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Cheap Trick continues in a Hall of its own

After the release of a 4-DVD set by Time Life, Robin Zander of Cheap Trick looks back at the exhilaration of being part of a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
 Robin Zander of Cheap Trick performs onstage during 31st Annual Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony at Barclays Center of Brooklyn on April 8, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame)

Robin Zander of Cheap Trick performs onstage during 31st Annual Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony at Barclays Center of Brooklyn on April 8, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame)

By Martin Popoff

Rockford, Illinois’s biggest bar band found out it was all true: Cheap Trick were going into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2016. Turns out it was just in time to be included on a massive four-DVD (and Blu-ray format) set assembled by the good folks at Time Life. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: In Concertfeatures 53 live performances from the induction ceremonies over the years, and Cheap Trick is right there with ‘em. And counter to a long list of acts that couldn’t get it together to put the classic lineup on stage for their moment in the sun, Rick Nielsen, Robin Zander and Tom Petersson brought back strange and estranged drummer/accountant/gumshoe detective Bun E. Carlos to rock right along with them. Goldmine spoke to the versatile and varied voice of the band, Robin Zander about getting in the Hall and getting on the DVD.

GOLDMINE: Congrats again on making the Hall, Robin! I want to ask you to give us the sell job on why you think you deserved to get in.

ROBIN ZANDER: Oh my God! (laughs). I never thought we did, but to be honest, it’s just one of those things that happens to you. We never expected it. Of course we deserve it (laughs). But, I don’t know. I never paid that much additional to the Hall of Fame, but I always thought that maybe there would be a chance down the road, and 25 years, you’re eligible, and then five years after that, you’re thinking, well, we can still get in. Ten years after that, well, maybe not, I don’t know. And then 15 years go by and you think those guys don’t know what they’re talking about anyway (laughs).

GM: But seriously, there’s the longevity, the constant touring, you kill it live, you guys keep putting out new music… that all counts for something.

RZ: I think it does, yeah, and I think the most important criteria that they use is the influence the band has had on the music of the day. So that said, we can be proud of that; people really were influenced by our music in some important way.

GM: Looking back, was there a point at the beginning there when you might have been pressured to go perhaps more new wave? You think of The Cars, The Knack, The Police, The Romantics…

RZ: Yeah, no, we were still at that point, a bar band; we had kind of garage band mentality. After Heaven Tonight, we were so far in debt we didn’t know what to do with ourselves. But we just continued on, because we had so many songs written. Back then we made two records a year, in ‘77, ‘78, and luckily, we had the chance to do well on the radio in Japan, and we sold some records there. So they asked us to come over and play, as we played the Budokan show, and that record is what did it for us and allowed us to pay our bills.

GM: Okay, so looking at this live situation, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, what do you remember about your performance of those three songs? And how did putting Bun back into the equation change things?

RZ: Oh, that was fun. It didn’t change much. I mean, the songs we played, we play a little faster. Other than that it was fine. The thing I remember most is Kid Rock; he was like… (laughs); God, he gave me confidence and what he said was really funny. So he took some of the nervousness away.

GM: Do you remember any subtle differences in what was coming out from the drum performance versus Daxx (Nielsen, current drummer) on the night?

RZ: Oh, I wasn’t paying much attention to that. I played with Bun E. for 35 years, so I wasn’t comparing the drummers or anything like that while I was up there. It was nice to have Bun E. up there. He’s still a member of Cheap Trick; he just doesn’t play live or record on our records. But he’s still a member and it’s a moment where he gets his due.

GM: And of those songs you played—“I Want You to Want Me,” “Dream Police,” “Surrender”—was there any thought of a different song being in that set? Did anything almost make it into that set?

RZ: Well, we didn’t have a choice in the picking of the songs. They wanted those songs, they wanted the jam session at the end and they wanted it just so. “Ain’t That a Shame” wouldn’t have been my choice, but that was one that everybody knew—I guess that was the reason for that one. God, we’d been working on records all along, so I’d prefer to do some of the new music, but that wasn’t gonna happen either. So... It was interesting to see everybody’s attitude before. Like, you know, N.W.A, they didn’t stick around for the performance. They took off—they couldn’t be bothered. Even though their speeches were pretty long in the tooth. Steve Miller was pissed off and everything. You know, Deep Purple, the guitar player never even showed up. Chicago, they’re from our area, and it was good to see them. They hadn’t played in 25 years or so, so that was all pretty cool. Just being around these people was cool. It was just cool to see the event for the first time, in person, and you listen to everybody and how they felt about their careers when they made their speeches. You know, let’s see, The Black Keys inducted Steve Miller, which was interesting. It was sort of like, do they even know who Steve Miller is? (laughs).

