February, 1977 - Cheap Trick Release Their First Album
Nothing I write will justify how great Cheap Trick's 1977 debut album is and will fall short on relating my love for it. It is a perfect blend of catchy power-pop hooks and raw punk rock attitude. The combination of Rick Nielsen's frantic Pete Townshend-esque guitar riffs, the golden voice of singer Robin Zander and the booming backbeat of drummer Bun E Carlos and bassist Tom Petersson creates a sound that hints at their influences but manages to carve out an identity that is all Cheap Trick. Ten perfectly crafted songs with a bare bones production provided by Jack Douglas. No other studio record in the Cheap Trick discography captures the way this band should sound like their debut.
My first brush with Cheap Trick was September 20, 1978 when I saw them in concert opening for AC/DC at the Huntington Civic Center in Huntington, WV. At that point, I had no idea who Cheap Trick were but had recently became a fan of AC/DC. Prior to that, KISS was all I cared about. I was barely ten years old at the time and always tagged along with my older brother to rock shows. I felt like a concert veteran as I had already seen Kiss twice as well as Heart, Rush, Blue Oyster Cult and a few others but the AC/DC - Cheap Trick show was a game- changer for me. I remember the lights going down and seeing Bun E Carlos enter the stage looking like an out-of-shape bank teller with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth sitting down behind the drum kit and begin bashing away in a Keith Moon fury.... the band kicked in and I was instantly hooked. I didn't know any of their songs at the time but it didn't matter, they rocked and I loved every minute of it. Even though I was a huge AC/DC fan and they were the reason I attended the show, I left the concert with a Cheap Trick poster, bow-tie and a huge Cheap Trick logo button. The next day I promptly headed to Davidson's record store in downtown Huntington and spent my allowance on two Cheap Trick albums, “In Color” and “Heaven Tonight.” Having no knowledge of the band's history I assumed they had only released two records. Cheap Trick broke big in the USA a few months later in February 1979 with the release of their live album “At Budokan.” The live record featured songs from “In Color” and “Heaven Tonight,” plus a couple new songs. The debut album was not represented at all on Cheap Trick “At Budokan,” so I was still in the dark about its existence.
This would all change in May of 1979 when I saw the movie “Over The Edge.” "Over The Edge” is a coming-of-age film about delinquent teenagers living in a small town with nothing to do, which leads them to teenage rebellion in the form of drug & alcohol use and healthy doses of rock n roll. The soundtrack features songs by The Cars, Van Halen, Ramones and Cheap Trick. After seeing the movie I went out and picked up the soundtrack and it featured a Cheap Trick song I had not heard called "Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace." I thought it was a new song but with further investigation I learned it was on Cheap Trick's debut album that came out in 1977. I was ecstatic and needed to get this record immediately. After a bit of searching I eventually tracked down a copy of the elusive album and in my ten year old mind I thought I had found the Holy Grail. I rushed home to give it a listen, quickly opened the album and put on side one. The drumbeat to "Elo Kiddies" came blasting through my stereo speakers and it sounded so good. The album managed to capture Cheap Trick the way I remembered them sounding in concert, loud and melodic, every song a winner. After side one finished I turned the record over and realized that the flip side was labeled "Side A." Initially I thought there had been a printing mistake, but in reality the band was so confident in the material that they put down on their first slab of wax that they felt there was no "B" material, so this record has no B side. Some may say that's a bit arrogant, but after one spin of the record I could hardly argue with their reasoning. After all these years I still listen to side one first, although I think it was meant to go the other way around.
Recently someone asked me to list my Top 10 Cheap Trick songs and I replied by saying all the songs from their debut record. Of course there are plenty of songs I could have picked from the bands' great catalog of music, but the '77 debut album is pure magic from start to finish and sounds as important and relevant today as it did when it first came out.
"Elo kiddies, elo kiddies, What ya gonna do when the lights start shining?
Elo kiddies, elo kiddies, What ya gonna do when your head's exploding?
So you missed some school? / You know school's for fools
Today money rules and everybody steals it"
Scott Carr is a guitarist who plays in the Columbus, OH bands Radio Tramps and Returning April. Scott is also an avid collector of vinyl records and works at Lost Weekend Records. So...if you are looking for Scott....you'll either find him in a dimly lit bar playing his guitar or in a record store digging for the holy grail.