Addicted To Vinyl Musical thoughts from the open road, with headphones on


Cage Match: Cheap Trick vs. REO Speedwagon

A couple of weeks ago, we got word here in the city offices of ATVAnytown, USA, that there had been an uprising in Bootleg City, located in the neighboring state of Popdose.

Robert "No Class" Crass Cass, mayor of Bootleg City, had done the unthinkable in these recessionary times, and took it upon himself to fire the village idiot.

Excuse me for a minute, because I'm crying right now.  You have to understand how far the village idiot and I went back as friends, and that guy always amused me to no end, always had a smile on his face, and a joke for anyone that would listen.

Tearfully, I picked up the phone and called an emergency meeting of the Cage Match board of directors - Michael, Vice President of Operations and Video, flew in for the meeting, while L.A. based (Lower Akron) D.X. Ferris curiously had to join us via phone.  Mellie Mel brought the Great Lakes Christmas Ale, and we sat down to have a very serious discussion about what Mayor Cass had done not only to the village idiot, but to the people of Bootleg City.

The end result was a punishment that we believe to be fair, that will insure that Bootleg City citizens, and others worldwide, will be protected from Mayor Cass, and future unjustified firings.  We can't reveal full details of the punishment until Cass gets the official notification, but it involves the complete Ricky Martin discography.

And we're pleased to announce that we've given the village idiot a position here at Addicted to Vinyl, working in the category cleanup department.

As the meeting began to wrap up, Riverfront Times music editor Annie Zaleski (a newer member of the board,)  approached the head of the table with a suggestion for this week's match.  Quickly hanging up on D.X. Ferris (Annie and D.X. tend to fight a lot at these board meetings, something about a continuing argument involving The Smiths vs. Slayer,) I listened with interest, and quickly agreed that Zaleski's suggestion for this week was a winner.

Welcome to The Battle of the Central Illinois Heavyweights!

We're traveling to Rockford, IL, to meet our first band, and I've got a lot of history with the mighty Cheap Trick, and the particular song chosen for the Cage Match.

"The Flame," by my estimation is one of the most hated songs in any band's catalog.  The band didn't write it, and in fact refused to perform it live during early shows they played supporting Lap of Luxury.  "The Flame" turned out to be a mega-hit, and one that shot some much needed adrenaline into Cheap Trick's career, which was virtually on life support at the time that Lap of Luxury was released.

A couple of years ago, I participated in a Scene Magazine roundtable discussion (in print) of our favorite Cheap Trick albums.  Each writer chose their favorite Cheap Trick album, and we had a healthy debate (as much as one can debate an album in 450 words or less.)

My pitch to the music editor offered up Lap of Luxury as my favorite CT album, with defense that would reveal that the album, and specifically "The Flame," were responsible for saving Cheap Trick's career.  And how is that, you ask?  Let me paint you a little bit of a picture, or actually just color a bit with these crayons sitting here.  Love these damn things.  Used to eat 'em.

I had a chance recently to see an evening of Q & A with country artist Marty Stuart at the Rock Hall.  Stuart, also a member of Johnny Cash's band for a period in the 80s, talked about how the shows that Cash played during the 80s were the setup for the "final victory lap" that Cash would enjoy in the 90s.

I think the Cash story flies parallel with the tale of Cheap Trick circa-1988.  Thanks to "The Flame," and Lap of Luxury, the band began to take their rightful place in the 90s as power pop icons.  Bands like Stone Temple Pilots took Cheap Trick on the road as their super-hip/show your music cred choice of opening act.  I guess you can argue the quality of Cheap Trick's studio output since 1988, but I think that most would agree that Cheap Trick (1997) and Rockford were solid.

21 years after the release of "The Flame," Cheap Trick continue to enjoy a steady stream of tour dates year round, including at least one major opening slot on a summer tour each year.  Next up, the band will set up shop in Las Vegas for a recreation of the classic Beatles album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band with a full orchestra and special guests.

For those of you that can't make the Vegas run, have no fear, you can get your hands on a live DVD of the band performing said album, recorded live at the Hollywood Bowl.

As a bonus before we move on, here is a special live rendition of "The Flame" that demonstrates how the song would sound, if it was used in a horror movie.  The Trick were apparently having a bit of an off night!

