:: Thursday, October 13, 2005 ::

Most underrated guitarists ever: number 9
Cheap Trick released two great albums in 1978, the year I graduated high school: the classic (but underrated) Heaven Tonight and the one that gave them a flash of fame, At Budokan. (Their earlier efforts were decent, too, but they did not achieve greatness until Heaven Tonight.) The genius behind this white-bread rock band was their guitarist, Rick Nielsen.

Nielsen was not only a capable guitarist, but he also cranked out the catchy pop tunes that came out of front man Robin Zander's mouth. And Nielsen was a ham on stage. He wore that baseball cap in the goofy, almost-sideways style (long before Cleveland Indians pitcher CC Sabathia made it look cool), and stomped and stumbled around onstage like some mad scientist/idiot savant, shooting out riffs in a near-punk style. (Don't tell anyone, but I used to think Cheap Trick was a punk band of sorts. They certainly managed to poke fun at the rock establishment just before the punk bands broke onto the scene. The band's name itself points to their perspective.)

I caught Cheap Trick opening for the Police in the early '80s, and Nielsen stole the show when he came out with a monstrosity, custom-made five-neck guitar. The instrument made him stoop, it was so heavy, but he stood knock-kneed on the stage and demonstrated his prowess on every one of those necks.

Rick Nielsen may not be the best guitarist in the land, and Cheap Trick certainly wasn't the greatest rock band. (They were more of a pop band, anyway.) But Nielsen was quite a showman, in his own, madcap way. In a sense, he followed in the tradition of Hendrix and Townsend, but instead of destroying his guitars, he created monsters.

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:: Andrew 06:11 + ::

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