Cheap Trick's roots lie in Fuse, a late-'60s Rockford, Illinois, band formed by Rick Nielsen and bassist Tom Petersson, who released an unsuccessful album on Epic in 1969. After the record failed to gain any attention, the band relocated to Philadelphia and changed their name to Sick Man of Europe. The group toured Europe unsuccessfully in 1972, returning to Illinois in 1973.
Upon their return to Rockford, Nielsen and Petersson ended up naming their band Cheap Trick after adding vocalist Randy "Xeno" Hogan and drummer Bun E. Carlos. Hogan left the following year and ex-folk singer Robin Zander joined the group. Between 1974 and the band's first album in 1977, Cheap Trick toured constantly, playing over 200 concerts a year, including opening slots for Queen, The Kinks, Kiss, and Santana. During this time, the band built up a solid catalog of original songs that would eventually comprise their first three albums; they also perfected their kinetic live show. During the Queen tour Rick wrote a "journal" for a Japanese music magazine that would familiarize Cheap Trick with the Japanese long before their records would be released there.
Cheap Trick signed with Epic Records in 1976, releasing their self-titled brilliant debut in early 1977. The record sold well in America, yet it failed to chart. However, the group became a massive success in Japan, going gold upon release. Later that year, the band released their second album, In Color. Epic A & R man/producer Tom Werman backed In Color away from the harder rocking Cheap Trick, featuring a slicker production and quieter arrangements that spotlighted the band's melodic skills. Due to their constant touring, the record made it into the U.S. charts, peaking at number 73; in Japan it became another gold-seller.
The band realized that they were virtual superstars in Japan when they toured the country in early 1978. Their concerts were selling out within two hours and they packed the Budokan Arena. Cheap Trick's concerts at the Budokan Arena were recorded for a television program -- which ended up becoming an album that appeared after 1978's Heaven Tonight. Their third album captured both the loud, raucous energy of their debut and the hook-laden song craft of In Color, leading to their first Top 100 single, "Surrender", which peaked at number 62. However, the live performances on At Budokan (1979) captured the band's energetic, infectious live show, resulting in their commercial breakthrough in the U.S. The album stayed on the charts for over a year, peaking at number four and eventually selling over three million copies; a live version of "I Want You to Want Me" pulled from the album became their first Top Ten hit. Later that year, the group released their fourth studio album, Dream Police, which followed the same stylistic approach of Heaven Tonight. It also followed At Budokan into the Top Ten, selling over a million copies and launching the Top 40 hit singles, "Voices" and "Dream Police". In the summer of 1980, the group released an EP of tracks recorded between 1976-79 called Found All the Parts.
Petersson left the group in the summer of 1980 after recording the George Martin-produced All Shook Up, released toward the end of 1980. The album performed respectably, peaking at number 24 and going gold, yet the single "Stop This Game" failed to crack the Top 40. For subsequent tours Pete Comita, and shortly thereafter Jon Brant replaced Petersson. The first album recorded with Brant was One on One, the group's seventh album that appeared in 1982. Although it peaked at number 39, the record was more successful than All Shook Up, eventually going platinum. Next Position Please, released in 1983, failed to launch a hit single and spent only eleven weeks on the charts. Standing on the Edge (1985) and The Doctor (1986) suffered similar fates.
Petersson rejoined the band in 1988 and under CBS Record's direction the group began working on a new album with the help of several outside songwriters. The resulting album, Lap of Luxury, was a platinum Top 20 hit, featuring the number one power ballad, "The Flame" and a Top Ten version of Elvis Presley's "Don't Be Cruel". Busted, released in 1990, wasn't as successful as Lap of Luxury, peaking at Number 48 and effectively putting an end to the group's tenure with CBS Records. Over the course of the '90s the band experienced several new lows when Sony Music, the successor to the band's CBS Records contract, put Cheap Trick's name on several budget compilations including "Voices", "I Want You to Want Me", "Don't Be Cruel", and several others without their prior knowledge, consent, or agreement.
Robin Zander's self titled record produced by Jimmy Iovine was released in 1993 and quickly cut out. In 1994 Cheap Trick signed with Warner Brothers and released Woke Up With a Monster; the record spent two weeks on the chart, peaking at 123. That same year, Sony Records released a sequel to At Budokan, entitled Budokan II. Following the poor performance of Woke Up With a Monster, Cheap Trick decided to go back to the basics. They left Warner Brothers and over the next few years several alternative rockers, who were influenced by Cheap Trick, gave the band opportunities to restore their reputation. The Smashing Pumpkins had the band open some shows in 1995 and the group performed on the 1996 Lollapalooza tour. That same year, the boxed set, Sex America Cheap Trick appeared to good reviews and the band signed with the fledgling indy/distributor; Red Ant/Alliance.
Early in 1997, the group released a Steve Albini-produced single, "Baby Talk", on Sub Pop, which was followed by Cheap Trick, their critically acclaimed debut for Red Ant/Alliance in the spring. Seven weeks after releasing the record Red Ant/Alliance declared Chapter 11 causing a furious music retail community to yank the record from stores nearly bankrupting the band in the process.
In 1998 the band began rebuilding by trying to restore normal relations with Sony and the music retail community and establishing their own record company; Cheap Trick Unlimited. They toured behind the re-mastered re-releases of Budokan: the Complete Concert, and their first three records. One of the multi-night stands from this amazing tour resulted in Music for Hangovers, a brilliant and vibrant live effort. Amid much criticism Cheap Trick Unlimited sold the CD exclusively on amazon.com for eight weeks prior to releasing it in stores. To support the record they headlined, co-billed with Guided by Voices, and opened for Pearl Jam. In early 2000 Cheap Trick entered into a license with musicmaker.com to directly download and create custom CDs for over 50 songs.
