Rockford, Illinois’s Cheap Trick proved to be no joke on the live, Japan-only At Budokan, but the story of how the rest of the world ever got to hear it in February 1979 is a total fluke. Initially intended as a live Japan-only album, Cheap Trick At Budokan got an official US release in February 1979 after deejays like me had been playing a promotional-only version on the radio.There is the myth which has now become legend, repeated with so many assumptions that the revisionist history is now cited as fact across countless internet sites. But my guests Rick Nielsen and Robin Zander were there onstage in 1978 when American perennial opening act Cheap Trick from Rockford Illinois, with three studio albums, rave critical press clippings, but no US radio play due to powerful consultants perceiving them as a punk band, played the prestigious Tokyo Budokan and were greeted with screaming mobs of teen adulation, plus media saturation not seen in the usually reserved society since Beatlemania a dozen years earlier. Meanwhile, back in the homeland? Crickets.
Someone at Cheap Trick’s US label, aware of what happened to the journeyman careers of Peter Frampton and KISS when a “best of, live” package that bristled with energy was exposed, got permission to press up a handful of promotion-only live samplers on vinyl and sent to American rock radio deejays. Subsequent airplay, without an actual Cheap Trick live album in the stores for new fans to buy, only increased the demand. Finally the red tape of licensing a domestic commercial version was sorted by February 1979. Eventually Rolling Stone magazine writers would rank it at #426 on their “Top 500 Albums of All Time”, and Cheap Trick At Budokan has been added to the Library of Congress National Recording Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” But now the final cosmic giggle: veteran producer of Cheap Trick At Budokan Jack Douglas contends that the actual recording from the Tokyo Budokan was determined to be inferior in performance or techically, and so originally the decision was made to use the Osaka recording from the same 1978 tour. So apparently, with the exception of the stage manager’s introduction of “All right Tokyo! Are you ready?”, the joke’s been on us. – Redbeard