Deep Album Cuts Vol. 60: Cheap Trick

This week, Cheap Trick are releasing their 17th studio album, Bang, Zoom, Crazy...Hello, and next week they'll be inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. And it's interesting to me that they got the Hall Of Fame nod now, when so many other bands that started in the mid-'70s haven't gotten in yet. And I think it's because they managed so well to not fit in too perfectly anywhere, but work well enough everywhere. They were too old-fashioned to be punk or new wave, too modern to be just a power pop band, not heavy enough to be metal, too populist to be a cult band, too weird and funny to be a cookie cutter Top 40 band, and too old to be alternative (a few weeks ago, I heard someone call into the local alt-rock station and request Cheap Trick -- the DJ played 30 seconds of "I Want You To Want Me," then cut it off, told the guy he had the wrong station, and put on Muse). And yet, they managed to carve out a niche that combined bits of all those niches. So here's a look back at their first dozen or so albums, the era in which they had their greatest successes as a singles act.

Cheap Trick Deep Album Cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. Speak Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace
2. He's A Whore
3. Clock Strikes Ten
4. Big Eyes
5. Oh Caroline
6. Oh Claire
7. On Top Of The World
8. Auf Wiedersehen
9. On The Radio
10. Hello There (live)
11. Come On, Come On (live)
12. Lookout (live)
13. Need Your Love
14. I Know What I Want
15. Just Got Back
16. High Priest Of Rhythmic Noise
17. Oo La La La
18. Next Position Please
19. Heaven's Falling
20. Standing On The Edge
21. Take Me To The Top
22. All We Need Is A Dream

Tracks 1 and 2 from Cheap Trick (1977)
Tracks 3, 4 and 5 from In Color (1977)
Tracks 6, 7, 8 and 9 from Heaven Tonight (1978)
Tracks 10, 11 and 12 from Cheap Trick At Budokan (1979)
Tracks 13 and 14 from Dream Police (1979)
Tracks 15 and 16 from All Shook Up (1980)
Track 17 from One On One (1982)
Tracks 18 and 19 from Next Position Please (1983)
Track 20 from Standing On The Edge (1985)
Track 21 from The Doctor (1986)
Track 22 from Lap Of Luxury (1988)

I usually restrict these playlists to studio records. But it seemed fitting to include some of At Budokan, the live album that sold more than twice as much as their biggest studio albums, effectively broke them in America and spun off one of their biggest singles. Plus "Lookout" is a great song that didn't appear on any of their other albums. "Clock Strikes Ten" from In Color was included because while it was never a single in America, it was their first song that went to #1 in Japan and set off this whole unusual turn of events that led to At Budokan.

The fact that the band took off in Japan before it was popular anywhere else, and was able to leverage that into popularity in the U.S., is a crucial piece of rock lore that I think fits in perfectly with the way Cheap Trick snuck through the backdoor for a lot of their biggest successes. Just look at how the cover art for several of the band's best known albums only feature Robin Zander and Tom Petersson, the two skinny long-haired rock star-looking members of the band, effectively hiding the goofier-looking Rick Nielsen and Bun E. Carlos.

I make these playlists because I think sometimes it's hard to find a point of entry for a band's catalog when you already know their biggest hits and want to hear more. And I remember probably a decade ago trying to get into Cheap Trick and initially failing, by trying to listen to their early albums in chronological order and being frustrated that I didn't instantly hear any songs that grabbed me like "Surrender" or "I Want You To Want Me." Trying again more recently, it was easier to appreciate the band's unique sensibility, the fact that Zander isn't an amazing singer and there aren't any really outrageous guitar solos but their records just explode with a certain sneering, mischievous energy.

As a drummer, I've also become a huge fan of Bun E. Carlos, who really lets loose with some powerful and inventive drumming on the band's best records. One of the reasons I haven't really had much interest in checking out Cheap Trick's new album or recent tours is that the band has ousted Carlos, apparently against his wishes, from the band's current lineup, with Rick Nielsen's son Daxx filling the Wolfgang Van Halen role. It's my hope that Carlos will at least get to perform with the band at their Hall Of Fame induction and get his due as part of the classic lineup.

Since these playlists are meant to provide a flipside to a band's popular singles, I followed their career up through 1988's Lap Of Luxury, when they managed to keep their record deal by recording the power ballad an Epic executive handed them from a couple of pro songwriters, and "The Flame" became their first and only #1 single in America. Tom Petersson left the band for most of the '80s, and the four albums they recorded without him represent the band's commercial slump before he came back in time for "The Flame." One of those less successful albums, 1983's Next Position Please, wound up impressing me the most of the post-'70s albums, featuring some bright and playful production from Todd Rundgren, and the Rundgren-penned highlight "Heaven's Falling." What amazed me was the band's only had two top 10 albums in their entire career, both in the same year (1979). Cheap Trick have been underdogs at pretty much every step of the way, which is why their Hall Of Fame induction seems so unlikely and remarkable to me.

Previous playlists in the Deep Album Cuts series:
Vol. 1: Brandy
Vol. 2: Whitney Houston
Vol. 3: Madonna
Vol. 4: My Chemical Romance
Vol. 5: Brad Paisley
Vol. 6: George Jones
Vol. 7: The Doors
Vol. 8: Jay-Z
Vol. 9: Robin Thicke
Vol. 10: R. Kelly
Vol. 11: Fall Out Boy
Vol. 12: TLC
Vol. 13: Pink
Vol. 14: Queen
Vol. 15: Steely Dan
Vol. 16: Trick Daddy
Vol. 17: Paramore
Vol. 18: Elton John
Vol. 19: Missy Elliott
Vol. 20: Mariah Carey
Vol. 21: The Pretenders
Vol. 22: "Weird Al" Yankovic
Vol. 23: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Vol. 24: Foo Fighters
Vol. 25: Counting Crows
Vol. 26: T.I.
Vol. 27: Jackson Browne
Vol. 28: Usher
Vol. 29: Mary J. Blige
Vol. 30: The Black Crowes
Vol. 31: Ne-Yo
Vol. 32: Blink-182
Vol. 33: One Direction
Vol. 34: Kelly Clarkson
Vol. 35: The B-52's
Vol. 36: Ludacris
Vol. 37: They Might Be Giants
Vol. 38: T-Pain
Vol. 39: Snoop Dogg
Vol. 40: Ciara
Vol. 41: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Vol. 42: Dwight Yoakam
Vol. 43: Demi Lovato
Vol. 44: Prince
Vol. 45: Duran Duran
Vol. 46: Rihanna
Vol. 47: Janet Jackson
Vol. 48: Sara Bareilles
Vol. 49: Motley Crue
Vol. 50: The Who
Vol. 51: Coldplay
Vol. 52: Alicia Keys
Vol. 53: Stone Temple Pilots
Vol. 54: David Bowie
Vol. 55: The Eagles
Vol. 56: The Beatles
Vol. 57: Beyonce
Vol. 58: Beanie Sigel
Vol. 59: A Tribe Called Quest
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