This year was a busy one for guitarist Rick Nielsen and his band Cheap Trick. The '70s
pop-metal band toured the United States re-creating its famed 1979 Live at
Budokan LP. These gigs supported the CD re-release of the album, which for the first
time featured the entire concert.
When the gigs were history, Cheap Trick again toured the United States, this time
re-creating their first three albums -- 1977's Cheap Trick and In Color, and
1978's Heaven Tonight -- on separate nights. Smashing Pumpkins and Pearl Jam
each opened one of these shows, which supported the re-release of those LPs (with
Nielsen was born 52 years ago today in Rockford, Ill. In 1961, he began playing in local
clubs. A band he had formed went through a series of name changes before settling on
the name Fuse in 1967. This group, which included future Cheap Trick bassist Tom
Petersson, issued a flop LP in 1968.
After adding another future Trickster, drummer Bun E. Carlos, Fuse became the band
Sick Man of Europe. Following the addition of ex-Nazz singer Robert "Stewkey" Antoni,
the band broke up. But it re-formed quickly thereafter as Cheap Trick, with vocalist Robin
Zander taking Antoni's spot.
Cheap Trick toured constantly for the next few years opening for such bands as Kiss,
Santana and Boston. Nielsen adopted a cartoonish demeanor onstage, performing
gymnastics with his guitar. The band's first three albums were not big sellers. But its
fourth release, 1979's Live at Budokan, recorded at a gig in Japan, was a
breakthrough. The LP was buoyed by the hit singles
href="http://media.addict.com/atn-bin/get- music/Cheap_Trick/I_Want_You_To_Want_Me.ram">"I Want You To Want Me"
music/Cheap_Trick/I_Want_You_To_Want_Me.ram">"I Want You To Want Me"
(RealAudio excerpt) and "Surrender."
Nielsen and company then found themselves headlining huge venues and issued
Dream Police that same year. But subsequent LPs were increasingly unpopular
with the public, and Petersson quit before the release of 1982's One on One. In
the meantime, Nielsen, Zander and Carlos played on tracks for John Lennon and Yoko
Ono's Double Fantasy (which were recently issued on Lennon's Anthology
Petersson returned before 1988's Lap of Luxury, which brought Cheap Trick back
to the top of the charts with the #1 single, "The Flame," and the top 10 cover of Elvis
Presley's classic, "Don't Be Cruel." But Cheap Trick's return to the spotlight was cut short
when Busted (1990) flopped.
Woke Up with a Monster (1994) marked the band's switch from Epic Records to
Warner Bros., but didn't change its commercial fortunes. That same year, Epic released
At Budokan II, featuring outtakes from the group's earlier hit LP. Around this time,
alternative rockers began citing Cheap Trick as a major influence, restoring the band's
Smashing Pumpkins called on Cheap Trick to be their opening act in 1995, and the
following year, Nielsen and band played the Lollapalooza tour. In 1996, the group
issued the boxed set Sex America Cheap Trick, which was well received.
Last year, the band signed with the indie label Red Ant and issued an eponymous
album. Earlier in '98, Cheap Trick cemented their handprints and signatures on
"We never wanted to be like everyone else," Nielsen said of Cheap Trick this year.
"People just look for different stuff."
Other birthdays: Barry Jenkins (Animals), 54; Maurice and Robin Gibb (Bee Gees), 49.