Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen, singer Robin Zander and bassist Tom Petersson are the guests on the latest episode of the AXS TV series The Big Interview, which airs tonight at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT. Among the topics the Rock & Roll Hall of Famers discuss with host Dan Rather is how their early popularity in Japan paved the way for the band’s success in the U.S.
In a preview clip from the show, Nielsen notes how Cheap Trick “started getting fan mail from Japan” after Japanese journalists wrote positive reviews about the group when they were opening for Queen during a 1977 tour.
Zander tells Rather that not long after that, Cheap Trick began appearing in Japanese comic books alongside Queen and KISS.
“And all of a sudden, we were in [the comic books] as like [Queen’s and KISS’] younger brothers,” Robin recalls. “So that helped promote us in Japan before [Cheap Trick’s breakthrough 1979 live album At] Budokan even came out.
As for why Cheap Trick appealed to Japanese rock fans, Petersson says, “[T]hey kind of like that quirky cartoon character thing going on, which Queen has or KISS certainly has. We were like cartoon characters…[O]ur record company in the States and stuff, they thought, ‘Boy, this is too weird.’ But the Japanese, they got a kick out of it.”
Petersson also explains that At Budokan initially was intended specifically for the Japan market.
“Budokan was a greatest hits, just a live record done for the Japanese, because [our] first three records were a hit in Japan,” Tom maintains. “No one else had ever heard us.”
However, after U.S. stations began playing the live version of “I Want You to Want Me,” Cheap Trick was on its way to superstardom in its own country.
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