You know something, it’s taken me years to come to terms with it and stop being bitter about the fact that I wasn’t blessed in the looks department, but I’m actually quite content that I’m not one of the beautiful people.
You see, the beautiful people get attention without ever having to try, whereas those that are less easy on the eye have to earn the respect and appreciation they receive. I mean, just take a look at the original cover of At Budokan, it’s the two ‘cute’ members of the band on the front cover. They catch the eye, they made the girls at this concert squeal in delight, yet despite all this, they’re the less interesting half of Cheap Trick. In the decades since its original release, it’s the guitar work of Rick Nielsen and the often underestimated drumming of Bun E Carlos (check out his drumming throughout “Surrender”, it’s fantastic!) that have endured. That’s right, it’s the nerdy looking guy and the one who looks like he works on the counter in your local bank who are the reason to listen to this band. Yeah, let the pretty boys have the spotlight, it’s those with the genuine talent that are appreciated in the long run.
At Budokan has quite a reputation as one of the great live albums of rock and roll. “I Want You to Want Me” and “Surrender” remain the unarguable gems of this album, and indeed of Cheap Trick’s long and distinctly uneven career. Truth be told they were never able to put a genuinely satisfying studio album together, but At Budokan is among the very best live albums ever recorded.
For At Budokan the stars were aligned, the tapes were rolling at the right gigs and uniquely in terms live 70s albums, someone knew the value of economy. The album is a fried-gold classic, it’s short, punchy, perfect and the energy levels just don’t drop, from the opening “Hello There”, to the closing “Clock Strikes Ten”. Where too many rock bands in the 70s took themselves far too seriously, particularly on the live stage, Cheap Trick were not among them. They were an unashamedly commercial power-pop band, loved a great chorus and knew how to work an audience, from Rick Nielsen’s crowd-pleasing gimmicks and shape-throwing, to Robin Zander and Tom Petersson’s suck-cheeked pretty boy looks.
The star of the show though is Bun E Carlos. It’s Carlos’s name who Zander shouts mid-way through “Clock Strikes Ten”, acknowledging the audiences celebration of his band mate’s superlative drumming. In a decade where the majority of rock drummers were either powerhouses like John Bonham, Ian Paice and Keith Moon, or mastered busy, polyrhythmic patterns like Barriemore Barlow or Bill Bruford, Bun E Carlos is a name that belongs in illustrious company.
Sometimes you don’t need to shout about what you’ve got to offer, because when someone gets close enough your flaws are exposed. Better to play to your strengths and let your talent do the talking.