Also, ATV friend Kevin Mason isn't as much of a fan of "The Flame" as I am.

I think I'm rambling now, where was I again?

Oh yeah, second contender time!

Originating in the college town of Champaign, IL, REO Speedwagon were on their way to a lifetime of being misunderstood.  The band formed in 1967 while attending the University of Illinois, and to this day, "Keep On Loving You" is the school theme song for the Fighting Illini.  Presumably, the song plays while the Illini are fighting, and kicking the asses of the opposing team.

Alright, I'm lying about the above paragraph - as far as I know, the Illini are not using any REO tunes for school spirit purposes.  But you have to admit, it was a little bit fun to think about, at least for a few brief moments.  It's fun to go to fantasy land every once in a while, where the marching band is playing "Keep On Loving You," amidst a giant field full of smoke and lasers.

Smoke and lasers that are very similar to the ones that you might have seen at an REO show back in the day, with REO lead singer Kevin Cronin rockin' out his big rock hair with guitarist Gary Richrath throwing down riff after riff.

I listen to "Keep On Loving You," and I'm amazed at how MASSIVE rock records sounded back in the day.  Listening to "Keep On Loving You," and hearing, what sounds like 18 guitars wrapped around Cronin's initial vocal, I can only imagine what it must have been like to hear "Keep On Loving You" on the radio for the first time when it was brand new.

REO Speedwagon - Hi Infidelity (1980)

"Keep On Loving You" was the first #1 single for REO Speedwagon, and also the first of four top 40 hits from REO's soon-to-be-classic Hi Infidelity release.  REO followed the track with "Take It On The Run," (#5) "Don't Let Him Go," (#24) and "In Your Letter" (#20.)  Hi Infidelity itself also charted at #1, was the top rock album of 1981, and would eventually sell over 9 million copies.  Not too shabby, boys!

Looking ahead to the albums that followed Hi Infidelity - Good Trouble, Wheels are Turnin', and Life As We Know It, the 80s were pretty darn kind to REO.  The band summarized their career towards the end of the decade with the release of The Hits, which I assume, is a greatest hits compilation.

I'm kidding.  It's actually one of the best damn greatest hits compilations known to man.

So what happened after that?  REO Speedwagon released The Earth, a Small Man, His Dog, and a Chicken in 1990.  The album's failure was pre-encoded in the album title.

But let us not dwell on the failures of REO, and instead, let's remember the good times.

"Keep On Loving You."

You're damn right we will, REO Speedwagon.  Damn right.

And that concludes this week's Cage Match discussion, with an important choice now given to your willing and hopefully capable hands.

Cheap Trick or REO Speedwagon - who is it that shall winneth the inaugaral Battle of the Central Illinois Heavyweights?

Give us a piece of your mind in the comments section, that's what it's there for!

  • ferris

    This one's easy — good match, though. REM Speeddealer had Irving Azoff in their corner. But Cheap Trick certainly has the longevity. Cheap Trick, no contest.

  • SansDirection

    My first show was REO with Survivor opening. St. Louis, right across the river from Illinois, so their backyard. Listened to K-SHE 95 all the time, which played lots of the earlier tracks, like “Riding The Storm Out” and “Roll With The Changes” and “Time For Me To Fly” regularly.

    I like Cheap Trick. I really do. But I'll always go for REO first.

  • Michael

    As much as I like Cheap Trick, I despise 'The Flame” so I'm going to have to go with REO on this one.

  • kap

    As much as I loved listening to “The Flame” on repeat every single day of my freshman year of college (and I'm not even joking – roommate & roommate's BF were obsessed), I gotta go with my REO buddies on this one. Gotta. I heart that goddamn song.

    And I agree, The Hits IS one of the best greatest hits compilations ever.

  • anniezaleski

    @SansDirection: I'm pretty sure I still hear REO once a day (at least) on KSHE.

    I don't think I'm allowed to vote (and I don't want to sway the masses), so I”m just going to throw these lyrics out there for more evidence. Sadly, REO's nautical references on “Can't Fight this Feeling” will always rule all, but these will have to do:

    “You played dead
    But you never bled
    Instead you lay still in the grass
    All coiled up and hissin”

    “Remember: after the fire, after all the rain,
    I will be the flame”

    ALSO — this line?
    “Just cant stand up for fallin apart.”

