Cheap Trick – On Top of the World: 1978 Live Broadcast (Review)

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I’m going to call this Cheap Trick live album “unofficial” rather than a “bootleg”. Bootlegs tend not to be stocked in Amazon, HMV etc… whereas this one is. There have been quite a lot of these radio broadcast releases lately and, while the recordings will have been floating around as bootlegs for years, they seem to have found a legal route to the shops. I’m guessing there is some loophole regarding the ownership rights to broadcast recordings and these labels are tellingly keeping themselves on the right side of the law by not using the copyrighted band logos. Bootleggers aren’t that shy about stuff like that are they? So… “unofficial” it is.

Recorded in December 1978, the band really were on top of the world: riding high between the release of their successful Heaven Tonight album and the domestic US release of the classic At Budokan. There’s a good deal of crossover between this and the Budokan release but the Passaic audience sounds way rowdier than the Japanese crowd. There are no high-pitched squeals of “Robin!” here. As a result the band performance feels more raucous and less mannered. This is Cheap Trick going for the throat and it puts a fresh, biting spin on the familiar Budokan tracks as well as offering up a couple of lesser-heard tunes too.

What a bill! WHAT. A . BILL.
What a bill! WHAT. A . BILL.

The highlights of the set-list prove to be these less familiar tracks. Stiff Competition is absolutely savage with a shredding Robin Zander vocal. I’m also especially blown away by the rendition of Heaven Tonight. It’s not a track I was ever particularly excited about but here it is thrillingly menacing. Another highlight is Big Eyes, opened with an immensely entertaining guitar solo from Rick Nielsen during which he proclaims himself “100,000 times better than Fred Nugent will ever be!” to huge roars of approval. The scamp.

In general, the sound quality is very good: rough and raw but more evocative of the live atmosphere and excitement than many official live albums. Only Tom Peterson’s bass struggles to be heard on most tracks but makes up for it during Need Your Love, the intro of which sounds like it might have caused structural damage to the venue.

All in all, a great use of £8 and a great live album to add to the collection. I find it thoroughly inspiring hearing such classic acts in the raw and in the case of this and last year’s KISS release, The Ritz on Fire, it feels like I’m discovering the bands for the first time. Again!

As Henry Rollins would say, hearing a band live is the only way to know for sure, and on this evidence you can be very sure of Cheap Trick.

(£8 – Fopp Glasgow)

[Cheap Trick – Stiff Competition]

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28 thoughts on “Cheap Trick – On Top of the World: 1978 Live Broadcast (Review)”

    1. Have you heard Budokan? If not, make sure and listen to the original 10 track version first. It’s been expanded since, which is great too but the original version is special.

      Do you ever feel like you’ve “solved” albums or bands that you used to love? And they don’t do much for you anymore?

      1. I haven’t yet & that’s good to know about the original – I’m a huge believer in the right running order. If it’s a deluxe edition, I like the bonus cd as opposed to switching the tracklist at all!

        That is a fantastic question, I wonder if that’s the more appropriate description of the feeling I’d get if I get ‘tired’ of an album.

        Food for thought for the day!

      2. In Cheap Trick’s case the deluxe is excellent though. It is good to hear the show as it was on the night but I just made sure to keep the original too.

        I read that term in the Nick Hornby book 31 Songs. I thought it was a great way of describing that happening. It’s happened to me a few times and it is a terrible feeling!

  1. RE: unofficial vs bootleg

    I prefer unofficial as well. Although I’ve been calling these just “radio broadcasts” now because it seems like these are almost a whole genre to themselves now.

  2. This looks cool! The setlist as well ….the expanded deluxe version of Budokan is great, it’s neat they left the warts n all on that one!
    Good score there HMO!
    I think I read in the book that came out with the expanded edition that they had to re-record the bass n the studio on the Budokan album due to a malfunction!…hahaha….sounds like Toms 12 stringer cuz them all,kinds of issues in the 70s!

    1. Haha I don’t remember reading that. It sounds like it was giving them problems on this recording too. He had an amazing sound with that thing.

      This is a cool set Deke, I think you’d enjoy it. Worth it for the Fred Nugent quip actually.

