In adolescent terms, we all owe Cheap Trick a couple of year's worth of summer allowances for a job well done. Of all the American bands that first reached out to us from the pages of Circus and CREEM, Cheap Trick is the only one that hasn't ever soiled its checkered pants so bad that you never wanted to hear them again. They've never performed at a Super Bowl with Britney and Justin, never blamed their worst albums on substance abuse and never mounted countless farewell and reunion tours just to get attention. Even when stumbling through a series of Tom Peterson look-alikes until the genuine article came to his senses, Cheap Trick turned in two of the best-ever power pop singles, "Tonight It's You" and "If You Want My Love."
They've had banner years filling stadiums and not-so banner years playing ostrich festivals and county fairs, but Cheap Trick never offered fans a scaled-down "B" version of their phenomenal stage show. Nope, Rick Neilson always tours with at least 25 customized guitars with 73 necks between them and enough Cheap Trick plectrums to cover Antarctica. Robin Zander can still snap from primal therapy'd Lennon to Roy Orbison at a "say when." Bun E. Carlos still lugs around Earth's largest stickbag and Tom Peterson continues to plumb new depths of bottom with his 12-stringed bass. In 2007 or any other year, Cheap Trick is what summer concert series were invented for, sound-and-fury-signifyin' rock!
Uh, wait ... I've just been handed a bulletin. It's been confirmed by CNN, VH1 Classic and Miller Genuine Draft, that, yes ... All Four Original Members of Asia are on the summer concert circuit, "Rockin' on the Riverfront" of our fair city and absconding with your July leisure dollars this Friday, two nights before Cheap Trick Want You to Want Them! So before you make a rash, "Only Time Will Tell" summer concert decision "In the Heat of the Moment" you may "Too Late" live to regret, let us grudge-match these two monster rock bands until only one emerges "Sole Survivor" and Asia better land some punches fast because we've already used up all of their hits in that last sentence.
Cheap Trick Minus Rick Nielsen's experiments with facial hair and ponytails during the grunge years, the Tricksters have maintained the same schizoid two-glam-guys, two-Bowery-Boys look for 33 years.
All Four Original Members of Asia Even after the band became Geoff Downes and Three Unoriginal Members of Asia, including refugees from the Firm, Krokus, Saga, the Doobie Brothers, Toto and Meat Loaf, Downes made sure the title of every studio album for the next 20 years was a four- or five-lettered word beginning and ending with the letter A. After Asia, Alpha, Astra, Aqua, Aria, Arena and Aura, Downes and Asia's subsequent lead singer John Payne (ex-ELO Part II) broke down, ditched the Roger Dean cover art and called an album Silent Nation, dashing any hopes that's they'd finally run out of titles and would have to call an album ABBA. (Said original bassist-vocalist John Wetton of his replacement Payne: "He doesn't even understand the spirit of Asia.")
BELIEVE IT OR NOT FACTS
Cheap Trick It is estimated that Rick Nielsen throws out "several hundred" Cheap Trick guitar plectrums into the audience at each show. If they resume playing more than 200 shows a year as they did in the early days, it's estimated by the year 2015 the phrase "Anybody got a guitar pick?" will no longer be in use.
All Four Original Members of Asia According to early reports from the tour's first show in Sarasota, Fla., "Geoff Downes is able to coax some amazing sounds out of a stack of Rolaids!" Wait ... I've just been informed that that was a typo. That should have read "Rolands." Never mind. Damn you to hell, All Four Original Members of Asia bloggers!
Cheap Trick Besides chain-smoking so much that he looks like the group's backup dry-ice machine, Bun E. Carlos concludes his perfunctory drum solo with drumsticks the size of very large baseball bats. He even survived a minor controversy in 2003 when it was believed those sticks were corked in the center. Oops, sorry! That was Sam E. Sosa! (sic)
All Four Original Members of Asia Sometimes three minutes will go by before Carl Palmer decides to hit a gong! Unfathomable yet true!
Cheap Trick Whenever the band plays "Day Tripper," Rick Nielsen pulls out a guitar with a portrait of the Beatles on it. On "Gonna Raise Hell" he has a guitar with painted flames rising up from the pickups. He's even got a guitar shaped like the cartoon from their worstest album The Doctor in the unlikely case fans should request something from it.
All Four Original Members of Asia Guitar and keyboard heroics are interchangeable in AFOMA as Geoff Downes straps on that guitar synthesizer when he wants to play back-to-back with John Wetton. And Steve Howe sometimes stacks beer cans on top of his Gibson Signature ES-175 like Rick Wakeman used to. Y'know, for shits and giggles.
Cheap Trick Their cover pool includes songs by the Beatles, Roy Wood, Big Star, Elvis Presley and Fats Domino.
All Four Original Members of Asia Their cover pool includes songs by their former bands like Yes, King Crimson, Emerson Lake & Palmer and the Buggles. Look, no one said it was easy being an '80s supergroup.
Cheap Trick Rick Nielsen played organ and Mellotron on the Yardbirds' 1967 U.S. single "Ha Ha Said the Clown." But the liner notes for the album by the band Fuse Peterson and Nielsen's pre-Cheap Trick group claim Nielsen filled in for Jeff Beck in the Yardbirds "while they made arrangements to pick up Jimmy Page," a bogus fact which went unchecked by Epic Records, label for both bands.
All Four Original Members of Asia Steve Howe played in British Freakbeat bands like the Joe Meek-produced Syndicats and Tomorrow, who had a hit in late 1967 with the classic "My White Bicycle." Carl Palmer was in Atomic Rooster and John Wetton, as a member of King Crimson, once sang "Cigarettes, ice cream, figurines of the Virgin Mary" and "Health food faggots" in the same song. With identical feeling!
GREATEST CARTOON MOMENT
Cheap Trick The Rockford, Ill., heroes have been referenced numerous times on The Simpsons. In one episode, Homer Simpson stated, "I prefer to listen to Cheap Trick." But nothing on earth beats hearing Apu sing "Dream Police."
All Four Original Members of Asia On the South Park episode "Kenny Dies," Cartman leads a nonpartisan congressional sing-along of "Heat of the Moment."
BADGE OF DISHONOR
Cheap Trick They went to No. 1 with "The Flame," a song forced on them by Sony and had to tour with a keyboard player for years because of it. Ewwww!
All Four Original Members of Asia They are reduced to calling themselves this because John Payne, Asia's lead singer from 1992-2006 bought up Palmer, Downes and Howe's rights to the group name. If this was a sci-fi movie, this would be the time someone would point to AFOMA and say, "Fool, you let the lead singer of ELO Part II beat you. And he wasn't even the original singer in ELO Part II!"
Cheap Trick performs at CityFest, Sunday, July 8, at 6 p.m. on the Motor City Casino Main Stage. All Four Original Members of Asia perform Friday, July 6, at 8 p.m. Detroit Rockin' on the Riverfront (Riverfront Plaza, behind the GM Renaissance Center, Atwater and Beaubien, Detroit; 313-567-3126).
Serene Dominic is a freelance writer. Send comments to [email protected]