Monday, September 16, 2013

Cheap Trick celebrates enduring legacy at GRAMMY Museum

From left, Daxx Nielsen, Tom Petersson, Robin Zander and Rick Nielsen.
One of rock's most enduring bands took their continuing journey to the GRAMMY Museum at L.A. Live on Thursday night, Sept. 12, 2013. Cheap Trick appeared in the intimate Clive Davis Theater, sharing stories and insights into the band's 40-year history via an in-depth question and answer session with the GRAMMY Foundation's Scott Goldman before cranking up their equipment to perform a stirring six-song set comprised of early and recent rockers that had the sold-out crowd of 200 on its feet in appreciation of the chance to be a part of something very special.

Singer-rhythm guitarist Robin Zander, lead guitarist Rick Nielsen, bassist Tom Petersson and drummer Bun E. Carlos formed the band in Rockford, Illinois in 1973. Daxx Nielsen, the son of Rick Nielsen, has served as the band's full-time touring drummer since 2010. As part of the quartet's 40th anniversary celebration the GRAMMY Museum opened a special exhibit focusing on Cheap Trick the same day that will remain on display for musuem visitors through June 2014. The exhibit includes the display of many of Nielsen's most prized guitars including the 1952 Feder Telecaster used when he performed at Budokan in 1978. In addition, visitors to the museum can see original lyrics of several of the band's big hits and Cheap Trick costumes, posters and rare albums.

Cheap Trick performed a six-song set at the event.
The program led off with Goldman asking Rick Nielsen if he recalled the first time the band played together.
"I played with Tom in high school," said Nielsen, whose witty responses drew laughter often. "We rehearsed in my parents' garage so we've always been a garage band."

Zander noted that they had another critical tactic in the early days. "We always changed the name of our band so we would get hired back," he mused. "It worked."
That is where Petersson picked up the story on how the name Cheap Trick was ultimately the moniker that stuck. The bassist noted that while he and Rick were attending a Slade concert one of them remarked of the British glam band: "They're using every cheap trick in the book." The other responded that Cheap Trick would be a great name for a band.

Zander than noted that a few years later when several major record labels were courting the young band, all wanted them to change their name. Fortunately fate had another plan; when Cheap Trick released its official debut album on Epic Records in early 1977 both the band and the name of the album remained.

Over the course of a wide-ranging 45-minute discussion, even long-time fans were treated to some fascinating tidbits of history about the power pop champs.

  • The group's first big break in the states came in 1977 when Queen singer Freddie Mercury heard Cheap Trick's not-yet-released debut album and invited the unknown band to open for Queen at two shows in Wisconsin.
  • The group wasn't sure if there was much of a future in the early days. "We thought after the first year we'd quit," Zander said.
  • "Our first record was out and not successful," Petersson recalled. "Rick and I were in Canada walking past a strip cub and heard one of our songs playing. We went in there (because we were) so shocked somebody was playing our song."
  • Because Cheap Trick's first three albums failed to initially make a commercial dent in the U.S. the band was shocked when they went on their first trip to Japan in April 1978 and were greeted by 5,000 screaming kids at the airport in Tokyo. Highlights from the two successful concerts staged at Nippon Budokan were released as the live album "Cheap Trick at Budokan" and ultimately led to their global success. Zander picked up the story here: "Another thing about Budokan we had a set amount of time to play. The Japanese are very efficient. They studied our set list and said we were short and needed another song. We'll put on "I Want You To Want Me.' The live version of that song was the group's biggest-selling single to date and directly led to their subsequent widespread success.
  • When asked about the thrill of working with Beatles producer George Martin, Rick Nielsen said Sir Martin was "The most knowledgeable musician I've ever worked with."
Cheap Trick thrilled the intimate crowd at the GRAMMY Museum.

Indeed Cheap Trick has sold more than 20 million albums, performed approximately 5,000 concerts and earned 40 gold and platinum albums since the mid 1970s. But anyone who has seen Cheap Trick understands it is the deep connection the band has with its fans that will likely be Cheap Trick's most enduring legacy: "It means everything," Zander said of the fans' support, which elicited cheers in the theater.

"We make music for ourselves first, but at the same time if nobody's listening it's depressing," Rick Nielsen added.

Daxx Nielsen, who has performed full-time with his dad's band since 2010 was also asked to add his thoughts on Cheap Trick. "Playing with these guys every night is awesome."

GRAMMY Museum were wise to hand out ear plugs as attendees arrived at the museum earlier that evening. They came in handy when the interview ended and Cheap Trick performed a powerful 25-minute set for the enthusiastic crowd. Kicking things off with the electrifying punk-styled "ELO Kiddies" off their first album, the outfit went on to tear through their rollicking version of Fats Domino's "Ain't That a Shame" featuring Nielsen's smoking slide guitar work. "Dream Police" benefited from the mix of its melodic chorus, sweet harmonies and a chilling psychedelic break at the end of the song.

Always a band to mix things up, Cheap Trick then played "Sick Man of Europe," a post-punk rocker off their 2009 disc "The Latest" before returning to classics with "I Want You To Want Me" and a festive "Surrender" where just about everyone was singing along or pumping their fists into the air. Like all of the GRAMMY Museum's special programs, the event was recorded on high def video and will be available to view by visitors to the museum, located at 800 W. Olympic Blvd., Suite A245, Los Angeles, CA 90015.

About the only good question not addressed at the GRAMMY Museum is why Cheap Trick isn't in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

1 comment:

newwavegeo said...

Very thorough wrap up! It was one of the more memorable Grammy Museum programs that I've attended so far.