Sunday, May 31, 2015

CHEAP TRICK: Interview [1978]

Text by Cary Baker / Big Star fanzine, 1978
Introduction and photos © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2015
Videos from the Internet

This interview was originally published in Big Star fanzine, issue #3, dated Spring 1978. It was written by Cary Baker. Thanks to Bernie Kugel, the fanzine’s publisher, who kindly granted permission for this reprint.

Thanks to uber-rock writer Mary Anne Cassata, I had the chance to hang out with most of Cheap Trick in the very early 1980s, during a promotion for a USO Tour. I stood outside the New York USO headquarters snapping pix of guitarist Rick Nielsen and drummer Bun E. Carlos goofing around, while vocalist Robin Zander bought a pretzel off a street vendor. Over a decade later, I would work with Carla Dragotti, who was a huge fan, and actually became their tour manager (I had met her just a year earlier in 1991 at the Marquee NY Johnny Thunders Memorial Concert). With all of that, I’ve never seen the band perform live. – RBF, 2015
Rick Nielsen and Bun E. Carlos hanging out on Times Square
Cary Baker: After getting off the road with KISS a week ago after two months of solid touring, what impressions do you have of Gene Simmons and crew?
Rick Nielsen (lead guitar): I can give you a scoop. That’s not really makeup they wear at all: it’s tattooed right on their faces. It’s amazing to me as a musician that they’d be into their act enough to do that. I mean, this baseball hat I’m wearing is not sewn to my head. It does come off every time I go for a transplant.

Cary: I’d imagine it must be quite different touring with Foreigner.
Rick: It’s geared way down. KISS’s set is very elaborate with hundreds of people behind the scenes. Foreigner is a normal tour. My parents go out and buy albums by anyone we’re touring with. Foreigner was easy – they have only one album. KISS posed a problem.

Cary: Who is the handsomest man in rock’n’roll?
Rick: I’m not going to say Dick Manitoba. I read that somewhere. I guess it’s Bun and me. It’s a tie. Bun E. and I are the two most eligible bachelors in the rock’n’roll business. I did tell Paul Stanley [of KISS – RBF, 2015] that the four most eligible bachelors in the world today are Gene Simmons, Robin Zander and himself, not necessarily in that order, and if the Mexican divorce goes through, Bun E. Carlos.

Robin Zander buying a street pretzel
Cary: I heard there’s a live LP of you guys.
Rick: We did record live in the Whisky in the middle of recording In Color, but it probably won’t come out.
Tom Peterssen (bass; 12-string guitar): Who wants a boring live LP?
Rick: We’ve got other projects we’re more concerned with. Someday we’ll get to the point where we’ll be auditioning the Vienna Boys Choir, the London Philharmonic, the London Symphony Orchestra – but only if they rock. We’ll draw up the ultimate charts. It won’t be Cheap Trick and Orchestra. It will be an entity of its own. But we’ll always be pounding rock’n’roll in warehouses. We’re doing TV too. Just taped shows in New York and Atlanta. Also, we’ll be appearing on Lloyd Thaxton [d. 2008], Hullabaloo and Shindig.

Cary: The single from In Color, “I Want You to Want Me,” reportedly has a B-side that’s not on the album.
Rick: It’s called “Oh Boy,” and it marks the singing debut of Bun E. Carlos. But since Bun E. has never sung, there are no vocals on it.

Cary: What if it’s the runaway A-side?
Rick: I doubt it. But it’s neat. You’ll never guess who’s whistling on it. When you get a copy, listen to the whistling at the beginning. I’d tell you who it is only it would be like dropping names. We did our LP at Kendun [Studios] in L.A., where the greats have done albums, like Fleetwood Mac. Just think, it could have been Stevie Nicks whistling, but nah!

Bun E and Rick bookend Steven Stills on his birthday.
Cary: Word’s reached us here that there’s a Cheap Trick bootleg on the West Coast. You must be very flattered.
Bun E. Carlos (drums): There was. But not since the FBI’s been out there.
Tom: The idea was flattering…
Rick: …the recording was terrible. They made my voice sound so stupid.
Bun E.: They took a $75 cassette machine in the 50th row or something with no EQ added.
Rick: Though I must say, the performance was brilliant!

Cary: Rick, are the rumors true that you played on a couple of Yardbirds’ singles?
Rick: Jimmy Page said he never saw who did the keyboard stuff. He was always gone before that stuff was added. The editor of Trouser Press asked Page about that. He said if he does remember me, he called me Pete Townsend, 10 or 12 years ago. He called me Pete Townsend because he wanted to buy some guitars from me. Instead, I stole them from him. No, I never stole a guitar, though he did get some stolen. Really, though, he wanted to buy my guitars. I didn’t sell them to him and his career went right down the drain.
Bun E.: Serves that guy right.

Robin Zander stands amid member of other groups
such as the Eagles and Kansas
Cary: What new songs have you written for the new album?
Rick: I’m in a real slump. One I just wrote – and the band hates it – is “Oh, Claire.” I think it’s a cool song, though. In 3-1/2 minutes, this couple, well, they meet, they get married, they have kids, they grow old, the guy dies and goes to heaven. It’s cool. Look for it on our next album.
Bun E.: Kind of like Love Story.

Cary: After working with two producers, Jack Douglas and Tom Werman [who currently owns a luxury B&B in Lenox, MA – RBF, 2015], who do you feel handled the group best?
Tom: I’ll put it to you this way and let you guess which is which: one guy was unbelievably great. One guy didn’t know what the hell he was doing.
Rick: One of them cheats on his wife. I’m sorry; they both cheat on their wives. The first album that Douglas did had more of a live sound; the second was more of a studio album. If we use a different producer for four albums – and I’m not saying we will, but if we do – we’ll call in the producers and we’re gonna produce them and see what they sound like. That will be after Cheap Trick Four, which is the tentative name of our fourth LP [their fourth album was, of course, 1979’s Dream Police – RBF, 2015].

Rick Nielsen motor-vatin'
Cary: Has there been radio action on the album?
Rick: Sure, all over. We were even interviewed on Clairol Essence Earth News Radio, you know? We did that a year ago. They ask you your favorite color on the taping. Then on the show, they ask you, “Rick, you look a little down in the dumps. How do you feel today?” “Blue.”

Cary: What’s on the boards for the third album [Heaven Tonight – RBF, 2015]?
Rick: The Ten Commandments. It’s really very clever. We’ll dedicate it to the growing Bun E. Carlos is God sect in Chicago. We’ll have “In the Bun-ginning” or “In the B. Ginnings” and “On the Third Album.” It will be a total concept. The Ten Commandments etched in vinyl. Watch for it around Spring.



1 comment:

  1. Tom Peterssen (bass; 12-string guitar): Who wants a boring live LP?