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Revisit: Cheap Trick: I Want You to Want Me



On September 12, 2013, the GRAMMY Museum unveiled Cheap Trick: I Want You to Want Me on the Museum’s fourth floor in the Mike Curb Gallery. This one-of-a-kind exhibit offered visitors an in-depth look at the impressive career of Cheap Trick, who continue to reign as power pop progenitors with a musical legacy spanning over 40 years. Displayed through June 1, 2014, the exhibit focused on the story of two of Cheap Trick’s seminal albums: Cheap Trick At Budokan and Dream Police.

On the evening of the exhibit’s launch, Cheap Trick participated in the GRAMMY Museum’s popular “An Evening With” public program series, discussing their career and new exhibit in front of an intimate crowd of 200 people in the Museum’s Clive Davis Theater.

Watch the candid interview now on COLLECTION:live, the GRAMMY Museum’s official streaming service:

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Cheap Trick was one of rock’s most popular bands in the late 1970s.  Formed in 1974, the Midwest-based group blended British Invasion ‘60s rock with power pop and playful punk, fortifying the resulting sound with high wattage energy onstage and in the studio.

Vocalist Robin Zander, bassist Tom Petersson, guitarist Rick Nielsen, and drummer Bun E. Carlos began their careers in Rockford, Illinois. Nielsen, Petersson, and Carlos had performed together in earlier bands before adding Zander, a local folk singer, to the mix and calling themselves Cheap Trick. From the start, the band toured regularly, first in the Midwest, then opening for KISS, the Kinks, Boston, and other national acts, and finally as a major headliner, playing arenas around the country.  During the band’s heyday, it often played some 250 dates a year, becoming one of the most exciting live bands in rock & roll.


While Cheap Trick’s first three albums gave the music world a sense of their sound and abilities, none of them made it into the Top 40 in the United States. However, all three albums achieved gold status in Japan. On Cheap Trick’s first tour of Japan in 1978, the band was received with a frenzy and excitement reminiscent of Beatlemania. Hundreds of fans greeted their arrival and young girls followed them everywhere—their screams were a background soundtrack at all their Japanese shows. During the April 1978 tour, Cheap Trick recorded a live show for their loyal Japanese fans at the Nippon Budokan, an arena in Tokyo.

The 1978 show was released as a live album titled Cheap Trick at Budokan. It was originally intended as an exclusive Japanese-only release. Out of nowhere, the album became a popular import in the United States. Demand became so great that Epic Records finally issued the album in the U.S. in 1979, ultimately launching the band around the world.

Cheap Trick at Budokan went on to achieve triple-platinum status. The live version of “I Want You to Want Me” (originally released on the album In Color) became the band’s biggest selling single, reaching No.7 on the Billboard Hot 100. Ironically, the band had already largely completed what would be their next album when At Budokan took off. That success and the subsequent attention, promotion, and touring forced Epic Records to push back the release of the band’s next album.

From albums to guitars to sweaters, the checkerboard pattern is the visual element most closely associated with Cheap Trick. Rick Nielsen developed a fascination with the pattern during his childhood and brought it to the band to use as their signature motif. Throughout his career, Rick Nielsen has been known for his distinctive clothing choices. This jacket, originally worn with matching pants, was one of his favorite stage outfits.

Greco, a Japanese guitar company, held a contest in which Japanese fans to submitted designs for a guitar that they would build for Rick Nielsen. Nielsen picked the winning design and worked with Greco to complete the guitar. Here, you can see preliminary sketches alongside the winning guitar model.

This guitar, the first Hamer produced, was completed on Dec. 7, 1974 by Paul Hamer and was to be his personal guitar. After seeing this guitar, Rick Nielsen was in awe and ordered one for himself, borrowing Hamer’s original in the meantime. Nielsen liked this guitar so much that he could not be persuaded to give it back, and has held onto it throughout the years.

This 1981 Hamer guitar is one of the distinctive 5-neck guitars Rick Nielsen frequently uses on stage during Cheap Trick performances.

Cheap Trick performing in the Clive Davis Theater at the GRAMMY Museum at L.A. Live at the opening reception of Cheap Trick: I Want You to Want Me in 2013.

In its forty-year history, Cheap Trick has sold over 20 million records and has logged over five thousand concert performances. To this day, nothing tells the story of Cheap Trick better than hearing the group live. Cheap Trick’s look—from its wild and colorful stage outfits, to its seemingly endless array of unique guitars—along with its rock & roll energy, passion, and classic songs have fed a fan base that remains deeply connected to the band. Cheap Trick has influenced such bands as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, and Stone Temple Pilots; its music remains a staple of classic rock radio. The band continues to record and perform today.