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Cheap Trick as most of you well know is an American rock band from Rockford, Illinois, formed in 1973. As of 2010, the band currently consists of Robin Zander (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Rick Nielsen (lead guitar), and Tom Petersson (bass). Their biggest hits include "Surrender", "I Want You to Want Me", "Dream Police" and "The Flame".
They have often been referred to in the Japanese press as the "American Beatles". In October 2007, the Illinois Senate passed a resolution designating April 1 as Cheap Trick Day in the state. The band was also ranked No. 25 in VH1's list of the 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock. In April 2016, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
--Cheap Trick Early Years (1961–74)--
In 1961, Nielsen began playing locally in Rockford, Illinois using an ever-increasing collection of rare and valuable guitars. He formed several local bands with names like The Boyz and The Grim Reapers. Brad Carlson, later known as Bun E. Carlos, played in a rival Rockford band, the Pagans. Finally, Nielsen formed Fuse in 1967 with Tom Peterson, later known as Tom Petersson, who had played in yet another local band called The Bo Weevils.
Fuse released a self-titled album for Epic Records in 1970, which was generally ignored. Frustrated by their lack of success, Fuse recruited the two remaining members of Nazz in 1970 and ended up playing around the Midwest for 6–7 months under two monikers, Fuse or Nazz, depending on where they were gigging. With Bun E. Carlos joining on drums, Fuse moved to Philadelphia in 1971. They began calling themselves "Sick Man of Europe" in 1972–1973. After a European tour in 1973, Nielsen and Petersson returned to Rockford and reunited with Carlos.
Randy "Xeno" Hogan was the original lead singer for Cheap Trick. He left the band shortly after its formation and was replaced by Robin Zander. The name was inspired by the band's attendance of a Slade concert, where Petersson commented that the band used "every cheap trick in the book" as part of their act. The band recorded (with Hogan), an official demo, "Hot Tomato", around mid 1974, parts of which would form "I'll Be with You Tonight", which was first called "Tonight, Tonight" (and a slightly different structure), and "Takin' Me Back".
--Cheap Trick Classic years (1975–78)--
With Robin Zander now on vocals, the band recorded their first official demo in 1975 and played in warehouses, bowling alleys, and various other venues around the midwestern United States. The band was signed to Epic Records in early 1976 by A&R man Tom Werman, at the insistence of producer Jack Douglas who had seen the band perform in Wisconsin. The songs they had written and performed, such as "I Want You To Want Me" which was first performed on April 17, 1975, in Milwaukee, would not be released until a few years later. The later-hit song was played that summer, and frequently throughout the spring and summer of 1976 throughout the aforementioned Midwest locations
The band released their first album, Cheap Trick, in early 1977, produced by Jack Douglas. While favored by critics, the album was not successful in terms of sales. The album's lone single "Oh Candy" failed to chart as did the album. However, the band began to develop a fan base in Japan and "ELO Kiddies" was a hit single in Europe. Their second album In Color was released later that year and was produced by Tom Werman, who brought out their lighter and more pop-oriented side, producing an album much more polished than their first. However, the band bemoaned In Color's production and would re-record it many years later. Moreover the album was largely unsuccessful. The singles "Southern Girls", "I Want You To Want Me", and "So Good To See You", failed to chart. However, "I Want You To Want Me" and "Clock Strikes Ten" were hit singles in Japan, with the latter going to No. 1 on the charts. In Color ultimately was ranked No. 443 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
The band's third album, Heaven Tonight, released in May 1978 and again produced by Tom Werman, combined elements of the first two albums. Regarded by many fans and critics as their best album, the lead-off track "Surrender" was Cheap Trick's first single to chart in the United States, peaking at No. 62. It has gone on to become one of the band's signature songs. Heaven Tonight is also noteworthy as the first album recorded with a 12-string electric bass.
Perhaps most importantly, this album made the band megastars in Japan.
