Cheap Trick: ‘All Shook Up’

Released on Oct. 24, 1980 (Epic Records)

Review by Kelley Simms:
Rockford, Illinois power-pop rockers, Cheap Trick, have enjoyed an illustrious four-plus decade career. Formed in 1973, the rocking quartet — featuring vocalist Robin Zander, guitarist Rick Nielsen, then drummer Bun E. Carlos and bassist Tom Petersson — has sold more than 20 million albums, played thousands of concerts and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016.

Released on Oct. 24, 1980, All Shook Up is the fifth studio album and was produced by former Beatles producer George Martin, taking over from the band’s long-time knob-twirler Tom Werman, who produced all of their previous albums up to that point. Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick, who also manned the boards for several Beatles recordings, obviously exerted a strong influence (and a few Beatles-isms) on the Cheap Trick sound for this album, as some production and studio effects similar to a few Beatles tracks were implemented throughout the record.

On All Shook Up, the band took a left hand turn with its songwriting, in which most of the tracks were written solely by Nielsen. The majority of the album contained a varied, experimental, quirky and bizarro edge compared to its platinum-selling predecessor Dream Police. Proof of this new approach is based on off-the-wall tracks such as “Go For The Throat (Use Your Own Imagination),” “Who D’King” and “High Priest of Rhythmic Noise,” as well as the innovative, surrealist album cover art.

There was a decidedly mixed reaction from fans and critics upon the release of this album. I remember feeling a bit indifferent when it was first released compared to the immediate pleasurable reaction I felt toward Dream Police, but I’ve really grown to love it as the years have passed. The record possesses a different dimension and dynamic compared to its previous albums, although some of those prominent keyboard melodies that they executed on Dream Police are present here. Apparently, there was tension and inner band turmoil during the recording of All Shook Up, which led to Petersson’s departure soon after its release.

Album opener, “Stop This Game,” fades in with a faint keyboard melody and Zander’s wonderful a cappella vocals, which introduces the track before exploding with piercing, melodic orchestrated keyboard accents as the whole band enters the fray. It’s probably the album’s most classic sounding Cheap Trick tune, decorated with layered piano melodies and horns, which adds a heavy dynamic. An upbeat marching drum pattern and Zander’s charismatic vocals are the highlights of “Just Got Back,” while the rocking ’50s rockabilly-esque “Baby Loves To Rock” is a real romper, decorated with a memorable and catchy chorus and a start-stop/stuttered vocal pattern that blatantly pays homage to The Who’s “My Generation.” There’s additional praise for The Beatles on the bridge which features the line “Not in Russia!” with the sound of an airplane in the background — a subtle reference to “Back in the U.S.S.R.”.

More Beatles influences abound on “World’s Greatest Lover.” The title comes from a line in “I Know What I Want” off of Dream Police and is decorated with Zander’s John Lennon-ish vocals. Producer George Martin was overheard in the studio saying to the engineer to give this track the “George Harrison treatment.” A soaring and emotive Nielsen guitar solo closes out the track as well as concludes side one (those who have the vinyl edition).

Side two opens with the unconventional “High Priest of Rhythmic Noise.” It’s an atypical Cheap Trick number up to this point, with sharp, stabbing keyboard melodies, a menacing vocal delivery and a sampled spoken word segment using a vocoder. The bluesy, bouncy rhythm of “Love Comes A-Tumblin’ Down” follows it with an infectious Beatles-esque vibe. This track is dedicated to the-then recently deceased AC/DC singer Bon Scott, as the lyrics convey sincere remorse for his death. The Rod Stewart / Faces-esque “I Love You Honey But I Hate Your Friends” contains a soulful, boogie-woogie rhythm with upbeat piano melodies and prominent, walking basslines. Its immensely infectious chorus will have you singing at the top of your lungs, trying your best to emulate Zander’s glorious soaring vocal harmonies.