GM: And it’s cool that Chicago and Deep Purple are on this DVD package as well. What did Deep Purple mean to you growing up?

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RZ: Oh, of course they were like metal back then. Everybody picked up a guitar for the first time and played (sings the opening riff to “Smoke on the Water”). The statue of heavy metal music could be awarded to those guys.

GM: Did you talk to Lars Ulrich at all on the night? Did he congratulate you for “Auf Wiedersehen” or “Hello There” or anything?

RZ: (laughs). Sure, we talked to Lars; he’s a buddy. Lars just started his own record company a few years ago, about five years ago or so. And we had a meeting with him about doing a record for his company, but we’ve known Lars for a long time. They played in Chicago in the early ‘80s, ‘90s, so we’ve known him and his band for a long time.

GM: Were there any sensitive moments at all with Bun E., during rehearsals, talking, anything?

RZ: No, it was a pleasant reunion. There were differences then and there are always going to be differences. I mean, you gotta remember, Cheap Trick is a unique kind of band. When we got together, we were all in different bands. So it wasn’t like we were best friends or anything. So it started out being competitive and it just continued on from there, being sort of a competitive thing. And you know, sometimes when two people can no longer work together, for various reasons, you kinda stop working together, and that’s what happened to us. It’s water under the bridge as far as I’m concerned, and when we played with him, it was refreshing and kind of cool.

GM: How much of The Who is in your guys’ sound, versus The Beatles, I suppose? What did you guys pick up from The Who, do you think?

RZ: Just about everything. Yeah, The Who, at the time that our band was put together, was more important to us as a band than The Beatles were. We are four different people that have four different sets of influences, but some of them cross over. And The Who was one that everybody loved in our early days.

GM: Who else was a big influence for you guys?

RZ: Oh, well, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, David Bowie. But once we started in ‘74, we rehearsed for three days in Rick’s garage and we just picked songs that all of us knew. Like almost everything on Ziggy Stardust, almost every Rolling Stones song we could think of up to that point, almost every Beatles song we could think of up to that point. We did some Yardbirds, we did some Jimi Hendrix, just anything that we all knew, we would do. I think we rehearsed three times and then we were off playing from that point on and we haven’t rehearsed since.

GM: You thanked Jack Douglas in your speech. What did Jack do for you guys?

RZ: Well, we played this bowling alley in Waukesha, Wisconsin, and Jack just showed up out of the blue. He has family there. He didn’t even know we were playing there. He didn’t know who we were. But after seeing us, he made phone calls to New York and he got Columbia Records to come and see us after that. And then after that, we wanted him to do our record, to produce us. Jack discovered us.

GM: What did Tom Werman do for your sound? What was his production philosophy, do you think?

RZ: He was a staff producer. His idea was to take Cheap Trick and put them on the radio in a big way. We had a three-year record deal with CBS—Epic Records, actually—and he was a staff producer for Epic, and that was his job, to do the last two Cheap Trick records for Epic Records, and get us on the radio.

GM: Do you think he focuses on midrange and guitars more than anything else? That seems to be his modus operandi, I guess.

RZ: Yes, I think that’s very true. You must be an engineer or producer.

GM: No, I’ve just interviewed him before and stuff.

RZ: Yeah, I think that was it. But it was more song crafting; he paid a lot of attention to production details like making sure that “I Want You to Want Me” was really poppy (laughs). We didn’t appreciate that so much, but at the same time, we were a young band and we just went with it pretty much. In fact, we re-recorded it later on with another producer just because we wanted to (laughs). We didn’t really think that In Color sounded the way that we saw ourselves. But actually it holds up and it’s some people’s favorite record. So I can’t knock any of that stuff that he’s done. Tom Werman was funny, he was always a pleasure to be in the studio with and he had a great sense of humor.

GM: And what are some of your favorite magic moments on this new DVD package?

RZ: Oh, well, God, there’s so much. Like Electric Light Orchestra’s one of my favorite bands of all time. Cat Stevens was very, very sentimental, very cool. Kiss, of course. Their bombastic rock. You know, I could go on and on and on. There’s some really cool stuff on here. And I think it gives everybody a chance to reflect on why people are inducted and why, maybe they shouldn’t be inducted. There’s a big controversy that will continue to go on, on who should make it, who shouldn’t. Everybody has their own opinions. It is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and some people won’t like the fact that if you’re not a rock ‘n’ roll person and you’re inducted, how can that be?

