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[CLASSICA] Cheap Trick: Dream Police

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Cheap Trick

CLASSICA – Cheap Trick – Dream Police
Written by John Raptis

I grew up on the music of the mid to late 70’s. Particularly the great Rock bands that were destroying cities across the US of A. KISS, Ted Nugent, Van Halen, Rush, Aerosmith and the mighty Cheap Trick.

These were the bands I was cutting my teeth to. These were the bands that as a mere child I would learn to drum to. My parent’s couch in our old home took a pounding until that fateful day when Dad finally bought me my first drum kit. By then, I could play any drum pattern by my heroes of the day – Peter Criss of Kiss and the enigmatic Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick. I could play any of their songs – and probably could to this day, although I haven’t drummed professionally since 1990, hanging up the sticks for good to move onto greener pastures. But I digress, that is all another blog post for another day.

One slab of vinyl that the stylus of my stereo wore down (Oh God I feel so damn old!) completely was Cheap Trick’s Dream Police album.

Cheap Trick suddenly emerged from the American heartland in 1976-77, after so many years of salting away the fabled R ’n’ R dues in Midwestern oblivion.

Guitarist Rick Nielsen and Bassist Tom Petersson had been playing together since 1967, when they combined with several other musical acquaintances to form Fuse, who were then signed to Epic Records during the psychedelically-euphoric group boom of that season. Epic released Fuse’s first and only album in 1968, but as it was a hasty, poorly produced effort (“Record companies in those days assumed that anybody with long hair knew all about production,” says Rick), not at all representative of the band’s already-awesome live capabilities, it quickly stiffed, and Fuse were dropped from Epic’s roster.

Out on the streets again, Nielsen went logically enough to England, where he ran into Todd Rundgren. Todd advised him that he had just broken up with Nazz to go solo, so Nielsen returned to America, hunted up unemployed Nazzniks Thom Mooney and Stewkey Antoni, and, with Tom Petersson back in the fold, formed a new, Philadelphia-based band: “Some nights we were billed as ‘Fuse’, some as ‘Nazz’.” Either way, public response was slow in developing, and it was during this period that Nielsen was reduced to working in what he clamis to be the only non-musical employment of his life: six months as a busboy and bartender in a Philadelphia restaurant, with Petersson alongside as a waiter.

By the early ’70s, Nielsen and Petersson had returned to their Midwestern homeland, and, with various sidemen coming and going, auditioned the neo-Fuse/incipient-Cheap Trick for Columbia Records in 1972. Despite the presence of early versions of several Nielsen tunes which have since become major hits, Columbia found the band’s repertoire lacking in the dreaded ‘commercial potential’, and it was back to the road, with the band hitting every Midwestern club they could find, repeatedly, over the next few years.

Petersson left, and rejoined, and Robin Zander and Bun E. Carlos eventually made the Cheap Trick connection complete, by about 1973.

Dream Police was Cheap Trick’s fourth studio album and was recorded and completed in late 1978. At the time, the Cheap Trick At Budokan album – which was only ever slated for release in Japan, had unexpected public demand for import copies. This prompted Epic to release a domestic version, with, at the group’s insistence, the Japanese packaging and liner booklet left substantially intact.

Recording Dream Police Cheap Trick decided not to continue with the direct, stripped-down sound of their previous releases. Instead, the group went for their biggest, most elaborate production to date, taking the synthesized flourishes of Heaven Tonight to extremes. Underneath the gloss, there are a number of songs that rank among Cheap Trick’s finest, particularly the paranoid title track, the epic Gonna Raise Hell, the punk-like I Know What I Want, (featuring bassist Tom Petersson on lead vocals) the Beatle-esque Voices, and the melancholic closer, Need Your Love.

Whilst Dream Police isn’t Cheap Trick’s finest effort – it certainly is up there as one of their definitive works. A classic that was such a joy to re-explore for this article.

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