And now for something a little different; will be a one off though.
Cheap Trick first entered my world one day in April of 1978 while I was eating lunch at my grandparent’s house. The radio was on and “Southern Girls” came on and it was one of those moments that magically lift themselves over all the other millions of moments that we have since long forgotten. What was most remarkable was that the radio was allowed to be on in the first place and that I had somehow coaxed my grandmother into letting me pick the station and play rock music – for at my grandparent’s apartment noise audible to the neighbors was the biggest no-no of them all. … Not much happened immediately after that, I started reading about the band here and there and bought Heaven Tonight later in the year based on a review that said the band was trying too hard this time [I doubt they would say that now in retrospect] “but if you only buy one album per month, this one should be it.” – that sold me.
Early 1979, these posters started appearing in my hometown:
[Berlin wasn’t my hometown back then but this one’s available from the net with an insane seller asking 3,500 Euros for this on Amazon – I had one of these in perfect condition but sold it in 2000 for little money. “Kant” is not a bad language but comes from the Philosopher Immanuel Kant 1724-1804]
I did go and buy a ticket from my meager pocket money:
Ticket for the show the day before I saw them at the Wartburg in Wiesbaden. What was so special about this small venue, which later saw shows by The Clash and The Police (and other “cutting edge acts” read: Good for up to 1,500 tickets sold), there was only one way in apparently – up the main stairs where the fans who had arrived early where waiting and so the band had to squeeze by us amid a lot of shoulder slapping and ‘hello’s’. Coming early had another benefit, there was a flight case parked next to the stage and I got to sit on it. I remember very little about the actual show, which was only my third ever concert but I was impressed enough that I bought At The Budokan the very next day and it became one of the defining albums of my adolescence. Someone states on his concert memories website that this same show was the loudest concert he has ever been to. I guess since this was my first real rock concert, I thought they were all this loud. No wonder I have high frequencies whistling inside my head basically 24/7.
I was thrilled that I found a contemporary band that could measure up to what my class mates were listening to: Van Halen, Thin Lizzy, Queen, AC/DC, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band and Rainbow, as my other favorite band, the Beatles was obviously not going to cut it in the hard & heavy department (and which other 70s US band had a closer Beatles connection than Cheap Trick?). Also, they had a sense of humor about them, something painfully absent from say Judas Priest. But CT gave me more than just music. We all remember that covers 2 to 4, In Color through Budokan reserved the front for the handsome ones and the back for the weird ones (although you knew it was all an act and one of the ‘weird ones’ actually wrote the songs). Wel,l I definitely felt more ‘Rick Nielsen’ than ‘Robin Zander’ growing up: I was a bootleg collecting geek (still am, of course) with too much of an interest in a single topic that wasn’t football – always suspicious to the ‘normal ones’. CT showed me that you didn’t have to look or appear cool to be a rock star. So, I went all the way, CT badge on my jacket, even got the checkerboard pants and “Rick” became my nick name in high school; I was OK with that.
Robin & Tom onstage – Mannheim, 4 March ’79
Me wearing a CT badge – the guy who’s autograph I got here started out as a rock dj. Went on to become rich & famous as a TV game show host until a young guy broke his neck and became paralyzed in his show live on Saturday night prime time TV.
Hard to see but it’s a CT logo cap – December ’79
As summer approached, another poster appeared around town:
Now, September 1st fell on a Saturday that year and we had – the agony! – school on Saturdays – but did that stop me? Of course, not. And good thing it didn’t because these memories lasted a lifetime but the same can’t be said for the many Saturday mornings I had to spend in school. As a side effect, CT were making me watch the last show The mighty Who gave in Europe for the year and decade. Now this is one festival, I would love to go back in time and document it better (I took some photos of CT but they didn’t come out well due to my laughable camera). I got pretty close to the stage for AC/DC and CT though, which was quite hazardous as there was really no place to walk among all the people preferring to lie down when many wanted to stand, the blankets, other belongings, food and other stuff. Another danger was losing track of where your own bag was amid that sea of bags, if you decided to wander away. I still remember how good the PA sound was. You could pick out the bass drum easily in the mix, for example. … Little did I know that I wouldn’t see CT for another 19 years.
on stage at Nuremberg’s Zeppelin field and backstage with Pete
Unfortunately, I had to leave just after the laser show in “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and before the encores to catch the train back for the long ride home and had to miss Pete smashing his guitar after the last number, “The Real Me”.
My CT collection grew and grew with the help of the Pied Piper catalog and “Oldie Markt” magazine where I would bid on bootlegs – results were in next month’s issue. I had all four CT vinyl boots and cataloged each live cassette I could find meticulously using our manual type writer:
I later taped the famous U2 broadcast from 1989 over it.
Last surviving items from my collection: Tape cover I created and no name brand cassette ordered from Pied Piper. I wish I had held on to every single CT item I ever got, in hindsight – but I didn’t have much money in those days, so I can forgive myself.Thankfully, a taped copy of the CT Wizardo/Death Records release from the Santa Monica Civic in 1977 survived as well.
I got out the tape in 2012 and transferred it, it came out surprisingly well:
The rest can be summarized quickly: Tom left the band in 1980, they first postponed then cancelled their fall German tour dates (but still came and played in other countries), performed as the main act on “Rockpalast” in 1983 and the band’s decline in popularity matched the rate in which I lost interest.
However, old loves die hard and in the late 90s when I lived just up the road from the Great American Music Hall (a former brothel on the edge of one of the most desolate and crime and drug infested inner city areas in North America, San Francisco’s Tenderloin district) I couldn’t resist when the “First Three Albums Tour” came around and I’m glad I went and that’s how I want to remember them with Bun E. on drums playing the albums I first learned to love – just even better sounding. Got to meet the band after the last night but was not able to see them again since then, now another 15 years have gone by. Good to see the band still going strong performing and getting some of their due.
Thanks for the memories, guys!