In early 1981 Cheap Trick booked some studio time and, with the help of producer Roy Thomas Baker, recorded two songs for the Heavy Metal soundtrack with Pete Comita on bass, including a superb fist-pumper called “Reach Out” which was supposedly only coincidentally co-written by Comita (with Bob James, the guy who replaced Sammy Hagar in Montrose). Check out Comita’s very cool “Reach Out” demo here:
The band also recorded several songs with Pete Comita for a Canadian animated film called Drats! which would be renamed Rock and Rule before its eventual release in 1983. The strange film, which also featured performances by Blondie, Lou Reed, and Iggy Pop, would (unfortunately for collectors) not have an accompanying soundtrack album and Cheap Trick’s songs would not see an official release until fifteen years later on the Sex America Cheap Trick box set. The songs, which are performed by a band of cartoon rodents in the film, are harbingers of things to come on One On One, “I’m The Man” and “Born To Raise Hell” are both quite heavy and Zander really gives his lungs and throat a workout. The movie also features a mellowed out, alternate universe acoustic take on “Born To Raise Hell” entitled “Ohm Sweet Ohm.”
ven though All Shook Up made it to number 24 on the Billboard charts (higher than Dream Police, actually) and eventually went Gold I suppose that the album, for whatever reason, essentially failed to capitalize on the success of At Budokan and Dream Police. Perhaps the songs were not as immediately accessible as the songs on Dream Police but you can tell that the band was trying to evolve with the times and stay relevant and vital. No longer label darlings, Cheap Trick soon found themselves mired in litigation with CBS, parent company to Epic, over a contract dispute. The future of the band was up in the air for awhile but they wound up signing back on with Epic, at which point Pete Comita promptly left the band. His tenure was short-lived to be sure but at least he was around long enough to participate in the photo session for the popular children’s toy Viewmaster.
One On One was released on April 30, 1982 (the very same day that Kirsten Dunst was born). The first song is called “I Want You” and it explodes from the speakers with unchecked aggression. Robin Zander shreds his vocal chords throughout the album, but especially on this song, which is a stomp your hands clap your feet blast of rock energy. I think Rick Nielsen has even admitted to borrowing, consciously or not, the “Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah YeahYeah” part that opens the song from Slade’s “When I’m Dancin’ I Ain’t Fightin’.”
My favorite band ripping off my second favorite band? I can dig it. “I Want You” is a blistering opener and segues perfectly into the brilliant title track, another riff-heavy rocker.
Fame and money don’t mean much to me
Don’t go change to prove the point
It doesn’t matter”
The third song, and the first single to be released from the album, is Cheap Trick’s true shoulda woulda coulda power ballad for the eighties, “If You Want My Love.” It’s a wonderful song, masterfully crafted by Nielsen with an astonishing vocal delivery by Zander, whose voice really has no rival in the history of rock. Rick Nielsen is known to wear a shirt that reads “My Singer Is Better Than Your Singer” and he’s not bragging or exaggerating, just stating a fact. Nielsen would pen four more spectacular ballads in the eighties, Next Position Please‘s “Y.O.Y.O.Y,” Standing On The Edge‘s “Tonight It’s You” and “This Time Around,” and The Doctor‘s “Take Me To The Top,” but inexplicably none would scale the charts. It would not be until the record company forced a cornball ballad concocted by outside writers on the band that they would finally score a hit. It’s pathetic, because “If You Want My Love” is so much better than the band’s 1987 number one hit “The Flame” that words fail me. “If You Want My Love” should be a radio staple today, one of those songs everyone knows. How could it not be?
Next up is an awesome sax-laced punk metal romp (?) called “Oo La La La.” I cherish this song. Lighten up, it’s all in good fun.
Side One’s denouement is a frightening exercise in crunchy brutality called “Lookin’ Out For Number One.” Listen to the way Zander morphs his voice to fit the song. He sounds possessed, the man with the chameleon throat. He could quite literally sing anything and you can hear Rick Nielsen playing Robin Zander’s voice like he played the guitar when he wrote these songs. Rick could be as ambitious as he wanted with his songwriting, knowing that Robin would always be able to pull it off.
29 songs were whittled down to 11 for the album, meaning some killer material wound up on the cutting room floor. This would include a spectacular, upbeat pop punk number called “All I Really Want To Do” which would thankfully be released on the B-side of the “She’s Tight” single. The song can also be found on the Sex America Cheap Trick box set, but apparently not on Youtube. Other notable outtakes from the sessions include “Don’t Steal My Girlfriend,” which would become the track “Girlfriends” on 1994’s Woke Up With a Monster album, “Don’t Make Our Love a Crime,” which would be released as a bonus track on the Next Position Please cassette and then CD and can be found on the box set, “Ghost Town,” which would find its way onto 1987’s Lap of Luxury, “Get Ready,” which would be released as a B-side to the 1983 single “Spring Break,” “Twisted Heart,” which would also be left off Next Position Please but finally surface in 1996 on the box set, and “I Can’t Take It,” which would become the first single from the next album, Next Position Please. In recent years Pete Comita has gone public with claims that he wrote “I Can’t Take It” even though the song was credited to Robin Zander on the record. Who knows.
On One is definitely the Cheap Trick album that I have the most fun listening to and the one that makes me smile the most and the one I seem to want to listen to most often, but I could also say that the first album or even the second album, In Color, are better albums, that they contain better songs. So yes, favorite and best, or favorite and better, are different in my world, at least sometimes. I will say this, One On One was the best album of 1982 and like Rodney Dangerfield (who was ironically a huge star that year) it don’t get no respect. Cheap Trick’s entire eighties oeuvre deserves a hell of a lot more respect than it gets. 1983’s Next Position Please, produced by Todd Rundgren, is an amazing record and the best of that year. 1984’s Standing On The Edge, featuring the return of Jack Douglas, is another outstanding album and includes some of my very favorite Cheap Trick songs (I’m thinking future article). The Doctor was a bit of a misstep but overall I love the Jon Brant years.