This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #444: I Want You To Want Me: Live from Budokan by Cheap Trick.
For the most part, when I listen to music or watch it in video form, I prefer live music to studio music. There is just something about the energy of a raucous crowd and the interplay between a band and their audience that helps to elevate a song from the version that was recorded in a studio and released on an album. I know that I am not alone in my predilection because the story of “I Want You To Want Me” by Cheap Trick is a textbook example of what I am talking about.
Cheap Tricked formed in the 1970s. It consisted of Robin Zander on lead vocals, Rick Nielson on lead guitar, Tom Petersson on bass and Bun E. Carlos on drums. Cheap Trick was one of the bands that formed the soundtrack of my high school years. Along with bands such as April Wine, Trooper, Kansas, Boston, Journey and so on, Cheap Trick delivered good old dependable guitar rock. Their songs were catchy and their persona was unique. The band members were almost, cartoon-like, on stage; with Nielson, as nerdy schoolboy, Carlos, as a dishevelled, Dan Aykroyd look-a-like character from Saturday Night Live, Zander and Petersson were the big-haired pretty boys. Together, they produced hits such as “Aint That a Shame”, “Surrender”, “The Dream Police”, “The Flame” and, of course, “I Want You To Want Me”. They were inducted into The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2016. However, none of this would have been possible if not for live music.
Cheap Trick had released a couple of studio albums in the mid-70s. Sales were mediocre. Included on one of those albums was a studio version of, “I Want You To Want Me”. It barely made the Top 100 Album chart and then, disappeared from sight. Like many new bands, Cheap Trick were scuffling out of the gate. The very real possibility existed that Cheap Trick was not going to survive as a commercially viable entity. To help drum up sales, the band toured relentlessly. Touring in the US was not helping much so, the band made a career-defining decision to tour in Japan. I am not sure exactly what it was about Japan but, Cheap Trick were greeted there with a level of mania usually associated with the early days of The Beatles. When you watch the video for this song, there are times when it is hard to hear Zander singing because of all of the screaming from the fans in Japan. It reminds me a lot of the response The Beatles got on The Ed Sullivan Show when they first appeared on US network TV. The band recorded a live album there called Cheap Trick: Live at Budokan that acted as a quasi-greatest hits album. The huge audience reaction that was captured on that live album helped bring new attention to the band and their songs and, essentially, launched their career into the stratosphere.
At this point in the story, please allow me to toss in a bit of trivia. In our house, we have all watched the complete tv series of Full House/Fuller House many times because it is my daughter Sophie’s all-time favourite show. One thing that I will give the show credit for is that it is a treasure trove for music lovers. The John Stamos character Uncle Jesse was a rock musician and was always playing real rock songs (from Elvis, especially), referencing real rock stars (he had a poster of Sammy Davis Jr. in his bedroom) or else, interacting with real rock legends on the show (such as Little Richard and The Beach Boys). I mention this because one of the seasons-long story arcs on Full House was Uncle Jesse’s quest to make it big in the music business. He and his band The Rippers played gigs all of the time, gaining a small amount of local fame. Eventually, they recorded a song called “Forever” which was a cover of a Beach Boys song. In the show, Uncle Jesse’s song barely cracked the Top 100 Album chart and then, disappeared from sight. He toured relentlessly but, only achieved success in one place: Japan! In Japan, Jesse and the Rippers and their song, “Forever”, were met with wild, rapturous attention and Jesse became a legend. The whole premise for this story arc on Full House was based upon the real-life story of Cheap Trick and the success of their album Live at Budokan. True story.
In any event, “I Want You To Want Me: Live at Budokan” captures the essence of performing live as well as any song ever recorded. It saved Cheap Trick’s career in the process and inspired the creators of Sophie’s favourite tv show to include its’ lessons of faith in yourself, the importance of persistence and of hard work as a key element of that show. So, enjoy the song and the memorable response from the crowd that helped to make this performance an all-time classic in the annals of modern music history. Ladies and gentlemen…..here is Cheap Trick!
Cheap Trick’s website is well worth checking out. A link to it can be found here.
Thanks, as always, to Rolling Stone Magazine for helping to inspire the wiring of this post. A link to their great website canoe found here.
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