ANDERSON — It was the place to be. Ann Arbor’s popular club, Second Chance, was hosting one of its popular live music performances that Saturday night way back in 1977. Cheap Trick was still under the national radar, but their home turf midwestern fans loved their authentic blend of power pop rock and their wide-awake delivery. That night, Cheap Trick was teetering just on the brink of superfame.
“That was one of my stomping grounds,” recalled lead guitarist Rick Nielsen in a recent interview. He easily remembered the early days when Cheap Trick might end up playing at Second Chance with types like the MC5 and Fred “Sonic” Smith.
Yours truly still remembers the way Cheap Trick seized hold of the crowded, cavernous building. You had Robin Zander’s quintessential rock star hair and solid vocals. There was Nielsen, full of antics, with his signature flipped-up baseball cap. Tom Petersson on bass oozed the rock mystique, and then-drummer Bun E. Carlos punctuated the unvarnished flavor of Cheap Trick with his nerdy back-office look.
Cheap Trick delivered high energy, unpretentious rock. It was music with an earthy edge, earnest performers and that requisite amped presentation. It was fun, and it wasn’t long before the rest of the world figured it out.
From their early start in 1973, making the midwestern circuit, and after touring abroad under the perhaps ill-chosen name Sick Man of Europe, Cheap Trick released their first album, “Cheap Trick,” in 1977. While the United States was slow to warm, Cheap Trick boomed onto the scene in Japan where their first three albums went gold.
There, the members of Cheap Trick stepped off the plane in 1978 to be surprised by an adoring, frenzied fan base not unlike the adulation we associate with The Beatles. There’s a name for it: Trickmania.