Cheap Trick box set wisely avoids ’80s clunkers



By Steve Newton

Back in ’78, my personal Top 10 included power-rock LPs such as UFO’s Obsession, AC/DC’s Powerage, Thin Lizzy’s Live and Dangerous, and the third Cheap Trick album, Heaven Tonight. At the time I was a UBC faculty of arts slacker, and the best way I could find to scrape away the unwanted residue of a tedious French 101 class was to crank up “Surrender” and test the limits of my trusty Pioneer HPM-100 speakers (and my landlord upstairs).

Long before power-pop became a marketing term in record-company boardrooms, there was an undeniable buzz to be found in the combination of guitarist Rick Nielsen’s choppy boogie licks, Bun E. Carlos’s precise drum work, Tom Petersson’s throbbing bass, and Robin Zander’s invigorating vocals.

That same year Cheap Trick became all the rage when its live-in-Japan Cheap Trick at Budokan album blasted up the charts, but shortly thereafter the band tumbled off my own Top 10 because I figured it had sold out with a hit tune I couldn’t stand, “I Want You to Want Me”.

I never purchased another Cheap Trick disc after Heaven Tonight, but nearly 20 years later I can still reserve a spot in my rock library for Sex, America, Cheap Trick, a four-CD boxed set that includes some of the best tunes from the band’s ’70s heyday.

Most of the music Cheap Trick made after 1980 is best forgotten, and the producers of this compilation appear to agree with that assessment, eschewing ’80s clunkers in favour of intriguing demos, B sides, and alternative takes from that decade. But perhaps the finest gift of all on Sex, America, Cheap Trick is an outtake from Cheap Trick’s self-titled debut album, a raw version of “I Want You to Want Me” that—for three minutes, anyway—lets me forgive the band for turning bubblegum.


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