Mar 122009

There’s a nice treat in this old post that has been an entry for many into the Halls of Rock. Never having been a big Cheap Trick fan, I have yet to download and listen to this treat in its entirety, but it came on during a mastering session with an engineer friend just Wednesday night, and then it came up for discussion again on Thursday, so I’ll download this bad boy myself. Finally. If you haven’t done so already, why don’t you check it out and report back to us? Thanks!

This post initially appeared 9/27/07.

This is from and seems identical to what I read awhile back on Wikipedia but is now mysteriously gone.

On the radio show “Rockline” in 2003, someone called in and asked the band for the history behind the rumored Steve Albini version of the “In Color” disc, and Bun E. Carlos gave the explanation. The “In Color” album was produced by Tom Werman, but the band always felt that Werman screwed up the album. “He made it safe for radio, but the album sounds like it was done in a cardboard box.” So in the late 1990s they were in the studio hanging around with the producer Steve Albini, and had nothing to do for a few days, so they said “Yeah, that would be fun to redo that.” So they started re-recording the songs. They Did not finish the album, not all the harmonies or instruments are on it yet, but it can be found on the internet. It includes two versions each of “I Want You to Want Me” and “Oh Caroline” as well as a cover of John Lennon’s “I’m Losing You.”

More gifts below the fold!


I did find this on Wikipedia:

“I’m Losin’ You” was a song from John Lennon’s Double Fantasy album, back when Cheap Trick worked with Lennon. Lennon’s wife Yoko Ono fired the band, but the song remained intact (with Nielsen’s guitars and Carlo’s drums) The song is also available in an unreleased remake of In Color, which was produced by Steve Albini.

Am I the only one that didn’t know that Cheap Trick worked on Double Fantasy? From some dude’s site:

I questioned Bun E. about what is was like working with John Lennon on “Double Fantasy.” He said it was great playing with Lennon, but that Yoko was a “f…ing bitch.” He claimed the Lennons “stole” some of Nielsen’s riffs that he contributed to “Losing You” without compensating Nielsen for them. It’s fairly common knowledge that Yoko resented having to pay their session fees so this makes sense.


But the session that I most wanted to know about were the legendary John Lennon “Double Fantasy” sessions with Cheap Trick in 1980. Only three songs were recorded before Yoko banned Cheap Trick, citing that they were using John. I told Rick that I recently found a bootleg with the three unreleased Cheap Trick/John Lennon tracks. He asked, “so, could you tell the difference?” I sure could, the tracks seemed to rock more, with even Yoko’s song sounding inspiring. Rock comments, “that’s the only way you could handle it, have us behind her voice & you need kind of schizophrenic stuff going on.” But, why did the band do only one session with Lennon? Nielsen didn’t blast Yoko, just explained diplomatically, “we were asked to do more for vocals. What I call those John Lennon baby voices (sings a little). But & ah & by then they were finished. We didn’t get lucky enough to play on that one.” Still no real answer as to why the recordings didn’t wind up on the final record. I guess the story in Albert Goldman’s book, “The Lives of John Lennon” is the closest to getting the story correct.

Did anyone read that book? Can you shed any more light on it.


  32 Responses to “Cheap Trick : In Color : Steve Albini : The Whole Story : As Far As I Can Tell : After Searching the Internet : for Half an Hour

  1. The only Cheap Trick/Lennon stuff that’s surfaced is the version of “I’m Losing You” which is on the Lennon anthology. By the way, it was just Nielsen and Carlos who played with Lennon. Also, I think I read a Nielsen interview where he again quite diplomatically explained that John and Yoko decided to take Double Fantasy in a much more pop direction, rather than hard rock, so the stuff he and Bun E. obviously didn’t really fit in.

    I also have, and deeply enjoy, the Albini In Color sessions. My version also has a really great version of “Can’t Hold On.”

  2. Oh, and I’d be curious to hear what the likes of Mr. Moderator think of the Albini In Color sessions. I think it shows Cheap Trick performing as a rock unit in a way that we can all get behind. Zander’s vocals are committed and show no traces of hair flipping; Tom Petersson proves that in spite of the 12-strings he can provide a solid and inspiring bass-line; Nielsen’s riffs are down and dirty and there’s no sign that he’d rather be tossing picks into the crowd; Bun E., of course, is always the most dependable musician. Anyway, I think this shows their strengths as a band, and doesn’t need to fall back on any of goofy gimmickery.

  3. Mr. Moderator

    Oats, from what little I’ve heard of those Albini sessions, I agree. It’s really a shame I’ve never been able to fully embrace Cheap Trick. They have a handful of outstanding songs and the ability to deliver. I get too easily distracted by all those midwest arena rock affectations.

