By Keith Sharp
Classic Rock is alive and well and inhabits the 13 tracks which constitute Cheap Trick’s latest record release titled “Another World.”
A recent live performance of “Boys And Girls & Rock ‘N’ Roll” on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and equally strong radio support for the album’s debut single “Light Up The Fire” highlight an album brim full of energetic rock tracks from the Chicago area quartet of guitarist Rick Nielsen, lead vocalist Robin Zander, bassist Tom Petersson and new drummer Daxx Nielsen (Rick’s son) who in 2016 were inducted into The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame.
On the phone from Nashville, bassist Petersson is obviously thrilled by the record’s immediate media reaction but modestly notes that “Another World” simply states where the band is currently at musically. “Hey, this all we know what to do, we come up with great riffs, produce a great feel and expand upon it,” he notes. “You always strive to make that perfect record and record that perfect song. Of course, you never quite reach that level of perfection but you keep trying.”
LISTEN TO “BOYS & GIRLS & ROCK N ROLL”
LISTEN TO “LIGHT UP THE FIRE”
DOWNLOAD/PURCHASE “IN ANOTHER WORLD”
Produced by long time associate Julien Raymond, “Another World” is chock full of powerful rockers like the above mentioned “Light Up The Fire”, “Boys And Girls & Rock N Roll as well as “The Party,” “Quit Waking Me Up,” “This Summer Looks Good On You” an alternative rave version of the title track which is also featured as a more melodic production.
“We actually recorded the faster version of “Another World’ first,” allowed Petersson. “Our record company then suggested that wouldn’t it be great if we also recorded that track as a ballad. We thought, that works but we couldn’t decide which version to go with, we liked them both for different reasons, so we said to hell with it, let’s go with both versions.”
A band is heavily influenced by The Beatles, Cheap Trick pays homage with a very John Lennonesque original titled “So It Goes” but also provides a spirited cover of Lennon’s “Gimme Some Truth” which features a guest guitar solo from former Sex Pistols’ guitarist Steve Jones.
WATCH “BOYS & GIRLS & ROCK N ROLL” ON THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT
“We know Steve from his syndicated radio show and our producer Julian has worked with him several times on other sessions,” Petersson explained. “So it was Julian’s idea to get Steve and we thought that would be cool as Steve has a really unique sound and we could say ‘Hey, we’ve got Steve Jones from The Sex Pistols on our record’– how cool is that!”
Juxtaposed again the album’s plethora of energetic pop/rock tracks, Cheap Trick also exhibits their instrumental prowess with a strong R & B track titled “Final Days” which spotlights a solid harmonica solo from Wet Willie’s Jimmy Hall. “We loved playing on that track” enthuses Petersson. “We could have kept playing for another 10 minutes.”
Known as the consummate opening act, Cheap Trick emerged from the Chicago suburb of Rockford Illinois with a debut, self-titled album in February 1977 on Epic Records which failed to make an impression on the charts. Their second album, “In Colour” released later that year, also failed to register with the music-buying public even though it featured a single titled “I Want You To Want Me” which didn’t even chart.
However, Cheap Trick’s fortunes were about to change when KISS duo Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley witnessed the band’s performance at New York’s Max’s Kansas City venue. KISS, who were exploiting their own “kabuki comic book image” realized that Cheap Trick boasted their own distinct image with the rock star looks of Zander and Petersson in direct contrast with Nielsen’s nerdy, over-sized baseball cap and bow tie appearance, and initial drummer Bun E Carlos, who looked like a chartered accountant!
Looking for an opening act for their summer 1977 “Love Gun” tour, KISS thought the distinct contrasts between the two bands would create a great synergy and before you knew it, Cheap Trick were opening for the most explosive live band on the planet.
“Before Gene and Paul saw us at Max’s Kansas City, we were really struggling,” Petersson allowed. “We were hauling our gear around in a U-Haul behind a broken down car, playing bars, pizza parlours, any place that would have us. Next thing you know, we’re opening for KISS and of course, they were huge at that time.”
