35 Years Ago: Cheap Trick Take on the ’80 With ‘One on One’
As the '80s began, Cheap Trick were at a crossroads. After years of building a following and finally reaching major success with the albums At Budokan and Dream Police, things were suddenly changing inside and outside of the band.
For their next album, All Shook Up, Cheap Trick worked with legendary producer Sir George Martin, and while it seemed like a match made in heaven, the album failed to live up to expectations. During the making of the record, founding bassist Tom Petersson left the group, leaving things somewhat in disarray.
Pete Comita was brought in for a while, but eventually the band went with Jon Brant, a veteran of the Chicago music scene. Another big-name producer, Roy Thomas Baker, was brought in to save the day. Well known for his work with Queen and the Cars, Baker gave Cheap Trick a harder but glossier sound.
One on One starts in high gear with "I Want You." Singer Robin Zander shows off his mighty pipes on this straightforward rocker, while "If You Want My Love" is a perfect example of Cheap Trick assimilating their influences into something all their own. The Beatles-tinged ballad is powerful, and "She's Tight" rides a cool Eddie Cochran-inspired riff.
Swept up in the MTV era, Cheap Trick made videos for "If You Want My Love" and "She's Tight," both of which reached heavy rotation status. Despite the push, neither song scored high on the singles chart. But the best cuts here are "Time Is Runnin'" and "Love's Got a Hold on Me," which sound like Cheap Trick cuts.
Then the rest of the album ends up tripping over itself by the end. The disco-laced groove of "Saturday at Midnight" seems out of place for both the LP and band. "I Want Be Man" is another oddball choice with its gimmicky production. Guitarist Rick Nielsen concurred. "It's a bit disjointed," he told Kerrang! in 1982. "And at the end, it gets really disjointed." By the time the album wraps up with the generic arena rock of "Four Letter Word," there's a sense of a failed opportunity.
"I like it, but there's a lot of screaming and gunshot snare drum things that date it," drummer Bun E. Carlos said in the band bio Reputation Is a Fragile Thing. This was a sign of things to come throughout the decade, with more producers brought in as the band tried to find solid footing in the glossy wasteland of the '80s.
Still, One on One was a good offering by a great band going through some growing pains. The good stuff prevails here, and for many who became fans during the MTV era, it rates high. A modest hit, it barely grazed the Billboard Top 40 at the time. Perhaps Nielsen said it best in the title track: "Reputation is a fragile thing, and don't we know it."
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