  3. No I wouldn’t over pay for it never……but it would be cool to own…..
    I’m surprised about the Nuge though as his album is out on frontiers.
    I bought Shut Up & Jam on iTunes.
    I’m still trying to wrap my head around how good the Priest album is??!!! Esp especially Cold Blooded…man that breakdown after the solos is so wickedly good…..
    And just about figure I was about to not give it a chance!

    1. I’m surprised about the Nuge too. I’ll keep an eye out for it, I’m sure it’ll pop up eventually.

      Been enjoying Priest too. Cold Blooded is my favorite song on it actually. I really like the bonus disc too. The last song is a bit dodgy but the rest are excellent and I think Robs vocals are better on some of the bonus songs than they are on the album.

      1. I’m working on my review right now. Hoping to post it shortly after my TPB series. Needless to say it’s a positive review — hope you guys dig what I have to say, and yes Scott I agree about the bonus CD.

  4. This looks awesome, thanks for the heads up about this. I’ll look forward to digging into it very shortly.

    I have a vinyl of Budokan here in the stacks. Very cool.

    Did I ever tell you about the time I saw these guys in concert? We went to see Pearl Jam in 1996 on the No Code tour. There were 4 bands on the smaller stage (including Cracker and Hayden – c’mon, it was the mid-90s), and then the main stage was supposed to be Iggy Pop and then Pearl Jam. I know, right! But for whatever legal reason, Iggy was denied entry into Canada, which surely threw the event planners into a panic.

    And who saved the day? Cheap Trick. They gladly turned up, plugged in and nobly saved the day’s issue of needing an opening act. I suppose it could have been anyone else in the area, or maybe Pearl Jam would just have played for 4 hours (I’d believe it), but no. Cheap trick donned their super hero capes and rushed into the fray. They played well.

    It was cool. And you could tell PJ was excited (they’re big fans). Eddie kept saying from the stage that there was going to be a special guest at some point in the show and then the time arrived and… the special guest was Cheap Trick’s double-necked guitar, as played by Mike McCready. Haha cool.

    1. Yes, I think you’ve mentioned that gig before or did a post about it? I definitely recall the story anyway. Cheap Trick should have headlined! ;-)

      They must be one of the few bands who’s instruments are almost more famous than the band members!

      I once saw a photo of Rick playing his crazy 5-necked guitar next to Robin who was just playing a boring normal one. The caption read “one of these men has a small willy” hahah

  5. I understand your point with ‘Heaven Tonight’… many times a song will sound bigger and bolder when heard in its ‘live’ form. I will agree with your ‘unofficial’ tag without question; there are always contracts out there that were signed years ago, with artists signing away many royalties.

    Thanks for bringing this hidden gem to the forefront and I’ll be adding it to my ‘need’ list! YOU ROCK, Metal Buddy!! \m/\m/

  6. I second and third that..this is A Friggin Fantastic live album from the Heaven Tonight tour(1978). What a set list all the classics and yep the rarely played title track as well I mean that’s the price of admission right there along with the Fred Nugent comment..hahaha!
    The thing that I really like is this is a recording with no fix it job it’s live warts n all( that’s the best thing this is a actual live album) and for me I really realize that everybody always loves Zander’s voice now let’s give it up for his rhythm guitar playing which I think no one ever talks about. Very underrated player he hold it’s down.
    You know by this show they were headed to the top….and also I love the gimmick they had going on these releases esp In Color with the two rockers(Zander and Peterson) on the choppers in color on the front cover and on the back cover (Nielsen and Carlos) the two geeks on scooters in black and white…love that cover than..love it now……
    Get this it’s a 5/5!

    1. Deke, I’m so glad you dug this one. I totally agree, it’s a friggin fantastic live album. And definitely warts n’ all (like the start of On Top of the World when Zander starts singing a bit too soon) but it’s all the better for it. I love to hear totally untouched live recordings like this. It’s just more honest and more evocative of actually being there.

      And great point about Rick’s guitar. He is phenomenally under-rated and he’s absolutely blazing on this. Top player.

      That rocker/geek image is a great look. A lot of humour in it too which is great, bands can be so po-faced sometimes.

      I’d go with the 5/5 rating too.

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