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Published on August 13th, 2013 | by Ballard Lesemann


Going Way Back with Cheap Trick

I’m a genuine Cheap Trick fan. Yesterday, when the North Charleston Performing Arts Center announced that the mighty Cheap Trick was rock-solid for a concert on Tues. Dec. 3, my brain immediately plugged in its jukebox and started running through the hits.

I go way back to the early ’80s with nerdy lead guitarist Rick Nielsen, glamorous singer/guitarist Robin Zander, cool cat 12-string bassist Tom Petersson, and mustachioed drummer Bun E. Carlos (with his necktie, drum gloves, and wire-rimmed frames).


My first K-Tel compilation purchase, 1980’s Rock 80, featured a live version of Cheap Trick’s swingin’ “I Want You to Want Me.” It was the best track on the record.

The racy clip for Cheap Trick’s “She’s Tight” from their album One on One was one of the first-ever videos I caught on MTV (that’s the tune Poison ripped off for “Talk Dirty to Me”). Silly, dirty, laced with innuendo, and catchy as hell, I loved the song as much as the video.

One of my favorite scenes in 1982’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High is when Damon tries to scalp Cheap Trick tickets to a fellow student, asking “Have you honestly forgotten the magnetism of Robin Zander or the charisma of Rick Nielson? And how ’bout the tunes?” Yeah, exactly.

By 1985, my first high school garage band, The Islands (featuring two former Velveeeta guys, Glenn Horres and Edward Hart), not only covered “I Want You to Want Me” and “Surrender” (or attempted to) at every prom and beach club gig we played, but we ripped off Cheap Trick’s New Wave-ish checkerboard logo on our own flyers as well. It was cutting-edge at the time.

By high school graduation, I owned vinyl copies of Cheap Trick’s 1976 self-titled debut, 1977’s In Color, 1978’s Heaven Tonight, 1979’s Dream Police, and 1982’s One on One, plus a cassette tape of 1978’s At Budokan (see clip below).


Despite their occasional missteps like the synth-laden 1986 album The Doctor and musical detours (like their sugary No. 1 hit “The Flame”), I always kept up with Cheap Trick and their ever-versatile mix of Beatles-esque power-pop, British Invasion/Mod rock style, New Wave goofiness, and hard rock riffage. On old Athens rock band of mine called Hayride paid tribute to Cheap Trick with a whole set in full costume on Halloween of 1998. The 20-song set was a challenge to earn and a joy to play.

I also got to see them several times in the 2000s — in Atlanta at the Roxy and in Athens at the Georgia Theatre and 40 Watt Club. They were loud, intense, uncorrupted, and gracious at every show. Zander’s voice hadn’t diminished a bit, and the rhythm section was super-tight.

This year, Nielsen’s son Daxx will be sitting in for drummer Bun E. Carlos on Cheap Trick’s live shows. Carlos has been out of commission off-and-on for several years dues to chronic back problems — plus he and the band’s former manager recently sued the band over financial disputes. Reportedly, Daxx is fairly respectful of Carlos’s keen timing and smooth sense of feel and rhythm. Nearly 40 years into their career in rock, having three out of four original members on hand ain’t bad.

Tickets for “An Evening with Cheap Trick” on Dec. 3 go on sale at 10 a.m. on Fri. Aug. 16 for $59.50 and $39.50 (plus applicable fees) at the North Charleston Coliseum Advance Ticket Office, all Ticketmaster outlets (including select Publix stores), by phone at (800) 745-3000, and online at ticketmaster.com.

Check out cheaptrick.com and northcharlestoncoliseumpac.com for more.





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About the Author

Ballard Lesemann

is a musician and writer. Born and raised in Charleston, S.C., he spent years playing in bands and working for Flagpole Magazine in the bustling music town of Athens, Ga. He returned to his hometown and served more than seven years as the Charleston City Paper's music editor. He's better at drumming than he is at playing guitar.

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