“Go For The Throat (Use Your Own Imagination)” possesses sharp, discordant keyboard melodies and pounding start-and-stop drum fills before Zander’s soaring vocals cuts in, concluding with a wonderful call and response vocal line that fades out the track. Album closer and Bun E. Carlos-led “Who D’King” ends the album on an uncharacteristic note with walls of Zimbabwe-inspired tribal / jungle drum patterns and monk-like chanting. It’s kitsch and campy all at once, but not really the strongest finish to the album.

Although All Shook Up was met with indifference and didn’t sell as many units as previous record Dream Police, Cheap Trick were at the height of their game as they headed into a new decade. After 40 years, All Shook Up remains a rather strong-yet-different sounding entry in the Cheap Trick catalog.

Review by Sam Burgh:
Cheap Trick have, in my opinion, always been vastly underrated. Their style were major influences for a lot of bands that came along in the ’80s, along with ’90s bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Sure, their hits like “Surrender” and “I Want You To Want Me” tend to be overplayed, but they have a huge collection of deep tracks that deserve more credit. All Shook Up, which was released in 1980, contained many goodies that have flown under the radio radar. This was Cheap Trick’s fifth studio album, and it was produced by the legendary George Martin, who was famous for his work with The Beatles. All Shook Up is an impressive album, and it was very experimental when compared to the other collections the band put out.

Kicking off the album is “Stop This Game”, which ended up charting #48 on the Billboard Hot 100. Right off the bat, I get an instant Beatles-esque sound. The opening piano chord is reminiscent of the legendary “A Day In The Life” by The Beatles. Lead vocalist Robin Zander’s vocals are put in the forefront in this song, which I have always been a fan of. It starts out slow, but quickly evolves into an up tempo rocker. “Stop This Game” can also give off hints of an ELO style, and I can really dig it. Up next is “Just Got Back”, which is far and away my favorite song on the album. I love the energetic drum intro courtesy of Bun E. Carlos, with Zander’s vocals coming in to pair with the beat. Soon, Rick Nielsen tears in with the guitar and we are off. The song gives off that “chugging” effect, and then the bridge comes in, which sends us into a powerful chorus. The song is very quick, clocking in at around 2 minutes, but it is definitely a fan favorite.

The third track, “Baby Loves To Rock” is obviously a ’50s inspired rocker. It’s a simple song, but I’m a big fan. Nielsen’s solo is great like normal and Zander doesn’t disappoint. The most notable thing I took away from this song was the intentional stuttering that Robin Zander puts into the verse, which I think is a nod to The Who’s “My Generation”. Following “Baby Loves To Rock” is “Can’t Stop It But I’m Gonna Try”, which had very groovy guitar work throughout. To be completely honest, I wasn’t too impressed with this song, but I still think it’s a good tune. I am a big fan of the blues-oriented sound they went for.

“World’s Greatest Lover” opens with a riff almost exactly like AC/DC’s “Big Balls”. There are a lot of familiar directions Cheap Trick go for in this. One of them include Robin Zander’s vocals being very reminiscent of John Lennon, which is probably thanks to George Martin being their producer. I’m gonna make a bold statement here, but if The Beatles toughed it out and continued to 1980, I could see this being a song off of one of their albums. The song slows the album down a bit, but it is wonderful nonetheless. Up next is “High Priest of Rhythmic Noise”, which is a very intense song featuring great work by Bun E. Carlos. I feel like this track is very underrated, and I like the prog direction they go with here, almost like a Rush song. I love how experimental Cheap Trick get throughout All Shook Up.

With a great drum intro, “Love Comes A-Tumblin’ Down” is a fun song on the album that’s written by Rick Nielsen for the late Bon Scott. The guitar solo reminds me of something Angus Young would play, and it showed me why Nielsen and Young are often compared to each other. “I Love You Honey But I Hate Your Friends” swings well with more bluesy elements. The piano tapping really adds to the melody, and the lyrical content is a lot of fun .

