Record Geek Heaven’s Top 10 Cheap Trick Songs

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Last week, a certain publication that focuses solely on classic rock published a list of the “Top 10 Greatest Cheap Trick Songs”. The list – which named several mediocre Trick songs, excluded tons of classics, and frustratingly named their most overplayed song (“I Want You to Want Me”) as their greatest – was an outrage to my band, The Dead Girls. Personally, I was outraged enough to actually make my own list. Though I realize this will probably shake things up even more, I could not let that list be, as far as I know, the only top ten of Cheap Trick songs in existence. It excluded so many songs that for me define Cheap Trick and make them stand so far out from the pack of everyday “classic rock” bands. I felt it had to be done.

10. Hello There (In Color)

I’m probably in the minority on this, but to my ears, a good chunk of the Live at Budokan stuff is better represented on the Trick’s studio albums. I don’t feel that way about “I Want You to Want Me” (though I do like the album version), but without a doubt, the In Color version of “Hello There” is the most iconic. The way the track kicks off – with the quick scratches from Tom Petersson’s bass, and the frustrated shout of “Hey!” that cues one of the simplest and most memorable rock riffs of all time – is so immediate and relentless, the perfect summation of the brief yet steady power pop blast that In Color provides.

9. Anytime (Cheap Trick 1997)

One of the most offensive things about last week’s aforementioned list was the fact that the most recent Cheap Trick song mentioned was from Dream Police. I remember thinking “Um, guys….you do realize that they have something like 15 albums after that one, right?” In 1997, Cheap Trick made a bona fide comeback with a pummeling album of rock songs. Perhaps because it was a long-awaited return to their rock roots, it was dubbed Cheap Trick’s second self-titled album. “Anytime” is the opening track, sequenced as such to prove right away to any haters or non-believers that THE TRICK STILL HAS IT. Though the song is one of the Trick’s heavier tunes, it has all the right Trick-y ingredients, including a classic Bun E. drum pattern, slick Rick licks, and the glorious wail of Robin Zander, who somehow sounds better than ever here.

8. Southern Girls (In Color)

Every song on this list should have been a massive hit, but how did massive hit status elude “Southern Girls”? It makes absolutely no sense. In Color was released in 1977, a time when simple, loveable, fist-pumping arena rock anthems were all but guaranteed a gold record. “Southern Girls” is the FUCKING DEFINITION of a great, simple, loveable, fist-pumping rock anthem. It has about 20 words, it’s not too complicated, and every second of the song is necessary. Maybe the switch from shuffle beat into a straight rock beat during the bridge throws people off. Maybe putting it as track 8 of 10 on the album forced people to overlook it. Whatever the reason, it’s a damn travesty.

7. Voices (Dream Police)

Another travesty – the fact that “The Flame” is so well known, yet hardly anyone gives props to “Voices”, the best ballad in the Cheap Trick catalog. Aside from its classic chorus and a bridge that induces shivers, the song itself is a powerful exploration of regret. It will strike a chord with anyone who has felt longing for a lost love. As with many other songs on this list, CT still busts this song out at live shows quite often. This should be a testament not only to the overall strength of the Cheap Trick catalog, but also to the undying loyalty of their fan base. (To be fair, “The Flame” wasn’t on the evil list, but I would have preferred it to “California Man”, which WAS listed.)

6. He’s a Whore (Cheap Trick 1977)

CT’s first album is widely known as one of their darker, heavier records, but its hooky power pop tunes are the ones that really get me. To all fans of the Dayton, OH indie legends Guided by Voices – Robert Pollard copped his iconic “Postal Blowfish” riff from this song. The series of 5 and 6 eighth notes bashed from Rick Nielsen’s guitar – a D chord under attack, you might say – sits on just the right part of the line between simple and obvious. Never has one chord wielded so much power. The song may be power pop gold, but the lyrics – which detail the day-to-day life of a self-admitted cretin who will “do anything for money” – are in line with the darker feel of the rest of the album. It’s a classic contrast.

5. Oh, Candy (Cheap Trick 1977)

This is the final track on the first CT album, but it was not supposed to be. Due to a pressing error, sides one and two were accidentally flipped. The first track should have been “ELO Kiddies”, and the last track, “The Ballad of TV Violence”. Makes sense, right? Instead, if you listen to the album as the jacket instructs, “Hot Love” is the opener, and that works just fine. But after I first heard “Oh, Candy”, I could not for the life of me figure out why it was the album’s final song. Not only did it sound like a fucking HIT that should not be shoved to the end of a record, but it has an abrupt ending that, to me, did not seem an appropriate end to this album. If it had been track five as originally planned, maybe some stations would have played the fucker. It has an amazing chorus that seems to elevate the entire song into something inexplicably great, while the lyrics – which detail the band’s reaction to the suicide of photographer and band friend Marshall Mintz (known as M&M, hence “Candy”) – are beautifully tragic.

