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CHEAP TRICK’s roots lie in Fuse, a late-’60s Rockford, IL, band formed by Rick Nielsen and bassist Tom Petersson, who released an unsuccessful album on Epic in 1969. After the record failed to gain any attention, the band relocated to Philadelphia and changed their name to Sick Man of Europe. The group toured Europe unsuccessfully in 1972, returning to Illinois in 1973. Upon their return to Rockford, Nielsen and Petersson ended up naming their band Cheap Trick after adding drummer Bun E. Carlos and vocalist Randy “Xeno” Hogan. Hogan left the following year and ex-folk singer Robin Zander joined the group. Between 1974 and the band’s first album in 1977, Cheap Trick toured constantly, playing over 200 concerts a year, including opening slots for Queen, the Kinks, Kiss, and Santana. During this time, the band built up a solid catalog of original songs that would eventually comprise their first three albums; they also perfected their kinetic live show. During the Queen tour Rick wrote a “journal” for a Japanese music magazine that would familiarize the Japanese with Cheap Trick long before their records would be released there.
Cheap Trick signed with Epic Records in 1976, releasing their self-titled brilliant debut in early 1977. The record sold well in America, yet it failed to chart. However, the album became a massive success in Japan, going gold upon release. Later that year, the band released their second album, In Color.
The band realized that they were virtual superstars in Japan when they toured the country in early 1978. Their concerts were selling out within two hours and they packed the Budokan Arena. Cheap Trick’s concerts at the Arena were recorded for a television program and ended up becoming an album that appeared after their third album, 1978’s Heaven Tonight. Capturing both the loud, raucous energy of their debut and the hook-laden song craft of In Color, Heaven Tonight led to their first Top 100 single, “Surrender,” which peaked at number 62. However, the performances on At Budokan (1979) documented the band’s energetic, infectious live show, resulting in their commercial breakthrough in the U.S. The album stayed on the charts for over a year, peaking at number four and eventually selling over three million copies; a live version of “I Want You to Want Me” pulled from the album became their first Top Ten hit. Later that year, the group released their fourth studio album, Dream Police, which followed the same stylistic approach as Heaven Tonight. It also followed At Budokan into the Top Ten, selling over a million copies and launching the Top 40 hit singles “Voices” and “Dream Police.” In the summer of 1980, the group released an EP of tracks recorded between 1976 and 1979 called Found All the Parts.
Petersson left the group in the summer of 1980 after recording the George Martin-produced All Shook Up, released toward the end of 1980. For subsequent tours Pete Comita, and shortly thereafter Jon Brant, replaced Petersson. The first album recorded with Brant was One on One, the group’s seventh album, which appeared in 1982. Although it peaked at number 39, the record was more successful than All Shook Up, eventually going platinum. Next Position Please, released in 1983, failed to launch a hit single and spent only 11 weeks on the charts. Standing on the Edge (1985) and The Doctor (1986) suffered similar fates.
Petersson rejoined the band in 1988 and under CBS Records’ direction the group began working on a new album with the help of several outside songwriters. The result, Lap of Luxury, was a platinum Top 20 hit, featuring the number one power ballad “The Flame” and a Top Ten version of Elvis Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel.” Busted, released in 1990, wasn’t as successful as Lap of Luxury, peaking at number 48 and effectively putting an end to the group’s tenure with CBS Records. Over the course of the ’90s the band experienced several new lows when Sony Music, the successor to the band’s CBS Records contract, put Cheap Trick’s name on several budget compilations without their prior knowledge, consent, or agreement.
In 1994 Cheap Trick signed with Warner Bros. and released Woke Up with a Monster. That same year, Sony Records released a sequel to At Budokan, entitled Budokan II. Following the poor performance of Woke Up with a Monster, Cheap Trick decided to go back to the basics. They left Warner Bros., and over the next few years several alternative rockers, who were influenced by Cheap Trick, gave the band opportunities to restore their reputation. The Smashing Pumpkins had the band open some shows in 1995 and the group performed on the 1996 Lollapalooza tour. That same year, the box set Sex America Cheap Trick appeared to good reviews and the band signed with the fledgling indy/distributor Red Ant/Alliance. Early in 1997, the group released a Steve Albini-produced single “Baby Talk” on Sub Pop, which was followed by Cheap Trick, their critically acclaimed debut for Red Ant/Alliance in the spring. Seven weeks after releasing the record Red Ant/Alliance declared Chapter 11, causing a furious music retail community to yank the record from stores, nearly bankrupting the band in the process.
1998 saw the band rebuilding by trying to restore normal relations with Sony and the music retail community and establishing their own record company, Cheap Trick Unlimited. They toured behind the re-mastered re-releases of Budokan: the Complete Concert, and their first three records. One of the multi-night stands from this amazing tour resulted in Music for Hangovers, a brilliant and vibrant live effort. Amid much criticism Cheap Trick Unlimited sold the CD exclusively on amazon.com for eight weeks prior to releasing it in stores.
In early 2000, Cheap Trick entered into a license with musicmaker.com 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, NY, in March 2002, where the lads put together song by song their first studio album in six years – Special One.
In May 2003, Cheap Trick decided to bring their record label to Big3 Entertainment. Under the deal, Cheap Trick Unlimited/Big3 Entertainment released Special One. In June 2006, Cheap Trick released a new studio album, Rockford, on Cheap Trick Unlimited/Big3 Records.