Cheap Trick are in the midst of a late-career renaissance, culminating in their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction on Friday night. The band will play 150 live dates this year in support of its new LP, Bang, Zoom, Crazy … Hello – some as part of a co-headlining tour with Joan Jett – and is already looking forward to a huge 2017.
At Friday night’s Rock Hall ceremony, Kid Rock offered an induction speech for the band, best known for their hits “I Want You to Want Me” and “Surrender.” Cheap Trick accepted their entry into the legendary Hall with their classic lineup of singer/guitarist Robin Zander, guitarist Rick Nielsen, bassist Tom Petersson and drummer Bun E. Carlos. Here’s what they had to say at the event.
Robin Zander: Thank you. This was such a surprise for us, and it’s a real honor for us. We’ve never won anything before. Well, there was a few albums … gold and platinum records – that’s the only thing. But Steve Miller and Chicago, Deep Purple, Bert Berns and N.W.A. Congratulations. It’s about time.
You’re much older than us, so you should have been in a long time ago. And for those of you who don’t know, I’m Robin. I’m the one who sings those Cheap Trick songs. Thank you. Who knew that “I want you to want me” would become such a defining phrase for a rock band from Rockford, Illinois. Seems like such a stupid phrase, but it works, I guess. Music has always been my savior. It found me at an early age. It’s all I’ve ever done for my living. You can write “retirement” on my tombstone. Of course, along with this business of ours come corruption and jealousy, stealing, backstabbing, resentment, lawsuits, etc. And that’s just the road crew. I think you know what I mean. My father liked the boogie-woogie and that swing music, and he played the ivories for anyone who would listen. My mother, she read to me a lot when I was young. She bought me my first set of drums from Sears when I was seven. Um. Yeah. Poor. But five kids had a great life. I’m grateful. I miss them. May they both rest in peace, along with my brothers. …
Colin and Ian, I know I wasn’t the best father, nor was I the worst. But I was gone a lot, yes. I know I love you very much. In 1974, we rehearsed three times in Rick’s dad’s garage, never stopped touring since and here we are being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Who knew? We didn’t know. Thanks to Jack Douglas that’s here with my other two kids. … Thanks to Jack, we were given the chance to prove what we thought we were all along in this world: that we were the best fucking rock band your town has ever seen. And in music recording studios around the world, that’s where we wanted to hang. To our managers, record companies, agencies and their staffs throughout our career, we owe you a debt of gratitude. Working with … Scott Borchetta and Julia Raymond from Big Machine, we now have a tour this summer and a record out called Bang, Zoom, Crazy … Hello.
Anyway, our fans really deserve this honor more than anyone for sticking up for us as long as they have. I know that’s been rough over the years, but most of all, thanks to this band, Cheap Trick, for giving me the life I’ve always dreamed of and our families for putting up with this for over 40 years. I’ll never forget this night, a night I can call my own. Pamela Jean, nobody does me like you do. And I love you so. And to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame … Bun, it’s your turn to change the channel.
Bun E. Carlos: The first time I heard Rick’s name was in fourth grade. My older sister Jan was in sixth grade, and she came home from school, complaining about a new kid named Nielsen, who was throwing rocks at her. True. A year and a half later, the Beatles arrived. Soon Rick was with the Grim Reapers, Tom was with Boll Weevils and I was with the Pagans. After high school and junior college, I met a guy named Brian Beebe. He was in a duo with a guy named Robin. Brian and Robin were looking for a band to play some school rec nights. I had a band, so we played Cream, Who and Beatles songs every Friday night that fall. It was good. Three more years later, a few more bands later, four guys from Cheap Trick were together – 42 years later, we made it here. It’s pretty cool.
I have some thanks to give. I’d like to thank my wife, Ellen. … My parents … Thanks for the drum set, mom. My brothers and sisters … I’m sorry I plundered your record collections. Kurt, your copy of “The Twist” got me onto drums. Jan, you got me into Bob Dylan. That was really cool. Of course, thanks to all of my Cheap Trick bandmates: Rick, Tom, Robin, Jon, Pete, Xeno … Hank and Keith, all the keyboard players in one band and one bagpiper from Memphis. Thanks, you guys. … From CBS International, thanks to Lois Marino – Japan wouldn’t have been the same without you. All my drum techs … you were all great. To my three managers … you guys managed to get me this far, thank you very much. Special thanks to Tom Werman, Sir George and all the producers of our records. We always had the best producers and the best engineers, bar none. … And big, big thanks to all the fans and supporters who bought our records, concert tickets and T-shirts. Thanks, you guys. You did it.