“Go For The Throat (Use Your Own Imagination)” has a very cool intro with chiming guitar and drum fills. Instrumentally, this song is very interesting, but it works well. The bass is very noticeable in this song and grooves well, compliments of Tom Petersson. This track is yet another example of Cheap Trick’s experimentation. Concluding the album is “Who D’King”, which is mainly a barrage of tribal percussion and chanting. I did not expect this when I listened for the first time, but it was a welcomed surprise. The drumming sounds a lot like Native American inspired beats, which showed how creative Cheap Trick could get.

All around, All Shook Up is a very well-produced and enjoyable album. To this day, I do not think Cheap Trick get the credit they deserve. Fortunately for us, they will attract new fans as time goes on with their songs being featured in movies and on television. When it comes to this album, even though there weren’t many songs that reached hit-status, the creativity and songwriting showcased here is hard to beat.

Review by John Stoney Cannon:
If 1979 had a crucial musical moment for me, it can clearly be found at the point I changed from casual Cheap Trick fan into super duper fanboy. Sure, like most of the free world, I had already been engulfed by the band’s killer Cheap Trick At Budokan record but not to the point yet that I ran out and grabbed all the studio albums that preceded it. Maybe it was the less than rocking studio versions of “I Want You To Want Me” or “Surrender”, which after hearing the live versions were less than exciting. I don’t know but fortunately Budokan was at least inspiring enough to change my initial Christmas wish list from a handful of pop records to records by The Who, Van Halen, and Cheap Trick‘s then newest release, Dream Police. Call it a crazy compulsive music decision, a moment of clarity, whatever, I just one day decided that my once limited musical universe had somehow become something much safer and I needed to shake things up before it was too late.

Funny how as I write this, I can just hear the girl in Fast Times At Ridgemont High refer to Cheap Trick as “kids stuff” but anyway, I started off 1980 totally captured by Dream Police which in turn had this magical way of making me hear those first three releases in an entirely different way. By the time the end of summer vacation rolled around, I was ready to walk back into the halls of Frankfurt American Junior High with the words Cheap Trick scribbled all over my books, and a brand spanking new band tee to show off. But what I also had to show off was the little known fact that a new Cheap Trick album was on the way, something that somehow I learned that no one else in my school had a clue about, or maybe they did but just didn’t care. After all, they were all pretty much already too cool for KISS by then as well.

One of the benefits about my time in Germany is that any time we visited my mom’s family in Northern Italy, I was able to go to the US Army base in Vicenza and pick up new releases that were still days or even weeks away from being available in our Post Exchange in Frankfurt making me often the first in my school to have a new album. This happened with Foreigner‘s 4, Rush‘s Moving Pictures, and Cheap Trick‘s 1980 record All Shook Up which like the rest, I loudly announced to the neighborhood by dubbing to cassette and blasting from my boombox as I strutted around the housing area. Yeah, it sounds kind of arrogant or hugely juvenile but c’mon, who doesn’t wanna be the one to get credit for grabbing the cool stuff first? Especially when you’re like 12 and trying your best to make some sort of impression on the world. Funny thing is, while All Shook Up showing up in Frankfurt way later than scheduled should have made me look even cooler, it turns out that I was maybe the only one even mildly impressed and by mildly, I mean I pretty much drove all my uninterested friends and classmates crazy playing the crap out it over and over and over… and yeah, over.

Now to anyone barely familiar, album kick off single “Stop This Game” more than likely comes to mind and that’s understandable as not only was it the band’s push to radio and television, but it’s a pretty cool and infectious track. But for those who only caught that opening track, that’s where they missed out because the band and/or label passed on several far better tracks to release as singles. For example, second song “Just Got Back” is a cool rocking drum tune with tons of sing along potential. Right after that is the stop and go rock and roll of “Baby Loves To Rock”, a song that in a perfect world should have gone on to be a much loved regular Cheap Trick concert staple but no, like so many of history’s lost rock gems, became an underground classic for diehard Trick fans. Actually the band thought enough of it to perform it and next track “Can’t Stop It But I’m Gonna Try” (yet another amazing All Shook Up tune with far better hit potential ) on Saturday Night Live the following January. Side one closes out with second single “World’s Greatest Lover” which while also an outstanding track for lovers of deep cuts, but once again not the greatest choice when shooting to catch mainstream attention.

