Cheap Trick are one the great underrated bands of our time. So much so I’d wager many of you have got this far are probably thinking, who? If I mentioned the song ‘ I Want You To Want Me’ there may be some knowing nods. That was the first Trick song I heard on the Friday Rock Show and I remember buying it in the bargain bin for 10p at the Woolworths in Stranraer while on a family holiday in Portpatrick in 79.
I think part of the reason for them being relative unknowns in the UK is probably down to their lack of touring to back up album releases. Since I bought the single I’ve only managed to see them live 3 times. The first time was in Edinburgh in 1986 when they were supporting Motley Crue at the Playhouse. I think this was a rearranged show after Crue postponed a previous tour when the rumoured reason was too much snow on the roof of the venues. The bizarre world of rock n roll, folks. While we were in Edinburgh for the gig we bumped into singer Robin Zander in the Waverley Shopping Centre. He was rock star personified with long white coat and long blonde hair. I got him to sign my ticket but at the time I hadn’t realised he’d signed across the bit they tear off when you go in. Took me a lot of pleading with venue staff for them to let me keep my ticket intact. Needless to say Trick completely blew Crue off the stage.
I had to wait another 16 years before I saw them again at the Garage in Glasgow where I managed to catch one of Rick Nielsen’s plectrums although he seems to throw hundreds out so I think everybody got one. The the last time was at the ABC in 2010. It’s rather frustrating as they are constantly touring in the US but any shows over here are either one off London dates or festival appearances. Hopefully it’s not the last time I’ll see them though.
The Budokan album is quite an interesting one. Trick were the classic ‘Big in Japan’ band at the time. Relatively unknown in their home land but were massive in Japan and were greeted like The Beatles with screaming fans at their arrival at airports and at their shows. There are some parts on the album where the crowd is louder than the band and almost completely drowns out the music. The album was recorded over 3 nights in 1978 and was originally intended for release in Japan only but the success of the I Want You to Want Me single saw record sales of the album on import before it was finally released officially and became Cheap Trick’s biggest selling release. In the UK it was released on coloured vinyl, a frequent marketing ploy used at the time. The album came in translucent yellow vinyl (as can be seen by picture at the start), described on the sticker adorning the front sleeve as kamikaze yellow vinyl. Not sure if that would be allowed in the pc world of today. The album showed the photogenic Zander and bassist Tom Peterson on the front while oddballs guitarist Nielsen and drummer Bun E Carlos were relegated to the back.
The album itself manages to capture a live gig as well as any live album I’ve heard. The aforementioned screaming crowd can be a bit distracting at times but this album showcases the band in a way no studio album ever could. It’s pop rock at its finest with the opening of Hello There through the epic Need Your Love, the simple pop sensibilities of I Want You to Want Me, the infectious keyboard refrain of Surrender that has you singing along then the finale of Clock Strikes Ten with Nielsen making the clock chimes on his guitar. It’s an album full of great songs that have a different life live than their studio counterparts.
Somewhat naively at the time I thought the album was the gig in full until 1994 when Budokan II was released which contained the remaining tracks from the gigs in 78 plus some tracks that were recorded in 79 on a follow up tour. It didn’t have the same impact as the first release. In 1998 they finally released the concert as it was recorded with all the tracks in the correct order but having listened to the first Budokan release for nearly 20 years I still go back to the original album because that’s how I first discovered it and that’s what feels right. There are a number of albums that this has happened to and I still go back to the originals as although the songs are now in correct gig order after 20/30 years of listening to them the other way just feels all wrong.
Finally on the 30th anniversary a box set was released that included, along with the CDs, video footage of the gig that was only shown in Japan up until that point. I think they’ve now finally squeezed as much as they can out of this release. Although the video footage was a welcome addition to the story. It was the album that broke Cheap Trick and they’ve released consistently good albums over the years. Most recently with the contender for worst album title of the year in Bang, Zoom, Crazy….Hello. They have an ear for a good pop rock song and are often quoted as an influence on a number of bands like Guns n Roses, Motley Crue and The Smashing Pumpkins. They still tour extensively in the US and I just wish they’d pop over here more often than they do.
Still I doubt many of their fans associate one of their biggest hits with a town in South West Scotland.
See you on week 13.