30 Years Ago: Cheap Trick Make a Comeback With ‘Lap of Luxury’
The '80s were not kind to bands that were holdovers from previous decades. Changing styles in both sound and vision made for a bumpy ride for those who sprang from a grittier template. But '70s rockers Cheap Trick beat those odds with Lap of Luxury, which they released on April 12, 1988 -- even if the album is a bit of a compromise.
By the mid-'80s Cheap Trick found themselves in kind of a slump. After losing original bassist Tom Petersson in 1981, the band continued on, first bringing in Pete Comita and then Jon Brant as replacements.
They thrived as the MTV era dawned, and early-’80s hits like "If You Want My Love" and "She’s Tight" (both from the One on One LP) won over some new fans, but for Trick, the decade was bogged down by a series of disjointed albums and a parade of different producers. By the time they released The Doctor in 1986, they had, to some degree, bottomed out.
It was at this point that Petersson came back. The band hit the road, touring small clubs and playing vintage material, even pulling out never-released gems like "Loser." Hopes were high for a comeback. Lap of Luxury provided that comeback ... at least in sales.
The album suffers from the same identity crisis the band had been experiencing throughout the decade, and the label's demand for outside assistance in songwriting was both a blessing and a curse. The power ballad "The Flame" became the band's biggest hit ever, shooting to the No.1 spot on the Billboard chart. But it was radio bait, which managed to connect with the masses.
Though thankful for the success the song brought, the band has consistently downplayed "The Flame," excluding it from live sets for years. Only recently have they brought it back on occasion. Still, Rick Nielsen's guitar solo is excellent, as is Robin Zander's great vocal performance.
Other hits plucked from the LP would follow in the form of a cover of the Elvis Presley classic "Don't Be Cruel" and "Ghost Town," another ballad. But the best tracks on the LP are the ones written by band members. "Let Go" gets the album off to a catchy start, but the rest of the first side finds them lost in lousy production and dated styles. Still, some good tunes make it through, like "Never Had a Lot to Lose" -- written by Zander and Petersson -- which closes side one, and the LP's ending track, "All Wound Up" -- another Zander/Petersson outing -- recalls past glories.
The band perform great throughout Lap of Luxury, but the dated '80s production is hard to tolerate at times. Still, the album went platinum and hit the Top 20, and with some assistance from MTV, Cheap Trick were back on top for a while. Despite the smoothed-out sound of the record, their live shows were as loud and raucous as ever, which may have confused new fans riding in on "The Flame."
One more album for Epic would follow in 1990 with Busted, a much stronger record. But after that, the band eventually found its footing. From the '90s forward, Cheap Trick have continued to release a strong run of albums that -- sales be damned -- sound great.