--Cheap Trick Live at Budokan brings success (1978–81)--
None of Cheap Trick's first three albums made it into the Top 40 in the United States. In Japan, however, all three albums became gold records. When Cheap Trick went to Japan to tour the country for the first time in April 1978, they were received with a frenzy reminiscent of Beatlemania. During this tour, Cheap Trick recorded two concerts attended by their loyal Japanese fans at the Nippon Budokan. Ten tracks taken from both shows were compiled and released as a live album titled Cheap Trick at Budokan, which was intended to be exclusive to Japan. Demand for the import album became so great that Epic Records finally released the album in the United States in February 1979.
Cheap Trick at Budokan launched the band into international stardom, and the album went triple platinum in the United States. The smash track was the live version of "I Want You to Want Me", which had originally been released on In Color. It reached No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100, and became Cheap Trick's biggest-selling single. The second single, "Ain't That A Shame", peaked at No. 35. "Need Your Love" had already been recorded for the forthcoming Dream Police album that had already been finished, but after the unprecedented success of At Budokan, Epic postponed the album's release. Dream Police was released later in 1979 and was their third album in a row produced by Tom Werman. The title track of the album was a hit single, as was "Voices". Dream Police also found the band taking its style in a more experimental direction by incorporating strings and dabbling in heavy metal on tracks like "Gonna Raise Hell".
A four track EP entitled Found All The Parts was released in mid 1980 and consisted of previously unreleased material. One side of the record contained live recordings and the other side had studio recordings. The live tracks were a faux live cover of The Beatles' "Day Tripper", and "Can't Hold On", a bluesy track performed at Budokan concerts in 1978. The studio tracks were "Such A Good Girl" and "Take Me I'm Yours", which the record claims were recorded in 1976 and 1977, respectively. However, while they were older songs, they were recorded with Jack Douglas in early 1980. A total of nine tracks were recorded with Douglas, and remain obscure as they have only been issued on compilations, promotional samplers, and contest giveaways. For years, there was a false rumor that this was an album that had been rejected by Epic Records.
By 1980, when All Shook Up was released, Cheap Trick was headlining arenas. All Shook Up, produced by former Beatles producer George Martin, reached No. 24 on the charts and was certified gold, but the album's high-class background did not save it from descriptions like "Led Zeppelin gone psycho". Many fans of the band's earlier albums saw All Shook Up as too weird and experimental. One song from the sessions, "Everything Works if You Let It", appeared on the soundtrack of Roadie. This, and "Stop This Game" both missed the top 40, peaking at #44 & #48, respectively. A later reissue of All Shook Up included "Everything Works" as a bonus track.
Nielsen and Carlos participated in sessions for John Lennon and Yoko Ono's album Double Fantasy, recording a bass-heavy and experimental version of Lennon's "I'm Losing You", but were never used on the subsequent release, with Lennon favoring a 'lighter' sound. (The Cheap Trick version can be found only on the John Lennon Anthology and on various bootlegs.) Nielsen and Carlos were also involved in recording a heavier and slower version of Yoko Ono's "I'm Moving On", but that has never seen any official release (only on bootlegs).
--The Departure of Tom Peterson (1981–87)--
On August 26, 1980, before the release of All Shook Up, Petersson left the group to record a solo album with his wife Dagmar. The five-song mini-LP titled Tom Peterson and Another Language was released in 1984. Pete Comita replaced Petersson for the All Shook Up tour, and the band recorded five songs with Comita to contribute to two movie soundtracks. "I'm the Man", "Born to Raise Hell", and "Ohm Sweet Ohm", which were produced by Jack Douglas, went to the film Rock & Rule. An accompanying soundtrack album for the film was never released and the songs weren't released until 1996 (on the Sex, America, Cheap Trick box set). "Reach Out" and "I Must Be Dreamin'" went to the film Heavy Metal and were produced by Roy Thomas Baker. "Reach Out" was written by Comita and Bob James. Comita left the band after completing the 1980–81 World Tour that promoted the All Shook Up album as well as the demo sessions for the band's forthcoming album. He would later claim that he co-wrote songs that appeared on the band's next two albums and was not credited. Jon Brant became Petersson's steady replacement. In July 1981, CBS Inc. sued Cheap Trick and their manager Ken Adamany for $10 million, alleging they were attempting to coerce CBS into re-negotiating their contract and had refused to record any new material for the label since October 1980. The lawsuit was settled in early 1982 and work commenced on the next album—One on One, produced by Roy Thomas Baker. The band changed direction again, this time opting for an album full of brash, shout-along hard rock songs. The album spawned two minor hits with the power ballad "If You Want My Love" and the innuendo-laced rocker "She's Tight". The music videos for both songs received heavy rotation on MTV.
