In 1967, Rick Nielsen formed Fuse with Tom Peterson (later known as ), who had played in another Rockford, Illinois band called The Bo Weevils. With Bun E. Carlos joining on drums, Fuse moved to Philadelphia in 1971. They began calling themselves "Sick Man of Europe" in 1972–1973. After a European tour in 1973, Nielsen and Petersson returned to Rockford and reunited with Carlos. According to Rolling Stone, the band adopted the name "Cheap Trick" on August 25, 1973.
Randy "Xeno" Hogan was the original lead singer for Cheap Trick. He left the band shortly after its formation and was replaced by Robin Zander. The name was inspired by the band's attendance at a Slade concert, where Petersson commented that the band used "every cheap trick in the book" as part of their act.
Classic years (1975–1978)
Nielsen and Petersson performing in 1977
With Robin Zander now on vocals, the band recorded a demo in 1975 and played in warehouses, bowling alleys, and various other venues around the midwestern United States. The band was signed to Epic Records in early 1976.
The band released its first album, Cheap Trick, in early 1977. While favored by critics, the album did not sell well. The album's lone single, "Oh, Candy", failed to chart, as did the album. Their second album, In Color, was released later that year. The singles "I Want You To Want Me" and "Southern Girls" failed to chart. However, in 2012, In Color was ranked No. 443 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
The band's third album, Heaven Tonight was released in May 1978. The lead-off track "Surrender" was Cheap Trick's first single to chart in the United States, peaking at No. 62. It has gone on to become one of the band's signature songs.
Budokan brings success (1978–1981)
None of Cheap Trick's first three albums made it into the Top 40 in the United States. The band was big in Japan, however; all three albums became gold records. When Cheap Trick went to Japan to tour the country for the first time in April 1978, they were received with a frenzy reminiscent of Beatlemania. During the tour, Cheap Trick recorded two concerts at the Nippon Budokan. Ten tracks taken from both shows were compiled and released as a live album titled Cheap Trick at Budokan, which was intended to be exclusive to Japan. Demand for the import album became so great that Epic Records finally released the album in the United States in February 1979.
Cheap Trick at Budokan launched the band into international stardom, and the album went triple platinum in the United States. The first single from the album was the live version of "I Want You to Want Me", which had originally been released on In Color. It reached No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100, and became Cheap Trick's best-selling single to date. The second single, "Ain't That A Shame", peaked at No. 35. "Need Your Love" had already been recorded for the forthcoming Dream Police album that had already been finished, but after the unprecedented success of Cheap Trick at Budokan, Epic postponed the album's release.
Dream Police was released later in 1979 and was their third album in a row produced by Tom Werman. The title track of the album was a hit single, as was "Voices". Dream Police also found the band taking its style in a more experimental direction by incorporating strings and dabbling in heavy metal on tracks like "Gonna Raise Hell".
By 1980, when All Shook Up was released, Cheap Trick was headlining arenas. All Shook Up, produced by former Beatles producer George Martin, reached No. 24 on the charts and was certified gold, but the album's high-class background did not save it from descriptions like "Led Zeppelin gone psycho".
1980s struggles (1981–1987)
On August 26, 1980, before the release of All Shook Up, Petersson left the group to record a solo album with his wife Dagmar. Jon Brant became Petersson's steady replacement.
In July 1981, CBS Inc. sued Cheap Trick and their manager Ken Adamany for $10 million, alleging they were attempting to coerce CBS into re-negotiating their contract and had refused to record any new material for the label since October 1980. The lawsuit was settled in early 1982 and work commenced on the next album—One on One. The album spawned two minor hits with the power ballad "If You Want My Love" and the innuendo-laced rocker "She's Tight".
The following year, Cheap Trick released Next Position Please. In 1984, the band recorded the title track "Up the Creek" to the Tim Matheson comedy Up The Creek, which Nielsen later called "one of the worst" songs he'd ever written.
In 1985, the band recorded Standing on the Edge. This album was called their "best collection of bubblegum bazooka rock in years". The album's first single, "Tonight It's You", reached No. 8 on the Billboard's Top Rock Tracks chart.
In 1986, the band recorded "Mighty Wings", the end-title cut for the film Top Gun. They then released The Doctor in the fall. The album's lone single, "It's Only Love" failed to chart. The music video for "It's Only Love" made history as the first music video to prominently use American Sign Language. The Doctor turned out to be the band's final album with Jon Brant as bassist. Brant parted on good terms with the band, and has since performed with the band a number of times as a special guest or as a fill-in for Petersson.
Petersson rejoined the group in 1987 and helped record 1988's Lap of Luxury, produced by Richie Zito. Due to the band's commercial decline, Epic Records insisted that the band collaborate with professional songwriters on the album. "The Flame", a ballad, was issued as the first single from the album and became the band's first-ever No. 1 hit. The second single, a cover of Elvis Presley's "Don't Be Cruel", also reached the top five. The other singles from the album were "Ghost Town", "Never Had a Lot to Lose", and "Let Go". Lap of Luxury went platinum and became recognized as the band's comeback album. Billboard commented: "After a long hitless streak, Cheap Trick brings it all back home. This is the quartet's punchiest effort since its mid-'70s heyday." Nielsen said, "Lap of Luxury was a tough record to make. We could lie to you and tell you it was all wonderful and great. It wasn't. It was tough working with other writers. But it was a lesson for us."
