Tom Petersson, bass player for the groundbreaking rock/power pop act Cheap Trick believes the band’s eventual success is built on a foundation of commercial failure.
The band, which formed in 1973, built a reputation as a popular Midwest bar band before being signed in 1976 and releasing its eponymous first record in 1976. It was a release, Petersson admits, that was met with a certain degree of indifference.
“It was a strange time,” he said during a recent telephone interview. “We had become a hit in places like Milwaukee and Chicago and were doing really well – for a bar band. Then we got our deal and started making less money opening for The Kinks. It was kind of odd.”
Still, Cheap Trick refused to become discouraged, making three records without significant hits before breaking out with what was initially an import-only live album.
“The thing is we kept getting good response from guys we liked. Queen hired us to do shows. We got great reviews from Dave Marsh. That kept us going. It wasn’t until the fluke of ‘Live at Budokan’ that we saw some real success.”
Released in 1979 and originally envisioned as a Japanese-only release, the album found fans in the United States and made a hit of “I Want You to Want Me” a song originally included on the band’s 1977 album “In Color.” Still, it took some time for the band to find its financial footing, becoming a truly successful recording act nearly a decade after its inception.
“By that time, Budokan came along we were so far in the hole it was ridiculous,” Petersson said with a wry laugh.
But success came – and continues. The band has sold more than 20 million albums, still records today (a new album is currently in the works) and in 2016 was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Petersson said the band continues to look forward, refusing rest on prior success.
“It’s the reason we go into this,” he said. “We love making records. We love searching – searching for the perfect song and the perfect solo. And we love playing live.”
With thousands of live dates under its belt, Petersson said on stage is still where the band thrives. Currently on tour with ZZ Top, Cheap Trick continues to play both arena shows with high-profile friends such as KISS and Aerosmith, festival dates and the occasional intimate theater show. Petersson said it’s an ethos that, once again, is built on the band’s initial outings as a struggling bar band.
“That’s how we started out. Five sets a night six nights a week. Playing live gave us everything – and it still does.”
The band will play at Augusta’s James Brown Arena at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 15, opening for ZZ Top. Tickets are $39.50-$129.50 at AECtix.com, the box office or by calling (877) 428-4849.