The greatest fucking rock band you've ever seen...
They just seem a little weird
But don't give yourself away
Cheap Trick is an American Hard Rock/Power Pop band from Rockford, Illinois, that gained popularity in the late 1970s. The band's classic lineup 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 1980's, 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, albeit without original drummer Bun E. Carlos since 2010; he was replaced with unofficial member and touring drummer Daxx Nielsen, Rick's son. Carlos is still involved with the band in a limited fashion, mostly business, and all four original members played at the band's induction into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in 2016. The latest iteration of the band has released three albums in the span of 20 months; two studio albums and one Christmas album, with all three getting positive reviews, continuing a streak started with 2006's "Rockford".
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".
Principal Members (Founding members in bold):
- Robin Zander - lead vocals, rhythm guitar (1974present)
- Rick Nielsen lead guitar, keyboards, backing vocals (1974present)
- Tom Petersson bass, backing vocals (19741980, 1987present)
- Daxx Nielsen drums (2001, 2010present)
- Bun E. Carlos drums, occasional backing vocals (19742010; one-off 2012, 2016)
- Randy Hogan lead vocals (1974)
- Pete Comita bass, backing vocals (19801981)
- Jon Brant bass, backing vocals (19811987, 20042005, 2007; one-off 1999)
Some of their famous songs include:
- "Dream Police"
- "The Flame" - Their sole #1 hit.
- "I Want You to Want Me"
- "If You Want My Love"
- "She's Tight"
- "Surrender" - Probably their most widely recognized song.
Studio and Live Discography:
- 1977 - Cheap Trick
- 1977 - In Color
- 1978 - Heaven Tonight
- 1978/79 - Cheap Trick at Budokan
- 1979 - Dream Police
- 1980 - All Shook Up
- 1982 - One on One
- 1983 - Next Position Please
- 1985 - Standing on the Edge
- 1986 - The Doctor
- 1988 - Lap of Luxury
- 1990 - Busted
- 1994 - Woke Up with a Monster
- 1997 - Cheap Trick '97
- 2003 - Special One
- 2006 - Rockford
- 2009 - The Latest
- 2016 - Bang, Zoom, Crazy... Hello
- 2017 - We're All Alright!
- 2017 - Christmas Christmas
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.
- Bizarre Instrument: Rick Nielsen's quintuple-neck guitars custom-made by Hamer. That said, all five necks have always been playable.
- Bookends: Their concerts usually start with "Hello There", and end with "Good Night".
- Bowties Are Cool: And they're part of Rick Nielsen's charm.
- 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.
- Canon Discontinuity: The band released the non-album single "Up the Creek" in 1984, which appeared on the soundtrack of the film of the same name. But despite the fact that it cracked the top-40 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart, it didn't appear on any Cheap Trick compilations until 2015. Both Carlos and Nielsen have derided the song in interviews.
- Cover Album: Sgt. Pepper Live, backed by an orchestra.
- 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. They recorded a version of Big Star's "In the Street" as the theme song for That '70s Show as "That '70s Song".
- Driven to Suicide: An oddly recurring theme.
- Drugs Are Bad: The creepy "Heaven Tonight" is about an overdose.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Their first album is a lot darker (well, it's Black Comedy) than the next two or three, which are generally regarded as their most characteristic output. "ELO Kiddies" is crackling with menace; "Daddy Should Have Stayed In High School" is an unbelievably creepy power pop song sung from the POV of a paedophile, complete with recorded playground voices; "He's a Whore" is a brutally unsentimental look at a heartless gigolo, etc. What the hell did teenage Japanese girls see in these songs? (Other than that they seriously rocked.)
- 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-Runner Line-up: The classic lineup of Robin Zander, Rick Nielsen, Tom Petersson, and Bun E. Carlos only lasted from 1974 to 1980, when Petersson left the band and was replaced by a series of bass players. He returned in 1987 and the band has since achieved Long Runner status by never changing their lineup permanently again. Carlos stopped touring with the band in 2010, replaced in concerts by Nielsen's son Daxx, but remains an official band member.
- 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?"
- Metal Scream: Robin Zander uses Type 1 in "Gonna Raise Hell" and Type 4 in many songs, especially the last minute of "The Ballad of TV Violence," the climax of "Stiff Competition," and the bridge of "Gonna Raise Hell."
- 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: As demonstrated in the animated film Rock & Rule.
- Radio Song: "On the Radio," which Rick Nielsen described as "about being fourteen years old and wishing you had a car, riding out, where your best friend was the guy on the radio."
- Re-release 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. Which 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.
- 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 for which even the band members criticized 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 '90s (presumably the viciously criticized 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.
- Torch Song: "The Flame".
- 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 1970's. 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.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Bun E. Carlos fell out with the band in 2010 and stopped playing with them, primarily because he insulted Robin Zander's family (because Zander wanted a shortened playing schedule that year to spend more time with them). Nevertheless, when the band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 2016, they had him play with them when they performed.
- Westminster Chimes: Hi there, "Clock Strikes Ten".