  4. Mr. Moderator

    BTW, did anyone notice the inclusion of the Albini sessions zip file? Thank you, Sammy. I went searching for that myself last night.

  5. saturnismine

    Sammy, thanks for posting this. i’ve been curious for a long time.

    my reaction to the albini sessions is….meh.

    i’m all for sloppiness generated by a desire to rock with one’s all. and i like the performances. and what’s valuable about it is their “committed” performance, as oats has pointed out.

    i’m very familiar with the albini production credo. and i suspect that he would’ve given this a more careful mix if it were to be released. this is basically a live performance with a few overdubs mixed on the fly.

    that said, i’m still not all that thrilled….

    in many places, zander’s vocals thin out and get lost. would it have killed him to compress them just a little more so that they stay present? we’d be able to appreciate that committed performance a little more.
    again, he may have corrected this in a “final” mix, but then again, i’m not so sure after having heard other recordings by him where this also occurs.

    other features of these mixes are also ubiquitous in albini produced recordings:

    the room mic’d drums are filled with ugly mid-range tones. and that sound doesn’t work for every song.

    the bass and the kick drum also disappear for songs at a time. again, a little compression — not so much that the life is sucked out of the recordings, but enough to keep instruments present in the mix — would’ve been nice.

    productionwise, i’m all for having things hang over the edges (i like how some of the guitar tracks just devour things here and there), but not just for the sake of doing so. that’s always seemed to be albini’s m.o.; production that is raw, over the edge, antagonistic to traditional production for the sake of being so.

    it takes REAL production / engineering talent to create recordings that take the spontaneous energy he’s managed to generate and use it to serve the songs.

    i would have hoped for something in between the extremely canned sound of the original and the uneven sound of these.

  6. saturnismine

    in other news, the big boy just clocked another.

    phils 6, nats 1.

    we’re goin’ to the playoffs, boys!

    thanks for choking on your mitt today, glavine.

  7. saturn, I agree with you on the shortcoming s of the mix, yet I still prefer it, warts and all, to the overly power pop production of the original.

    Even though Cheap Trick often is categorized as power pop, I still think they were not easy to pigeonhole; they had many dimensions and seemed to know how to take the best aspects from many genres (50s and 60s rock, glam, hard rock, punk, new wave) and make something you could both tap your foot and sing along to.

    Thus, I believe the Albini mixes put the band in a new light. And that Lennon cover is killer.

  8. Having had this for only a few months and not even knowing about it beforehand, my opinion if is closer to saturnismine’s than anyone else’s here. Again, I know that it’s not supposed to be a final mix and yes it’s rawer than the original recording and the band sounds good, but I just don’t enjoy it as much as the original. Am I the only person here who DOESN’T have a problem with the original, Tom Werman production? I think it sounds great and that In Color is their best record.

  9. saturnismine

    woah woah woah there, boys.

    i didn’t say i preferred either version.

    i concluded by saying “i would have hoped for something in between the extremely canned sound of the original and the uneven sound of these”.

    the plea for a happy medium was admittedly accompanied by criticism of the albini mixes. but that was only because they’re the ones we haven’t heard. they were the ones on offer.

    to team albini, i am willing to concede, as i have above, that in the final mix (which this is not), he may have evened things out a bit. however, i’m all too familiar with his aesthetic, and i suspect he wouldn’t. but that doesn’t make the original preferable to me.

    but why not do this on a song by song basis? dr. john’s point that cheap trick has lots of dimensions not suggested by their studio output is a good one. I think they were as aware of it then as we are now, and this was one of the reasons to “go live” for the american market in ’78. and certainly, to my ears, this version, or the budokan version of “i want you to want me” is preferable. both the live and the albini version have a quicker tempo, more space, a more appropriate aural setting for the rush the song expresses. by the same token, i think the sweetened, smart pop production values on “downed” suit that song perfectly. the albini version is cheap trick playing a great song while the “tape” rolls. but i’d much rather hear the what the studio can bring to that song. the “in color” version puts a much more vivid picture in my head because of things like *isolated* guitars and flanging. the albini version sounds like albini making a statement about canned studio recordings.

    so both have their merits and drawbacks.

    that is all.

  10. I agree that certain songs benefit from the Albini treatment, others less so.

    One song that really does, I think, is Southern Girls. You can really hear the glam-rock influence in Nielsen’s heavy chording and the trebly vocals. And the backbeat come through loud and clear.

  11. saturnismine

    only ten posts?

    this thread must’ve been abandoned for some other, hotter topic, like hvb’s hatred for the velvet underground, or his love of zztop or something.

    berlyant, i should have replied: i really like the original treatment of ‘downed’. i think it’s perfect. ‘so good to see you’ is damn close to being just the right approach for that song. but we wade into less favorable territory on ‘southern girls’. all in all, i think it’s pretty close to the right approach for that song, but the dry handclaps and the thinned out drums really take away from that song’s oomph. so i would take the albini version of that. but where i really feel strongest that the original ‘in color’ doesn’t work is on ‘i want you to want me’. it just sounds SO canned and clunky to me. i know we’ve been back and forth on this topic, however, and you know where i stand.