GM: To close, how about just a quick memory of working with Sir George Martin on All Shook Up? What do you recall of that experience? Were there any UFO stories? I guess he had just finished with UFO, doing No Place to Run.

RZ: George Martin was a perfect gentleman and he took us to Montserrat to do it. And the only UFO stories he told were about the ones in the sky. But yeah, perfect pitch, he could tell you what note the telephone ring was. He had Fawlty Towers, the whole collection in his house, so any time we would take a break, we would go watch Fawlty Towers with him. And the great connection we had with him extends to, of course, because of The Beatles, Geoff Emerick, the engineer, and we still keep in touch. He did all the Sgt. Pepper’s stuff for us, the tribute shows that we did. And of course, then there’s the Double Fantasy record that Cheap trick was involved in. It was just a great experience to be able to work with George.

GM: It’s almost my favorite Cheap Trick record. But it seems like it went over people’s heads at the time. Do you think it was a little bit too complicated?

RZ: Well, maybe so, but you gotta remember, we came off of the biggest selling record we ever had at the time, and that record sold over a million copies, so it wasn’t a disaster. At the same time, it might’ve, but you know, Cheap Trick has always been very diverse. We will continue to be that. We’ve just put out three records in last year-and-a-half, and we also just put a Christmas record out that is strong. And you know, we’re going to continue working on records until our deaths, until we no longer exist (laughs).

Complete program and performance listing of The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame: In Concert 4-DVD set (2014, 2015, 2016 & 2017 )

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The 29th Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
Barclays Center: Brooklyn, New York
April 10, 2014


Digging in the Dirt Peter Gabriel

Chris Martin Inducts Peter Gabriel
Peter Gabriel Acceptance Speech

Washing of the Water Peter Gabriel with Chris Martin
In Your Eyes Peter Gabriel with Youssou N’Dour

Art Garfunkel Inducts Cat Stevens
Cat Stevens Acceptance Speech

Father & Son Cat Stevens with Paul Shaffer and the Hall of Fame Orchestra
Wild World Cat Stevens with Paul Shaffer and the Hall of Fame Orchestra
Peace Train Cat Stevens with Paul Shaffer and the Hall of Fame Orchestra

Glenn Frey Inducts and Accepts on Behalf of Linda Ronstadt

Different Drum Carrie Underwood and Paul Shaffer and the Hall of Fame Orchestra
Blue Bayou Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, Carrie Underwood and Paul Shaffer and the Hall of Fame Orchestra
You’re No Good Sheryl Crow, Glenn Frey, Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, Carrie Underwood and Paul Shaffer and the Hall of Fame Orchestra
It’s So Easy Stevie Nicks, Sheryl Crow, Glenn Frey, Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, Carrie Underwood and Paul Shaffer and the Hall of Fame Orchestra
When Will I Be Loved Sheryl Crow, Emmylou Harris, Stevie Nicks, Bonnie Raitt, Carrie Underwood and Paul Shaffer and the Hall of Fame Orchestra

Award for Musical Excellence
Bruce Springsteen Inducts the E Street Band
Acceptance Speech: Roy Bittan, Victoria Clemons on Behalf of Clarence Clemons, Jason Federici on Behalf of Danny Federici, Nils Lofgren, Vini Lopez, David Sancious, Patti Scialfa, Garry Tallent, Max Weinberg and Steven Van Zandt

The E Street Shuffle Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Michael Stipe Inducts Nirvana
Acceptance Speech: Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, and Courtney Love and Wendy O’Connor on Behalf of Kurt Cobain

Smells Like Teen Spirit Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic with Joan Jett and Pat Smear
Aneurysm Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic with Kim Gordon and Pat Smear
Lithium Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic with Annie Clark and Pat Smear
All Apologies Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic with Annie Clark, Kim Gordon, Joan Jett, Lorde and Pat Smear


The 30th Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
Public Hall: Cleveland, Ohio
April 18, 2015


Bad Reputation Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
Cherry Bomb Joan Jett & the Blackhearts with Dave Grohl and Gary Ryan
Crimson and Clover Joan Jett & the Blackhearts with Miley Cyrus, Gary Ryan, Dave Grohl and Tommy James

Miley Cyrus Inducts Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
Acceptance Speech: Ricky Byrd, Joan Jett and Gary Ryan

Born in Chicago Zac Brown, Tom Morello, Jason Ricci and Paul Shaffer and the Hall of Fame Orchestra