While not quite as consistently cool as its better half, side B of All Shook Up has some choice moments the least of which include “Go For The Throat (Use Your Own Imagination)” and album ender “Who D’King”, a couple of tunes that while decent listens, do little to add to the awesomeness of the rest of the record. The former standard but weaker Cheap Trick fare and the latter merely two plus minutes of drum and chant sports arena filler but thankfully starting with the fast and edgy “High Priest of Rhythmic Noise.” Those two mediocre tunes are made up for with three killer second side songs.

In addition to the oddly electronic side two opening rocker, the second side also features powerhouse “Love Comes A-Tumblin’ Down”, a drum loaded, guitar solo spanking tune that could have as easily been on Dream Police. This is Cheap Trick at its most rocking and followed by the just as excellent (albeit way too long titled) “I Love You Honey But I Hate Your Friends” which tosses in the band’s love for early era rock and roll in that way that only Cheap Trick can pull off. Yeah, over the years, Cheap Trick have been labeled a poor man’s Beatles but on occasion they do like to pull out the original Fab Four‘s biggest rival the Stones and splash that influence a little bit here and there. The first three songs on that half greatly fill things out while the last two – merely filler but hey, some of the greatest records in rock have a meh track or two.

Speaking of The Beatles, on the cool side, Cheap Trick had the honor of legendary producer George Martin at the helm for All Shook Up even cutting the tracks in London and for the most part Sir Martin steered clear of making the band sound like anything but themselves. Sadly, the connection did little to shoot the record any higher than gold status which even so, tons of bands would give their first born for but even more of a bummer at the time was the fact that shortly after the release of All Shook Up, bassist Tom Petersson left the band to be replaced in short order by look and sound-a-likes Pete Comita and Jon Brandt until returning to the band permanently for 1988 megahit Lap of Luxury.

The change in personnel created a shift in shows and caused me to miss out on my first attempt to see the band live. Since then, I have been blessed to witness the live consistency of the band on many occasions, the most memorable being a birthday nod from the stage after interviewing the guys preshow. While to date, there is not a Cheap Trick album I do not love (including Robin Zander‘s 1993 self-titled solo release), All Shook Up stands at the top of my fave Cheap Trick studio albums alongside Dream Police and their 1977 debut. What can I say? I guess way back when, I just got All Shook Up but to no surprise after all, like Damone declares in Fast Times At Ridgemont High – how can you forget “the magnetism of Robin Zander, the charisma of Rick Nielsen, the tunes?” Yeah, you can’t.

Track List:
01. Stop This Game
02. Just Got Back
03. Baby Loves To Rock
04. Can’t Stop It But I’m Gonna Try
05. World’s Greatest Lover
06. High Priest of Rhythmic Noise
07. Love Comes A-Tumblin’ Down
08. I Loved You Honey But I Hate Your Friends
09. Go For the Throat (Use Your Own Imagination)
10. Who D’King

Band Members:
Robin Zander – lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Rick Nielsen – lead guitar, backing vocals
Tom Petersson – bass, backing vocals
Bun E. Carlos – drums, percussion

Additional Musicians:
George Martin – piano

Produced by George Martin
Engineered by Geoff Emetic
Mastering by George Marino

Band Websites:
Official Website

Reviewed by Kelley Simms, Sam Burgh and John Stoney Cannon for Sleaze Roxx, October 2020

Cheap Trick performing “Stop This Game” in 1980 on Italian television: