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Cheap Trick is an American rock band from Rockford, Illinoismarker, formed in 1974. The band consists of members Robin Zander (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Rick Nielsen (lead guitar, backing vocals), Tom Petersson (electric bass, backing vocals), and Bun E. Carlos (drums, percussion).

Cheap Trick created a substantial fan base through its own brand of power pop music with a hard-edged yet melodic pop sound that combines the tunefulness of The Beatles with the speed and energy of punk rock. The Los Angeles Times has remarked that "Cheap Trick gained fame by twisting the Beatlesque into something shinier, harder, more American." Their biggest hits include "Surrender", "I Want You to Want Me", "Dream Police", and "The Flame." Cheap Trick also performed a cover version of Big Star's "In the Street" as the theme song for That '70s Show from the second season onward and the theme song "Baby Muggles" for The Colbert Report.

, Cheap Trick continues to tour with the original lineup. They have often been referred to in the Japanese press as the "American Beatles". The Illinois State Senate has declared April 1st to be "Cheap Trick Day" in the State. The band was also ranked #25 in VH1's list of the 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock.


Formation (1967–1973)

In 1961, Nielsen began playing locally in Rockford, Illinoismarker utilizing an ever-increasing collection of rare and valuable guitars. He formed several local bands with names like The Pagans, The Boyz, and The Grim Reapers. Finally, Nielsen formed Fuse in 1967 with Petersson, who had played in another local band called The Bo Weevils.

Fuse released a self-titled album for Epic Records in 1968, which was generally ignored. The LP featured pretty ordinary hard rock with a couple of interesting progressive influences. Frustrated by their lack of success, Fuse, which by then included Bun E. Carlos on drums, moved to Philadelphiamarker in 1971. They began calling themselves "Sick Man of Europe" in '72-'73. After a European tour in 1973, Nielsen and Petersson returned to Rockford and reunited with Carlos.

Randy "Xeno" Hogan was the original lead singer for the rock band Cheap Trick. He left the band shortly after its formation and was replaced by Robin Zander. Randy went on to become a member of Milwaukee based AOR rock band Crossfire (since renamed Bad Boy), of which he is still a member. He also performs numerous events with his band No Strings Attached.

They added folk singer Robin Zander later that same year.

Budokan brings success (1978–1981)

Not one of Cheap Trick's first three albums made it into the Top 40 in the United States. In Japan, however, all three albums became gold records. When Cheap Trick went to Japan to tour the country for the first time, in 1978, they were received with a frenzy reminiscent of Beatlemania. During this tour, in April 1978, Cheap Trick recorded a live show for their loyal Japanese fans at the Nippon Budokanmarker. The show was released as a live album titled Cheap Trick at Budokan, which was intended to be exclusive to Japan. The album suddenly became a popular import in the United States, and demand for the album became so great that Epic Records finally issued the album in the US in 1979.

Cheap Trick at Budokan launched the band into international stardom, and the album went triple platinum in the United States. The smash track was the live version of "I Want You to Want Me", which had originally been released on In Color. It reached #7 on the Billboard Hot 100, and became Cheap Trick's biggest-selling single. The second single, "Ain't That A Shame," peaked at #35. One song from At Budokan, "Need Your Love", had already been recorded for the next studio album, Dream Police, which was released later in 1979 and produced by Tom Werman. The title track of the album was a hit single, as was "Voices," but the work was panned by critics, many of whom expressed concern about an apparent decline in the quality of the band's material.Dream Police also found the band taking its style in a more experimental direction by incorporating strings and dabbling in heavy metal on tracks like "Gonna Raise Hell".

By 1980, when All Shook Up was released, Cheap Trick was headlining arenas. All Shook Up—produced by former Beatles producer George Martin—reached #24 on the charts and was certified gold, but the album's high-class background didn't save it from descriptions like "Led Zeppelin gone psycho." Indeed, All Shook Up struck many fans of the band's earlier albums as too weird and experimental. One song from the All Shook Up sessions, "Everything Works If You Let It", appeared on the soundtrack of Roadie, and Nielsen and Carlos participated in sessions for John Lennon and Yoko Ono's album Double Fantasy. The Found All The Parts EP was also released in 1980 and consisted of previously unreleased material, including a faux live cover of The Beatles' "Day Tripper".

