Sunday, November 8, 2009

Cheap Trick: Dream Police

Talking about Pink Lady and their grisly variety show (see here) got me thinking about seventies excess and Cheap Trick's contribution to it. Between "Surrender", (a near-perfect single as the innumerable weak cover versions prove) "I Want You To Want Me" and "Ain't That a Shame" Cheap Trick were as ubiquitous in the late seventies as Star Wars merchandise. Everyone owned Live at Budakon and many bought their relatively less successful sequel Dream Police, the bulk of which, as we speak, lie resting in the bins of Value Villages across North America.

What of the place of the lush, in many senses of that word, single "Dream Police" in the firmament? It's disco-rock sound is so vast, produced in layer upon layer like a cross between Queen and Giorgio Moroder, that it practically turns into science-fiction spectable. Sit back and enjoy the show as the forces of good (played here by a chainsaw-wielding Rick Nielsen) battle against evil incarnate (played here by the 101 Strings) for The Future of the Galaxy. All of the weaponry of seventies excesses; the cocaine subtext, the white outfits and the feathered hair are deployed here but ultimately it's a victory for good. That's because, despite it's grandiosity, there's a palpable joy in this song as each verse, bridge and chorus ascends to dizzying heights, without losing the pounding rhythms and staccato riffs that ruled the band. But from here on Cheap Trick would steadily, as if caught in a tractor beam, be drawn to to the Dark Side (insert echoey mu ha ha here).

(The B-side is "Heaven Tonight" the even druggier title track of their last album and as a bonus I've added the strings-less version of the A-side so you can decide if it's better for the subtraction.)

Support the band!


  1. No, Cheap Trick didn't even make it this far before the wheels fell off. The 1st album was a good warm-up to the ecstacy of In Color & Heaven Tonight. Then they tanked.

    My theory is that they felt they were well-known enough to play what they really wanted to play. And that stuff wasn't very good. Rick & Bun E remain great musicians but the band needs songwriters.

    Producer Tom Werman bent their vision to make the band fit the current New Wave trend. They probably weren't happy. They should have been. Now they're just another Beatles cover band.

  2. call me crazy but this song is pretty awesome perhaps because it is so over the top produced

  3. one other thing I noticed watching this video is how caught in limbo this band appears. One guy looks like he should be in the Madness, the singer looks like he belongs in Queen and the drummer looks like he works for the IRS or something.

  4. Sorry Don, but I'll have to beg to differ. Sure, on an album by album basis the Trick were old hat by the time "Dream Police" came along - but single wise? "She's Tight","I Can't Make It" and, my personal favorite, "Everything Works If You Let It", each a power pop classic in it's own right, were yet to come.

    Mike, their multiple personality angle had a definite appeal at the time...heck, it still does!

  5. Don
    Cheap Trick, to me, always had a funny relationship with 'the wheels', they seemed to fall off and get stuck back on all the time. I do agree with you that there was a song-writing problem because Rick mostly wrote classics or filler with very little in-between.

    Honestly, when yo listen toi the strings-less verison it just doesn't stack up (and I'm not usually a 'strings version" kinda guy.)

    Yup like lots of bands, if you investigate there are gems even after the classic period ended. And as per you and other Mike's comment it is amazing how much mileage they got out of their strange image ("Two good-looking guys and two dorks).

  6. Firstly, ya just gotta luv early Cheap Trick.The first three albums are amongst my all time favourite albums.

    In 1977 Cheap Trick toured Canada with Kiss.I went to the Edmonton show to see Cheap Trick and watch all the dress up Kiss fans.Cheap Trick had only released their first album but were playing songs from 'In Color' that was released about 1 month later.

    Cheap Trick were great.And I actually enjoyed Kiss.I proceeded to buy a few Kiss albums!

  7. Was '77 must've been the Love Gun tour. I remember my bother's friends going. Alas I was too young, which is a bummer in the Cheap trick department but less so in the kiss department; I liked to keep my comic books and my rock n' roll separate.

    (That said, their live show is legendary and its' no wonder it sold you on them.)

  8. Cheap Trick - went to see them in '79 in Liverpool just when Dream Police was coming out. Dave Edmunds came on stage and played a couple of songs with them - great show. At the time I didn't really like the strings on the song but bought the album on CD a few months ago and listened to it for the first time in years and I think it stands up pretty well. Up until a few years ago I had pretty much given up on them- then out of the blue came Rockford and The Latest two very good records. Went to see them last year in Manchester and they still put on one great live show.

  9. It would have been amazing to see them back then (and with a guest appearance by Dave Edmunds!)


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