Cheap Trick

Cheap Trick

Synopsis of Pop Music

"Mommy's alright, daddy's alright,
They just seem a little weird,

In the 70’s, the big rock bands tended to have a uniform look and sound. Cheap Trick, however, truly stood apart from the pack. In fact, they were one of the most colorful and imaginative bands to pop up on the music scene of the late 70’s. They mixed their love of 60’s power-pop bands like The Move and The Who with a sense of 70’s arena-rock showmanship to become a band that could writer memorable pop songs and put on a killer show, to boot. In the process, they invented a style and a sound that have influenced modern rockers of all kinds.

The members of Cheap Trick were all Midwest music scene veterans by the time they united in 1974. They gigged relentlessly, often playing 200 dates a year as they molded their influences into great songs of their own. They also formed a distinctive visual style around the differences of the band, which consisted of two blow-dried ‘rock-star’-types (Robin Zander, Tom Petersson) and two weirdos (Rick Neilsen, Bun E. Carlos). Carlos looked like an accountant and Neilsen was a ball of nerdy energy in his pin-covered sweater and flipped-up baseball cap (however, this dorky appearance couldn't disguise the fact that Neilsen was and still is a highly-respected guitar virtuoso). Their combination of rock firepower and smart songwriting provided the glue that unified their appeal.

Cheap Trick put out two albums, Cheap Trick and In Color, back-to-back in 1977. The latter album included a song that would soon become one of their most notable songs, “I Want You To Want Me.” Cheap Trick achieved their first hit song the next year with “Surrender,” a song from Heaven Tonight. This song, about dealing with the pressure of being a kid at odds with the adult world, struck a chord with adolescents everywhere and became a rock anthem.

However, this unconventional band achieved their hit status the way several more conventional rock bands did in the 70’s: with a live album. That album was Live At Budokan, a scorching concert set that captured the band before thousands of screaming fans in Japan. Ironically, it was originally intended as a Japan-only item. However, it became a big hit as an import and thus prompted a worldwide release. Things got even brighter when a furious live version of “I Want You To Want Me,” complete with screaming fans singing along, was released as a single. The new version became a top hit and its parent album stayed on the charts for a year, eventually going platinum several times over.

Now that they were confirmed hitmakers, Cheap Trick played with a bigger sound on Dream Police. The heavily orchestrated and E.L.O.-styled title song became a hit, and its video later became a favorite in the early days of MTV. The album also contained a surprisingly lush and heartfelt ballad, “Voices.” This song was also featured in the film Roadie, which starred Meat Loaf in the title role. In 1980, the band paid tribute to their roots by teaming up with Beatles producer George Martin for their next album, All Shook Up.

Cheap Trick released One On One in 1982. It contained one of their most memorable songs in the Beatles-esque “If You Want My Love.” In 1986, their song “Mighty Wings” appeared on the mega-successful soundtrack of Top Gun. The band earned their biggest success of the 80’s at the end of the decade with a song called “The Flame.” This power-ballad gave the band their first-ever #1 hit. They had another major hit that year with “Don’t Be Cruel,” their cover of the Elvis Presley classic.

Cheap Trick began the 90’s with a hit in the form of “Can’t Stop Falling Into Love.” Robin Zander also had a solo hit around this time with “Surrender To Me,” a duet with Heart’s Ann Wilson that was featured on the soundtrack of Tequila Sunrise. By the mid-90’s, all the bands that Cheap Trick influenced began to pay tribute to them. They were invited to open for hitmakers and Cheap Trick fans The Smashing Pumpkins on their 1995 tour. They played the Lollapalooza Tour in 1996 and released the critically-acclaimed Cheap Trick album in 1997.

Cheap Trick continue to be a major attraction in the live arena today, touring with everyone from ZZ Top to Pearl Jam. They recently released another live album, Music For Hangovers, in 1999 and it proved they are just as strong a band as ever. Their combination of attitude, instrumental firepower, quirky attitude, and good songwriting basically created the template for alternative rock and will continue to set the standard for independent-minded rock and roll for a long time.

Artist Release History

1968 - Cheap Trick

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Essential Music Albums

At Budokan – The Complete Concert (Epic)
The Authorized Greatest Hits (Sony/Epic)

Band Members

Robin Zander vocals
Rick Neilsen guitar
Tom Petersson bass (1968-1980,1988-)
Bun E. Carlos drums
Jon Brant bass (1980-88)

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