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Cheap Trick

album band hit epic

Cheap Trick, the power pop band that wouldn’t go away (f. 1973, Rockford, III.). MEMBERSHIP: Robin Zander, voc. (b. Loves Park, III., Jan. 23, 1953); Rick Neilson, gtr. (b. Rockford, III., Dec. 22, 1946); Tom Petersson, bs. (b. Rockford, III., May 9, 1950); Bun E. Carlos (real name, Brad Carlson), drm. (b. Rockford, III., June 12, 1951).

Rick Neilson’s parents sang opera and choral music professionally. They also owned a music shop in Rockford, III. This gave Neilson access to a variety of instruments. He started playing the drums, but with the coming of the Beatles, he took up the guitar. Brad Carlson, the son of a roofer, was two grades behind Neilson in the same school. He bought his first drum set at Neilson’s father’s store. Tom Petersson started out on the guitar, but switched to bass because he wanted to play with Neilson.

The three wannabe stars played in myriad local bands through the 1960s, both together and separately. Neilson and Petersson recorded a single in 1967 as the Grim Reapers and an album for Epic in 1969. The record went nowhere. The Reapers relocated several times under several names, finally settling back in Rockford as Cheap Trick. They brought Carlos and Zander on board, rounding out the quartet in 1974. Between 1974 and 1977, they played 200 dates a year, opening shows for groups ranging from KISS to the Kinks.

Epic once again signed the group in 1976, releasing their debut in 1977. It didn’t chart in the U.S., but went gold in Japan where the young girls couldn’t get enough of Zander’s good looks. They put out In Color in 1978, a softer, slicker album than their debut. Despite little radio play and no hit singles, the record crept to #73 on the album charts, and went gold in Japan. Later that year, they released Heaven Tonight . The song “Surrender” got some album rock play and even managed to garner enough pop radio play to hit #62. The album hit #48. In Japan it went platinum.

By 1978 Cheap Trick were superstars in Japan. They sold out the big Budokan Arena in two hours. They recorded the concert with thoughts of a Japanese live album. Surprisingly, the album started to sell well in the U.S. as an import. Epic tested the water with a nine-track EP serviced to rock radio. The live version of “I Want You to Want Me” started getting considerable play. It rose to #7 in the charts. Epic released the record in the U.S. and it rose to #4, selling platinum (and eventually over 4 million copies). The album went triple platinum in Japan. They followed the hit single with another live track, a cover of Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That a Shame,” which hit #35.

By the time Live at Budokan came out in the U.S., Cheap Trick had finished their next studio album, the highly produced Dream Police . The album hit #6 in the U.S., with the title track rising to #26 on the singles chart. A 10” EP, Found All the Part, consisting of previously unreleased tracks from their first four albums, hit #39. In 1979 the band went into the studio with producer George Martin and recorded All Shook Up . Despite the absence of a Top 40 single, the record manages to reach #24 and sold gold.

By 1980 the band had been touring or recording nearly continuously for seven years. Feeling burned out from the constant road work, Petersson left the band. He relocated to N.Y. with his wife. They formed a band and released an album.

The group replaced Petersson with Jon Brant (b. Feb. 20, 1954) in time for him to get on the cover of One on One . With a polished studio sheen, the album went platinum, despite peaking at #39. 1983’s rawer, more energetic Next Position Please topped out at #61, and their next two albums fared little better. These were not the kind of chart numbers Epic wanted from a multi-platinum band.

Before their 1988 album Lap of Luxury, several things happened. The band asked Petersson to rejoin the group. The record company brought in outside songwriters to provide the band with some power ballads, the musical flavor of the year. They recorded the material, although they were personally indifferent to it. One of the tunes, “The Flame,’ became the group’s first chart-topping single. Their cover of Elvis Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel” hit #4, the first Elvis tune to hit the Top Ten after the King passed on. The album hit #18 and went platinum.

The group tried to recreate this success with 1990’s Busted, recording more power ballads and another Elvis cover. Their version of “Can’t Stop Falling in Love” hit #12, but the album peaked out at #48. Zander cut a solo album in 1993 that didn’t chart. The band left Epic and after a while signed on with Warner Bros. Their Warner debut, 1994’s Woke Up with a Monster, debuted on the charts at #123 and dropped off two weeks later. That same year, Epic released Budokan II .

The band continued to tour for their core fans. Several influential bands such as the Smashing Pumpkins, who considered the band a major influence, asked them to open tours. They played the 1996 Lollapalooza tour. That same year, Epic released a boxed set of the band’s hits, misses, and unreleased tracks.

The band signed with independent Red Ant records in 1997 and recorded the critically lauded Cheap Trick, but the album didn’t sell well. They played a series of concerts that recapped their first four albums song for song. Several of these tracks found their way onto the live hits package Music for Hangovers . Despite this brief foray into nostalgia, the band promises to continue to create and rock until they drop, or their fans lose interest.

Cheatham, Doc (actually, Adolphus Anthony) [next] [back] Cheadle, Don (1964–)

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