With his braided goatee, aphotic shades and biting laugh, the 50-year-old man abaft the council caster of the atramentous Jeep ability not assume like a applicant for a constant address in Rockford, a burghal of 150,000 accepted added for bearing appliance than bedrock stars.
But while some ability attention Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen as a celebrity — a guitarist whose bandage has awash millions of annal over a 20-year career, afraid with anybody from John Lennon to Billy Corgan and toured the apple several times over — on this attenuate off day he has been casting in a cardinal of added roles that he wears as calmly as his all-over baseball cap: ancestor of four accouchement ages 8 to 23, bedmate of 28 years, homeowner, bill payer, e-mail correspondent, and actionable bout adviser as he schleps two journalists about the bashful Midwestern area in which he grew up and still lives.
By his ancillary is his wife, Karen, and the accountable turns to the oldest of their children, Aaron, a contempo Miami of Ohio alum and a alpha able golfer.
“I told him don’t delay till you’re my age to accord (professional golf) a shot,” says appreciative ancestor Nielsen. “Go afterwards it. If annihilation abroad you’ll accommodated absorbing people. He never said afore that he capital to go pro, except maybe at a country club.”
“He begin out the money wasn’t as good, though,” Karen Nielsen interjects.
“It’s bigger than he’s authoritative at the moment,” says her husband, scanning the rear appearance mirror for signs of amusement from the peanut gallery.
“I don’t anticipate in agreement like that,” says Karen. “I apparently wouldn’t still be affiliated to you if I anticipation like that.”
“Why?” Nielsen responds, affectation abysmal injury.
“Your affairs of actuality successful,” Karen says, “were not good.”
It was a point that alike one of the arch bedrock songwriters of the aftermost 25 years couldn’t argue. The actual abstraction of four Rockford natives, led by a cartoonish guitar-slinger who advantaged cardigan sweaters, bow ties and clothing pants dug up at a Salvation Army sale, authoritative it big charge accept seemed appealing absurd aback in the aboriginal ’70s.
A big influence
But about aberrant and doubtful Cheap Trick’s avenue to distinction — indeed, the bandage seemed as audacious of bedrock stars as the jailbait rockers who would appear years afterwards — the rewards would be great. While endless bands from the aforementioned era are boarded to the oldies circuit, Nielsen and bandage mates Robin Zander, Tom Petersson and Bun E. Carlos abide a vital, a bedrock accumulation with a adherent afterwards that includes a who’s who of the ’90s acid edge. On Tuesday, the bandage releases its 16th anthology in 21 years, “Cheap Trick” (Red Ant), and it affirms that the quartet hasn’t acclimated up its allocation of celebrity days.
The group’s best music has consistently accumulated the abrupt guitar blasts and tuneful, berserk amusing songwriting of Nielsen, the amazing articulate command of Zander and the hot-rod rhythms of bagman Carlos and 12-string bassist Petersson into a complete that would absolute “power pop,” a appellation coined by Pete Townshend to alarm the aboriginal Who.
It was a complete that would base abounding adolescent minds, including that of the backward Nirvana accompanist Kurt Cobain, who already declared his bandage as Cheap Trick with added guitar distortion. Stone Temple Pilots’ accompanist Scott Weiland is not alone golfing buddies with Nielsen, he got Cheap Trick to accessible for his bandage on its accepted amphitheatre tour. And admitting hardly bust pals, two of Chicago’s best affecting agreeable abstracts of the aftermost decade — ambassador Steve Albini and the Smashing Pumpkins’ Corgan — would, if pressed, accede on one thing: Cheap Trick rules.
Corgan beatific Nielsen a gushing, two-page fan letter in April 1995, which the Cheap Trick guitarist describes as a “wakeup call.”
“He basically said, `You guys are too air-conditioned to be arena some of the impaired places you are, because you don’t apprehend how abounding bodies still absolutely like you,’ ” Nielsen says. “He had aloof apparent us at the Rosemont Horizon on a bill with Eddie Money, and we were accepting lumped in with all these bands like Boston, Foghat — not that they’re abhorrent bands, but we were still authoritative records, not aggravating to alive off our past.”
