by Jeb Wright
"All right Tokyo, are you ready?" With
these words, shouted out to a sold out, mostly female
teenage audience in Japan, by the band’s tour manager, Cheap
Trick took their first steps to international stardom. Oddly
enough, international stardom, at least in the Land of the
Rising Sun, came more swiftly than in their home country, or
even their home state of Illinois. The band had chart
success in Japan long before America and when they arrived
by plane, they could not believe that the thousands of
people waiting on the runway were there to see them. The
band had to be sequestered to their hotel rooms and were
asked not to even look out the window, as the crowd below
would spot them and run into the streets. This is amazing
considering Cheap Trick were on the 28th floor!
Now, thirty-years down the line,
the foursome from Rockford have teamed up with Sony and, on
November 11th, will release a special Live at
Budokan box set. The most exciting part of the box set
is the first ever DVD release of the band’s set at the
legendary Budokan. The video was found and original producer
Jack Douglas even mixed the sound. In addition, there are a
couple of songs from when Cheap Trick returned to Japan last
year, and all new interviews with the band, as well as some
of the people in Japan who made the entire event happen in
the first place.
Cheap Trick went on to massive fame
and fortune and are still both touring the world, and
releasing incredible new music that can be found on the
albums Special One and Rockford. It may never
have happened though, if it weren’t for the happy accident
that is Budokan. The album was to be released only in
Japan but when rock deejays started spinning the imported
live version of "I Want You To Want Me", the record company
took notice. When Live at Budokan became the best
selling import album of all time, they released the album in
America. It was a cheap trick that worked out well for Cheap
Trick. Within a year, they were headlining arenas and have
never looked back.
Jeb: I watched the DVD, listened to
the CDs and watched the interviews. You have Bruce Dickinson
and Jack Douglas back on board doing the technical
stuff—this is the ultimate Live at Budokan release.
Rick: It is fun looking back on
this stuff. The fact that we had Jack Douglas doing a 5.1
mix for it certainly ads to the joviality of it.
Jeb: And you get a free poster!
Rick: You do? I haven’t seen it
yet. The last poster I got had Farrah Fawcett on it.
Jeb: I think I had the same one.
Back when you first went to Japan, did Cheap Trick realize
they were that popular?
Rick: Probably not. In 1977, Queen
asked us to go out on tour with them. They had press at all
of their shows—especially in Japan. They would come to see
Queen and they happened to like us. The next night we would
do another show and when we played in Japan, the Japanese
people came out because they loved Queen. I don’t think I
had ever met a Japanese person before, well, not many
anyway, although I used to go to Benihana’s quite a bit.
A writer for a magazine in Japan
asked me to write an article on what it was like being on
tour with Queen. I told them I was not that kind of writer
but that I would do it. A couple of months later, we started
getting magazine clips with little caricatures of us. We had
seen little clips before for bands like Kiss, Queen and the
Beatles but these were of us. They were from kids, who must
have taken a lot of art in school, as they were quite good
artists. We started getting fan mail from Japan after that.
It started out as one piece here, and one piece there, but
after awhile we were getting a hundred pieces a day coming
into our office in Wisconsin from Japanese people. I wasn’t
getting fan mail from people who lived across town, let
alone from people living halfway around the world.
We also toured with Kiss in 1977,
and the Japanese press were there. During that time, we had
three hit singles in Japan. "I Want You To Want Me" was # 1
there. It was from the studio record, which was never a hit
anywhere else because it had that dopey piano on it. "Clock
Strikes Ten" was a # 1 song, as well. We got asked to go
Japan, which at that time was unheard of. All four of us
road in coach.
Jeb: I was going to ask if you flew
to Japan in coach.
Rick: Oh yeah, we were on Northwest
Orient Airlines. When we landed, we saw all of these people
screaming and yelling and we thought somebody famous was on
the plane. We were on coach, so we were the last ones to get
off the plane, and they were there to see us. Tom and myself
shared a room, and Bun E. And Robin shared a room at the
hotel. We haven’t shared a room since 1978.
Jeb: You were actually instructed
to stay in your hotel room due to the mass pandemonium
caused by Cheap Trick being there.
Rick: It was crazy. We stayed on
the 28th floor. I have not seen the finished
artwork for the release, but there is a picture of some room
keys from the hotel. They were actually mine. You were not
supposed to take them, but I took mine; stole them right
from the hotel.