  12. Well…Let me begin AND end, by saying I just finished listening to it w/”cans” on, & I liked it just fine. I haven’t listened to the original in A LONG TIME, & have not yet A/B’d it, but it sounds pretty rockin’ to me. Tempos are a little faster on some tunes than I remember them, but that’s kinda like a live show, I guess. I dunno. Was it necessary? Probably not. Is it disgraceful? No. That’s all you’re gonna get from this mope. G’Day to Ya, Guv’nor.

  13. As I wrote the first time this was posted, I’m a big fan of this boot. (I read a recent Nielsen interview where he claimed that they’ll officially release it… eventually). I like the version of “Downed.” I like the way the band crashes into the first verse; I love Bun E.’s fills, the way they drive into the transitions.

    I have to say: a lot of Saturn’s initial reservations regarding compression and dropped bass sounds kinda sailed over my head. I really don’t have any real production knowledge, so it’s possible this particular Albini quirk has passed me by all these years.

    I agree that the production doesn’t fit for all the songs. But I am more likely to listen to this than the original In Color, when given the choice. (Of course, the band already bettered a good chunk of those songs on Budokan.)

  14. saturnismine

    yeah…let’s put it this way: if i was going through the cheap trick stuff on my iTunes and putting on my iPod, I’d probably mix and match from both of these versions of ‘in color’.

  15. sammymaudlin

    I didn’t notice when I posted the video that Albini and the other guitarist have eschewed the status-quo guitar strap for some sort of guitar belt.

    Has anyone ever seen or used one of these things? What gives?

  16. I didn’t notice those either. That’s pretty funny looking.

    Slightly off topic but speaking of “innovations”, does anyone recall seeing the guitar players in Devo with their stomp boxes taped to their guitars?

    I could swear I saw them do that on that on a tv show one time (maybe Saturday Night Live?) but I can’t find a picture of it anywhere on the internet so I’m not sure if I made it up. If I did, I’m some kind of genius.

  17. saturnismine

    that’s the first you’ve noticed those guitar belts? where ya been, man? albini and co. made those themselves. it’s part of this whole industrial masculinity aesthetic those mid 80s thru mid 90s chicago indie rock dudes had going. in shellac, albini they have amps that are faced with industrial metal grating and they have ONE KNOB on them, too. the guitar belts are like tool belts or something…big whoop, right?

  18. I recall seeing that in the video for “Satisfaction”

  19. cdm, no, you’re not making it up, Devo DID have a guitar w/a stomp box (looked like some Electro-Harmonix thing-a-ma-jig) taped to it. You see it in one of their early videos, I think. Mothersbaugh played it on their 1st TV appearance on SNL, on their cover of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, for that little guitar spazz out at the beginning. It’s funny to think how subversive & slightly disturbing they seemed when they 1st showed up. On SNL, they showed part of one of those little movies they made in Akron, too. I remember watching them, thinking,”This is kinda cool, but it kinda creeps me out; which is also kinda cool!”

  20. I read that Goldman book so long ago… I think that it was a Geffen vs. Columbia issue as to why Cheap Trick was not part of the final versions of Double Fantasy. I remember hearing that the acutal players (Tony Levin, Earl Slick & Andy Newmark) did the backing tracks while listening to the Cheap Trick demo tracks in their headphones (to get as close as they could to the sound)of course they are slick studio guys (though good ones) and so they don’t have the rawness of the Tricksters.

    Cheap Trick’s biggest problem has been other people’s decisions (producers, A&R guys, song writers, video makers) nobody ever knew what to do with them. They were a “hot” band but outside of the big leagues. The (mistaken) opinion was to meld what they do with the flavor of the month to try and get a huge hit (thanks A&R douches). It never really worked, (except for The Flame, a song they had almost nothing to do with)and by then they were writen off by most real music fans.

  21. I’ve played this version of In Color quite a few times and really like the rougher mix. It’s more in line with the sound of their first album and gives In Color a lot more energy throughout. I can see that it works better for some of the songs than for others, but the difference in energy makes it worth it for me. It becomes a genuinely hard rocking album in a way that the original album wasn’t.

  22. I have never owned or listened closely to Cheap Trick. I’m familiar with the hits but probably couldn’t name a half dozen songs by them. I pulled this down at work and really enjoyed it. I’m generally more down with chunky bashing drums these days, so that my contribute to it, but I also thought the focus on the loud crunchy guitars really beat out the more manicured sound of their official releases. I also much preferred this version of I Want You to Want Me to the hit Budokan version which always seemed clumsily flat footed to me, like that fast little Japanese applause.