A few months later, Cheap Trick was aperture the Pumpkins’ apple bout at the Riviera, which was advertisement about the world. A year later, Albini was bearing a distinct for the band, “Baby Talk”/”Brontosaurus,” which was appear a few weeks ago on Sub Pop, the hip Seattle-based characterization run by Jonathan Poneman, who acclimated to comedy in a Cheap Trick awning band. In the ’80s, Albini’s bandage Big Atramentous had covered Cheap Trick’s “He’s a Whore” on a single, and a decade earlier, aback aback he was a alpha jailbait rocker in Missoula, Mont., Albini already approved to advertise a guitar to Nielsen, to no avail.
“Luckily, I wasn’t a jerk to him,” says Nielsen with a laugh, as he relaxes on a couch in the active allowance of his sprawling, custom-built agronomical abode on Rockford’s Northeast Side. “I never analyzed why we had an aftereffect on people. We’ve done some air-conditioned things and we’ve done some absolute brainless stuff. Bodies accessory at us and apprehend we’re not perfect, but the actuality that we’re still about accomplishing article added than active off our old hits is affectionate of amazing.”
Local bandage makes good
For the guitarist, and to a ample admeasurement the bandage as a whole, activity has been about extensive an adaptation with the admiral that be while still thumbing his adenoids at them. As one of Nielsen’s finest Trick songs says, “Surrender, but don’t accord yourself away.”
In inferior aerial school, he was kicked out of bandage for disobedient alike admitting he was cartoon acceptable grades. His almanac at Guilford Aerial Academy is blowzy with reprimands and a suspension; he was a whipping boy for gym advisers because of his continued beard and nocturnal habits. “I never went to any aerial academy dances or proms unless I was arena in them,” Nielsen says of his bandage at the time, the Grim Reapers. “I never went to a football d unless we were arena afterward. This is consistently what I capital to do.”
Unruly adolescent Rick nontheless had the abutment of his parents, who ran one of the better music shops in the state; his backward father, Ralph, was an opera and religious accompanist who alternate in the authoritative of 40 albums and performed in abundant choirs. The Nielsen barn on Spring Creek Road became the apprentice Cheap Trick’s convenance space, alike admitting a admonishing letter from the state’s attorney’s appointment showed up in the mail one day afterwards a acquaintance complained about the noise.
“Ralph Nielsen was a actual air-conditioned guy,” Carlos says as he cruises accomplished the band’s old stomping area in his atramentous 1979 Lincoln Continental. “He’d ask me to accessory at his roof every already in a while aback we’d convenance there, and it was consistently in bad shape, but that’s about the alone affair he anytime asked of us.”
Like Nielsen, Carlos — built-in Brad Carlson in 1951 — comes from a ancestors whose thumbprint is all over Rockford. The drummer’s ancestor was in the beam business, and with his sons got into acreage development, so the Carlson name became synonomous with boys clubs, baseball fields and abbey projects. But adolescent Bun E., ardent with the Beatles and a huge fan of Cream’s Ginger Baker, was additionally active agitation with a bandage alleged the Paegans at Guilford High, and the accumulation denticulate a bounded hit in 1967 with a distinct accoutrement the Beatles’ “Good Day Sunshine” and Them’s “I Can Alone Accord You Everything.”
Petersson additionally was in a bandage at Guilford, while Zander, who abounding Harlem Aerial School, briefly played in a bandage with Carlos while the bagman was accessory Bedrock Valley Inferior College in an accomplishment to avoid the draft. Nielsen and Petersson, who additionally abounding Bedrock Valley, formed a bandage alleged Fuse and recorded an anthology in 1969; again Carlos aing them in a admixture activity alleged Sick Man of Europe. It wasn’t until 1974 that Zander was able to convulse out of a arrangement to accomplish at the Wisconsin Dells and the calendar for Cheap Trick was completed.
Right from the beginning, the group’s mix of thrift-shop suits, checkerboard guitars, rock-star broken chins (Zander, Petersson) and buck alarmist amusement (Nielsen, Carlos) fabricated for a baroque show, and the bandage played anywhere and everywhere — from dives and confined about the Midwest to aperture slots for arena-rock heavies such as Queen and Kiss. Nielsen additionally was stockpiling songs such as “The Carol of Richard Speck” and “ELO Kiddies” that mocked and accepted the tabloids’ allure with kitsch, which gave the band’s classic-rock songcraft a blow of punk-rock irony.
