A World-Class Exhibition
By Waleed Rashidi
The guys in Cheap Trick are no strangers to seeing their band’s name on the charts. The group’s 1979 multi-platinum Cheap Trick at Budokan live album had placed in the Top 10 in the States. And just over a decade later, the power-pop quartet found huge success via its 1988 number one hit single, “The Flame.”
And just a couple years ago, Cheap Trick hit the top of the charts once again, this time with a peculiar version of its most recent full-length, aptly titled The Latest.
“It was the No. 1 selling 8-track in the world for eight months,” says guitarist and band co-founder Rick Nielsen. “But we have no idea who was No. 2.”
That’s right, the band responsible for such memorable rock hits as “I Want You to Want Me,” “Dream Police” and “Surrender” opted to release its most recent album on what’s practically an unsupported, long-gone audio format (well, in addition to the far more conventional CD and vinyl formats).
And after more than three years since its release, The Latest might start to not feel like the latest offering from the Rockford, Ill.-based band that’s been around for nearly 40 years. However, Nielsen says that the Trick’s been talking about recording a new album in 2013. (Will this next full-length also be offered on 8-track? “Who knows,” says Nielsen, “we’re Cheap Trick, we can do anything we want.”)
But for those who can’t wait, the band’s got some new material ready for the current holiday season. “We’re on a Christmas album for the Special Olympics that should be out right about now,” Nielsen says. “We did a different version of ‘I Want You to Want Me’ called ‘I Want You For Christmas.’ We’ve been getting some airplay on that, too.”
However, the band will be bringing some pre-Christmas cheer this month to the Inland Empire via a live date at Pechanga. Though they’re currently on the “Global Warming” tour opening up for Aerosmith, Nielsen says they’ll be taking a quick break from the tour, flying in for this special headlining engagement in Temecula. So far, Nielsen seems to be really enjoying performing with Boston’s bad boys.
“[Aerosmith] can get anybody they want, and we’re happy to say that they wanted us,” he says. “I think we’re compatible musically. The audiences don’t leave when we play. We’re cut from the same cloth. It’s a good marriage.”
But there was one separation on the tour—which came in the form of a broken guitar. Nielsen, who has a massive guitar collection, brought a custom made five-neck guitar on the road. Make that now a four-neck.
“I’m not exactly sure [what happened],” he says. “We just finished a set and one of the stage hands—not guys from our crew—started moving our stuff and someone dropped the five-neck and broke the bottom neck off the thing. I just got it back from the year before when we got hit from that tornado or whatever had hit us in Canada, and I just [had it] repaired. And now it needs to go back to the five-neck guitar hospital.”
Fortunately, there are plenty more guitars in his collection to play. According to Nielsen, his guitars will be featured on a forthcoming episode of the History Channel’s American Pickers TV show. In fact, he has so many unique and interesting instruments, there’s also an entire exhibit at Rockford’s Burpee Museum of Natural History titled “Rick’s Picks: A Lifelong Affair with Guitars & Music,” dedicated to showcasing the guitarist’s amazing axe arsenal and various music memorabilia.
“I’ve got quite a few of them over there [at the museum], but my collection’s way bigger than what’s there,” he says. “I’ve got guitars from Slash and Brian May from Queen and Todd Rundgren to put in there. Conan O’Brien gave me a bathroom scale that was made into a guitar. I’ve got some interesting things from other artists, too. It’s basically based on my collection of stuff. I’ve been collecting for years and years . . . It’s a world-class exhibition, it’s better than I deserve.”
Cheap Trick at Pechanga Resort and Casino, 45000 Pechanga Pkwy., Temecula, (951) 770-2507; www.pechanga.com. Fri., Dec 7, 8pm. $45-$65.