Episode 247: Cheap Trick School On the eve of their induction into the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame and with a brand new album released last week it is time for Pat, and his often mentioned "Concert Wife" Suzanne Dillingham, to teach you all a little something about Cheap Trick. From April 7, 2016
With your host:
Pat welcomes us to the show. Joining today as guest co-host is the often talked about "concert wife," Ms. Suzanne Dillingham! Today we are covering Pat and Suzanne's favorite band ever, Cheap Trick. Pat's first CT album was Cheap Trick at Budokan, Suzanne's first was Standing on the Edge. Pat remembers buying Budokan seeing two heartthrobs on the cover (Robin and Tom) and two absolute nerds on the back (Rick and Bun E.). There was something for everyone. Then Pat bought Cheap Trick and he's been hooked ever since. Suzanne got sucked in with "Tonight's It You," so she bought the album and that was that. A little backstory on Pat and Suzanne: She was a waitress at a comedy club in Indianapolis, which is how she knows a lot of comedians, including Jimmy Pardo. Comedians and wait staff would hang out a lot and become friends.
But Pat and Suzanne met in Los Angeles in the 90s when Suzanne worked at a talent agency. Afterwards she became a registered nurse. Now she's part-nurse, part-tour manager. Suzanne works for the YouTube star Miranda Sings. She gets to be on a tour bus and everything. The bus driver claims to have driven Cheap Trick, but he won't spill any stories, the bastard. Anyway, Pat and Suzanne go to concerts all the time, which earned Suzanne the nickname "concert wife." The first time they saw Cheap Trick was a small show at the Roxy; Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley were there too! It was a real Pat Francis dream night. After the show, they went to Tower Records where the whole band was doing a signing.
Then Pat and Suzanne saw Cheap Trick do a full album show (they played their debut album in its entirety), which was actually a week after Pat and his actual wife Pilar got married. Pilar's friends were at the show, giving Pat the stink eye because they thought Pat was pulling a fast one (and a hard one as well, hey now), but Pilar straightened them out. Pat and Suzanne have seen them at least ten times, including a Dream Police show at the Greek Theatre where Suzanne took a picture with Robin Zander. Fireworks! Pat just lists off the many times he has seen Cheap Trick live. To make a long story short, Pat and Suzanne love Cheap Trick. So they are going to play songs off of Cheap Trick's studio albums. What does Suzanne love about Cheap Trick? It's hard to quantify. She's just happy when they come on, they're fun, and they're "straight up rock and roll."
Pat loves a nice four-piece band: Vocals, Guitar, Bass, and Drums. He's only seen Cheap Trick be bad one time. Something was a little off. But a Cheap Trick off night is still good. Hell, Pat and Suzanne even saw the ROBIN ZANDER BAND with Mike Schmidt. Yes, that Robin Zander Band with the awful merchandise. We start with the debut album, 1977's Cheap Trick, produced by Jack Douglas of Aerosmith album fame. Pat starts us off with the final track on the album, "Oh, Candy". All four members' talents are showcased front and center. Pat, in Geoff Tate fashion, gives the first album a 10 out of 10. Suzanne agrees.
Suzanne's track from the debut album is "Mandocello".
Pat continues to praise the merits of the debut album. The album came out in February 1977; a few months later, September 1977 brings us album two, In Color. It's a poppier album. Pat's pick is another "Oh" song, this time called "Oh Caroline". The album cover is badass, with Robin and Tom on the bikes. On the back, Rick and Bun E. are on mopeds. It's genius!
For the first five or six albums, Rick Nielsen wrote most of the songs himself. That goofy hat has a lot of talent under it. Suzanne plays the studio version of "I Want You to Want Me", which sounds like it belongs at a 1950s sock hop in Kentucky. It's like a new song, it sounds so different. The other song from In Color that Suzanne plays is "Downed".
Not even a year later, the band releases Heaven Tonight, which is Pat's favorite Cheap Trick album.
Pat plays the track "Stiff Competition". Oh, by the way, In Color is a 10 out of 10.
Suzanne picks a very upbeat song about suicide (geez, this band sure has a lot of them) called "Auf Wiedersehen". Once again, it's a 10 out of 10. Somewhere in America (probably on an episode of Doug Loves Movies), Geoff Tate cocks his head. A proud smile creeps across his face. Much like Kiss, their first three studio albums did not sell well. But their big break was Cheap Trick at Budokan.
Budokan was originally a Japanese release, but people in America were requesting it so often at record stores that the label, Epic, decided to release it in America. The fourth album, Dream Police, comes out in 1979 and it's the first with all four members on the cover. Rick Nielsen has a chainsaw, there's an errant mannequin, Bun E. looks like he's an alternate universe version of the Big Boss Man. It's wonderful. A lot of great songs on this one. Pat plays "The House Is Rockin' (with Domestic Problems)".
Suzanne's pick from Dream Police is the nine-minute epic "Gonna Raise Hell". She has three different time cues because the song is so long and changes so much. Never gets boring, even at nine minutes.
And now, Mike Damone:
After Dream Police, the band released a four-song EP called Found All the Parts. Dream Police, 10 out of 10 from Pat. This EP, 10 out of 10. Pat plays a track called "Such a Good Girl". Suzanne picked the same song.
The next full studio, produced by GEORGE MARTIN (R.I.P.), was All Shook Up. Cheap Trick loves the Beatles, George Martin worked with the Beatles, Cheap Trick were known as the "American Beatles" in Japan. It's a perfect fit. Pat gives it... a 9 out of 10. More on that later. Pat first saw Cheap Trick on this tour. UFO opened for them, people in front of him were snorting cocaine, it was NUTS! Then Pat saw them again and Krokus opened for the band. Motherfuckin' KROKUS!
Pat plays the opening track of the album, "Stop This Game". Pat remembers Cheap Trick having a giant laser-shooting eyeball on stage. Like I said, NUTS!
The song Suzanne picks is "Just Got Back". Pat likes the songs, but he feels like the last track, "Who D'King," is a letdown. Hence the 9 out of 10. But Suzanne doesn't mind it, so it's a 10 out of 10.
When they toured the album, Tom Peterssen was out of the band. Pete Comita replaced him for the tour, then they replaced Pete with a bassist named Jon Brant. The first album with Jon is 1982's One on One, produced by Roy Thomas Baker. Phew, learning a lot here at Cheap Trick School. Pat was a little disappointed with the production given Baker's discography (Cars, Journey, Foreigner, Queen). It's a noisy album, while Pat expected something slick and smooth. He plays the title track, "One on One". There's just a fuzziness to it, Pat and Kyle agree.
Suzanne doesn't know anything about production, she just puts the album on and listens. Her choice from the album is "Love's Got a Hold on Me". Despite his problems with the production, Pat really likes the album a lot. 9 out of 10. And despite not being in the band, Tom Peterssen does play these early-to-mid-80s songs... unlike other bands (cough, Van Halen, cough).
The next album is 1983's Next Position Please, produced by Todd Rundgren. Pat rode his bike all the way to the mall just to pick up the last copy of the album at the record store.
There were 12 songs on the LP, the cassette and CD had 14. Then the "Authorized" re-issue in 2006 has 16 songs! Pat plays the title track, "Next Position Please". There is a lot of this album to go around. Suzanne has two picks, the first being "Borderline". The other pick is "Don't Make Our Love a Crime".
Pat goes to this album a lot, but he wouldn't give it a 10 out of 10. It's not an album for everyone. Suzanne gives it a 9.
We move on to 1985's Standing on the Edge, which was Suzanne's first Cheap Trick album and was produced by Jack Douglas, who did the first album. Pat questions Jack's "recreational activities" because this album is all over the place. Pat plays a song called "Love Comes". Big 80s ballad production. Pat and Suzanne agree that this album has some clunkers in it. Pat gives it a 7 out of 10.
Pat and Suzanne go over the creepy lyrics of "Little Sister" before Suzanne plays her pick, the amazing hit "Tonight It's You". At this stage of the game, the record company isn't really pushing Cheap Trick. It also doesn't help that the album isn't great. Rick Nielsen's name isn't even spelled correctly on the back!
Okay people. It's time. We have come to the part of the show where we must turn our heads away in shame. Shame for the album cover. Shame for the music. Shame for everyone involved, really. Yes, it's time to talk about 1986's The Doctor. Kyle thinks that if you take off the doctor from the cover and just leave the swirly stuff, it would be okay. But even so...
It's very keyboard-heavy and a lot of it doesn't sound like Cheap Trick. Pat proves this with his pick, "It's Up to You". Again, synthesizers up the wazoo. Admittedly, Pat and Suzanne do like some songs on the album. But there's a lot of shit. Suzanne's pick, again, proves this. It's called "Rearview Mirror Romance". Her other pick is "Take Me to the Top". This is rough for Pat. "There is nothing wrong with this song," says Suzanne. But it's not the Cheap Trick that Pat is familiar with and loves. It doesn't work with this band; it also doesn't hold up.
All Cheap Trick fans will pretty much agree that this is rock bottom for the band. The label is not happy. Something has to change. After college, Pat was living with his aunt in Maryland, working third shift for UPS. Just a horrible time in his life. But then, 1988's Lap of Luxury was released. Pat was watching MTV and they promoted the new Cheap Trick music video. Pat wondered how cool it would be if Tom Peterssen came back into the band. And wouldn't you know it, the video starts with Robin and Tom walking onscreen. Pat Carnac, over here. The record company was heavily involved with the album, including helping with songwriting duties. The band didn't like it, but it certainly helped; "The Flame" went to #1. Pat plays the opening track, "Let Go". The album was produced by Richie Zito, former guest.