The following year, Cheap Trick released Next Position Please with Todd Rundgren as producer. Rundgren downplayed the band's brash side and returned them to a more clean, pop-oriented sound similar to that of In Color. The album never found much of an audience and Cheap Trick's commercial fortunes were in decline. The first single was a cover of The Motors' "Dancing the Night Away". Epic Records, desperate for a hit from the band, forced the group to record the track, which had been a hit single in Europe. Rundgren refused to produce the song, and it was instead produced by One On One engineer Ian Taylor. It failed to chart, as did the second single and fan favorite "I Can't Take It". The Ian-Taylor-produced "Spring Break", which was a contribution to the soundtrack of the 1983 comedy film of the same name, was also issued as a single, which also failed to chart. In 1984, the band recorded the title track "Up the Creek" to the Tim Matheson comedy Up The Creek, which Nielsen later called "one of the worst" songs he'd ever written. The track reached No. 36 on Billboard's Top Tracks but was off the chart after two weeks.
In 1985 they were reunited with Jack Douglas, who had produced their debut album, to record Standing on the Edge. The band originally intended to return to their rough-sounding roots on the album, but Douglas backed out of the mixing process due to the legal issues he was having with Yoko Ono at the time. It was instead mixed by Tony Platt, who added more elements of typical 1980s production. This album was called their "best collection of bubblegum bazooka rock in years". The album also featured Mark Radice on keyboards, and he was also enlisted to assist in the songwriting process. The album's first single, "Tonight It's You", reached No. 8 on the Billboard's Top Rock Tracks chart and the video received heavy rotation on MTV. The following singles "Little Sister" and "How About You" were released as promotional singles only. During this time, Steve Walsh, between gigs as keyboardist/lead singer of the bands Streets and Kansas, toured with the band as a keyboard player and background vocalist.
Cheap Trick also participated in a USO project organized by Kansas drummer Phil Ehart, touring as part of the First Airborne Rock n Roll Division, the band joined other rock bands at land and water military installations to entertain those serving in the United States Armed Forces.
In 1986, the band recorded "Mighty Wings", the end-title cut for the film Top Gun, released June 1986. They then released The Doctor in the fall, produced by Tony Platt. Some of the songs contained elements of funk, and the band utilized female back-up vocalists for the first time. However, synthesizers and computer-programmed sound effects drowned out most of the prominent instruments, most noticeably the guitar. The album's lone single, "It's Only Love" failed to chart, but many blame the album's poor success on the record label's lack of promotion. The music video for "It's Only Love" made history as the first music video to prominently use American Sign Language. The Doctor turned out to be the final album with Jon Brant as bassist. Brant parted on good terms with the band, and has performed with the band a number of times since as a special guest or filling in for Petersson.
The Album Lap of Luxury (1987–97)
Petersson rejoined the group in 1987 and helped record 1988's Lap of Luxury, produced by Richie Zito. Due to the band's commercial decline, Epic Records forced the band to collaborate with professional songwriters. "The Flame", a typical '80s "factory ballad", was issued as the first single and became the band's first-ever No. 1 single. The second single, a cover of Elvis Presley's "Don't Be Cruel" also reached the top 5. Three other singles from the album were "Ghost Town", "Never Had a Lot to Lose", and "Let Go". Each one charted successfully, and Lap of Luxury went platinum and became recognized as the band's comeback album.