After spending a good part of 2001 writing songs and about six weeks of pre-production, Cheap Trick, with Shaw, went into Bearsville Studios in Woodstock, New York, in March 2002 where the lads put together song by song their first studio album in six years - Special One. "This time," Zander says, "each of us had songs and bits and pieces of songs - like a verse here, a chorus there, or a melody with no lyric. After putting it all together for this album, we'd lost track of who wrote what and just decided to put all of the writers on each song equally." "What I think is great about this record is that it sounds like an entire piece of music rather than a bunch of assorted, unrelated songs," claims Petersson.
Scent of a Woman - "I started writing 'Scent of a Woman' a few years back, and with Robin's and Tom's help, it's finally finished," says Nielsen. "I was going to make a few comments about my interpretation of the song, but after reading these reviews, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Iowa Star have both described it in ways - way better than what I had in mind or could've scribed myself. The only thing missing I would have added is the song's inferences to evolutionary biology."
Too Much - "The lyric to this was written just before we recorded it," says Zander. "Some songs are like that - it just happened at the last minute and suddenly, it has to be on the record. With the acoustic guitars and different chord inversions, it gives the song nice dynamics."
Special One - "This one, Robin also sang it in Japanese and it's going to be really interesting when Robin performs it live because a lot of people don't know that he speaks fluent Japanese," says Nielsen.
Pop Drone - "The intro to 'Pop Drone'," Petersson says, "is a backwards twelve-string bass. The original idea for the song started as an hour-long tamboura drone made into a pop song. It ended up just under five minutes, and that's probably long enough. For this record, I recorded with my Chandler twelve-string bass, '65 Hofner Club bass, '58 Fender Precision bass, and '63 Gibson Thunderbird bass.""
My Obsession - "I always think of ourselves as a '60s group," says Petersson, "because as kids, that's when we started playing music. To me, 'My Obsession' sounds a bit like a psychedelic version of The Who in 1967."
Words - "Rick brought the band two instrumental pieces that were nearly the same tempo," Zander states, "We pieced them together and finished it. It has a huge sounding bridge and a strong lyric. It's about loss, which everyone can relate to. 'Words' was the first song Chris mixed and it just sounded great-a good start."
Best Friend - "Having written and dealt with the Dream Police, the High Priest of Rhythmic Noise, and other songs, including 'I Want Be Man' (about a robot who wants to be a man, and a man who dreams of becoming a robot), I've always had a multitude of ideas and a fascination with conscious and non-deliberate cerebral thoughts about role reversals," Nielsen states, "With 'Best Friend' we once again try to explore the concept of our inner and outside personalities, in Love and at War with each other at the same time. . . . OK, it's also a cool three-chord pop tune."
If I Could - "'If I Could' is the most unlike Cheap Trick-sounding song on this record," recalls Tom. "Unintentionally it's a cross between Curtis Mayfield and the Jeff Beck Group." Zander adds, ". . . My new favorite this week. Chris really had a lot of input on this one. Cheers to Chris!"
Low Life/Hummer - The drums for 'Sorry Boy', 'Low Life in High Heels' and 'Hummer' were originally recorded at Steve Albini's studio in Chicago. It's always a pleasure to record with Mr. Albini," Bun E. says. "He's got the best sounding room in town, and the best microphone collection I've seen in 30 years of cutting drums. And to cap it off, I found a groovy vintage 1967 Ludwig Mod Orange drumset in the basement and we used it on 'Low Life'."
According to Cheap Trick's management, the recording and mixing of Special One went so well that Bearsville Studios and the Hit Factory gave up making records and closed their doors - knowing nothing could top this. "It's a good note for those two top-notch recording studios to go out on."
Cheap Trick has been running its own label, Cheap Trick Unlimited, controlling a substantial inventory of master recordings, including Cheap Trick 97 (Red Ant), Woke Up With a Monster (Warner Bros. 1994), Silver (a double live CD/DVD), Music for Hangovers (live CD/DVD), various singles including "That 70s Show" and "Cold Turkey", "Bun E. in a Box" (a drum sample CD), plus various videos and live footage. Nielsen comments, "Running our own label has been a lot of fun. One day Bun E. gets to be President and one day I get to play President." Zander adds, "It's been a little tedious and a little overwhelming at times but we've got more control over our chaos."
In May 2003 Cheap Trick decided to bring their record label to Big3 Entertainment. Under the deal, Cheap Trick Unlimited/Big3 Entertainment released Special One. Bun E. stated, "We brought our label to Big3 because we got tired of being record moguls and riding around in limos and making the big bucks. We thought we'd give Big3 a chance." The new deal is a multi-album deal of both new and previous released albums which will include new artwork and bonus tracks.
Multi-platinum rock band Cheap Trick returns with The Latest (2009), a self-released album and their first new studio album since 2006ís Rockford. The Latest, produced by Julian Raymond and Howard Willing, continues Cheap Trickís reign as power-pop progenitors as they celebrate their 35th anniversary together. It's refreshing to hear a rock record so outstanding in its depth of material - musically, lyrically, and sonically it holds up from beginning to end. Simply put - brilliant. For Cheap Trick it's always been the music that matters.