Letters Home

Assorted musings from the Rainjunkies family.

Originally posted March 14, 2008 | Brian CM

Brian Connors Manke plays drums and other awesomeness for the Rainjunkies. He also writes and stuff. This originally appeared in the March 7th, 2006 issue of the Lexington Project. Cheap Trick were to open for Aerosmith at Rupp Arena - but the show never happened due to Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler having some kind of illness.

:::::: An Open Letter To Cheap Trick ::::::

Dear Rick, Robin, Tom and Bun E.,

Your band, Cheap Trick, has certainly had a long and successful career. The usual ups and downs greeted you, but you’ve continued to persevere. It’s hard to argue the brilliance of your early work, and, conversely, the fairly horrid stretch you had the in the mid-80s. There was the big comeback in 1988 when you went to 1 with "The Flame" (sorry, not a big fan of that), not to mention that cover you did of Elvis’ "Don’t Be Cruel" – which was one of the more insultingly wretched covers I can think of. I’m not some Elvis fanatic pining for the original, but wasn’t there someone in the studio with you that could have deterred things from crumbling like warm cornbread? Although, it was 1988, and if we were to look back at some of my hair/fashion choices in that grand year of my high school graduation – well, I guess, I should mindfully shut the hell up, and you should be cut some slack.

But, to the real matter at hand. I wanted to write you this letter to properly thank you for one specific thing. It would seem, that mere thanks is hardly enough for this truly monumental accomplishment, but that is all I have to offer you – my sincerest and most heartfelt thanks. Of course, I am referring to "I Want You To Want Me" as heard on the At Budokan album, which, at the time of this publication, I will crown "The Greatest Pop/Rock Song Ever - As Determined and Opined By Me."

It’s flawless.

From the opening moment, in which Robin Zander playfully declares "I Want You…To Want…ME!" the ensuing screams establish the song as a unique experience. Rarely do live songs become hit singles, let alone the single that breaks the band into the mainstream. But, this is no ordinary song.

You guys had this song lying around for years. I don’t know exactly when Rick Nielsen wrote it, but it was long before you even recorded your first album. I know that you actually cut a kickin’ version for your self-titled debut, but you decided not to include it. It subsequently first appeared on your sophomore release, In Color, but frankly, that version kinda sucked. At Budokan is a wonderful album, filled with great performances, but "I Want You To Want Me" is the only definitive version. I mean, you can always listen to the studio version of "Surrender" and be completely satisfied.

So thanks Bun E. Carlos, for your crackling snare drum rhythm that propels the beginning. Thanks Rick, for when that first chord is ripped you can tell the tune is gonna have some balls to it. I don’t mean it’s going to run Black Sabbath off the stage, but for a pop song, it’s gotta lot of gusto, and the fact that it rocks is an essential part of the equation. A good rockin’ tune gives your gut a shot of adrenaline to make you want to drive a little faster, nod your head with a little more attitude and stir up emotions of youthful invincibility.

More importantly though, when the song settles into the infectious bounce of the verses and the melody starts to reveal itself is when you transcend space, time, and all other forms of measured science. Every chord change – perfect! Every note Robin sings – it all makes unequivocal sense. It even makes perfect sense when you can’t understand what he’s saying! I’ll shine up the old brown shoes, put on a brand-new shirt. I’ll get home early from work…I don’t know if it was because I was 10, blaring the radio too loud, or if Robin was somewhat slurring his speech, but I never sang anything even remotely close to that stanza. And I don’t want to start now.

Live rock n roll isn’t supposed to be delivered in a procured and thought out manner – and amazingly, you took the time, to not take the time, to even consider that!

Which is to say, there was a lot of cosmic energy on hand that fateful night in Tokyo. It’s hard for me to thank all the unseen forces behind the culmination of the performance of "I Want You To Want Me." What beer were you drinking? What shoes were you wearing? I bet the right or wrong shoes could easily alter your performance. Did you call home to Rockford, Illinois that evening to talk to your mom, your girlfriend, your barber, who also did your taxes? It’s all beyond my comprehension, yet it all needs to be thanked somehow.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t thank the people of Japan as a whole, for they had already embraced you as superstars, and hence, you were playing a sold-out arena of screaming fans. And those screams, those high-pitched screams of joy, never seem out of place. Is that possible?

It is. And I know it to be true, because I can still get light-headed when all those elements come together to converge on my ears, flow to my brain and still place the biggest smile imaginable on my face.

Thanks again,

Brian Connors Manke


words Abby Lane except where noted