    I actually saw these guys once, at a little strip mall bar in Delaware in larte ’78 or early ’79. Their were probaly 20 or so folkes in the room, and the stage that ran the length of the long side of a rectangular room, about 70′ feet by 30 had Nielsen’s 20 or so guitars taking up about a third of the floor space. I wound up there with Kweder and his manager at the time, Bill Eib, who had also managed Nielsen’s Philly based band, Sick Man of Europe, in the early 70’s. I remember Eib saying that Nielsen had his whole schtick down at the time, poking guitars through speaker cones and the like and, although he thought the act was great, he couldn’t get a nibble for them. They were pretty entertaining, but that thumping straight on rhythm approach was not really my thing at the time.

  23. Mr. Moderator

    I’ve been trying to listen to this stuff but I’m coming across the same old problem I’ve always had with Cheap Trick: I don’t like enough of their songs. It sounds OK, I guess, but the original studio version of “I Want You to Want Me” – one track by them I’ve always liked – benefited from its artificial, bubblegum sound. Or so I thought. The live version that put them over the top never did much for me. Pretty cool, though, to hear how powerful that late-period band could be with such simple production.

  24. I’m coming across the same old problem I’ve always had with Cheap Trick: I don’t like enough of their songs.

    Mod, I love ya, but I cannot even begin to fathom this perspective. There are so many first-rate Cheap Trick songs over their first three albums that I can only come to one conclusion: you can’t accept hard rock songs even when they are well done. It’s, somehow, just too much of an insult to the Beatles for you or something. I don’t know why. But man: you’re always going on about how you’d like 70s hard rock if it had intelligent lyrics and then you get it and you’re like, nope, don’t like those songs.

  25. saturnismine

    geo, i can’t imagine these guys playing to 20 people in 78 / 79. by then they had released 4 albums, and had charted in a big way with ‘cheap trick at budokhan’.

  26. sammymaudlin

    I think we have stumbled upon Mod’s hamartia (one of the few things I remember from English IV-A in high school). He doesn’t like candy bars.

    Granted Cheap Trick is a Snickers among candy bars, but compared to his elite tastes, still a candy bar.

    Mr. Mod: Can you give us a sampling of the candy bars in your collection that you enjoy? Hmmmmmm?

  27. saturnismine

    hamartia is a bit extreme.

  28. Mr. Moderator

    Let me do a little research on my feelings on the music of Cheap Trick and get back to you, OK? There’s probably an ep’s worth of Cheap Trick songs that I really like. I know I went through this with the album with “Surrender,” in particular, a few years ago and made some excellent points, but memories are short and that may have been done on the old list. I’m glad some of you dig Cheap Trick so much. I sense, for many of you, that it’s your way of coming to terms that you grew up missing out on a lot of great pop music while doing bong hits to Aerosmith’s Toys in the Attic, but that’s cool. If it took Cheap Trick to open your ears to the wonders of somewhat intelligent, humorous, melodic rock, then I think that’s great.

    Gotta get ready for a meeting with my dogg, Fresh Freddy, and E. Pluribus Gergely. I’ll go over Cheap Trick with them and see what they thinks. Thanks.

  29. Saturn,

    It was 77/78. Pre-Budokan definitely. Within a few weeks of this, I also saw Talking Heads at the same club on one of the ’77 shows. That album came out in September 1977 and they played a lot of shows in this area in the next few months. My guess would be about January of 1978. Maybe I’ll try and dig up one of those detailed logs of their shows an pinpoint it, but they were not making any ripple in this market until Budokan. Oh, I see I typed the wrong years in the original post. My bad.

  30. saturnismine

    no biggie, geo. 77 / early 78 is definitely a different story than late 78 and beyond with Cheap Trick.

    speaking of the talking heads in the early days, anybody out there in RTH see them at “Emerald City” (the re-named Latin Casino)?

  31. Yes. That was one of their shows with the first version of the expanded line-up, the one that included Adrian Belew and Busta Cherry Jones. Some of the recordings on “The Name of the Band…” were from that show, and I was always disappointed by the rinky-tink sound of those recordings on that record, especially compared to the recordings of the first and third tours that really sounded great on the same record. It’s like they were so worried about getting everything so it could be heard clearly, they sucked the life out of the overall band sound. That tour was not quite the spectacle of the Big Suit tour, but it was superior musically.

  32. I’m going to surmise that Mr. Mod’s problem with Cheap Trick is another example to his antipathy towards comic-book rock (see the T.Rex thread). After all, for a time, every member of the band looked like an Adam West-era Batman villain.

    I may begin writing a glossary entry on Comic-Book Rock.

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