Kurt Davis is the Office Manager here at Harmonix.
Here’s a good discussion (argument) starter: Who is the Greatest American Rock Band of All Time? It’s actually a much smaller list of contenders than you might at first think. While there are a lot of American bands to consider, many of them don’t really have the longevity, catalog or just plain weight of, say, a Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Beatles, Stones or The Who, to merit genuine, objective inclusion. Aerosmith would have to be included in the conversation, just by the undeniable greatness of their early work and their staying power, but then who? The Grateful Dead? Too marginal, and, really, they made their reputation on the road and not with their recorded output. The Velvet Underground? While they’re hugely influential and their catalog is also undeniably great, they are pretty far off the well-worn path of the mainstream, aside from being out and out weird. The Pretenders? Nah, they were mostly British. DEVO? I love them, but, come on! My personal favorite, The Stooges, are also marginal and weird and too obscure, really, for serious consideration. I’d give Creedence Clearwater Revival, ZZ Top, The Ramones and KISS a realistic run and wouldn’t deny them entrance.
But there’s another band that’s been together since 1973, kicking it out on the road and in the studio with basically the same line up since their inception, writing great tunes and surviving, nay THRIVING, due to their relentless persistence and enormous talent. That band is Cheap Trick. And who could really deny Cheap Trick the title Great, with a capital “G”? Quite simply, Cheap Trick freakin’ rock! After all the many years I’ve been listening to music I gave some serious thought to the question: “ What one album I may have listened to more than any other in my whole, entire, life?” and I think the answer might well be Cheap Trick their self-titled debut from 1977. I started listening to it when it came out and I still throw it on regularly. I never get tired of it. Never. I hungrily bought each successive release up through Dream Police and Live at Budokan (which I bought as an expensive Japanese import way back when, on vinyl, natch, before it became available domestically) and went to see them a bunch of times, back in the '70s. They were awesome, by the way.
Rick Nielsen, aside from being a blistering and original guitar player, has also written some of the best rock songs ever. Bun E. Carlos has always been a solid time keeper but that’s only half the story; he also plays with a natural feel and throws in some of the best fills in all of Rockdom. Robin Zander is an amazingly talented and versatile singer as adept at singing a pretty melody as he is screaming his throat raw. Tom Petersson plays with an aggressive, biting tone, but also fleshes out the bottom and holds it down, and it occurs to me that Cheap Trick has one of the most underrated rhythm sections of all time, too. The best part is that as a band they are even greater than the sum of their (already great) parts.
I stopped buying their records as I got deeper into punk, but Cheap Trick kept plowing right along, and even scored some pretty big hits along the way. They’re still going and still cranking out the Rock (a stage collapsed recently while they were playing in Ottawa. Fortunately, none of the band members were injured. Singer Robin said ‘Fortunately the band and crew are all lucky to be alive and we’ll see you down the road…”)
Although Bun E. is no longer touring, they show no signs of stopping, and why should they? They are Cheap Trick. They are a rock band. This is what they do. This is what they’ve always done. It’s their life. So, is Cheap Trick The Greatest American Rock Band of All Time?
I wouldn’t argue against it. Besides isn’t “Surrender” better than “Dream On”, anyway?
I wink. I wink and wink and wink.
For more on this week's Cheap Trick DLC, check out the official announcement.