DCLASSIC ALBUM: ‘Cheap Trick at Budokan’ (1979)
ateline 1979. Cheap Trick mania had hit the world. After years of slogging it out on the road playing every ratty dive in the States or opening for the likes of Kansas, Santana, Kiss and Be-Bop Deluxe, Cheap Trick had finally arrived.
Just prior to this massive success, the Illinois quartet’s prospects for a prosperous music career were looking decidedly bleak. But they had broken the Japanese market, so headed there for a tour, primed to revel in their newly acquired fame.
Those incendiary shows captured a band at the height of their live powers. Onstage lead guitarist Rick Nielsen was a cartoon character run amok, a tsunami of wild distorted power chords and demented showmanship who would routinely bombard the audience with a hailstorm of guitar picks. Zander’s between-song patter, meanwhile, could seemingly incite the primarily female audience into a frenzy at will.
Masterfully straddling the divide between tight and loose, the record sees the band power-drive through pop-rock classic after pop-rock classic. To this day, the winning combination of brilliant, simple tunes, confident musicianship and crowd hysteria is a reminder as to why Cheap Trick are among the elite artists in hard rock history. But only just: “If it weren’t for Budokan,” says Robin Zander, “it might have been the end for us. We were in debt by about a million dollars. That album saved us from probable obscurity.”