Cheap Trick mixes new music with the classics
June 20, 2007
By Rick Chandler
Lake Tahoe Action
Mike Damone: “Can you honestly tell me that you forgot? Forgot the magnetism of Robin Zander or the charisma of Rick Nielsen?”
Linda Barrett: “It’s kid’s stuff.”
Mike Damone: “Kid stuff? How ’bout the tunes? ‘I want you to want me!’ ‘The dream police, da-na-na-na-na-na-na-na.’ ‘Your mama’s alright, your daddy’s alright, they just seem a little bit weird/Surrender.'”
— Fast Times at Ridgemont High
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Real Cheap Trick fans know the score.
This band is one of the classics, and real fans, such as ticket hustler Mike Damone, can tell you that they’ve been around almost as long as the British Invasion. It was 1968, in fact, that Rockford Ill., natives Rick Nielsen and Tom Petersson merged their bands to form Sick Man of Europe, which would soon change its name to Cheap Trick after adding drummer Bun E. Carlos and vocalist Randy “Xeno” Hogan. Hogan left the following year and ex-folk singer Robin Zander joined the group. Between 1974 and the band’s first album in 1977, Cheap Trick toured constantly, playing over 200 concerts a year, including opening slots for Queen, The Kinks, Kiss, and Santana.
Oh, you’re familiar with Cheap Trick, even if you don’t think you are. Know the theme song to “That ’70s Show?” (“Hangin’ out, down the street … We’re all alright!”). That’s Cheap Trick.
Ironically, Cheap Trick first shot to superstardom not in the U.S., but in Japan. The Budokan concerts introduced the Nielsen and Tom Petersson composition “Need Your Love,” which the band had already recorded for “Dream Police,” their fourth album which was released later in 1979. The success the band enjoyed in Japan was enormous, far exceeding their popularity in the U.S. at the time.
Fifteen albums, dozens of movie soundtracks (including songs for “Top Gun” and “Detroit Rock City”) and hundreds of thousands of concert miles later, Cheap Trick is still going strong. The band performs live for one night only in the South Shore Room at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe on Saturday, June 23.
Cheap Trick signed with Epic records in 1976 and released their self-titled debut album in 1977. The album was comprised of a broad and brilliant collection of what some called power pop with a metallic edge. It sold well in the U.S. and was quickly followed “In Color” and “Heaven Tonight,” which included the ultimate ’70s teen anthem “Surrender.”
The live version of “I Want You To Want Me,” recorded in Japan, became their first Top 10 hit.
Today, the band consists of Zander (lead vocals and guitar), Petersson (bass and vocals), Nielsen (lead guitars and vocals) and Carlos (drums).
Yes, more than 30 years later Cheap Trick is still writing, performing and touring. What keeps them going?
“Well, the fact that we keep doing new music. It makes it so it’s tolerable to play the older things,” Zander said in a recent interview with Salt Lake Weekly. “I mean, we’re musicians, we can handle it, but playing new stuff kinda keeps you fresh.
“Music is bigger than all of us,” he said. “It’s bigger than Aerosmith, it’s bigger than Led Zeppelin, it’s bigger than the Beatles, it’s bigger than Cheap Trick. And so, especially if you’re on the creative and performing side of it, trying new things is always something pretty darn cool.”