Feb 22, 2013
I was ruminating the other day about bands that are not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and thought I was mistaken when I came up with Cheap Trick on my list. I was incredulous at the thought these four guys (still including Bun E Carlos) from the heartland have not been inducted.
Many people know the story of Cheap Trick, founded in Rockford, Illinois in 1973 and finally busting out with an over the top “Live At Budokhan” album that put them on the rock n roll map. Originally released in Japan only in 1978 the demand for the import became huge and Epic Records then released the album in the U.S. in 1979. The band has released sixteen studio albums with the last effort in 2009. Along the way they have released seven live albums including the aforementioned “Live At Budokhan.” In 2003 Rolling Stone listed “Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time,” of the 500 only 18 were live albums. Of the 17 artists and bands 14 of these acts are in the Hall of Fame (B. B. King has two live albums on the list). The only three that are not in the Hall is MC5, Quicksilver Message Service and Cheap Trick. You could certainly make a strong case for MC5 or QMS but neither act had the longevity nor the productivity, two of the criteria, Cheap Trick has had throughout their career.
Cheap Trick has been highly praised for many of their recordings and on many of them their Beatlesque flavoring sprinkled on their harder edge creating the Cheap Trick sound. If you think about it Cheap Trick’s style has taken Power Pop and made it accessible to a much larger audience than any of their predecessors had scaled. Let’s not discount this music genre in the Hall of Fame as their music is way past the bubble gum stage that some critics of this form have maintained.
Some of CT’s critics say that some of their albums were uneven, looking for a new form, finding a new niche for the music. My comment is, “isn’t that what artistry does?” Music critics are continually busting an artist for coming out with the next album sounding like the last one. Look at other artists with this length of time in existence, and a few bands that are already in the Hall have a similar curve. If you go beyond “I Want You To Want Me,” “Surrender,” “Dream Police,” and “Voices” you will find great artists looking to expand their music, you will find that in Cheap Trick’s recordings.
If one would go to the Hall of Fame site and read the criteria to be eligible I think you will find Cheap Trick passes with flying colors. The band has been together for over 25 years, has unquestionable musical excellence, strongly influenced other renowned artists after them, innovation and superiority and style and technique with musical excellence being the essential mark.
If one wants to discuss the number of artists who have been influenced by them it could read like its’ own Hall of Fame. Bands like Motley Crue, Guns N Roses with individuals such as Gene Simmons of KISS, Joe Perry from Aerosmith and Angus Young of AC/DC citing influences. That does not include 90’s bandleader Kurt Cobain of Nirvana who cited the band. What intrigues me is the varying styles of bands say they were influenced by CT. These bands include; Pearl Jam, Weezer, Stone Temple Pilots, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fountains of Wayne, Kings of Leon, OK Go, Foo Fighters, Smashing Pumpkins, Green Day, Husker Du and even Slipknot. I don’t think you can get a much broader landscape.
Breaking the band down into the four primary individuals you have the lead vocalist, Robin Zander, who has been with the band since 1974 and has had his vocal imprint on almost every song recorded by CT. It would be easy to make the case that Zander is one of the Top 10 rock vocalists of all time. Rick Nielsen, who definitely does not dabble in guitars but reportedly owns over 400 of his favorites, has lead the guitar charge and chief songwriting duties helping to create the Cheap Trick sound and look. (Nice bow-tie). Tom Petersson has been credited with originating the twelve string bass. Listening to the Cheap Trick recordings you will hear Petersson’s bass adding an all important sub sonic base for the band to weave their mastery on top. No band can have the success Cheap Trick has had without the proverbial rock solid drummer that being Bun E. Carols. Carlos moves around his kit with ease and fluidity. If you stop and think about the relationship of Carlos with the band you almost can think of him as the next generation Ringo Starr with many and way cool drum fills that Ringo either didn’t have at the time or did not show due to the Beatles musical arrangements.
Live shows have been a strong suit since for them. I first saw the band in 1974 or 1975. I had a small agency in Minneapolis and on a Wednesday or Thursday a call would come into the office from Chuck Toler or Ken Adamany, the band’s then managers, looking for a gig for the upcoming Saturday night. Chuck or Ken would say, “I don’t need a ton of money, these guys just want to play.” It was about a year later when I saw them at the Stone Hearth, a club in Madison, Wi and was blown away by the band. If not mistaken it may have been a Tuesday when Epic Records executives were in town to see the band. We booked the band and have continued to over the length of their career and I can honestly say they I have not once felt shorted by a Cheap Trick performance. I love the integrity in which they approach their shows after all these years.
Per several articles the voters of the Hall are made up of; academics, journalists, producers and other music industry related individuals. To you I say let’s not select an act based on whether it will sell tickets to the induction ceremony but truly look at the contribution this band has made to our industry and then realize they are indeed Hall of Famers. As Nielsen said in a ’97 interview, “We tour, we play. We don’t wait for a record to tour. Fans like us and bands like us.” Let’s enforce the legacy of the Hall by “liking them” with an induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.