16 Things We Learned Hanging Out With Cheap Trick
It’s taken 42 years, 17 studio albums (including their brand new disc Bang, Zoom, Crazy … Hello), about 5,000 concerts and perhaps a half million guitar picks thrown into the crowd, but Cheap Trick finally entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 8th. We travelled with frontman Robin Zander, guitarist Rick Nielsen, bassist Tom Petersson and drummer Daxx Nielsen to Nashville and Rockford, Illinois, for a recent Rolling Stone feature you can read right here, but there was a ton we simply couldn’t fit into the article. Here are 16 things we learned while reporting the piece.
1. Zander attributes the group’s signature sound to the fact that all four members came from distinct musical backgrounds.
“When I came into the band, Rick was more of a Yardbirds guy,” he says. “I was more of a Beatles guy. Tom was more of a Rolling Stones guy, and Bun E. [Carlos] was a Keith Moon guy. We all brought different things and merged them together.”
2. They felt a kinship with the punk bands of the 1970s.
“We were all coming from the same place,” says Petersson. “We were both coming from nothing. And because we were a bar band, we just had the sensibility of getting to the point really, really quickly. But what we do is really heavy pop music.”
3. In the 1970s, they opened for Kiss, the Kinks, Queen, Thin Lizzy and many other legends, but only one band truly threatened them.
“When we toured with AC/DC, we always had to bring our A game,” says Nielsen. “They really felt like our equals.” Adds Zander: “At the time we were almost equally unsuccessful, playing dumps all over the world. Playing with those guys is some of the fondest memories that I have.”
4. Even though Live at Budokan made their careers, Petersson doesn’t really like live albums.
“I just think that studio albums are better because that’s where all the thought went,” he says. “I don’t think Budokan is anywhere near our best album. If I was asked to play one album that represented our career, I would not pick a live album.”
5. They regret getting into a legal tussle with their label right after Budokan turned them into superstars.
“The label basically went, ‘Oh, really? You’re going to get into a lawsuit with us?,'” says Petersson. “‘Let’s see how that works out for you.’ Then they pretty much blackballed us and put all their efforts into making sure we didn’t have success. It’s kind of a miracle we stayed together and stuck around to this day. Looking back, the lawsuit was just a terrible idea.”
6. In the mid-1980s they found themselves opening up for bands like REO Speedwagon, but they never thought about packing it in.
“You don’t have to be the biggest band on the planet, making billions of dollars, to still be popular and making a living doing what you’re doing,” says Zander. “We’ve always made a living, somehow or another. We’ve relied on live performances. That’s allowed us to survive and finance our recordings. Also, it’s a privilege to get out there and play. Traveling isn’t much fun, no matter if you’re riding in a bus behind Mötley Crüe or not.”