Live at the Whisky 1977
Do you remember when Cheap Trick was dangerous? When Cheap Trick was weird? When Cheap Trick was more an amalgam of The Move, Sparks, Raspberries, Big Star, Jellyfish, the Billion Dollar Babies band, The Beatles’ Revolver, and everything that Adam Schlesinger ever wrote, as opposed to the classic rock ensemble we get at rock sheds every summer?
I do. So do the people at Real Gone Music and Legacy Recordings, who have released the full sets of Cheap Trick’s whisper-down-the-lane-historic four-night-stand at Hollywood’s Whisky a Go Go from June of 1977. The results of these cranked-up, collective memories are golden—razor-sharp and edgily punkish glam-rock cuts with complex melodic curveballs, crushing metal-pop guitar work, and the chemistry of a close-knit, veteran bar band membership made up of two dweebs and two hunks.
Driven by urgency at being The Next Big Thing gone sour (their first Epic label recordings stiffed), vocalist Robin Zander, guitarist Rick Nielsen, bassist Tom Petersson, and drummer Bun E. Carlos were probably a little desperate when they recorded four hot nights (out of five played) in Los Angeles. Desperation makes a man do wild, grungy things—or make music that was certainly less slick than what they would eventually record live and release as At Budokan. Crisp but certainly fiery, this Whisky a Go Go box provides opportunities for newly made medleys (such as the teeter-tottering “Hello There” paired with ”Come on Come On”) and calloused mixes such as the one given to the boozy “He’s a Whore.” The frenzied, sleek dance skronk of “ELO Kiddies” and “You’re All Talk” is counterbalanced by the manically anthemic “Auf Wiedersehen” and the off-putting blues of “Ballad of TV Violence.”
Carlos and Petersson never get the credit for being in-tandem drum and bass giants. This box set will convince listeners otherwise. And while no one needs a primer on how wowing and emotional Nielsen’s heaviest licks can be—then and now, with the death-crunch guitar heroics on “Ain’t That a Shame,” the Beck-Ola-esque rave-up on “Please, Mrs. Henry,” and the rugged string harangues given to its Terry Reid cover “Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace”—Zander is the real hero of these Whisky nights. Like a one-man Beatles, he drastically and dramatically finds harmony and hurt in the twists and turns of “Daddy Should’ve Stayed in High School” and “Down on the Bay.” If there’s anyone looking to discuss who the true punk-rock icons of 1977 were, the answer lies in the fever dream of this Live at the Whisky box.