“Beginning to Hash out This Big Star/Cheap Trick Rivalry over the That ‘70s Show Song”

Cheap Trick is a band that has always mystified me. To this day, in fact, I have no idea what to think about them. Take a song like “Surrender,” for instance. It absolutely rocks — it carries the kinetic energy of The Who and the attitude of The Stooges, every bit justifying that phenomenon whereby Cheap Trick is “big in Japan.” [1] [2] Then take “I Want You to Want Me.” That song makes me question my will to live, every time I hear it. [3]
So they clamored to get into the rock and roll hall of fame. [4] There was even a band called like “Why Isn’t Cheap Trick in the Hall of Fame,” or something like that, circa 2015. They got in, put out a crappy album, and then put out an album I haven’t bothered to listen to yet, but of which I did read one total suckup review, probably on a website which brandished links to the songs on the same page, thereby attempting increased “visitors” count for said web page.
It’s all butt rock from here, and this new album, it’s called We’re All Alright. Oh, check that! It’s called: We’re All Alright! Ready, ok! Boy, if Frank Zappa were still alive he would verbally ream them a new one for this valley girl trash they’re putting out these days.
The worst part: the “We’re all alright” is from the That ’70’s Show theme song.
Let’s backtrack a bit here. I go to IU, for no reason other than to get the fu** out of South Bend, I love music so I take “Rock Music in the 70s and 80s” with Andy Hollinden, I find out about Big Star and I buy The Best of Big Star on CD which carries the tune “In the Street” [5], which would eventually become the That ‘70s Show theme song, which was, ironically, performed by Cheap Trick, FOR THE PROCEEDINGS.
Ok, now Cheap Trick is putting out an album which I believe comes with complimentary pom-poms, and Alex Chilton is dead now. Now, NOW, you see my issue, you see why I’m writing this post: it’s total cultural larceny. We’re talking about the SPIRIT of Big Star here, which is a nervous Southern brand of electric rockabilly with an undeniable pop appeal. Like I said, this new Cheap Trick is basically butt rock (whereas the new Shonen Knife is basically Cheap Trick, again “big in Japan”). As recently as seven months ago, I was sitting around around Christmas thinking, da** I really want this Cheap Trick coffee mug I’m seeing here. Now, I’m not so sure. I think they’re already caffeined up enough already: maybe try some Yerba Mate, useful for self-awareness, any semblance helpful.
[1] There’s a scene in Almost Famous where the character who’s supposed to be Lester Bangs is complimenting the Japanese: “They had the good sense to treat Cheap Trick like the Beatles.” Incidentally, what’s perhaps the band’s most successful album to date is their live showing overseas, Live at Budokan.
[2] Part of my reference here of course entails Tom Waits’ titular plaint that “I’m big in Japan.”
[3] In fact, its one saving grace comes courtesy of a certain band called The Ziggens, name checked by Sublime and the frequently name-checking-of Cheap Trick, featuring the words “I want you to want me” in their interesting little coy reggae dub “Hotsand.” Also, on the band’s live album they make the quip in the stage banter to “Make a lot of noise so we can make this sound like Cheap Trick at Budokan.”
[4] For the record, Jethro Tull has been the best band not in the RRHOF for a while now.
[5] It happens to be a good song… EVEN ON CD! HOOMAGOMMAGOOMA! IT’S A DANCE WITH DEATH, LITTLE CHITLINS! Actually primarily what makes it good is the guitar solo, which isn’t featured in the Cheap Trick or the theme song, but rather just in Alex Chilton’s original rendition. Classic guitar licks emanating from that master are hardly a fu**in’ rarity, for that matter. R.I.P. 2010.

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