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Biographies: Cheap Trick

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Reviewer: Zel

One of rock's most entertaining attractions, Cheap Trick formed in Chicago, Illinois, USA, in 1973. Rick Nielsen (b. 22 December 1946, Rockford, Illinois, USA; guitar, vocals) and Tom Petersson (b. Tom Peterson, 9 May 1950, Rockford, Illinois, USA; bass, vocals) began their careers in various high school bands, before securing a recording contract as members of Fuse. This short-lived outfit folded on completing a debut album, and the duo formed a new band with Thom Mooney and Robert "Stewkey" Antoni from the recently disbanded Nazz. Mooney was subsequently replaced by drummer Brad Carlson (aka Bun E. Carlos, b. 12 June 1951, Rockford, Illinois, USA), and with the departure of "Stewkey", the initial Cheap Trick line-up was completed by vocalist Randy "Xeno" Hogan. He, in turn, was replaced by Robin Zander (b. 23 January 1952, Loves Park, Illinois, USA; guitar, vocals), a former colleague of Carlson's in the short-lived Toons. Relocated to America's Midwest, the quartet embarked on the gruelling bar band circuit before a series of demo tapes secured a recording contract. Although Cheap Trick is generally regarded as a disappointment, it introduced the group's inventive flair and striking visual image. The heartthrob good looks of Zander and Petersson clashed with Carlos' seedy garb, while Nielsen's odd-ball costume - baseball cap, bow-tie and monogrammed sweater - compounded this unlikely contrast.
Having spent a frenetic period supporting Queen, Journey and Kiss, Cheap Trick completed a second collection within months of their debut. In Color offered a smoother sound in which a grasp of melody was allowed to flourish, and established the group's ability to satisfy visceral and cerebral demands. It contained several engaging performances, including "I Want You To Want Me", "Hello There" and "Clock Strikes Ten", each of which became in-concert favourites. Heaven Tonight consolidated the group's unique approach, while "Surrender" offered the consummate Cheap Trick performance, blending the British pop of the Move with the urgent riffing of the best of America's hard rock.

At Budokan followed a highly successful tour of Japan, and this explosive live set became the quartet's first platinum disc, confirming them as a headline act in their own right. However, Dream Police added little to the sound extolled on the previous two studio releases, and, moreover, the title song was originally recorded for the group's debut album. Producer George Martin did little to deflect this sterility on All Shook Up, while Found All The Parts, a mini-album culled from out-takes, suggested internal problems. A disaffected Petersson left the group in 1982, but although Pete Comita initially took his place, the latter quickly made way for Jon Brant (ex-Ruffians). Neither One On One, nor the Todd Rundgren -produced Next Position Please, halted Cheap Trick's commercial slide, but Standing On The Edge offered hopes of a renaissance. A 1986 recording, "Mighty Wings", was used on the soundtrack of the successful Top Gun movie, while the return of Petersson the same year re-established the group's most successful line-up. Lap Of Luxury achieved multi-platinum status when an attendant single, "The Flame", topped the US chart in 1988, confirming Cheap Trick's dramatic resurrection as a major US act.

Busted failed to scale similar heights, and their one album for Warner Brothers Records, Woke Up With A Monster, was completely overshadowed by the release of a sequel to the Budokan album the same year. The band's standing remained high among the new wave of American alternative rockers, however, and they played several dates on the 1996 Lollapalooza tour before signing with the independent label Red Ant. Their second self-titled album followed and marked a return to the thundering power-pop of In Color and Heaven Tonight. The band's stock is currently high following the release of 1996's 4-CD box set, the complete Budokan concert, and the new live sets, Music For Hangovers and Silver.

*Courtesy sonicnet.com

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