Departure of Petersson (1981–1987)

On August 26, 1980, before the release of All Shook Up, Petersson left the group and went on to tour with various acts and eventually recorded a solo album with his wife Dagmar, who had previously recorded with Kevin Coyne and others. The five-song mini-LP titled Tom Peterson and Another Language was released in 1984. Pete Comita replaced Petersson for the All Shook Up tour and the band recorded five songs with Comita to contribute to two movie soundtracks. "I'm The Man," "Born To Raise Hell," and "Ohm Sweet Ohm," which were produced by Jack Douglas, went to the film Rock & Rule. Unfortunately an accompanying soundtrack album for the film was never released. "Reach Out" and "I Must Be Dreamin'" went to the film Heavy Metal and were produced by Roy Thomas Baker. "Reach Out" was written by Comita and Bob James. Comita left the band after only a few months, during pre-production for the band's next album. Jon Brant became Petersson's steady replacement. In July 1981, CBS Inc. sued Cheap Trick and their manager Ken Adamany for $10 million, alleging they were attempting to coerce CBS into re-negotiating their contract and had refused to record any new material for the label since October 1980. The lawsuit was settled in early 1982 and work commenced on the next album—One on One, produced by Roy Thomas Baker. The band changed direction again, this time opting for an album full of brash, shout-along hard rock songs. The album spawned two minor hits with the power ballad "If You Want My Love" and the innuendo-laced rocker "She's Tight." The music videos for both songs received heavy rotation on MTV.

The following year, Cheap Trick released Next Position Please with Todd Rundgren as producer. Rundgren downplayed the band's brash side and returned them to a more clean, pop-oriented sound similar to that of In Color. The album never found much of an audience and Cheap Trick's commercial fortunes were in decline. The first single was a cover of The Motors "Dancing The Night Away." Epic Records, desperate for a hit from the band, forced the group to record the track, which had been a hit single in Europe. Rundgren refused to produce the song, and it was instead produced by Ian Taylor. It failed to chart, as did the second single and fan favorite "I Can't Take It." The Ian Taylor produced "Spring Break," which was a contribution to the soundtrack of the 1983 comedy film Spring Break, was also issued as a single. The track also failed to chart. In 1984, the band recorded the title track to the Tim Matheson comedy Up The Creek, which Neilsen later called "one of the worst" songs he'd ever written. The track reached #36 on Billboard's Top Tracks but was off the chart after two weeks.

In 1985 they were reunited with Jack Douglas, who had produced their debut album, to record Standing on the Edge. The band originally intended to return to their rough-sounding roots on the album, but Douglas backed out of the mixing process due to the legal issues he was having with Yoko Ono at the time. It was instead mixed by Tony Platt, who added more elements of typical 1980s production. This album was called their "best collection of bubblegum bazooka rock in years." The album also featured Mark Radice on keyboards, and he was also enlisted to assist in the songwriting process. The albums first single, "Tonight It's You", reached #8 on the Billboard's Top Rock Tracks chart and the video received heavy rotation on MTV. The following singles "Little Sister," and "How About You" failed to chart.

In 1986, The band recorded "Mighty Wings", the end-title cut for the film Top Gun. They then released The Doctor, which turned out to be the final album with Brant as bassist. Some of the songs contained elements of funk, and the band utilized female back-up vocalists for the first time. However, synthesizers and computer-programmed sound effects drowned out most of the prominent instruments, most noticeably the guitar. Produced by Tony Platt, it is widely considered the bands' worst album. The album's lone single, "It's Only Love" failed to chart, but many blame the album's poor success on the record label's lack of promotion. The music video for "It's Only Love" made history as the first music video to prominently use American Sign Language.

Lap of Luxury (1987–1997)

Petersson rejoined the group in 1987 and helped record 1988's Lap of Luxury, produced by Richie Zito. Due to the band's commercial decline, Epic Records forced the band to collaborate with professional songwriters. "The Flame," a typical '80s "factory ballad," was issued as the first single and became the band's first-ever #1 single. The second single, a cover of Elvis Presley's "Don't Be Cruel," also reached the top 10. Three other singles from the album were "Ghost Town," "Never Had A Lot To Lose," and "Let Go." Each one charted successfully, and Lap of Luxury went platinum and became recognized as the band's comeback album.