Busted was released in 1990. The band was allowed more creative control, and professional songwriters were only used on a handful of songs. The first single, "Can't Stop Falling Into Love", reached No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100, and No. 4 on the Album Rock Tracks chart. The second single, the Diane Warren-penned "Wherever Would I Be", suffered a worse fate; it reached only No. 50 on the charts. The single "If You Need Me" was not successful, although the track "Back 'n Blue" reached No. 32 on the U.S. Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart.
In 1991, Cheap Trick's Greatest Hits was released.
The group left Epic after the disappointing sales of Busted to sign with Warner Bros. Records. In 1994. the band released Woke Up With A Monster. The album's title track was issued as the first single and reached No. 16 on the US Mainstream Rock charts. The album's sales were poor, and it peaked at only No. 123.
In 1997, Cheap Trick signed with indie label Red Ant Records and released Cheap Trick. The band attempted to re-introduce themselves to a new generation, as the album was self-titled and the artwork was similar to their first album which had been released twenty years before. The album was critically acclaimed and hailed as a return to form. Eleven weeks after the release, Red Ant's parent company Alliance Entertainment Corporation declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The single "Say Goodbye" only reached No. 119 on the charts, and the band again found themselves without a record label. Two other singles were released from the album, "Baby No More" and "Carnival Game".
Cheap Trick began to rebuild in 1998. The band toured behind the release of Cheap Trick at Budokan: The Complete Concert, and the remastered re-issues of the band's first three albums. One of the multi-night stands from this tour resulted in Music for Hangovers, a live album that featured members of the Smashing Pumpkins on two tracks. In 1999, the band recorded a cover of Big Star's 1972 song "In The Street" that was used as the theme song for the hit sitcom That '70s Show. Cheap Trick ended the song with the lyric "We're all all right," which was drawn from their own 1978 song "Surrender".
After spending much of 2001 writing songs and about six weeks in pre-production, Cheap Trick went into Bearsville Studios in Woodstock, New York in March 2002, where they recorded their first studio album in six years, Special One in May 2003.
In 2006, Cheap Trick released Rockford on Cheap Trick Unlimited/Big3 Records. The first single from the album was "Perfect Stranger" (produced by Linda Perry and co-written by Cheap Trick and Perry). The band also appeared in a McDonald's advertising campaign called "This Is Your Wake-Up Call" featuring the band.
In 2007, officials of Rockford, Illinois honored Cheap Trick by reproducing the Rockford album cover art on that year's city vehicle sticker. On June 19, 2007, the Illinois Senate passed Senate Resolution 255, which designated April 1 of every year as Cheap Trick Day in the State of Illinois. In August of that year, Cheap Trick honored the 40th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by playing the album in its entirety with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, conducted by Edwin Outwater, along with guest vocalists including Joan Osborne and Aimee Mann. The Chicago chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences honored Cheap Trick at the 2007 Recording Academy Honors event in Chicago on October 11, 2007. Nielsen and Carlos were present to receive the award, which was presented to them by Steve Albini.
On April 24, 2008, Cheap Trick performed at the Budokan arena for the 30th anniversary of the 1978 album Cheap Trick at Budokan. On November 11, the band released Budokan! 30th Anniversary Deluxe Collector's Edition, a box set featuring 3 CDs of the band's two concerts at Budokan recorded on April 28 and 30, 1978.
In 2010, Bun E. Carlos stopped touring with the band. Rick Nielsen's son Daxx, who had filled in for Bun E. while he was recovering from back surgery in 2001, became the band's touring drummer and remained in that role as of 2016.
On July 17, 2011 at the Bluesfest in Ottawa, 20 minutes into Cheap Trick’s set, a thunderstorm blew through the festival area. The band and crew were on the stage when without warning the 40-ton roof fell. It fell away from the audience and landed on the band's truck which was parked alongside the back of the stage, breaking the fall and allowing everyone about 30 seconds to escape.
In 2013, Carlos filed a lawsuit against his former bandmates, claiming that even though they claimed that he was still a band member, he was not being allowed to participate in band-related activities, including recording. The remaining three members of Cheap Trick filed a countersuit, seeking a legal affirmation of their removal of Carlos. Their lawsuit was dismissed in late 2013. The legal dispute was eventually settled. Following the settlement, Carlos remained a one-quarter owner of Cheap Trick and a member of the band, but did not record or tour with them.
On April 1, 2016, the band released its first album in five years, Bang, Zoom, Crazy... Hello. They released a single, "No Direction Home," as a teaser for the album. The album was the band's first record on a major label in 22 years. Daxx Nielsen played drums on the album.
On April 8, 2016, Cheap Trick was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Also in 2016, the Republican Party offered the band $100,000 to play at a concert launching the 2016 Republican National Convention. Zander said, "We turned it down. Then we had second thoughts. Maybe we should have accepted it—but we would all have got swastika guitars made."
Cheap Trick performs live at Rockfest 80's in Pembroke Pines, Florida on November 4, 2017. The band was featured as a headliner on day one of the annual two day music festival.
On June 16, 2017, the band released the album We're All Alright!. Daxx Nielsen played drums on the album. In August 2017, the band appeared on Insane Clown Posse's single "Black Blizzard". On October 20, 2017, the band released a Christmas album, Christmas Christmas.