Busted was released in 1990 and was also produced by Richie Zito, as the band attempted to capitalize on the success of Lap of Luxury. This time, however, the band was allowed more creative control and professional songwriters were only used on a handful of songs. The first single "Can't Stop Falling Into Love" reached No. 12 on the charts but failed to reach as high as the label expected. The second single, the Diane Warren penned "Wherever Would I Be", suffered a worse fate reaching only No. 50. The following singles, "If You Need Me" and "Back N' Blue" were not successful, although the later single reached No. 32 on the US Mainstream Rock charts.
In 1991, Cheap Trick's Greatest Hits was released. It included twelve (twenty-eight on Japan pressing) of the band's most successful or popular singles and one new track, a cover of The Beatles' song "Magical Mystery Tour", which was an outtake from the Lap Of Luxury sessions.
In 1993, Budokan II was released. It featured the tracks that had been omitted from the original live album, plus three more tracks from their follow-up tour in 1979. The release was not authorized by the band, and it is now out of print. That same year, Robin Zander released his eponymous debut solo record on Interscope, produced by Jimmy Iovine. Guitarist Mike Campbell, best known for his work with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, collaborated with Zander on most of the album's tracks. The album was largely unsuccessful but the single "I've Always Got You" reached No. 13 on the US Mainstream Rock chart and No. 64 in Canada. In 1995, the band guest-starred as a fictitious washed-up band called Pandemonium on the UPN drama series The Watcher (TV series).
The group left Epic after the disappointing sales of Busted to sign with Warner Bros. Records. In 1994 the band released Woke Up With A Monster, which was produced by producer Ted Templeman, best known for his work with Van Halen. The album's title track was issued as the first single and reached No. 16 on the US Mainstream Rock charts. The album's sales were poor, and it peaked at only No. 123. By the time the album came out, there had been a variety of significant changes in the band, both music-wise and appearance-wise. The style of music is more on the "hard rock" side, their "heaviest" album since One On One. Ted Templeman's heavy-handed production was also the subject of much criticism. Rick Nielsen grew a goatee, and Robin Zander's voice grew noticeably deeper. The band also contributed a cover of John Lennon's song "Cold Turkey" on the Working Class Hero: A Tribute to John Lennon album.
The band quickly parted ways with Warner Bros. and decided it was time to go back to basics. They concentrated on the strength of their live shows, which were near-legendary, and they decided to release new recordings to independent labels instead of major companies. Over the next few years, Cheap Trick toured with several bands they had influenced, such as Stone Temple Pilots and Pearl Jam. At the end of 1995, the band independently released Gift, a two track Christmas CD that benefited Chicago-area charities. They spent the next year recording demos with Tom Werman and Steve Albini. They then released the 7 inch vinyl single Baby Talk/Brontosaurus on Seattle-based indie label Sub Pop Records, which was produced by Albini. Now back on speaking terms with their former label, the band released Sex, America, Cheap Trick, a four disc box set that included dozens of rare and unreleased studio and live recordings along with some of the band's singles and favorites, on Epic Records. The collection, however, was criticized for lacking several of the band's most well-known and much-loved songs.
In 1997, Cheap Trick signed with indie label Red Ant Records and released Cheap Trick, produced by Ian Taylor, who the band had previously worked with in 1982 and 1983. The band attempted to re-introduce themselves to a new generation, as the album was self-titled and the artwork was similar to their first album which had been released twenty years before. Tom Werman would later claim that he had produced a track on the album and was not credited. The album was critically acclaimed and hailed as a return to form. Eleven weeks after the release, Red Ant's parent company Alliance Entertainment Corporation declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The single "Say Goodbye" only reached No. 119 on the charts, and the band again found themselves without a record label. Two other singles were released from the album, "Baby No More" and "Carnival Game".
--Cheap Trick (1980)--
--Cheap Trick (2009) Sleep Train Amphitheater Marysville CA--
--Cheap Trick Gulfstream Park Hallandale Florida Rick Nielsen (2006)--
--Cheap Trick Gulfstream Park Hallandale Florida Robin Zander (2006)--
--Cheap Trick Rick Nielsen & Tom Peterson (1977)--
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