Up until the band released 1983's Next Position Please, the few cover tunes the band had done were all tasteful and, most importantly, by choice. Terry Reid's "Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace", Fats Domino's "Ain't That A Shame" and The Move's "California Man" had long been part of the band's live sets prior to the band signing to Epic Records in 1976.
In all three cases, the band transformed each song into a barn burning, yet majestic sonic tour de force that, in the end, more closely resembles an original that you almost wish they could've taken a co-write. On "Speak Now", they flat out, deserve one.
But all that changed during sessions for Next Position Please. The band was feeding their label tracks as they were completed and soon came face-to-face with the five words no band signed to a major label ever wants to hear: "We don't hear a single".
Here's where it becomes painfully obvious that the suits at Epic were either criminally clueless or downright devious in their handling of the band: Someone, somewhere deep in the bowels of the creative think-tank that was CBS Records said "Hey, what better way to save the band's career than to have them cover a Motors song?"
I know, right?
So the band was pretty much ordered to cover "Dancing The Night Away", which had been the Motors' first single in '77, peaking just shy of the UK Top 40.
Seeing as how most American rock fans were completely unaware of The Motors' existence prior to Cheap Trick covering the song, I'm just gonna say that I really expected the Motors' version to be a lot weirder. By the time I finally tracked down a copy of the Motors' version, my first reaction was that it already sounds like a Cheap Trick song! In that sense, I can sort of see why the A&R team at Epic came up with the idea.
Rick obviously thought the same thing and, instead of giving it the "Speak Now" treatment that would have made that song absolutely unstoppable, deconstructed it to its barest essence making it almost unrecognizable; not Cheap Trick, not The Motors. That, combined with Ian Taylor's completely misguided production (dig those tin-can drums that Bun E. seems to be playing) made a nation of Trick fans do a collective double-take.
While I admit to being initially intrigued by the band's obvious attempt at reinventing themselves for the new decade, ultimately what makes it ring hollow was the fact that it hadn't been the band's idea. hey had been forced to change, been made to feel that who they were was no longer good enough, thereby setting in motion a wave of bad decisions that, by the end of the decade, would transform the band into something completely unrecognizable, for better and worse.