Whatever you might think of my list thus far, how can you respect, or take seriously, any list that doesn't include the Ramones? I say this having seen with my own four eyes a crude but recognizable crayon drawing of Forest Hills' finest on my buddy's refrigerator. "Did you draw that?" I asked, We both knew his six-year-old daughter had drawn it, but its part of "our thing" that I give him the business.
At the last parent-teacher conference, the art teacher told him that his daughter has begun drawing the Ramones for every assignment. Draw your favorite president, the teacher says She draws Johnny. Papier mache busts, she builds Dee Dee. My buddy took a long, refreshing swig from his Corona and said matter-of-factly, "She doesn't know they're all dead."
I burst out laughing, then caught myself, he wasn't laughing.
Then I imagined...what if all the Beatles had been dead by the time I'd discovered them, but I was completely unaware of it? What would have happened when I did find out? Would I have taken it horribly, like four sudden, horrific deaths in the family, or shrugged the whole thing off?
Thing is, my buddy's life is a sort of hell until he decides what to do. We talked it over and the the options are:
a) Tell her before she finds out somewhere else. This way, you can control the scenario, present it to her in a way she'll respond to best.
c) Just let her find out on her own. She's gonna find out much more horrific shit as life goes on.
My buddy and his better half decide a) is the way to go, so they decide to introduce her to the wonderful world of posthumous Ramones documentaries, which they've made a point of not showing her as of yet. Then, like all best-laid plans, before they even hit play, his wife hysterically tells her "Honey, the Ramones are dead!", to which his daughter responded. "I know."
Why didn't you say something, they asked? "I dunno."
I'd have freaked the fuck out because unless they went down on the same plane like the Big Bopper and Buddy Holly, there should be absolutely no way that all founding members of the greatest punk band that ever LIVED should be dead by now. All four Sex Pistols are still around. Heck, all the Stones are still alive.
It just seems like everything cool gets struck down before its time, as if the powers-that-be can't bear for the world to be that awesome.
The minute I became aware of Cheap Trick's existence, I took one look at the band members - you had the two matinee idol poster boys in Robin and Tom and then you had a cartoon character and an accountant - and then a look at the Kiss posters on my wall and said "Who needs these guys?" Kiss were out and Trick were in, baby, but it wasn't because of their looks, it was all about the music.
With songs that great, they all coulda looked like Andre The Giant for all I cared. Thankfully, they didn't and, in hindsight, the juxtaposition of the two worlds - poster boy and nerd - was a masterstroke that made Gene, Ace, Paul and Peter look kinda, well, childish by comparison.
How great are Cheap Trick, you ask? So great that they're still on this list after The Doctor...and Special One, and for releasing way too many live albums in the years since Budokan.
See, for the first album alone, Cheap Trick deserves their own wing in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. You talk to any rocker who has changed the face of rock lately; Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, GNR and that's the album that makes their eyes light up the most.
On the surface, it's a total pop album, with scissor-kicking hooks flying every which way, but underneath the surface, it's a sinister, subversive masterpiece that never got its due, but is cherished by a chosen few.
In Color, Heaven Tonight, and Dream Police are all stellar albums with song after song of shoulda-been hits: "Downed", "Southern Girls", "Clock Strikes Ten", "Auf Wiedersehen", "The House Is Rockin'", but Tom Werman's production seems to be doing its abject best to neuter the band at every turn. Nice enough guy, don't get me wrong, but a complete mistake for the band.
Anyone who has heard those songs live knows what I'm talking about, too. That's why Budokan was a hit despite the best efforts of their label to keep it from ever being released here. Here buy these lukewarm versions on In Color. No thanks, we want the album you don't want s to have and had to order from freakin Japan to get our hands on. That required an actual trip to the post office because we didn't have any International Postage laying around, thank you very much.
That seems to be Cheap Trick's luck. This is a band that, despite their own subversive genius has agreed to sell out at every turn: Disco? Sure. Extended Dance Remix? Heck yeah. Diane Warren power ballad? Yes, yes, and YES! Zappa most certainly would not have approved.
Despite it all, the tunes remain and they are AMAZING, which is why Cheap Trick sits alone atop my list of favorite bands.