Heaven Tonight finds my teenage self still on vacation with the folks up on Cape Cod. Now that I think back on it, fourteen is a really tough age to be on vacation with your folks: fresh into High School, you’re supposed to be independent, damn it. To be fair, I’m certain that being stuck in a car for hours on end with a teenager who knows and hates it all wasn’t exactly the vacation of their dreams, either. To everyone’s credit, we made it work on both ends; I did some family stuff with them, and I was allowed to roam around Hyannis unaccompanied for the first time in return.
It was probably the last full day of the vacation when I found myself back in Strawberries Music with a few last vacation bucks burning a hole in my pocket. Further investigation uncovered that the CBS Midline sale I mentioned back in the In Color post also extended to CD’s. For my birthday the preceding June, my folks had gotten me a CD boombox; it may not sound like much now, but back in 1988 that was the be-all-end-all. In the intervening couple of days, I’d fallen hard enough in love with In Color that I knew the rest of my cash was going towards the next few chapters in the Trick saga. Perusal of the Cheap Trick CD bin turned up the following:
· Heaven Tonight: $9.99
· Cheap Trick at Budokan: $11.99
· Cash in pocket: $25.00
· Money left over for a soda on the way back to the hotel: priceless.
Only once I’d returned to my hotel did I notice the flaw in my logic: this was way before Discmans were affordable, folks, and the boombox was back at home. Rats. For the next twenty four hours, then, all I had was the artwork and song titles to go on. This was back when CDs were sold in longboxes. “What’s that”, you ask? Why, it was a stupid, ancient form of packaging about six inches wide by twelve inches long that allowed CDs to fit more easily into ancient vinyl browsers in record stores. No luck finding a pic of the Heaven Tonight one on Google Images, but this grainy, stolen shot of an At Budokan one is identical to what my copy of that album came housed in way back when. Pathetic as it may sound, the walls of my room were lined with these dopey things back in the day.
Back home, then: flung my bags on my bed and ripped open the longbox. Threw the disc in the boombox and got my head blown clear off; if In Color took a listen or two to sink in, Heaven made its permanent place in my collection in about thirty seconds. Having “Surrender” open an album will do that for you. It’s a funny thing about the songs from your favorite bands that have hit saturation point: at any given time there is a 50% chance that I will turn “I Want You to Want Me” or “The Flame” off the radio if they appear, but “Surrender” never, ever gets old. Speaking of never getting old, the one for the hormones this time out was the second song, “On Top of the World”: she was young, she was dark, she was fair. It’s possible, but only if you’re an undersexed teenager. You’d explode, she would touch you there. One could only hope.
The general consensus on Heaven Tonight is that it was the album that merged the volume and mayhem of Cheap Trick with the pop smarts of In Color. That’s mostly correct, although like all Tom Werman productions, the guitars could still stand to be a whole lot more in your face. The other general consensus on Heaven Tonight is that it’s the perfect studio Cheap Trick album, which is hogwash. Near the top of the list, sure, but they’ve got several filler-less albums. Heaven is one track shy of being one of ‘em: “On the Radio” is more or less crap, if we’re being honest.
But, really, so what? The other nine songs are varying degrees of classic, and if “Surrender” was the only pop hit, the fact that a high percentage of the other songs on the album remain fan favorites and live standards speaks volumes. In fact, I’ll let this picture of the back cover of my ancient, Strawberries-purchased original CD speak for itself.
Next week: the closest to Japan I’ve ever been.