Tom Petersson: Well, as a little kid in the Sixties, I saw the Beatles on the Jack Paar show and then on The Ed Sullivan Show. And I knew that was the world I wanted to be a part of. My parents were raised during the Depression, and they were taught to sacrifice and to conform. My dad wanted to play the violin as a kid, but everybody laughed at him and it never happened. And despite his not understanding or even approving of the music I loved, he gave me my first guitar at the age of 14. And Rick and I went to London in 1958. Remember that, Rick? We went there to see firsthand the music that inspired us: the Beatles, the Stones, Hendrix, Deep Purple. I feel lucky that we were in the midst of the most incredible music revolution the world has ever seen. For a couple of kids from Rockford, Illinois, shopping on King’s Road, going to the Marquee Club, the Roundhouse – it was the coolest thing imaginable.
We knew that rock & roll is what we wanted to do, and it inspired us to play our own original music. When we united with Rob and Bun E., we knew we really had something. We rehearsed in Rick’s parents garage and drove endlessly throughout the Midwest in a crummy Pontiac Bonneville with no heat and no air conditioning. We were considering getting a keyboard player in the band, but we looked at each other and no one wanted to sit in the middle seat, so we said, “Forget that idea.” I don’t know how Chicago ever did it. They had two cars. We were turned down by countless labels, and then one night in the middle of the winter, in Waukesha, Wisconsin, at the Sunset Bowling Alley, Sir Jack Douglas agreed to produce our first album if we secured a record deal. Jack at the time was the most successful producer in rock, and his endorsement of us led immediately to a bidding war from record labels. Jack, we’re forever indebted to you and we love you.
John Sykes was our college rep in Buffalo, New York and he was the first one who broke us on radio. Rodney Bingenheimer, Rodney on the Roq, Los Angeles, he was our first advocate in radio on the West Coast. Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, thanks so much for believing in us and putting us in front of the world on our first major tour. All of you guys saw something in us in the beginning that no one else did. Through the years, our road crew and our fans have kept us going for more than 40 years. My brother Jim, he was our first crew member, and we thank you, Jim, for being here tonight with us. Thank you so much to our tour manager, Carla Dragotti. Carla, you kept us on track and told us where to go and where to be and what to do for 20 years. You know, we never dreamed of we’d making music, much less keep it going for a lifetime. Rick, Robin, Bun E., now Daxx, it’s been a great ride. My father and mother believed in me against all odds. I want to pass that on to my kids. Thanks to my son, Liam, we have discovered that music can help children who have autism find their voices.
My wife, Alison, and my daughter, Lilah, we created Rock Your Speech to help kids with autism communicate and practice speech with rock & roll music. Music therapists around the world are doing great work to help people with neurological disorders recover. Thank you so much to Scott Borchetta, our producer Julian Raymond, Ken Levitan and Kevin Spellman for believing in us as relevant artists today. It’s amazing that we’re still writing and recording music, and we are grateful for everyone’s continued support. To all of our longtime friends, family and fans, a lot of you are here tonight. Thank you. We are truly honored. …
Rick Nielsen: I’m the last speaker of the night, so I thought I would keep it a little bit short here. My parents were opera singers. I didn’t want to play opera because I wasn’t good enough. I didn’t want to play their music; I wanted to play the music that I wanted to play, and I’m so lucky that today I get to play that music, even though I don’t like every song I write. And I have a present here for Steve Miller. I’ve got a Miller guitar for him. I wanted to give it to him a long time ago. Steve is a great guy. I have a big guitar collection, and I don’t like to give anything away, but Steve Miller, I love you, man. … OK, now get out of here.
All the people that we did and Tom thanked and Bun E. thanked and Robin thanked, they’re my brothers, and I feel for them, and I feel like killing them most of the time, too. One other thing: We’re going to play in a couple minutes here. OK, I’ll keep it short. I’ll thank my wife of 46 years, and in the next two months, I should be at number eight and number nine grandchildren. And thank you to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for charging so much that I didn’t have to bring them all up here. Instead of going through all the people that we love and that helped us through our whole careers and thank you to all our fans, I’d like to say a special thanks to the greatest person besides my father that I ever met, George Martin. And now, my third favorite guy, Kid Rock … Let’s go play!