How this amazing double pair of uber nerds and super rock stars ever got together is beyond me, but thank god it happened. Rockford, Illinois' Cheap Trick are a goddamn national treasure, and even despite their periodic chart-topping successes, they are still considered the most commercially successful power-pop band of the 20th century. Their pedigrees are so credentulous that you can hear the MC5 bleeding through songs off their 1977 debut like "Hot Love" with little effort, but what was the bizarre winning combination that made this band such a smash? Their best songs are so simple, pure, and painfully perfect that you can instantly smell the suntan lotion, and even somehow it's not really a problem to repeatedly re-watch their recent McDonalds commercial. They almost even signed to Bomp Records, but took the bigger pile of cash at the last minute. Was it the fact that bassist Tom Petersson's older brother was rumored to be none other than Dickie Peterson of Blue Cheer? Or the fact that their main songwriter, Rick Nielsen was so over-the-top hyperactive and just a general goofball that their songs came out as good as they did in the mid 70s, despite the fierce presence of first-wave punk rolling along at full-power?
Robin Zander's charismatic recommendation by the character, "Damone" in Fast Times At Ridgemont High film even solidified his legendary status all the more. And what about your old buddy Bun E. Carlos? An inspiration for the 'cubicle look' even before it was cool to have coffee stains down the front of your shirt. Their unrestrained rock'n roll power is truly an inspiration, and they did it their way, 9-necked guitars and all. The ball really got rolling when the notoriously avid pop aficionado Greg Shaw caught wind of these boys before the majors, of course, and was only inches away from releasing their debut on his now legendary Bomp! label, but lost out at the last minute to Epic/CBS. The raw pop brilliance of their self-titled debut LP is still a high watermark even by today's standards, and their decision to give in to the record company's pressure on their (in their opinion) inferior In Color follow-up album and tone down their sound has only recently been rectified. In 2002 the band went into the studio with one of their biggest fans, Steve Albini, and actually re-recorded the entire album, the way they always wanted to. The recording still sadly remains unreleased, but if you look hard enough, you'll find some really mind blowing recordings from a band that should be far too old to care. Upon the FM-friendly success of their 3rd LP Heaven Tonight, "Surrender" became a hit and eventually led them to Japan and the adoring fans that filled the Budokan stadium. The subsequent recording of the television show was made into the album everyone knows like an old friend who's always got a drink for you. Live at Budokan. Three million copies later, they were legitimate pop stars in every regard, and the success of the the live version of "I Want You To Want Me" was surely the soundtrack to many a final virginal night, but the really important thing is that their music still had that unimitable line of hooks and harmonies that inspired hundreds of clones, almost overnight. Right place, right time, right formula, right on. Cheap Trick are unrefined sonic pleasure.
Well, it's officially summer, and what better soundtrack than the always gratifying sounds of Cheap Trick? They still gig regularly, and it's so much better than you'd believe, so if you haven't had the chance to see them, be sure to make it out, if it's not already in your plans. Their new album, Rockford, is out as well and there's vintage videos galore to check out, too. There's really been nothing like them before or since, and it's with great pleasure that we enrich your life with even more Cheap Trick. Be sure to pick up their Sex, America boxed set if you haven't already, with hits out the ass, and even a couple Velvet Underground covers just to keep that big mouth of yours shut.
From their 1976 video promo reel, here's "Oh Candy"
and "Downed" from their Live at Budokan Japanese TV special
and a promo clip for "Voices" from the Dream Police album
and if you haven't heard or seen it, check out the original version of "California Man" by the Move (covered by Cheap Trick on the Heaven Tonight LP)
and be sure to visit the always amazing Bedazzled site and download tons of unreleased rare recordings,HERE