Why Tom Petersson Once Left Cheap Trick
Things can get muddled at times when you're in one of the world's greatest rock and roll bands. Just ask Tom Petersson, who split from Cheap Trick on Aug. 25, 1980, just as the band were set to release their fifth studio album, All Shook Up.
Everything had been on an upward trajectory for the band since first crashing the music scene in 1977. Each album brought more success and bigger crowds, then, after the release of the now legendary live LP, At Budokan in early 1979, the band exploded. The follow-up, Dream Police, came out toward the end of that year and the band were still riding high. In the summer of 1980, Cheap Trick went in to record the next album with producer George Martin, which, on paper at least, seemed like a match made in heaven.
To this day, diehard fans are often divided by the results of that album. While it was a departure, of sorts, it merely expanded on the sound the band had perfected, adding various new ingredients to the stew. During the recording sessions, Petersson grew unhappy with the direction of the band, and became disillusioned with the music business in general.
"That was a tough time for us," recalled guitarist/band leader Rick Nielsen in the Cheap Trick biography Reputation Is A Fragile Thing. "Tom was fighting internally with the band and wanted to pursue a solo career. When we came to England to mix (the album), he didn't even show up. He went home and stayed in Los Angeles."
As with many of these situations, there was more to the story. In this case, a woman named Dagmar, Petersson's wife at the time. "His wife wanted him to sing half the songs, so that record was a real battle," Nielsen continued. "He had a good rock image, but his problem was always women." Add to that the stress Petersson felt from the non-stop touring the band had done since before their first album was even released. "With success, you still have as many heartaches and headaches as when you're struggling," concedes Nielsen, but not before adding, "But being in a band is what I always wanted to do."
Petersson left the band before the album was even released, and was replaced by Pete Comita for the tour. Petersson started a new band with Dagmar called Another Language. They released one self-titled EP that owed more to the then current New Wave sounds of bands like Missing Persons than anything related to Cheap Trick. Tom didn't even get the job of lead singer. That went to Dagmar.
The mini-LP, produced by Peterson (who had dropped one of the s' from his last name at the time), was released in early 1984 to little, if any, fanfare. But within a few years, Tom and Dagmar split, and fences with the band were on the mend. In 1987, Petersson rejoined the Cheap Trick fold.
“It was at a birthday party for Julian Lennon in New York City here,” singer Robin Zander told Eddie Trunk in 2015. “And we were invited, so Rick and I went. We were sitting at a table. Tom came in with a pitcher of beer and tripped and spilled the beer in Rick’s lap. And then, from that point on, we had Tom in the band again.”