Cheap Trick makes it into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but was kicked off John Lennon album in 1979!

Last night the original members of Cheap Trick were inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as were the original members of Chicago. Check out previous posts on this blog touched upon Chicago founding members trombonist James Pankow and bassist/vocalist Peter Cetera.

The original lineup of Cheap Trick played together last night for the first time since drummer Bun E. Carlos stopped performing with the band in 2010 despite still being a legal member of the band. Inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame have healed rifts and brought bands back together – if only for a couple of hours. The Cheap Trick lineup that was inducted consists of Robin Zander (vocals), Rick Nielsen (guitar), Tom Petersson (bass), and Brad “Bun E. Carlos” Carlson (drums).

The breakthrough twelve month period for Cheap Trick was from October 1978 to October 1979, when their Cheap Trick at Budokan double album was wildly popular on its way to triple platinum certification. The following album Dream Police, proved to be the bands most commercially successful, reaching number six on The Billboard 200 album chart and being certified platinum in only a couple of short months. From these two albums, the hit songs “Surrender”, “I Want You To Want Me”, and “Dream Police” saturated both the AM and FM airwaves in the U.S.

In the late summer of 1979, after Cheap Trick had burst onto the scene the previous year in a great way, John Lennon was recording the Double Fantasy album. The album’s producer, Jack Douglas, suggested to John that he use Cheap Trick as the backing band for the song “I’m Losing You”. On 12 August 1980, Rick Nielsen and Bun E. Carlos went to the Hit Factory studios to record “I’m Losing You”; while there they also recorded the track for Yoko’s “I’m Moving On.”

John told the Cheap Trick duo that he was very impressed with their work. He told Nielsen that he wished Nielsen had been the second guitarist on his solo song “Cold Turkey”.

However, the Cheap Trick version of “I’m Losing You” was entirely set aside and not included on the album. The reasons for the decision were not definitely known. There has always been speculation that the two members of Cheap Trick wanted too much money, or that the sound had more of a “rock” edge than Lennon or the producer had wanted. Also, the Cheap Trick-backed track of Yoko’s “I’m Moving On” was also discarded in favor of a re-recording by studio musicians.

The studio musicians for Double Fantasy recorded the second version of “I’m Losing You” on August 18, but that version was scrapped, too. They recorded a third version on August 26 that was used on the album. Lennon finally got around to recording the vocals he wanted used on September 22.

What is puzzling is that when the studio musicians recorded the second and third versions of the song, Lennon insisted that they wear earphones that played the Cheap Trick version of the recording so that the musicians would be inspired.

“I’m Losing You” was intended by both Lennon and the record company to be released as a single, but with the assassination of John Lennon shortly after the album’s release, it was decided that a song with such a title would not be appropriate in light of the events. Finally, the Cheap Trick-backed version of “I’m Losing You” was released in 1998 on the John Lennon Anthology CD. At the time of its release on the four CD boxed set, many prominent rock critics expressed that Lennon and producer Jack Douglas should have gone with the better version by Cheap Trick for Double Fantasy.

A 13 September 2009 article in the Las Vegas SunNielsen: Cheap Trick-infused ‘I’m Losing You’ with Lennon too hot to handle” sheds interesting light on Cheap Trick’s brief collaboration with the Beatles legend.

In the 2009 biography John Lennon: The Life, Philip Norman wrote, “Douglas wanted to give the album a contemporary edge and, to that end, enlisted Bun E. Carlos and Rick Nielsen, drummer and guitarist of Cheap Trick (who by an odd coincidence were currently working at George Martin’s AIR Studios in Montserrat) to play on “I’m Losing You”. But, funky as their contribution was, it simply did not fit. The spirit of Double Fantasy was Matisse rather than Picasso.”

Cheap Trick’s surge started in 1978 with wide airplay of “Surrender” on both FM and AM stations; despite the song’s popularity and conspicuous success, it never cracked the Top 40, stalling at number 62 on the Billboard Hot 100 . “I Want You To Want Me” reached # 7 in the summer of 1979, followed by “The Dream Police”, which only reached # 26 despite widespread radio play. Some nine years later the band would have their only number one hit, “The Flame”, which topped the charts for two weeks in July 1988. Two months later their cover of Elvis Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel” reached the number four position.

Cheap Trick may not have made into onto Double Fantasy, but they made into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Check out the Cheap Trick versions of “I’m Losing You” and “I’m Moving On” that were strangely rebuffed from appearing on John Lennon’s last album……

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