Super Freedom Rock

An Ode To Cheap Trick

1. I have a weird infatuation with early Cheap Trick

2. I was born 1969, and was at a prime age for their angst-ridden songs aimed at teenagers in the early 80’s.

3. After “Next Position Please” (the equivalent of Rush going from “Grace Under Pressure” to “Power Windows” and beyond – for me any ways) my interest largely dropped-off, especially after the horrible radio pop cheese that was “The Flame.” But you gotta give it to them, when they wanted to produce a big hit, they could do it to appease their label and afford to keep doing what they are doing. Underneath it all, were a lot of great songs where they created largely what they wanted. And I will go to my grave believing Robin Zander is possibly the greatest “rock ‘n roll voice” of all-time, at least in the top 5 easy. I love his range and ability to go from soothing or high-pitched pop singer to screaming hard rock like no one else can, even Rob Halford or Frank Black. He’s absolutely a gem and a gift to rock music, as-is the song-writing and guitar riffs of Rick Nielsen.

Love them or hate them, no matter to me.

Here’s an otherwise unpublished video I made of “Speak Now (Or Forever Hold Your Peace)” mashed-up with the movie “Over The Edge” where it was featured on the movie’s soundtrack.

Here are some underrated Cheap Trick songs:

“Reach Out” – Heavy Metal Soundtrack (1981)

A fine Cheap Trick early 80’s song, when the harder you rocked, the cooler it was (see “One On One”), during an era of popular British Metal and the LA Metal Scene ready to take over the charts and mags.

“Just Got Back” – from the album “All Shook Up” (1980)

This song has never gotten old since I first heard it at the age of 13 or so in the early 80’s, after buying the cassette. In fact the entire album is great, as was their self-titled debut. One of the best exhibitions of Zander’s vocals. Here’s a live version from 1981:

“Stop This Game” – also from the album “All Shook Up” (1980)

Another endearing hard rocker carried by Zander’s voice and character, one of their best songs along with “Just Got Back,” that helped define their first 3 legendary albums (pre-80’s).

“Mandocello” – from their self-titled debut (1977)

I’ve always liked this song and rarely skipped it back in the day when “playlists” weren’t yet a possibility (a reasonable one). I admit the next two are more about how amazing Cheap Trick is live, than the songs themselves, which are very good, but they’re great examples of how some good musicianship and Zander’s amazing voice can transform an ordinary song stuck in the middle of an album, into something memorable and epic on stage. No pretentiousness, just goofy rock art rock music.

“High Priest Of Rythmic Noise” – from the album “All Shook Up” (1980)

See a pattern here? “All Shook Up” rocked the house, it was the height of their punk-pop-new-wave style they were originally known for, and this is hard rock in the 1970’s, that influenced bands in the following years, during one of the greatest runs of rock music, if not the greatest (approx 1978-1984).

The entire “One On One” album (1982)

Consistent and heavy, although one of their more over-produced albums, there are no ballads here, aside from possibly the hit “If You Want My Love,” which fits right in to the early 80’s MTV music landscape, and to this day is one of their best pop singles. The album has a particular sound and style, at worst it sort of runs together. I remember owning and wearing a 3/4″ sleeve’d t-shirt with this album cover on it in junior high (1982-3), who knows what happened to it, but the album hooked me like their first 3 albums did, and I wore that thing every chance I got. No one else was into Cheap Trick among my friends and no one I know still is – so it’s fun to see their shows and to be around people having fun and into these lesser-known songs today. Looking forward to seeing them on the Heart/Joan Jett tour July this year here in Cincinnati.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *