Cameron Carpenter: Rock’n’Roll Rewind – A Cheap Trick Encore

Cam Profile Pic

This week we rewind to August 1979. The New Music Magazine is celebrating its first anniversary (it would not celebrate a second) and once again I was hanging around with Cheap Trick.

“Well we made it. One year after the fact, The New Music is still here. Some things, like the price, have changed, but for those of you who were with us at the beginning, things are still the same; you’re getting a full-colour rock magazine delivered to your doorstep every month for free. Anyway, there is a point to be made.

rolaidsIf you remember our first issue you will remember a story about Cheap Trick. Well, one year later, I’ve got the same assignment. Last year I got to go to Buffalo in a limo drinking champagne, this year I went to the Gardens in a streetcar drinking Dr. Pepper and to Kitchener in a Nova eating Rolaids. I guess I’m not moving up in the rock’n’roll business.

This story starts on June 12. It was a rainy night when Barbara Carpenter went into labour back in 1959. Whoops, wrong story. The Cheap Trick story starts on June 12 when Peter Noble (click, click) and I arrived at the Harbour Castle to do the interview. When I got there, early enough to have a pre-chat The Carsbrew, I ran into The Cars (a quick hello, then off to Hamilton), and a group of little girl autograph hunters who got the inside track on where The Cars and Cheap Trick were staying. While I’m sitting there, minding my own business, this guy comes up and asks if I’m here to see Cheap Trick. I say yeah and he introduces himself as Bob Alford, the official Cheap Trick tour photographer. Our meeting moves to the bar.

harbour-castle-lobby-bar2

Alford is waiting for the band to leave and do sound check, which will take place after our interviews. Soon enough, it’s 3.20 and we go up to the room. Ken AdamanyAt the door we are met by Ken Adamany, the band’s manager. He checks to see if we’re O.K. and makes sure we have our questions. He takes us into the room and advises us that we have twenty minutes. Bun E. Carlos and Tom Petersson are waiting for us. Rick Nielsen was out at a radio station and Robin Zander was resting his voice and body. We exchange greetings and I give Ken Adamany a bottle of wine as a late birthday gift. Tom then asks Bun E. when his birthday is. “Today”, says Bun, “and you guys better not start singing to me on-stage tonight.” They did. I tried to get a year out of Bun but he just smiled and ignored my question.

Tom and Bun

Bun, with a Tareyton constantly dangling from his lips, looked thinner than ever and Tom looked good with his newly shortened hair. He denied that he had to get it cut because the majority of it was pulled out by screaming girls in Japan during their tour in March and April. They told us about their new album,The Dream Police, due out before school resumes.

Dream Police

The record was finished last December but, due to the unexpected success of the Budokan LP (originally planned as just a Japanese release but, when import sales topped 100,000, the band decided they would release it domestically); the band has decided to wait a while before they release it. The record will offer a few new things for Cheap Trick.

the Budokan LP

“There’s going to be real strings, as opposed to synthesized strings on about half of the songs,” says Bun between puffs. “Songs like Surrender had synthesized strings but we decided that real strings sound better so we hired a sixteen-piece orchestra.”

Hate to interrupt Bun in the middle of a thought, but I just read an interesting story about Cheap Trick in the New York Post entitled “Cheap Trick, or Track?” by Ira Mayer. In the article, Ira wants to know how Cheap Trick managed to produce so many melodies and synthesized effects in concert with only four musicians and three singers. True, onstage Cheap Trick uses no keyboards, though Rick says they might next tour, but under Tom’s mike stand is a set of bass pedals which he can play with his feet for a synthesized effect. The vocals can be channeled through a series of complicated electronic devices to produce a lot more vocals than humanly possible. Ira also wonders whether Cheap Trick has hidden musicians backstage. Well, Ira, I sat backstage both in Toronto and Kitchener and can assure you that there were no extra bodies. Don’t know why I brought that up. Sorry Bun.

Another major feature of the new Cheap Trick album will be the singing debut of bassist Tom Petersson. He sings lead on a great new song called I Know What I Want, And I Know How To Get It. This song, if it appears on the album with one-fifth of the energy with which it appeared on stage, is destined to become a rock classic. A Tom Petersson solo album by December?

Soon Ken Adamany came into the room and stared at his watch. Noticing the hint, I shut off the tape recorder and started to pack up, but not before asking the manager of one of the biggest rock’n’roll bands in the world a question: “Tell me, Ken, what do you do on the road with Cheap Trick?”

Golf.”