    Elvis Costello reference? Anyone?

  • dslifton

    There is no question on this one, and I will leave the answer to Mike Damone.

    “Can you honestly tell me you forgot? Forgot the magnetism of Robin Zander or the charisma of Rick Nielsen…How about the tunes?”

  • JackieInChgo

    I have sooo many (good) memories of REO, but I have even more of Cheap Trick, particularly Robin Zander (he had a starring role in many a dream) so as much as I dislike “The Flame” – although I understand your argument – I have to stand up for the boys. Cheap Trick is one of my all-time favorite bands, always will be, so they have my vote. Good match, btw!

  • lablvrpa

    No contest – REO all the way baby!!!!

  • vagonveloz

    I have 26 years hear to REO Speedwagon music, and in fact is the only music I hear since 1992 when I had the great honor of knowing personally REO Speedwagon!!!!!!!, they were also really nice to me I decided to be High Fidelity!!!!!! to his music forever, REO Speedwagon played 4 successful show this year in Venezuela!!!, after the Show I was able to speak with Kevin, and Neal and Bryan, really are very special people because they never fame has risen to the head, they are very special with their fans, I were very kind to me, and it was great for me to tell my feelings about REO Speedwagon to Kevin Cronin!!!!!!!the best singer in the world for me!!!!!! also in December 1987 came to my country Venezuela and played the first two shows for South America!!!!!! were memorable!!!!! I hear to Keep on Loving You from 1983 and I can say with absolute certainty that every time I hear each time is different and although to be the same recording, it all depends when i hear, who hear and why? I hear, of course I speak of the original recording, Hi Infidelity my vinyl is in good condition but still a little worn from so much as heard, I used to hear to REO Speedwagon in 80s, sessions for 5 hours continuous and now and forever I know when I was starting to heard to REO Speedwagon but I don't know when I end ,when the album Hi Infidelity I got saved as well as a treasure all my REO Speedwagon vinyl and I also like the CD, I prefer listening to the CD, because my vinyl collection is special because it was the first that I had REO Speedwagon !!!!!!

    HI INFIDELITY!!!!!!! is one of the great classic rock albums that had just 4 songs on the Billboard charts including the Billboard number one Keep On Loving You!!!!!!!nobody remembers the second place but in this case is good to see who finished second after HI INFIDELITY!!!!!!! and I believe that more than one surprise!!!

    Julio from Venezuela!!!!!

  • mycool44

    Tough battle. I like both songs a lot, and both are #1 power ballads (Yes, I am Captain Obvious). As far as bands go, I prefer Cheap Trick over REO (one of the reasons being that REO's reps refuse to return my phonecalls/emails for a radio tour). However, I must give this battle to “Keep On Loving You” for the quintessential 80's pop guitar solo and because the song made several appearances in the greatest 80's teen movie ever – 'Last American Virgin'. (“Bullsh*t, Gary. He took her to the football field to bust her cherry and you know it!” [SLAP!]) Kevin and company for the win.

  • karenfromchicago

    Cheap Trick all the way!!!!!

  • MellieMel

    *burp* Sooorrrrry, ttooooo mucchh Kristmaszzz Ale…

    REO, babeeee!

    In otherwise sober news, I forgot to gloat that Blind Pig last Sunday at the Warehouse District Street Fest was serving up drafts of the GLBC Christmas Goodness for only $2. I never liked Christmas until last Sunday…

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  • greggb42

    Not even close…Cheap Trick is the winner! I like some REO but for total body of work and still having the original line-up together makes this a no brainer. Cheap Trick's new one “The Latest” is as good an album as they have put out since Dream Police.

  • rwcass

    Bring it on, Wardlaw! You don't know what I'm up against here as mayor of this “jerkwater burg,” as Mayor Joe Quimby might say.

    But I thank you very much for reading my updates on the goings-on in Bootleg City. In fact, I'm downright touched. Now leave a comment that says, “Re-upload the Simple Minds show.”

  • Matt

    regarding your request, consider it done. On my way to make that happen for you right now. We care a lot, here at ATV.

  • rahul

    cheap trick by a mile

  • rahul

    cheap trick by a mile

  • book of ra

    Thanks for finally writing about >Cage Match: Cheap Trick vs. REO Speedwagon | Addicted To Vinyl <Loved it!

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