In brainstorming some ideas for the summer on this blog, two different but related thoughts crossed my mind: “I need a running music feature to replace the American Idol analysis”, and “you know, it might be fun to write about music I actually like for a change.” The latter thought in particular led me to realize that if I’m going to do that, I had might as well head straight for the top and tackle the catalog that has meant the most to me since I discovered it at the ripe old age of fourteen: All right Tokyo, are you ready? Will you welcome Epic recording artist Cheap Trick!
It’ll be a bit of a daunting task from two different perspectives: first off, it’s always tough to write about the music you love the most without sounding like a sycophant. No one aside from the man himself really wants to sound like Dave Marsh talking about the Springsteen catalog as though it’s the cure for all that has ever ailed mankind. That acknowledged, I think it’s important, particularly in these ironic times, to talk enthusiastically about music that excites you. Let the likes of Pitchfork worry about how their barrel of smug is going to be perceived in years to come; we become music uber-fans because we love the stuff, and there is absolutely no shame in waving your favorite flags proudly. I love more of the Trick catalog than I don’t, and I trust that will come through loud and clear in the weeks to come. With that, I suppose a small caveat is in order: I only claim as much objectivity as a die-hard fan can possibly have.
Which leads us to the other difficulty in writing about your heroes: what do you say when they suck? Once again, the Dave Marsh approach is useless: Springsteen has, contrary to Marsh’s published opinions, made lousy records from time to time, and so have Cheap Trick. It’s one thing to have some fun at the expense of, say, a less than stellar U2 album; although they’ve made some fine records, they’ve never been on my personal A-list (more like a high B), and what’s more Bono’s ego makes for a prime pin-cushion. Being honest about the lesser entries into the discography of your most-est favorite-est band is a bit more problematic: it is more difficult for me to take a cheap shot at Rick Nielsen as a songwriter than at a Bono-type. Happily, the way the discography flows, I’ve got a few amazing records to wax spasmodic about before I need to figure out how to walk that line.
You’ll notice that I’ve completely neglected any biographical information about the band in this intro. I’ve done this purposefully, for two reasons: first, it’s already readily available in multiple locations on and off the interwebs; although it’s out of print and expensive, Mike Hayes and Ken Sharp’s mid-90s bio, Reputation is a Fragile Thing, is damn near definitive. Secondly, this journey is going to be as much about me as it is about Cheap Trick: their best records completely revolutionized the way I heard and related to music when I was at the most impressionable age for a young rocker, and the very best of them still represent the standard by which I rate all other rock that crosses my path. Given that, I think it’s appropriate that the germane biographical details – both theirs and mine – be discussed as a part of reviewing the records to which they most apply.
So here’s how we’re going to do this: we’ll work chronologically through the band’s studio and official live output, one album per week. In homage to the band’s seventies roots, we’ll call the series Trick Tuesday, which sounds to my ears like a promotion an awful ‘70s rock station would run: “Listen between 8 and 9 AM on the Doofus Dan show here on 98.8 The Headache for your cue to call! Be our eleventh caller, and you’ll win your very own 8-track of Cheap Trick at Budokan, as well as be entered to win two tickets to see Cheap Trick at the Tulsa Enormadome next Friday! Only from 98.8, The Headache!”