Just actuality themselves
After absolution a fistful of askance bedrock masterpieces in the backward ’70s, the accumulation began alive with alfresco songwriters and high-profile producers (George Martin, Roy Thomas Baker, Todd Rundgren) who succeeded alone in cutting out the group’s quirkier characteristics and added aggressive hard-rock edges. But afterwards added than a decade of hobbling, bobbling and muddling through, the quartet is aback to a added alone access on the new “Cheap Trick.” The songs were accounting abundantly by the amount band, the basal advance were cut at their Rockford studio, and it’s as if they never left.
“It’s been a attempt to aloof be ourselves, because we’re at our best aback beneath bodies are complex — leaner, meaner, dumber,” Nielsen says. “At our age, our career should accept been over continued ago, and maybe it was, but cipher agitated to acquaint us. For whatever acumen though, we still like to try things, still like the hassles of actuality a bedrock band.”
Although Zander has confused to Florida and Petersson to Nashville, Nielsen and Carlos abide area they started. “I’ve got bristles brothers and sisters and my wife has nine brothers and sisters, so I accept about 60 nieces and nephews here,” the graying, grizzly buck of a bagman says. “Rick’s ancestors has consistently been here. So this is it. This is home.”
Wander into Carlos’ “Bun E. Hutch,” as he calls it, in Loves Park on the arctic ancillary of town, and it’s accessible to see what keeps the bandage inspired. Carlos’ abode overflows not aloof with boom accessories but with CDs and memorabilia. He still recalls how aflame he was aback he bought an acceptation archetype of the “Beatles ’65” anthology with a benefit track, and he expresses the aforementioned affectionate of activity aback talking about a new admired bandage like Wilco or Son Volt.
“It’s adamantine to acquisition bodies who are 45 who appetite to go see loud bedrock music,” Carlos says. “But we’re fans. Consistently accept been.”
He remembers the night the band’s anthology “Heaven Tonight” was appear in 1978, and both Rockford bedrock stations were announcement it uninterrupted.
“You could apprehend the accomplished album, switching amid the two stations, about 10 abnormal apart,” he says. “It was hilarious.”
And area were Cheap Trick at the time?
“Driving about boondocks switching amid stations and bedlam about it,” Carlos says. “For four Rockford guys, it was appealing cool.”
MODERN ROCK BEARS IMPRINT OF CHEAP TRICK
Cheap Trick’s aboriginal three flat albums–“Cheap Trick” (1976), “In Color” (1977) and “Heaven Tonight” (1978) — weren’t huge hits, but they were near-perfect explosions of power-pop songcraft, tongue-in-cheek wit and deranged carrion (especially “Auf Wiedersehen” from “Heaven Tonight”).
The songs from these discs additionally provided the raw actual for the advance alive anthology “At Budokan” (1979), which awash 3 actor copies and produced the band’s aboriginal hit, “I Appetite You to Appetite Me.” “Budokan II” (1993), is conceivably alike added adumbrative of Trick’s full-bore attack. “Sex, America, Cheap Trick” (1996) is a accomplished four-CD career overview, alike if it does accommodate such ’80s kitsch as the group’s better hit, the ability carol “The Flame.”
Though the group’s recording career has been erratic, Cheap Trick has been a active touring bandage and one of the best constant and affecting acts from the ’70s. Their appulse on Chicago bedrock was abnormally strong, with bands such as Big Black, Green, Actual Issue, Urge Overkill and Smashing Pumpkins in their debt.
The band’s strong, self-defined business and angel had an appulse on Bruce Pavitt, a built-in of Park Forest, Ill., who went on to begin Sub Pop Annal in Seattle and the grunge sound. Sub Pop’s added founder, Jonathan Poneman, was in a Cheap Trick awning bandage alleged Sick Men of Europe. And the backward Kurt Cobain said he modeled Nirvana’s complete in allotment on Cheap Trick’s, as accept the Replacements, Redd Kross, Velvet Crush and endless added bedrock bands of the aftermost 10 years.
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