Cheap Trick: To Budokan and Back Again

Cheap Trick is one of the hardest working bands in the music business and have been since the early 70s. Formed in 1973 in Rockford, IL,  the band’s classic lineup consisted of front man, Robin Zander, guitarist, Rick Nielsen, bassist, Tom Petersson, and drummer, Bun E. Carlos. Although a few members have taken a break from time to time, and Carlos was replaced by Daxx Nielsen (son of Rick Nielsen) for touring purposes, they continue to rock hard to this day.

Cheap Trick released two albums (Cheap Trick, and In Color) in 1977 to great critical praise, but mediocre popular reception in the U.S., however, they were huge in Japan. In fact, when Cheap Trick toured the country for the first time in April 1978, they were received with a frenzy reminiscent of Beatlemania. They recorded Live in Budokan in 1978, originally slated only for release in Japan. Demand for Cheap Trick at Budokan became so great that Epic Records finally released the album in the U.S. in February 1979, and that album helped the band achieve mainstream popularity in the United States. The release of the live album also regenerated interest in the band’s earlier offerings.

The band released early hits such as I Want You to Want Me, Ain’t That A Shame, and Surrender, which has since become the band’s signature song. They released Dream Police in 1979, and the song Voices became a huge breakout hit, as well as showing their versatility. This album further cemented the band’s status in the rock world, proving they were no “flash in the pan,” and they started headlining stadium tours worldwide.

It was during this period in 1980 that Tom Peterssen took a 7 year break, and was replaced first by Pete Comita, and Jon Brant for the duration of his absence. The band released several albums, such as the George Martin produced All Shook Up, One on One, Standing on The Edge, and Next Position Please,as well as recording several songs for movie soundtracks. Their 1986 offering, The Doctor, failed to produce any songs that charted, and with the band’s popularity apparently waning, Jon Brant left the band.

In 1987, bassist Tom Peterssen returned, and the band released the album Lap of Luxury. Forced by their label to work with other songwriters, Nielsen said, “Lap of Luxury was a tough record to make. We could lie to you and tell you it was all wonderful and great. It wasn’t. It was tough working with other writers. But it was a lesson for us.” That being said, the band’s first #1 single The Flame came from that album and was considered their “comeback album.” Billboard had this to say: “After a long hitless streak, Cheap Trick brings it all back home. This is the quartet’s punchiest effort since its mid-’70s heyday.”

With its core lineup firmly intact once again, the band released the album Busted in 1990, and their Greatest Hits album in 1991. After several label changes, they continue to record and release new material to this day.

After back surgery, Bun E. Carlos decided not to tour any longer in 2010 and was replaced by Daxx Nielsen. However, all was not well with the former drummer, who filed a lawsuit against the other three members of the band. They in turn, then filed a countersuit. Those suits have since been settled and dismissed. Following the settlement, Carlos remained a one-quarter owner of Cheap Trick and a member of the band but does not record or tour with them.

Continuing to thrive and survive, Cheap Trick has performed live well over 3,700 times and has sold over 20 million albums. Over the course of their career, Cheap Trick has experienced several resurgences of popularity. In 2016, the band was rightfully inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame, with Zander, Nielsen, Petersson, and Carlos all in attendance; and with Carlos on drums, the band performed several of their hit songs.

On a personal note, I got to spend several days with these guys in 1980, during the Florida leg of their tour. Robin is very sweet and beyond charming, and Rick is the class clown and so unbelievably funny, and very generous. Pete Comita was also a ton of fun. Bun E. was the quietest and retired to his room rather than participate in the shenanigans that were ongoing. But it was all in good fun. I will say two things – 1) they are the ONLY band ever to nearly get me tossed out of a hotel for tossing water balloons off the roof of the hotel, and 2) they are not into watersports, specifically water skiing. I won’t elaborate further, other than to say they are seriously wonderful, extremely talented people, and remain one of my favorite bands to this day.

Tami Danielson is the main in-house blogger and Director of Operations for Pop-Daze. She was raised in California and Florida and currently resides in Oregon. Tami has written for a variety of periodicals and has provided digital marketing services for a number of artists. She can be reached at [email protected]