“The Japanese press loved KISS and they were over there covering the tour and featuring them in all the magazines and they started to notice us too,” enthused Petersson. “We looked to them like cartoon characters; they would draw comic book characters of us, we went from getting no fan mail at all to getting tons of the stuff!”
This media attention prompted a Japanese tour in April 1978. By this point, the band was about to release their third domestic album “Heaven Tonight” (May 1978) which featured the single “Surrender” but when they arrived at almost Beatlesque attention, they were asked if the Japanese Epic Records division could release 10 tracks recorded live during their two Nippon Budokan dates (April 28 & 30).
“Our record company over there said the record would be exclusive for the Japanese market and would be featured in a television special and we said okay,” Petersson explained. “But when we put our setlist together the label said where is “I Want You To Want Me? We explained that we didn’t perform that song anymore because it had stiffed but they said, No, that song went to No 1 in the charts over here, who knew!”
“Cheap Trick Live At Budokan,” featuring a live version of “I Want You To Want Me” plus a yet-to-be-released “Surrender,” became such a hit in Japan that word leaked out to the States and over 30,000 import copies were sold. The problem was that the band had just finished recording their fourth studio album “Dream Police” when their label decided to release a domestic version of Cheap Trick Live At The Budokan in February 1979, pushing their Dream Police release back to September 1979.
The live version of “I Want You To Want Me” soared to No 7 on the Billboard singles chart and Cheap Trick’s live album would eventually sell over 3 million copies domestically but the push back of “Dream Police” proved to be problematic.
“In retrospect, we should have delayed the release of ‘Dream Police’ but the label didn’t so we had both of these records hitting at once,” noted Petersson who left the band in August 1980 to join forces with his now former wife, Dagmar to form a new band at that time called “Another Language.”
The 80s decade proved to be a struggle for Cheap Trick with Jon Brant filling in for Petersson but he returned in 1988 to help record their “Lap Of Luxury” album which featured their first No 1 hit “The Flame”
Since that point, the band has toured constantly, living up to their motif as “Rock’s Consummate Opening Act,” touring with a wide range of headliners including KISS, ZZ Top, Journey, Guns N’ Roses, Def Leppard, Journey and Heart to name just a few.
When asked about Cheap Trick’s ability to successfully open without upstaging the headliner, Petersson modestly agreed that the band is easy to get along with. “We are just happy to be ourselves,” he noted. “Some people get us and some don’t. We have enjoyed enough success to be able to work with anybody and we can operate in any situation be it a large arena or a small club.”
It was Cheap Trick’s lengthy record of durability and tenacity which earned them an induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in April 2016 with the ceremony taking place at The Barclays Centre in Brooklyn New York. Kid Rock inducted them into the hall and the band responded by performing three songs; “I Want You To Want Me,” “Surrender,” and “Dream Police” before performing a cover finale of “Ain’t That A Shame” with all the other star inductees. Bun E Carlos, who had left in 2010 due to back problems, was reunited with the band to play drums on all of their songs.
“Being inducted came as a complete surprise, it was not something we aspired to but it was obviously a great honour,” Petersson noted. “To be in the Hall with the likes of Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Elvis and The Beatles was something we could have never imagined when we were driving around in our broken-down car.”
Cheap Trick has continued their resurgence, with “Another World” being their 20th studio recording and the sheer energy and exuberance of their release shows that even though they have been waylaid by the COVID-19 pandemic (like everyone else) Cheap Trick are all set for a summer tour opening for Rod Stewart with British dates scheduled for early 2022.
As for the band’s legacy and their future plans? “We just take one day at a time. We don’t have a master plan,” Petersson allowed. “We are always continuing to work to make the greatest record possible and to keep entertaining our fans. This is what keeps us going.”
For further information on Cheap Trick, please link to https://www.cheaptrick.com