Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Talk is Cheap!

I'm currently in a bit of a lull in my A-Z CD trek, as in between Lynyrd Skynyrd and Paul McCartney, there ain't a whole lot of pure Rock to track thru with the likes of Madonna, the Manhattan Transfer, Barry Manilow (oh, shut up!) and Johnny Mathis, so I'll take care of some old business and jabber about a longtime favorite band of mine that I neglected to discuss back when I played them a couple months ago, the pride of Rockford, Illinois: Cheap Trick. Yet another outstanding band that's been snubbed by the Crock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame, C.T. is not only a fan favorite, but for the most part also highly praised by the critics for their body of work.  I would submit that their output is every bit as prolific and relevant as that of Blondie and the Pretenders—both decent groups, but both rather overrated in my book—yet they're in the Hall already.  To HOF people, I hereby quote the great prophet Mike Damone in Fast Times At Ridgemont High:  "Can you honestly tell me you forgot?  Forgot the magnetism of Robin Zander, or the charisma of Rick Nielsen?"  Evidently, they have...

Not unlike with Journey, I actually prefer Cheap Trick's "B-stuff" over their big hits.  "Dream Police", "Surrender" and "I Want You To Want Me" are all great songs, and "The Flame" may well be the greatest power-ballad of all-time, but there is so much more good stuff to behold here.  Songs like "Never Had A Lot To Lose" (the story of my life), "He's A Whore", "Clock Strikes Ten", "The House Is Rockin' (With Domestic Problems)" and "Tonight It's You" are frequent flyers on my CD player.  "Stiff Competition" is another favorite, with the line "I screw you/you screw me/they screw us/here we go again..." (words to live by), as is the overlooked power chord-laden "All Wound Up" from 1988's Lap of Luxury. AND, apart from Elton John's "I Think I'm Gonna Kill Myself", C.T.'s "Auf Wiedersehen" has to be the funniest song ever written about suicide.  Their cover versions of "Day Tripper", "Ain't That A Shame" and "Don't Be Cruel" certainly don't suck either...

As dandy as their records are, seeing Cheap Trick live in concert is a bit of a crapshoot.  Some nights they are the greatest Rock 'N' Roll band in the world, and other nights, they just phone it in, and I've witnessed both extremes.  I saw them in 1988 as part of what might have been the strangest triple bill ever concocted—the Moody Blues, Cheap Trick and Glass Tiger (remember them?)—and Trick was the superior band that night.  Then a few years later, I saw them open for R.E.O. Speedwagon, and they half-heartedly played nine songs and left.  It depends on what night you catch them as to what you get, I suppose.

Musicianship-wise, this band is top-notch.  Tom Petersson is my second-favorite living bass player (just behind Rush's Geddy Lee), and anyone with the balls to play a 12-string bass is alright in my book—even Entwistle never played more than eight strings at a time.  Brad Carlson—aka Bun E. Carlos—is as solid a drummer as you'll find anywhere, Robin Zander is an underrated vocalist, and there ain't no denying what a great guitarist Rick Nielsen is—it's a shame that his Pee Wee Herman-ish persona detracts from that sometimes.  Then again, I love the quote I once read back in the '70s about the band where someone said, "Two of them look like Rock stars, and the other two look like wrecked trucks!"

My All-Time Cheap Trick Top 10
1) "All Wound Up" (1988)
2) "Still Competition" (1978)
3) "He's A Whore" (1976)
4) "Never Had A Lot To Lose" (1988)
5) "She's Tight" (1982)
6) "Tonight It's You" (1985)
7) "Auf Wiedersehen" (1978)
8) "Clock Strikes Ten" [Live] (1979)
9) "The House Is Rockin' (With Domestic Problems)" (1979)
10) "Stop This Game" (1980)

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