Longevity is sign of success for hardworking Cheap Trick

Cheap Trick

Thirty years after introducing its distinctive arena-ready power pop, Cheap Trick is still finding fans who want to want them.


The band, best known for its innovative blend of British invasion pop and power chord crunch, rock radio staples such as I Want You to Want Me, Surrender and Dream Police and the landmark live album Cheap Trick at Budokan, still spends the better part of each year touring, in its original lineup, switching easily between arena dates, club shows and the occasional corporate gig.

On Tuesday, the band co-headlines the third annual Rock Fore! Dough benefit at First Tee of Augusta.

"We've played it all," guitarist Rick Nielsen said in a recent telephone interview. "I think the thing is our music is really universal and doesn't require some huge setup for our show. We've never had fire-breathing or stage diving or trampolines. It has always just been the four of us playing music and that's a show that will fit anywhere. It'll fit in your garage."

With the exception of a few years when bass player Tom Petersson left the band to pursue other interests and a few dates while drummer Bun E. Carlos recuperated from back surgery, Cheap Trick has always recorded and performed with its original lineup.

Mr. Nielsen said that, coupled with the band's grueling touring schedule, has earned Cheap Trick a singular honor.

"We've played more shows than any band ever," he said. "It's true. I mean, when the Rolling Stones do 80 dates, that's only a third of a year for us. And the thing is, if we waited for a hit record to tour, we would never do it. But we keep getting asked. We always have work, if we want it. It's terrific."

Mr. Nielsen, who had flown to Las Vegas from London for a single date and was returning the next evening, acknowledged that the constant travel and time away from home can be a strain, but said the opportunities that life as a working musician offers make the hardships worthwhile.

"I'm having lunch Friday with (Beatles producer) George Martin," he said. "I don't mean to drop names, but I'm having lunch with George Martin. The thing is, I'm a fan, too, and this is the junk I get to do. It's really good junk. Now I do normal stuff, too. I mean, I take the garbage out on Wednesdays when I'm home."

Last year, the band released the critically acclaimed Rockford, its first album of original music in three years. Although none of the tracks became the instant radio hits that defined the band's early years, Mr. Nielsen said he continues to consider Cheap Trick, which also recorded the theme songs for both That '70s Show and The Colbert Report, a real rock success story.

"The fact is we're still doing it and have never had to retreat too far backward," he said. "For me, success never meant having a hit record, although that's good too. To me, success is longevity, the fact that we're still around and our music is still around. Having some relevance in the grand scheme of things - that's success."

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or steven.uhles@augustachronicle.com.


Click here to listen to a clip of Cheap Trick's I Want You to Want Me from Cheap Trick at Budokan

Listen to Rick Nielsen's conversation with Steven Uhles.

--Nielsen on his son beating Tiger Woods in golf.

--Nielsen on maintaining the band's original lineup.