the happiest-ever song about suicide.
- They like jarring mood swings, as in "How Are You?": in the middle of a bouncy, cheery, singsong melody is a sudden, accusing "How could you? Why did you?"
- Nice Guys: They had a good reputation among other bands who toured with them, and were respectful towards their supporting acts. When The Angels/Angel City's equipment was stolen, Cheap Trick provided them with gear to finish their tour. By contrast, The Kinks the same year found Angel City's act too difficult to follow and dropped them from the bill.
- Nice Hat: Rick Nielsen
- Notable Music Videos
- Power Ballad: "The Flame"
- The Power of Rock: Rock & Rule
- Real Song Theme Tune: That '70s Show. The theme song, "That 70's Song", is a loose cover of "In the Street" by Big Star.
- Rerelease the Song: The studio version of "I Want You to Want Me" was released in 1977 but failed to chart. A live version from Live at Budokan two years later became their first Top 10 hit in the US.
- Also counts as Rearrange the Song - the two versions are barely recognizable. In fact, the only version people seem to want to acknowledge the existence of is the At Budokan version.
- Rock Band: "Hello There" is Rock Band 2's intro song. Also, three of their hits were released for Rock Band 3 as DLC (all of them from the At Budokan live album): "Surrender", "I Want You to Want Me" and "Dream Police".
- Sampling: "Taxman, Mr. Thief" samples The Beatles' "Taxman."
- Self-Titled Album: Twice! Exactly twenty years apart, no less.
- Shout-Out - "When I woke up / Mom and Dad are rolling on the couch / Rolling numbers, rock and rolling / got my KISS records out."
- At concerts the band would toss KISS albums into the audience during that part of the song.
- Smoking Is Cool: Averted. While Bun E. Carlos was famous for his ever-present cigarette while he performed, he quit smoking in the 90s.
- Three Chords and the Truth: One of the most common praises of At Budokan is that it presents the respective songs in a comparatively "raw", energetic fashion in comparison with Tom Werman's "overproduction" on that period's albums (something which even the band members criticised for In Color). For example, compare the album and live versions of "Surrender": the live one nearly drowns out the synth, cranks up the guitars, gives the drums more punch and still includes really loud audience cheering, adding to the atmosphere. The In Color version of "I Want You To Want Me" was released as a single and never charted in the USA, but the Budokan version of "I Want You To Want Me" was released as a single, peaked at #7 and became one of their best-selling singles.
- Their 1977 self-titled debut gets similar praise. It was produced by Jack Douglas in a noticeably rawer fashion than Werman's work on the following albums.
- The band wised up to this starting in The Nineties (presumably the viciously criticised sound of The Doctor played a part), and all their albums since Woke Up With a Monster have returned to that kind of direct sound. They even re-recorded In Color with Steve Albini in 1998 to make it sound rawer, but said result was never officially released. It did leak online though.
- Unusual Euphemism: "Big Eyes". Doesn't sound like he's really looking her in the eye.
- Up to Eleven: Double-necked guitars, which usually added a second, 12-string neck to the body of the guitar, were a popular gimmick in the 1970s. Neilsen went and got a three-... no, four-... no, FIVE-necked guitar made for himself.
- Heaven Tonight was the first album ever to use a 12-string bass.
- Westminster Chimes: Hi there, "Clock Strikes Ten".