Busted was released in 1990 and was also produced by Richie Zito, as the band attempted to capitalize on the success of Lap of Luxury. This time, however, the band was allowed more creative control and professional songwriters were only used on a handful of songs. The first single "Can't Stop Falling Into Love" reached #12 on the charts but failed to reach as high as the label expected. The second single, the Diane Warren penned "Wherever Would I Be," suffered a worse fate reaching only #50. The following singles, "If You Need Me" and "Back N' Blue" were not successful, although the later single reached #32 on the US Mainstream Rock charts.

In 1991, Cheap Trick's Greatest Hits was released. It included twelve of the band's most successful or popular singles and one new track, a cover of The Beatles song Magical Mystery Tour, which was an outtake from the Lap Of Luxury sessions.

In 1993, Budokan II was released. It featured the tracks that had been omitted from the original live album, plus three more tracks from their follow-up tour in 1979. The release was not authorized by the band, and it is now out of print. That same year, Robin Zander released his eponymous debut solo record on Interscope, produced by Jimmy Iovine. Guitarist Mike Campbell, best known for his work with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, collaborated with Zander on most of the album's tracks. The album was largely unsuccessful but the single "I've Always Got You" reached #13 on the US Mainstream Rock chart.

The group left Epic after the disappointing sales of "Busted" – to sign with Warner Bros. Records. In 1994 the band released Woke Up With A Monster, which was produced by legendary producer Ted Templeman, best known for his work with Van Halen. The album's title track was issued as the first single and reached #16 on the US Mainstream Rock charts. The album's sales were poor, and it peaked at only #123. By the time the album came out, there had been a variety of significant changes in the band, both music-wise and appearance-wise. The style of music is more on the "grunge" side, due to producer Ted Templeman's much criticized heavy-handed production. Rick Nielsen grew a once trademark goatee, and Robin Zander's voice grew noticeably deeper. The band also contributed a cover of John Lennon's song Cold Turkey on the Working Class Hero: A Tribute to John Lennon album.

The band quickly parted ways with Warner Bros. and decided it was time to go back to the basics. They concentrated on the strength of their live shows, which were near-legendary, and they decided to release new recordings to independent labels instead of major companies. Over the next few years, Cheap Trick toured with several bands they had influenced, such as the Stone Temple Pilots and Pearl Jam. At the end of 1995, the band independently released Gift, a two track Christmas CD that benefited Chicago-area charities. They spent next year recording demos with Tom Werman and Steve Albini. They then released the 7 inch vinyl single Baby Talk/Brontosaurus on Seattlemarker-based indie label Sub Pop Records, which was produced by Albini. That same year, Epic Records released Sex, America, Cheap Trick, a four disc box set that included dozens of rare and unreleased studio and live recordings along with some of the band's singles and favorites. The collection, however, was criticized for lacking several of the band's most well-known and much-loved songs.

In 1997, Cheap Trick signed with indie label Red Ant Records and released Cheap Trick, produced by Ian Taylor, who the band had previously worked with in 1983. The band attempted to re-introduce themselves to a new generation, as the album was self-titled and the artwork was similar to their first album which had been released twenty years before. The album was critically acclaimed and hailed as a return to form. Eleven weeks after the release, Red Ant's parent company Alliance Entertainment Corporation declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The single "Say Goodbye" only reached #119 on the charts, and the band again found themselves without a record label.

Cheap Trick Unlimited (1998–2005)

Cheap Trick began to rebuild in 1998 by trying to restore normal relations with Sony/Epic and the music retail community. They established their own record company, Cheap Trick Unlimited. They toured behind the release of At Budokan: The Complete Concert, and the remastered reissues of their first three albums. One of the multi-night stands from this tour resulted in Music for Hangovers, a vibrant live effort that featured members of The Smashing Pumpkins on two tracks.
Cheap Trick Unlimited sold the CD exclusively on for 8 weeks prior to releasing it in stores. To support the record they toured with Guided By Voices, and also played a concert with Pearl Jam. That same year, the band spent time in the studio recording with Steve Albini, who had produced the Baby Talk/Brontosaurus single. The band began re-recording their second album, In Color, as well as a handful of other miscellaneous tracks. The recordings were not finished and have yet to be officially released, but they were leaked onto the internet. The band also revealed in an interview that a rarities album was in the works and initially planned for release in early 2000. However, it was never released.

