Monday, August 29, 2005

Where It All Began

As when Eve gave Adam the Forbidden Fruit (aka The knowledge of good and evil..), Umlaut remembers when he was given the cursed Forbidden Fruit of Music Geekdom..

I recall the moment I was given "The Apple" as if it were just yesterday: In the late 70's local FM Rock radio station KSJO (R.I.P.) had a late night show where they played new records that weren't on their playlist.

One night I was listening to the show on a piece of shit clock radio in my bedroom. They played a new Cheap Trick [click for link] album that was only available in Japan.. The album was called At Budokan.. Up to that point my entire record collection consisted of the Star Wars soundtrack, Boston's 1st album, and KISS Alive II.

For some reason, although I was way into KISS, my young Music Geek mind gravitated towards Cheap Trick more strongly... In hindsight, it might have been because they were the first band that I discovered on my own. A friend and his older brother hadn't told me about them (as had been the case with KISS).

Soon afterwards I went down to Tower Records, headed for the import (vinyl!) section, and spent way too much money on the Japanese import of At Budokan.

(Trivia: At Budokan was initially only released in Japan but import copies received so much airplay in the States that Epic released it here.. which of course made Cheap Trick superstars..)

I played that copy to DEATH... and I still have it today. I'm appalled when I look at it. The cover and booklet are trashed. The gatefold cover is split along the bottom seam. The inner sleeve is ripped. Of course, back in those formative years I hadn't been educated in how to care for albums (vinyl!) and what 4mil plastic sleeves were. However, despite the wear and damage to the packaging, the record itself is still clean and free of any visible scratches. I must have instinctively known something about record (vinyl!) care even in those Music Geek salad days..

Umlaut's battered copy of At Budokan (Japanese import!)

At Budokan was the first import record I ever bought. Cheap Trick was the 1st concert I ever attended (supporting Blue Öyster Cult - 1978). "Surrender" was the first song I became genuinely obsessed with. Cheap Trick were also the 3rd concert I ever attended (Dream Police Tour). In 8th Grade I signed classmates' yearbooks with the same Rick Nielson caricature that he signed his autograph with. My first girlfriend in 8th Grade was also a Cheap Trick fanatic. The first bootleg I ever got was a Cheap Trick show (L.A. Forum - New Year's Eve 1979).. I visited the public library and searched their microfilm collection for magazine articles on the band. I wore a Cheap Trick shirt to my first job interview (at Carl's Jr. - Sunnyvale Town Center Mall.. They hired me..). During my Freshman year of high school I wore my Cheap Trick - Dream Police Tour shirt to school and some Senior Class jocks made fun of it..

The Geeks Shall Inherit The Earth.

In 1980 I saw a concert at Oakland Stadium with a bill of Journey / Black Sabbath / Cheap Trick / Molly Hatchet. I felt torn because I was there for both Sabbath and Cheap Trick.. but the huge biker guys standing near me down front HATED Cheap Trick and kept flipping them off.

By the next time I saw Cheap Trick I had outgrown them. I had moved on to METAL and I was more interested in seeing the opening band (The Michael Schenker Group - Armed & Ready Tour!). It was the last time I saw the band for almost 17 years.

In 1997 a friend was on a guest list and took me as his +1 to see Cheap Trick play a club in Palo Alto, CA. It was like seeing that 8th Grade girlfriend again. It was fun to see them, but I didn't feel the same connection I had when I was 14. However, Bun E. Carlos still ruled.. except he didn't use his baseball bat-sized drumsticks at the end of "Clock Strikes Ten" like he did back in The Day.

It's been many years since that night I listened to At Budokan on that piece of shit clock radio. However, like a dormant parasite, the early influence of Cheap Trick on my music aesthetic hatched as I grew older. This is glaringly obvious when I admit that my two favorite albums of the past year are the melodic stylings of Green Day and Oasis.

Despite this being Umlaut's Summer of Iron Maiden, I'm more Pop than Metal now.. Twisted and evil.

Earlier this year Velvet Revolver released a cover of "Surrender" as a B-side. I didn't like it. Rick Nielsen trumps Slash every time.

"Rollin' numbers, Rock & Rollin', got my KISS records out..."

Rick Nielsen guitar pick circa 1978 (From the Umlaut Archives)


Umlaut and John Marshall have known each other at least 22 years. Old Metallica fans will remember John as a member of their original road crew (stage manager / guitar tech) and fill-in guitarist in 1986 and 1992 when Hetfield couldn't play guitar due to injuries. Metal fans will know him as guitarist for Metal Church from 1987-93.

John submitted this excellent Cheap Trick - Random Rock Star Moment:

"When Metal Church were opening for Metallica in '91 or so, we played at a place called The World, outside of Chicago. It's an enormous "shed", an outdoor amphitheatre similar to Shoreline."

"After we played, Rick Nielsen brought his son (who was about 17 at the time) backstage to meet us. Apparently his son was a big Metal fan, and loved Metal Church as well as Metallica. They were both really cool."