Off to sound check.

furyk-swing

Graham ParkerAt eight I was back, and thoroughly enjoying Graham Parker’s set. Unfortunately for Parker, the night belonged to Cheap Trick. The show opened with the traditional Hello There and ended with Goodnight Now, but in the middle was a whole new Cheap Trick. Lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist Robin Zander was more outgoing than usual and his powerful voice sounded better than it ever has. Bun was steady, as always, behind his new drum kit. Tom got his vocal debut on I Know What I Want and seemed to play up to the crowd a lot more as he stalked the stage and hovered in front of the PA, just out of reach of all those fourteen-year-old girls. But Cheap Trick revolves around one man.

Rick

Rick Nielson is the star of Cheap Trick. Although the band is one of the few in which each member has his own identity, the personality everyone identifies with Cheap Trick is Rick Nielsen, the larger-than-life comic book guitarist. The major change in Cheap Trick’s show this year was that Rick played the part of a guitar hero. There were times, though they were few and far between, when this became boring. During one of Rick’s longer solos, Robin hopped off stage and joined us in the end golds for a coke.

A new, ironic, twist to Cheap Trick’s show was their first encore. Ever since the band put out their debut album in 1977, they have been accused of ripping off early Who and Beatles songs. Their first encore? The Beatles’ Day Tripper. This was followed by the classic from the first LP, Elo Kiddies, and the second encore consisted of Heaven Tonight and Auf Wiedersehen. End of show. Off to party.

The Cheap Trick party took place at the Westbury Hotel and its major purpose was to present the band with gold records for their second album, In Color, and platinum records for Budokan. At the party, I cornered Ken and bribed him into letting me go to Kitchener to see the band the next night. He assured me two passes would be left at the door in Kitchener.

Trick Sofa

Just a side note: Guitar collector Rick Nielsen didn’t leave Toronto without adding another axe to his collection. Ed McDonald from Snowaxe sold Rick Photo of GUITAR and GIBSON GUITARS and GIBSON FLYING V GUITARhis prized 1957 Gibson Flying V prototype for a Fender Stratocaster and an undisclosed amount of money.

Going to Kitchener turned out to be a bigger mistake than going to Buffalo. My pal Obie picked me up in his Nova at 7 o’clock. We drove straight up Yonge Street and discovered that someone had moved the west-bound ramp to the 401. We turned down some little street and emerged forty-five minutes later, thereby proving North York should never have been turned into a city. Ever get lost in Scarborough?

Realising we hadn’t eaten and with no time to stop, we opened one of the bags of Japanese rice crackers we had brought to give the guys backstage. Budokan, get it? About twenty minutes later, both of us were reeling with incredible stomach pains and our major concern soon became Rolaids. After stopping at the General Store, we discovered that we had passed the arena a few miles back. Wonderful. We did a quick U-turn and it came into view. I told Obie if we went one more street north we would end up in the parking lot. He took my advice and we ended up on a highway that went directly to the 401. Five miles later we got back on the right road but couldn’t decide whether to go north or south. I said north, he went south. It was north.

When we got to the hall Cheap Trick was already on. We ran up to the front door and were told to go to the stage door ‘round back. We went to the back Cheap Trick Kitchnerand the guy told us to go to the front. We had no passes but were allowed to stand at the side of the stage.

The show in Kitchener was every bit as good as the one in Toronto, even though there were only 2,500 people there. The band didn’t notice and played at the same level as they did when they played the Gardens. Loud.

Forty minutes after we arrived the show was over. We headed backstage. The band was getting changed when Bob Alford walked down the hall and settled our nerves with a couple of beers. We chatted a bit and soon Bun emerged, then Robin came out looking exhausted but happy. Tom was the next one out, and I offered to play a few hands if poker with him because the day before he Rice Crackerstold me he’d won a car in a game on the way to Toronto. Rick was the last to leave and stared in horror as we gave him the rice crackers. From the looks if it he had had them before. After a while the band had to get into their Dream Police bus and leave for Toronto because they had an early flight to Chicago the next day. To add a little class to this story, we exited from the backstage door at the same time as the band did, amidst screams from the Kitchener girls, Unfortunately, the girls followed the band to the bus and Obie and I walked to the car alone. We could have used at least one girl as a navigator because, yes, we got lost on the way home too.”

Have a pint and hear cool tunes every Wednesday night beginning at 5 PM at The Kensington Lodge

=CC=

Cam’s column appears every Thursday.

Follow Cam on Twitter @CC59.

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonCameron Carpenter has written for The New Music Magazine, Music Express, The Asylum, The Varsity, The Eye Opener, The New Edition, Shades, Bomp!, Driven Magazine, FYI Music News, The Daily XY, New Canadian Music 

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