In 1999, the band recorded a reworked cover of Big Star's "In the Street" for use as the theme song for the television show That '70s Show. It was released on the show's soundtrack, That '70s Album . The group also re-recorded "Surrender," which was available exclusively at A remix of the same track was featured on the Small Soldiers movie soundtrack.

In early 2000, Cheap Trick entered into a license with the now-defunct 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 went into Bearsville Studios in Woodstock, New Yorkmarker in March 2002, where the band put together their first studio album in six years, Special One in May 2003. At the same time, the band brought their record label to Big3 Entertainment. While the lead-off single "Scent of A Woman" was typical Cheap Trick fare, most of the album's tracks were acoustic-based. The band also contributed a newly re-recorded version of "Surrender" to the comedy film Daddy Day Care and made a cameo in the film. They toured with Cake on the Unlimited Sunshine Tour that same year. In Japan, the band's entire catalog released between 1980 and 1990 was re-issued in remastered form.

In late 2003, Bun E. Carlos starred in a Target commercial with Torry Castellano, drummer of The Donnas.

In April, 2005, Cheap Trick released the five-track Sessions@AOL EP for digital download.

Independence (2006 onward)

In 2006, Cheap Trick released Rockford on Cheap Trick Unlimited/Big3 Records. The first single from the album was "Perfect Stranger" (produced by Linda Perry and co-written by Cheap Trick and Perry). The band promoted the album through appearances on the Sirius and XM satellite radio networks and a North American tour. That same year, "Surrender" was featured as a playable track in the hit video game Guitar Hero II, and the albums Dream Police and All Shook Up were re-issued in remastered form with bonus tracks. One On One and Next Position Please (The Authorized Version) were released as digital downloads. The band also appeared in a McDonald's advertising campaign called "This Is Your Wake-Up Call" featuring the band.

In 2007, officials of Rockford, Illinois honored Cheap Trick by reproducing the Rockford album cover art on that year's "city sticker" (vehicle registration). On June 19, 2007, the Illinois Senate passed Senate Resolution 255, which designated April 1 of every year as Cheap Trick Day in the State of Illinois. In August of that year, Cheap Trick honored the 40th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by playing the album in its entirety with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, conducted by Edwin Outwater, along with guest vocalists including Joan Osborne and Aimee Mann. Geoff Emerick, who engineered all the sound effects on Sgt. Pepper, engineered the same sounds for the two live concerts. The Chicago chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences honored Cheap Trick at the 2007 Recording Academy Honors event in Chicago on October 11, 2007. Nielsen and Carlos were on hand to receive the award, which was presented to them by Steve Albini.

In 2008, Cheap Trick were selected to be featured in the John Varvatos Spring/Summer 2008 clothing ad campaign. The black and white commercial put the group on a boardwalk with bicycles, the filming backdrop was a beach for a very modern look for the band. Their song California Man was used in the advertising promotion. On April 24, Cheap Trick played live at the Budokanmarker for the 30th anniversary of the 1978 album Live at Budokan. On July 5, at their concert in Milwaukee, Rick Nielsen announced to the crowd that the show was being recorded for a future CD and/or DVD release. On November 11, the band released At Budokan: 30th Anniversary Collectors Edition, a box set that featured 3 CDs of the band's two concerts at Budokan recorded on April 28 and 30, 1978. A bonus DVD contained concert footage that originally aired on Japanese television, plus bonus features including footage from their return to Budokan for the original album's 30th anniversary.

Also in 2008, the song "Dream Police" was featured as a playable track in the hit video game Guitar Hero: Aerosmith. Rock Band 2 also featured the unreleased 1998 re-recorded version of "Hello There" as a playable track and it was also used for the game's opening sequence.

In an October, 2008 interview, Rick Nielsen revealed that several Cheap Trick releases were in store for the future, including a new album produced by Julian Raymond, and the re-recorded version of In Color. Legacy Recordings is also planning to re-issue the remainder of the band's Sony-owned catalog.

