Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Cheap Trick (1979)

I remember the day almost as if it was yesterday. Rob and I were walking through the neighborhood on our way to the Ciccones' house, which was basically where all of the kids from the three adjacent streets where we lived would congregate. Our neighborhood was frequently referred to as Bart Drive, even though that was only one of the three streets. Rob's family lived at the head of Bart Drive, while my family lived next door, at the head of Simone Drive. The Ciccones, a Catholic family with seven children ranging in age from four years older to seven or eight years younger than I, lived on Martin Drive. Needless to say, their father held down three jobs and was never around, while their mother's full-time job was keeping track of them. She handled this assignment fairly well, and she essentially embraced her role as matriarch of the neighborhood.

One time Mrs. Ciccone heard a rumor that I was involved in defacing the fort in one of her neighbors' back yards. She recounted the story to me of how she vehemently defended me saying, "he's such a nice kid, there's no way he would do such a thing". I think it was her way of laying a guilt trip on me, as I was guilty as charged. It was one of those typically childish acts of tormenting the family that we all disliked.

Rob and I were on our way to hang out at the Ciccones' when we ran into Mike, the second oldest of the seven children, two years my senior and one year older than Rob. Mike said to us, "I hope you like Cheap Trick", because At Budakon was blaring from his bedroom window into the front yard. 1979 was a turning point for Cheap Trick, as the live version of "I Want You to Want Me" would launch their initial stardom. That same year, they released Dream Police, which in hindsight wasn't their best album, but it was my favorite back then, despite the fact that the opening to the title track sounded eerily similar to their other big hit, "Surrender".

The person that I really remember bonding with over Cheap Trick was my sister, Denise. In prior years, Denise and I had spent countless hours in our living room, playing 45s on our parents' old-fashioned cabinet style record player, with built-in speakers. We didn't always agree on the songs, but we always managed to piece together a steady rotation of hits from the 70's. We even killed the b-sides to some of them. I still remember that the flip side of Player's "Baby Come Back" was "Love is Where You Find It", and that Billy Joel's ode to his bad boy side, "You May Be Right", was backed with "Get it Right the First Time". This, of course, is not to mention the Barry Manilow double single of "Mandy" and "It's a Miracle".

Cheap Trick, though, was the first band where our tastes really connected. Denise took me to see them at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center in Poughkeepsie in 1980. It was the Dream Police tour, and it was my first concert ever. Thinking about this, I realize that she was only 15 in 1980, so considering she couldn't drive, it might not be accurate to say she took me. I'm sure our father drove us there and picked us up, but he and Mom wouldn't have let me go by myself, that's for certain. Years later, I believe it was 1998, Cheap Trick would play a three-night stand at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston. The theme for the shows was that each night they played, in its entirety, one of their first three studio albums. Denise drove up to Boston to go to one of those shows with me, and it felt a little like old times.

Cheap Trick really tailed off after Dream Police. I don't believe they produced another strong album, although there were a couple decent ones, until last year's Rockford. Still, their first four albums were tremendous, and there are few, if any, artists that I look back on as fondly as I do this quartet from Rockford, Illinois.

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