Bearing an incredibly accurate subtitle, the story told here is presented mostly as an oral history, loaded with minutiae about the adventures of Rick Nielsen, Robin Zander, Tom Petersson, and Bun E. Carlos in their early bands and Cheap Trick. Those dues-paying years created the power-pop powerhouse we know and love.
Plenty of guitar and bass stories are included. Lead guitarist Nielsen, whose parents owned a music store, started buying, selling, and trading guitars before Cheap Trick was famous. In 1968, Rick traded a Gibson SG and $25 for a ’59 sunburst Les Paul, which he then sold to Jeff Beck for $350. On the band’s 1977’s self-titled debut, Nielsen played a ’58 ’burst through an Orange amp; later pages detail the birth of Hamer Guitars, including Rick and Tom’s close association with luthier Jol Dantzig, who created a 12-string bass for Petersson.
The book mostly ends where the iconic 1978 live album Cheap Trick at Budokan became a hit, helping the band out of enormous debt and essentially saving it.
While terrific, the book screams for a sequel covering the Illinois rockers’ full roller-coaster career over the past 44 years.
This article originally appeared in VG’s January 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.