In 2009 Cheap Trick is touring with Def Leppard and Poison. On April 4, 2009, it was announced the band would release a new album entitled The Latest. The album was released on June 23rd only by preorder, and hit retail stores on July 21st. The group also performed the theme song for the film Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen. The group released Sgt. Pepper Live, their interpretation of the classic Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band on August 25, 2009. This was released as both a compact disc and a DVD. 2009 also saw Bun E. Carlos launch a separate project including members of Smashing Pumpkins and Hanson: Tinted Windows, a power pop quartet whose debut album quickly earned critical praise and repeat airplay on leading syndicated FM radio programs. The band is set to headline a homecoming show at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, IL on Thursday, December 10th, 2009 as the main act at the 104.3 WJMK-FM holiday show, Jack's Cheap Christmas.


Live Performances

Cheap Trick is well known for their four decades of almost continuous touring. Their album Cheap Trick at Budokan elevated the status of the Budokanmarker as a premier venue for rock concerts.


Cheap Trick is known for its use - and large collection - of unusual guitars and basses.

Robin Zander has played a 1950s Rickenbacker Combo 450 Mapleglo since the late 1970s, as well as a Hamer 12-string guitar, a Gibson Firebird, and various Fender Telecaster-styled guitars.

Rick Nielsen is an avid collector who, despite rationalizing his guitar collection, still has over 250 pieces in his possession. He has collaborated with Hamer on trademark 'themed' guitars, some based on Cheap Trick albums such as "Rockford," "The Doctor," and even songs such as "Gonna Raise Hell." Hamer has also made unique five-necked guitars and electric mandocellos for Nielsen.

Tom Petersson is generally credited for having the initial idea for a 12-string bass. He previously had used a Gibson Thunderbird, and Alembic and Hagstrom 8-string basses, and asked Jol Dantzig of Hamer Guitars to make a 12-string bass. The company initially made him a 10-string bass. Following the successful trial use of that bass, the prototype 12-string bass, The Hamer 'Quad', was produced. Petersson later used 12-string basses made by Kids (a Japanese guitar maker), Chandler, and signature models from Waterstone as well as an impressive array of 4, 5 and 8 stringed basses from other guitar makers.

Bun E. Carlos has played with many different commercial drum accessories, including Ludwig and Slingerland Radio King drums, Zildjianmarker cymbals, rare Billy Gladstone snare drums, and Capella drum sticks. He is also an avid collector of vintage drums and buys, sells and trades with a few other Rockford, Illinois traders, mainly Randy Rainwater. Each year Rainwater and Carlos' collection can be seen at several drum shows in the Midwest.

Carlos has also recorded and written songs for many Rockford bands, such as Mark Willer and The Blues Hawks and also put together the short-lived Bun E. Carlos Experience, which also included Jon Brandt, who replaced Tom Petersson in the mid '80s, on bass.

Bands influenced

Bands citing Cheap Trick as an influence include: Pearl Jam, Local H, The Datsuns, Enuff Z'nuff, Everclear, Extreme, Fountains of Wayne, Guns N' Roses, Mötley Crüe, Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots, Green Day, OK Go, Smashing Pumpkins, The Pink Spiders, Terrorvision, Weezer, and many others.

Band members

Current members

Former members

  • Jon Brant – 12 and 4 stringed bass guitars, backing vocals (1981–1987, 1999, 2004, 2007)
  • Pete Comita – 12 and 4 stringed bass guitars, backing vocals (1980–1981)


Studio albums


  1. Cheap Trick conjures the Beatles at Hollywood Bowl. By Ann Powers. The Los Angeles Times. Published Aug. 12, 2007. Retrieved Dec. 26, 2008.
  2. Cheap Trick wants you to want them. By Mark Jordan. The Commercial Appeal. Published November 9, 2007.
  3. Soundtracks for "The Colbert Report". Accessed March 21, 2009.
  4. Journey, Cheap Trick thrill nostalgic crowd. By Maria Verso. The Arizona Republic. Published Oct. 4, 2008. Retrieved Dec. 26, 2008.
  5. Artists of Hard Rock (40 - 21). VH1. Retrieved December 26, 2008.
  6. Cheap Trick | The A.V. Club
  7. Podshow Radio July 21, 2006 Interview with Rick Nielsen.
  10. How Cheap Trick put the Budokan on the map | The Japan Times Online.
  12. "Cheap Trick." Popular Artist Biographies. All Media Guide, 2009. 22 Mar. 2009.

External links

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