4. I Can’t Take It (Next Position Please)

This song was left off the evil list, and that is completely unforgiveable. Sure, it comes from a sub-par CT album (1983’s Next Position Please), but it’s almost as if the album was created around this song. If I wrote this song, I would do whatever I could to get it out there, even if it meant writing a bunch of other second-rate tunes to group together with it. I mean, it’s not the ideal scenario, but it can’t always happen that way. This is one of the few CT tunes penned solely by Robin Zander (Rick Nielsen writes the majority of the songs), and it makes me wish he would have written more. Even for a song written and recorded in the early eighties, this one still sounds timeless – there aren’t any tinny drum machines or stupid synths or anything like that. It’s just a straight-up amazing rock song, and it features one of the Trick’s best choruses.

3. Surrender (Heaven Tonight)

Out of all the BIG Trick hits, this one is the best. It has everything a great rock and roll anthem should have, including youthful disillusionment, a soaring chorus, machine-gun snare rolls, and even a KISS reference. Also, and perhaps most importantly, it speaks to the confusion and frustration young people feel about their parents. It even deals with that moment when a person realizes that his or her parents are people just like them, who have flaws and make mistakes – but more importantly, they want to have FUN. And by the way, if a form of entertainment for your parents involves rocking out to KISS, you should consider yourself very lucky.

2. Downed (In Color)

By the time this song was released in 1977 on the In Color album, Cheap Trick had already been a band for 4 years. They spent most of that time playing multiple sets a night at local dive bars, and working their asses off to build the loyal following they now have. The frustrations and the longing for escape detailed in “Downed” seem to be coming from that place. Sure, there are a lot of potential problems laid out in the song – boys and girls, saving the world, waiting for the weekend – but they all seem to originate from that feeling of banging one’s head against the wall that comes with trying to play music for a living. Apart from that, the trajectory and buildup of this song is incredible, and gives me shivers every time.

1. Auf Wiedersehen (Heaven Tonight)

Cheap Trick has a lot of different sides to them – they can be sensitive, they can be contemplative, they can be fun, they can be angry, and it doesn’t stop there. “Auf Wiedersehen”, my all-time favorite CT song, showcases the band at their most fun AND angry. From the moment the song begins, with a guitar chord that sounds like the wing of an airplane exploding and a bass run that seems to detail the aircraft crashing to earth, to its end – with a chorus that simply makes the blood boil – this song captures everything about Cheap Trick that excites me. Furthermore, it nails almost every aspect of what a great rock song should be. There are no egregious parts to the song, nothing is unnecessary. Last but definitely not least, it features what might be the best vocal performance ever from Robin Zander, who is already the best damn vocalist alive. This song wasn’t even mentioned on the evil list, and is too often considered an afterthought. Maybe it’s the dark nature of the lyrics, which talk about hara-kiri and suicide (though most likely not in a literal sense), but the unabashed great rock and roll time the music provides gives the whole thing such a great contrast. If you still need more proof of the effectiveness of this tune, here is a little video of a couple dudes in my band (The Dead Girls) and some other friends rocking out to it before The Darkness show in KC last night. You just can’t argue with rock of this sort.

And here’s the real version…

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5 Responses to “Record Geek Heaven’s Top 10 Cheap Trick Songs”

  1. essar1 Says:

    Reblogged this on Weapon of Self-Distraction and commented:
    Awesomeness, here, about my favorite band of all time!

  2. essar1 Says:

    This is an awesome list, and its great to see later-period trick included. I’ve always felt “I Can’t Take It” was one of the best songs they’ve ever done. Its hard to just pick 10. I’d would be hard pressed to not include “Tonight It’s You,” “Lookout” from Budokan, “Stop This Game” and “It Takes A Lifetime.”

    For a great and humorous take on ranking Trick’s best songs, this is a must read: http://www.colingawel.com/journal/2010/7/8/my-obsession-ranking-the-songs-of-cheap-trick.html

    Cheers!

    • recordgeekheaven Says:

      Thank you so much!! I have always felt slighted when people don’t talk about later Trick. They have made some AMAZING music in their later years. Oh, and “If It Takes A Lifetime” was on my long list. 😀 Love that tune!

  3. shmoopatties Says:

    Too Funny, essar1. The whole time I was reading this, I was planning to comment with a link to Colin’s list. great minds….

  4. Jackson Says:

    I like the later CT as much as the rest, however, the first 4 albums really were IMHO the masterpieces, which means a much higher percentage of killer tunes. What I really wanted to comment on was how you managed to pick most of my faves with this list, amazing, including my top two of all time, ‘Oh Candy’ (that drum intro makes me drool on my Les Paul) and ‘Auf Wiedersehen’, if you had included ‘High Roller’ I would have rolled over and died happy. cheers to you and your good taste sir!

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