You would look out the window and
the fans would know where you were. Every time we looked out
the window, it was pandemonium. We couldn’t leave unless we
were driven away from the hotel. Once we were away from the
hotel then we could walk around a bit. Thirty years ago,
going to Japan was like landing on the moon. Back then, it
was all Japanese people. There were no Caucasian or black
people. We stuck out like a sore thumb, or a sore
Jeb: Did you sneak out?
Rick: Of course we did. "No, you
can’t go there" makes that the first place you want to go.
We didn’t sneak out too often. We had never been there and
we spoke no Japanese at all. We really stood out. Now, when
you go, there are people from the United States, Russia and
every other country. Back then, there were no foreigners and
you really stuck out. When we were riding from the airport
to the hotel, there was cab after cab after cab chasing us
down the street. They would try to pass us and be hanging
out the window yelling at us. It was very dangerous but it
was also pretty darn cool.
Jeb: What did the Japanese see in
Cheap Trick that took the rest of the world longer to catch
Rick: Four great guys; three great
Jeb: "I Want You To Want Me",
according to legend, was dropped from the set list and was
only added back in at the last minute for the Japanese
concerts. Is that true?
Rick: It is half true and half
story. We quit playing it in the United States. It came out
as a single and it didn’t get enough air play to keep doing
it. It was our silly pop song—I wish I could be that silly
and stupid more often. For Japan, we had to do it because it
was one of the songs that was a big hit over there.
Songs don’t resurrect themselves.
It just doesn’t happen where a song comes out and a few
years later it becomes a hit. We brought that out sort of as
our last hurrah for the thing. Lo and behold, it took off.
The United States started getting the live version from
Japan, instead of the studio version. I think the Budokan
stuff is kind of interesting because it happened the
back-ass way around. We had to go to Japan to be known in
Jeb: I love the song "Lookout" but
that had never been on a Cheap Trick album before Live at
Budokan. Was it a new song or one that had never made
the cut before?
Rick: We had a lot of material. We
had been playing for a number of years and it was just some
of the other material we had to pull out. We went from
playing in bars to being an opening act to being a headliner
in Japan. We couldn’t just go out and do thirty minutes. We
pulled out that song and we pulled out "Ain’t That A Shame."
When we did "Ain’t That A Same" we had the long intro, with
the drums, and we added more soloing kind of junk at the end
that we probably wouldn’t have done if we were doing a
thirty-minute set opening for the Kinks. It only happened
because we were headlining the shows.
Jeb: Tom Werman was your producer.
Another legend holds that when he heard the tapes, he hated
the sound and wanted you to re-record the album in the
studio and put on fake applause. Is that true?
Rick: He could have said that. We
asked him to go to Japan but he didn’t want to go because he
was working on a Ted Nugent record. We knew it was going to
get recorded no matter what. When we got back to New York,
we took the tapes to Jack Douglas, who did our first record.
He wasn’t the record companies choice because they thought
Jack’s first record of us was too raw. That is why In
Color sounds the way it does; they toned us down. When
we recorded it, it sounded fine but when we left and heard
the music later, there was a honky-tonk piano on "I Want You
To Want Me."
Jeb: Did you really have to redo
Rick: Not really. Budokan
sounded more like our first record. Werman didn’t want to go
with Douglas. It was only going to be released for the
Japanese market. It is just like the photo for the cover.
Robin [Zander] and Tom [Petersson] didn’t like it but they
were told that it was just for Japan, so know one would ever
Jeb: After a week spend it Japan
being treated like the American Beatles, what was it like to
come back and play small venues?
Rick: The record came out in 1979,
but we actually recorded it in 1978, so we were back to
playing clubs. I remember we were playing in some big rock
club that held maybe 150 people after we were just over
there playing to 10,000 people. It was a while before the
record took off, and the fact that it even took off at all
was amazing. Who knew?
Jeb: We you aware of the fact that
the album was climbing the charts in the US or were you too
busy slogging it out on the road?
Rick: A little of what you just
said... I remember being on stage in Japan and thinking,
"Finally, somebody likes us." We had gone from doing pretty
well in the clubs, and then we were an opening act playing a
half hour for people who had never heard of us, to that. We
were getting absolutely no air play either.