Suzanne's pick from the album is "Never Had a Lot to Lose".
If there was a Cheap Trick comeback, it's this one. Pat gives it an 8 out of 10. The next album, also produced by Zito, is 1990's Busted. Pat and Suzanne both like Busted better than Lap of Luxury, but the album "didn't do dick," as Pat describes. He plays the opening track, "Back 'n Blue". Almost every magazine took a shiny dump on this album.
Pat gives it a 10 out of 10. Suzanne picks "If You Need Me" because when she saw him play with the Robin Zander Band, he sang it while looking right at her. Of course the concert was in a bar, but still. Since Busted didn't sell what they wanted, Epic cuts Cheap Trick loose and the band goes to Warner Bros. 1994 gives us Woke Up with a Monster, which might be the worst album cover ever (even worse than The Doctor). Scary clown? Check. Ugly hooker? Check. NO ICONIC CHEAP TRICK LOGO?!?!?! Check. Ah jeez. Pat plays "Girlfriends".
It's produced by Ted Templeman of Van Halen and Doobie Brothers fame. Pat likes the album, but the album cover almost ruins the experience. Suzanne plays the song "Tell Me Everything". Pat gives the whole album a 7 out of 10. The good songs are great. Other songs are not.
The album also did not sell well, so Warner Bros wished them the best in their future endeavors. Cheap Trick goes to an independent label called Red Ant and releases their second self-titled album, Cheap Trick '97. Pat and Suzanne agree that this is one of the best, both in music and in album cover. Pat immediately fell in love. This is old school Cheap Trick at its finest. Pat plays the song "Anytime". Heavy stuff, and it really showcases Robin's ability to scream.
Suzanne sticks with the same anger and the same vocal stylings with the song "You Let a Lotta People Down".
THREE WEEKS after the album is released, Red Ant goes kaput. The band spends six years without a new album, all the while still touring like crazy. This was when Pat saw them the most. It was the longest period without new music. Finally, the band releases 2003's Special One. Pat plays the lead single "Scent of a Woman". Suzanne gives this a 10, not so for Pat due to the last two songs. This wasn't an immediate love for Pat like Cheap Trick '97; it grew on him.
The song Suzanne picks from the album is called "Words".
Three years later, the band releases Rockford. Pat and Kyle LOVE the album cover. Pat gives this a solid 10. Every song is fun. Pat plays the track "Give It Away". Pat made sure to recommend this album to everywhere. Suzanne saw them play at a county fair and it broke. her. heart.
Suzanne plays the track "Perfect Stranger".
There are only a few songs that Suzanne does not like... and "Man-U-Lip-U-Lator" is not one of them. My word. Anyway, another three years pass and Cheap Trick puts out another album, The Latest. "Hey have you heard The Latest by Cheap Trick?" (whistle noise, fart sound). Pat and Kyle don't think the title and album cover (the band on the beach with metal detectors and Rick buried up to his head) work together. The album starts off with a funeral dirge called "Sleep Forever," which is a mistake. There are remakes of solo Robin songs. And one of the songs was originally a Pepsi jingle. Kyle plays it:
Then Pat plays the song that was made from it, "Everyday You Make Me Crazy." Suzanne's perception of the song is now ruined.
Pat was disappointed by the album, but he does like some of it, including "Sick Man of Europe". It took Suzanne a little while to warm up to the album, but she can listen to it. Pat hardly ever plays it.
The song Suzanne picks is called "Miracle". Big Lennon influence, there. The album got good reviews, but it doesn't connect with Pat. He wishes they would have spent a bit more time on it.
Pat and Suzanne expect to see Cheap Trick on tour in the summer when they open for Heart and Joan Jett. Suzanne doesn't like it when Cheap Trick opens for bands, but that is the nature of the game. This is the longest time between studio albums, about 7 years. And they're finally getting into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame after being eligible for years. Their new album, Bang, Zoom, Crazy... Hello has not been released at the time of this recording. Pat, Kyle, and Suzanne all shake their heads at the title. Bun E. is out of the band (band infighting, what else is new) and Rick's son, Daxx, has taken his place. Pat doesn't like it, but they're not getting rid of Zander. No way. Kyle says no big deal, Bun E. is a curmudgeon. Suzanne sticks up for Bun E. "Of course he's a grump, they made him dress like a social studies teacher!"
Thanks to Suzanne for enrolling in Cheap Trick School, this was a ton of fun. It was also a long one, whew boy. You can find Suzanne on Twitter @sdillingham.
Pat takes us out with the first single from Bang, Zoom, Crazy... Hello called "No Direction Home".