In February of 1964, my Mom saw The Beatles on Ed Sullivan. As with so many other people around the world (including Davy Jones who appeared on stage just before The Fabs), her life was changed forever.
I didn't get to have the shock and awe that was Beatlemania. I wasn't even born yet. But I got the next best thing stuck in Atlanta traffic while on summer vacation in 1977; Cheap motherfuckin' Trick!
A FM station decided on the hottest of days, in the most polluted city I've ever been in, to play In Color in it's 32 minute entirety. From the opening notes of "Hello There," through the head bopping catchy ride that is "I Want You to Want Me," and well into the brilliance and sheer perfection of "Southern Girls," I just kept nudging myself closer to the dash of the Volare trying to get all the sound in my ear hole that I could. I was simultaneously bummed and over the damn moon when the album ended but to my shock the DJ put Cheap Trick on! I had never heard any of this! None. "Elo Kiddies"?! "He's a Whore"?! And to think that a DJ would take it upon his all powerful and amphetamine fueled head to spin whatever in the hell he wanted... that's just insane.
So that was it. I was already the head of the KISS Army in my junior high but I was mixing my enthusiasm for Ace Frehley (which my mother would soon destroy) with my increasingly more grown up/adolescent mania for Zander and Nielsen.
In the summer of 1978, free from the emotional dishwater of Oklahoma and relaxed in the record store nirvana of Missouri, I was free to do whatever my Rock n' Roll heart desired. That was to see Cheap Trick. And I did many, many times over. Since they were a regional act they played support to any fucking band that came through town. It was like being in Liverpool after all only with a lot of beards and hot pants. I wore my black Cheap Trick shirt with its repeated and brilliant logo everywhere. I wore my 1978 tour baseball sleeve T to every school function, teen blowout, and to work at the record shop. Heaven Tonight was a masterpiece. It was on that tour that my friend and mentor, Cathy Stevens (who turned me on to Tom Petty and Reggae over one stony week at the store in the fall of 1978), not only took me to a show with a front row seat but managed to get me back stage to meet the band. Her designs were to make-out with Robin Zander but with me in tow she had to do something other than say that I was in fact NOT her kid. She stuck me in front of Rick Nielsen and went to do her business. Rick talked to me about playing the guitar and he gave me a handful of picks with his comic face stamped on each one. He gave me something like 50 of them, I ended up taking the picks to school and scored a date with a cheerleader just because of one Rick's little presents. You were awesome until I had chicken pox, Connie Grogan.
1979 saw the release of Dream Police, another tour, three more shows for me to see, and my favorite Cheap Trick track, "Way of the World." That school year ended with the annual talent show. At one end of the Parkview High School Gym, some upper-class longhairs took ten painful minutes to grind out "Freebird." It was laced with bandannas and a huge confederate flag motif. I was reminded of the 1977 talent show in Oklahoma when some cool 8th graders smoked "More Than a Feeling" and how that was a way better song than this piece of shit. When they were done the lights turned on over the stage that I was in front of and Greg Frazier's band kicked into "Surrender." I was with my people. My crowd. My friends. United in a high school gym singing how our mamas were alright and our daddies were alright but they just seemed a little weird.
We're all alright! We're all alright!
ap - 2009