Peter Wolf Inducts The Paul Butterfield Blues Band
Acceptance Speech: Elvin Bishop, Lee Butterfield on Behalf of Paul Butterfield, Sam Lay and Mark Naftalin

Stevie Wonder Inducts Bill Withers
Bill Withers Acceptance Speech

Ain’t No Sunshine Bill Withers with Stevie Wonder and Paul Shaffer and the Hall of Fame Orchestra
Lean on Me Bill Withers with John Legend, Stevie Wonder and Paul Shaffer and the Hall of Fame Orchestra

Fall Out Boy Inducts Green Day
Acceptance Speech: Billie Joe Armstrong, Tré Cool and Mike Dirnt

American Idiot Green Day
When I Come Around Green Day
Basket Case Green Day

John Mayer Inducts Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble
Acceptance Speech: Chris Layton, Tommy Shannon, Jimmie Vaughan on Behalf of Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Reese Wynans

Texas Flood Double Trouble with Doyle Bramhall II, Gary Clark Jr., John Mayer and Jimmie Vaughan


Patti Smith Inducts Lou Reed
Acceptance Speech: Laurie Anderson on Behalf of Lou Reed

Satellite of Love Beck, Jason Falkner, Roger Joseph Manning Jr., Nate Ruess and Paul Shaffer and the Hall of Fame Orchestra

Award for Musical Excellence
Paul McCartney Inducts Ringo Starr
Ringo Starr Acceptance Speech

Boys Ringo Starr with Green Day
It Don’t Come Easy Ringo Starr with Joe Walsh and Paul Shaffer and the Hall of Fame Orchestra
Finale: I Wanna Be Your Man Ringo Starr with Paul McCartney, Joe Walsh, Paul Shaffer and the Hall of Fame Orchestra and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Jam Band


The 31st Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
Barclays Center: Brooklyn, New York
April 8, 2016


Lars Ulrich Inducts Deep Purple
Acceptance Speech: David Coverdale, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Glenn Hughes and Ian Paice

Highway Star Deep Purple
Smoke on the Water Deep Purple

Ahmet Ertegun Award for Lifetime Achievement
Steven Van Zandt Inducts Bert Berns
Acceptance Speech: Cassandra Berns and Brett Berns on Behalf of Bert Berns

Kendrick Lamar Inducts N.W.A.
Acceptance Speech: Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, DJ Yella and MC Ren

Rob Thomas Inducts Chicago
Acceptance Speech: Michelle Kath on Behalf of Terry Kath, Robert Lamm, Lee Loughnane, James Pankow, Walter Parazaider and Danny Seraphine

Saturday in the Park Chicago
Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? Chicago with Rob Thomas
25 or 6 to 4 Chicago


Kid Rock Inducts Cheap Trick
Acceptance Speech: Bun E. Carlos, Rick Nielsen, Tom Petersson and Robin Zander

I Want You to Want Me Cheap Trick
Dream Police Cheap Trick
Surrender Cheap Trick
Finale: Ain’t That a Shame Cheap Trick with the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Jam Band


The 32nd Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
Barclays Center: Brooklyn, New York
April 7, 2017


Roll Over Beethoven ELO
Evil Woman ELO
Mr. Blue Sky ELO

Dhani Harrison Inducts ELO
Acceptance Speech: Jeff Lynne and Roy Wood

Jackson Browne Inducts Joan Baez
Joan Baez Acceptance Speech

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot Joan Baez
Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos) Joan Baez with Mary Chapin Carpenter, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers
The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down Joan Baez with Mary Chapin Carpenter, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers

Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson Induct Yes
Acceptance Speech: Jon Anderson, Bill Bruford, Steve Howe, Trevor Rabin, Rick Wakeman and Alan White

Roundabout Yes with Geddy Lee
Owner of a Lonely Heart Yes

Snoop Dogg Inducts and Accepts on Behalf of Tupac Shakur

Pat Monahan Inducts Journey
Acceptance Speech: Jonathan Cain, Aynsley Dunbar, Steve Perry, Gregg Rolie, Neal Schon, Steve Smith and Ross Valory

Separate Ways (Worlds Apart) Journey
Lights Journey
Don’t Stop Believin’ Journey

David Letterman Inducts Pearl Jam
Acceptance Speech: Jeff Ament, Matt Cameron, Stone Gossard, Dave Krusen, Mike McCready and Eddie Vedder

Alive Pearl Jam
Given to Fly Pearl Jam
Better Man Pearl Jam

Cheap Trick is also in the Goldmine Hall of Fame