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Cheap Trick
Live at Budokan

Epic 35795
Released: February 1979
Chart Peak: #4
Weeks Charted: 53
Certified Platinum: 5/22/79

Bun E. CarlosTom PeterssonRobin ZanderRick NielsenCheap Trick is one of the more likable of the wall-of-sound rock groups, possibly because it's so hard to dislike a lead guitar player who looks like Huntz Hall of the Bowery Boys, as Rick Nielsen does. Nielsen also writes most of the Trick's material, which ranges from songs that amount to practically nothing ("Would you like to do a number with me?" is the only thing that gets said in "Hello There") to songs that wander off surrealistically in early Captain Beefheart style. "Surrender" starts out about the girl Mommy warned the singer/narrator about but ends up about Mommy and Daddy being a little weird, Mommy having been a WAC during the war, and so on. One suspects Nielsen's songs get this way by default, because he doesn't know enough or care enough to get them to stay on a point and make sense, but the more important thing may be that he realizes it doesn't make any difference. The subject deserves to be taken about as seriously as he takes it. The same attitude seems to infuse his guitar playing, which is everywhere; there's nothing very skilled going on, but one realizes it wouldn't make any difference if there were. In an era of throwaway rock-and-roll, Cheap Trick earns some points for being frankly and honestly cheap. And it does have a good beat.

- Noel Coppage, Stereo Review, 6/79.

Cheap Trick - Live at Budokan
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Bonus Reviews!

Though originally released in Japan, where it was recorded, the popularity of this LP has prompted CBS to release it here in a remastered version. Cheap Trick is a major headline attraction in Japan, as can be easily discerned from the enthusiastic reception that can be heard on this disk. With the fans behind them, the four members of Cheap Trick put out its best, playing good, hard and steady rock. Unlike so many current live LPs, the audience is always there, giving it more of a sense of space. The slight echo doesn't hurt the music. Included also are four previously unreleased songs. Best cuts: "Surrender," "Need Your Love," "Big Eyes," "Look Out."

- Billboard, 1979.

The second side almost works as a best-of, but I'd wait for the studio job -- despite the Japanese applause track, this was obviously recorded in the Big Room at Carlsbad Caverns. Arrangements are gratifyingly tight -- ten titles on a single disc -- but six of them are also available (even tighter) on In Color. Also: "Ain't That a Shame," the intro of which ought to give pause to those who consider Rick Nielsen an innovative guitar player as opposed to showman; a throwaway collaboration with Tom Petersson; a nice Move ripoff; and "Surrender." B-

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

Playing gigs in Japan, Cheap Trick were overwhelmed by the strength of the audience reaction to their illustrious brand of cheap and tricky heavy rock. So overwhelmed that they wired their manager to send for a mobile recorder.

This "two pretty boys/two weirdos" band are masters of crowd control and tease their audience into ecstasy. Continuous play CD suits the well-structured live performance with its intro, its build ups, set pieces (a stunning heavy metal version of the Fats Domino standard "Ain't That a Shame"), farewell and encore ("Clock Strikes Ten"). The two sides of the LP are enshrined on the CD retaining the fade down between the two "sides."

The sound from vinyl was atmospheric but failed to dig into the swirling, distorted guitars and almost continuous audience reaction. Compact Disc builds up a solid wall of sound and packs menace into Bun E. Carlos' power drumming and the slab-like guitar chords. Pure excitement captured in an acrylic and aluminum sandwich!

- David Prakel, Rock 'n' Roll on Compact Disc, 1987.

While their records were entertaining and full of skillful pop, it wasn't until Live at Budokan that Cheap Trick's vision truly gelled. Many of these songs, like "I Want You To Want Me" and "Big Eyes," were pleasant in their original form, but seemed more like sketches compared to the roaring versions on this album. With their ear-shatteringly loud guitars and sweet melodies, Cheap Trick unwittingly paved the way for much of the hard-rock of the next decade, as well as a surprising amount of alternative rock of the 1990s, and it was Live at Budokan that captured the band in all of its power. * * * * *

- Stephen Thomas Erlewine, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

Further reading on
Super Seventies RockSite!:

Album Review: Dream Police

Cheap Trick Lyrics

Cheap Trick Videos

Rick Neilsen Mugshots

A live album with audience screams that make the Beatles' Live at the Hollywood Bowl sound like a Marcel Marceau performance, Live at Budokan captures Cheap Trick in its roaring prime. * * * 1/2

- David Okamoto, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.

So good it made new wave fans want to move to Japan, this guilty pleasure was the perfect album for all the dumb rockers who secretly wanted to be sensitive types -- or vice-versa. You can't overlook how influential this snapshot of Cheap Trick's career was to a generation of fans: it had incredible chops, a sense of humor and songs you couldn't help but sing along to. Sure, screams blanket every track, but Budokan's shrieking girls enhance the energy, making this pop treat trashy but fun. * * * *

- Zagat Survey Music Guide - 1,000 Top Albums of All Time, 2003.

It took a trip across the Pacific for Cheap Trick to become megastars at home. While garnering only moderate success in the United States with its first three records, the quartet managed to generate Beatlemania-type frenzy during its 1978 Japan tour. With the document of that tour, At Budokan, the band took the seeds sown of earlier records -- the carefully constructed pop melodies, the heavyweight hooks -- and watered them with a kinetic stage energy learned from pulling 200 dates annually. In short, Cheap Trick provided a textbook in power-pop, one that continues to influence noise-pop bands today.

The cover, a live shot of vocalist Robin Zander and bassist Tom Petersson, was a smart marketing move, putting the pretty boys in front to attract young female buyers. But it was also deceiving, since it is the talented -- though less photogenic -- twosome of guitarist Rick Nielsen and drummer Bun E. Carlos that really made this album sail. Nielsen, who wrote or co-wrote nine of the ten tracks, makes each note count with powerfully melodic leads, making "Surrender" and "Big Eyes" still sound urgent today. Carlos punishes his kit on the opener, "Hello There," and then is a model of exacting restraint on the remake of the Fats Domino hit "Ain't That A Shame."

At Budokan remained on the charts for over a year and sold more than three million copies. The group would later achieve success in the studio, quickly releasing the 1979 hit Dream Police, but it would never again reach the heights found at Budokan Arena.

- Jim Harrington, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 2005.

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