One of the reasons I wrote the song
"Hello There" was because we needed a song to start the set.
It didn’t need to be a real song, either. We needed
something to use as a sound check. It was written that way.
Now, it is the lead track from
Jeb: A standout example of the
difference at the time between how Cheap Trick sounded live
compared to how they were captured in the studio is the live
version of "Surrender." The live version is much better.
Rick: The song is good, but I
agree. We are like the first album and we are like the
Live at Budokan record. It is what it is.
Jeb: When you penned the line "got
my Kiss records out" did you know that you were going to be
tossing Kiss records out in the crowd around the world?
Rick: Well no! At that time, I just
thought, "What is the ultimate horrible thing for a kid?" It
would be your parents rolling around together on the couch.
My parents are weird; your parents are weird; everyone’s
parents are weird, no matter who you are. To think that they
would be rolling around listening to Kiss—it is not Satan
worshiping, it is worse. It is Gene Simmons worshiping.
Jeb: How much money to you think
you have spent on Kiss albums?
Rick: The only reason that Gene has
got a house in Beverly Hills is because we tossed out Kiss
records to our crowds every night. We can’t even get rid of
those things; we have to toss them out.
Jeb: You recorded Dream Police
when Budokan accidently became a huge hit in the USA.
You had to sit on the album in the can waiting for a time to
release it since you had such a huge live record on your
Rick: Dread the luck! The worse
thing about that was that people knew about it and actually
cared that we had a record coming out. By the time the
record came out people said it was old. It was not old. It
was recorded but it had not been released. It was delayed in
Jeb: You have said that you feel
more intimate playing in front of large crowds.
Rick: I think playing to a small
crowd is cool, but I am more at ease in front of a lot of
people than I am walking into a room with only three people
there, and I am one of them.
I lived in Rockford, Illinois but I
thought of being in Tokyo. By the time I was in Tokyo, I
felt more at ease there. Then I go back and blend in where I
live. I always thought internationally—it sounds like I am
tooting my own horn. I was the only kid in the United States
that got Melody Maker airmailed to him. It was $120 a year,
which was a lot of money then. I didn’t want to have
six-week-old news; I wanted to know who was playing Tuesday.
I always dreamt that I was playing in these places. I didn’t
sit around and daydream, and have little birdies flying
around my head, but I wanted to know what was going on, and
that is where I wanted to be. I used to read the writers
like Chris Welch and I knew what the music sounded like
before I heard it. Writers today just blast the guy. If you
can’t make fun of them, or say they are dating Lindsay Lohan,
or in rehab, then it doesn’t matter. Back then, they
actually talked about the music and I could psychically will
Jeb: As you re-live Budokan,
what do you think your band mates brought to the album? What
does Robin Zander bring?
Rick: One of the greatest voices in
rock. On our first record he was called the ‘man of a
thousand voices’ which he is. He can go from singing really
ballady junk to being a heavy duty serial killer. He is the
singer I was always looking for; someone who could interpret
what I wrote.
Jeb: Tom Petersson.
Rick: He is the inventory of the
12-string bass. He started off as a guitar player. So he and
I could be in the same band, he took up bass and developed
it. We were a three-piece band with a singer. He took a
4-string bass and then took it to being a 12-string
instrument; that is pretty impressive. He is not Jaco
Pastorious, but he doesn’t need to be.
Jeb: Let’s talk about Bun E.
Rick: He is a human beat box. He is
a human drum machine.
Jeb: What about you?
Rick: I am the annoying guy who
gets to do the interviews.
Jeb: You ended up, through the
success of Live at Budokan, getting on the cover of
Rolling Stone and being photographed by the amazingly
talented Annie Leibowitz. What was that experience like?
Rick: It was great, but she has
never spoken to us since. We actually did a few shots with
her but I wish she would return my phone calls. Although, I
have not called her either.
Jeb: Let’s just hope it was nothing
Rick: I can’t go there. She is
great and that is another cool thing in the Cheap Trick
resume, which has a lot of cool little ditties and doo-dads.
Jeb: Last one: If I wanted to get a
sweater made like you are wearing in the booklet of the new
release, who would I call?
Rick: Sally Walton in London,
England. She made them, but now she is a marriage counselor.
It was right after her divorce, but I would use her advice