Who d’ King of the Whole Wide World? Bun E. Carlos!

In honor of the drummer’s birthday (June 12), here’s one from the archives.

The artist shows off some of his vast drum collection. Photograph by Linda D. Robbins

Interview by Ira Robbins

This interview, arranged for the liner notes I was writing for the Sex, America, Cheap Trick box set, took place on April 16, 1996 at Bun’s home near Rockford, Illinois. He showed me his ware­house of drum equipment, which included impressive rows of neatly racked snares. Given his unofficial role as the band’s in-house archivist and institutional memory, we spent a lot of time discussing specific albums and sessions. I expected my published notes to feature this sort of detailed annotation. They didn’t, but not through any lack of effort on my part.

I didn’t bother to transcribe my questions; some of the answers may well be paraphrases. (Transcribing, as any journalist will assure you, is the most boring thing in the world. In sections that don’t lend themselves to being quoted in the finished article, you’re just gathering information and it becomes more like note-taking.)

Some­where along the line, I organized it into topical sections.

Bun E.’s rule of the road: ‟Don’t call home and complain about room service to your wife.”

Cheap Trick Fashions

Rick started wearing a baseball cap for the reasons most people start wearing a baseball cap. Xeno got his hair dyed blonde in Milwaukee, and they cut my hair off. That was the Bun E. Carlos haircut. I hadn’t cut my hair in two years. We always tried to look good on stage, to dress up a little bit. I went down to the Salvation Army and bought a bunch of 50 cent white shirts and some pants and a vest and some ties. I always wanted to look like Keith Richards, but I didn’t, so that was fine with me. Plus it was real comfortable wearing those clothes. Rick just wore what he wore. Tom and Robin always had great taste in clothes.

We looked like that by early ’75 (well before Epic). In November ’75 we went and cut demos in Memphis with Butch Stone and went to LA to play the Starwood and talked to Kim Fowley. He reinforced our good ideas about ourselves.

Around that time, Joni Mitchell said in a Rolling Stone interview, I like those guys in Cheap Trick, they look neat, like cartoon characters.

Rick met Todd Rundgren at the Marquee in 1969. Nazz broke up and Rick asked how to get hold of the singer and drummer, that’s how he got the phone numbers. One time at Fort Dix we got billed as Nazz. Right before that we were in the Midwest where Rick played bass and I played drums. We used to do Nazz songs. The Nazz connection didn’t get us very far in Philly.


I was always Bun, from the time I was 4. Tom started calling me Bunny in Philadelphia, and that kind of stuck. I made it an initial E. I adopted a stage name so the band didn’t sound like a bunch of Swedes. I changed Carlson to Carlos. If I would have known we were going to be famous I never would have picked Carlos.

The name T-Rick was a joke. Rick is generally credited with the Cheap Trick name.

Early Bands

Paegans was my high school band; we had a single out. We started in ’66. We learned in Sick Man how to clear a dance floor.

Grim Reapers were a high school band; they were called the Phaetons before that. Fuse was a name the record company thought of.

One thing we did when we started Cheap Trick — Rick, me and two other guys — was make the material so people could dance. That’s the only way you got work.

We were the guys that played Rick’s songs real good. After Fuse split up, he wrote a batch of tunes. Tom Peters­son and Thom Mooney weren’t in town, so we learned ’em with a local band and did ’em. In the spring of ’72, me and Rick started rehearsing at his dad’s store, with Rick Pemberton playing bass. We tried Joe Sundberg, the singer from Fuse. We tried a couple of other guys singing. Then Rick moved to Philly so Stewkey could sing his songs. That band continued doing the same thing we started doing in Rockford. Then he moved back to Rockford and continued doing that. Stewkey didn’t work, so he moved back, and we wanted to get Robin but he was unavailable ’cause he was under contract for two more summers. The guy that owned the resort bar in Wisconsin was the lieutenant governor of Wisconsin. Robin was 16 or something. We got Xeno instead. He’s in Milwaukee. I do a charity show with him every December for a children’s home.

I first heard Rick’s name ’cause he was throwing rocks at my sister. He was in sixth grade, and I was in fourth grade at Bloom School. I saw him play drums at the sixth-grade graduation. That was a stitch. The drums were catching my eye. Then the Beatles came out and we were all in different bands. His bands always had the coolest songs and the coolest versions. Our families were friends, and we got our drums at his music store. Rick worked in the store. One of my first memories of him down at the store was in ’68 or ’69 and he had a copy of the first Led Zeppelin album. I used to tape his gigs once in a while.

Fuse did a single as the Grim Reapers — ‟Cruising for Burgers” (which is ‟3 AM Blues”) and Plastic Penny’s version of ‟Hound Dog” on Smack Records — then changed the name to Fuse. Tom joined. Epic picked up the single and re-released it under the name Fuse. Rick’s guitar is in one channel and Craig’s in the other. Craig was the hot guitar player; he was in Toast and Jam and the Boll Weevils with Tom and Joe and Chip. Rick played mellotron, Hammond organ, guitar. Everybody looked at it as his band. Craig got the solos. He played faster. He never got any better, though, and Rick just kept on improving.

Grim Reapers was playing in Madison at the Scene when Otis [Redding] and the Bar-Kays crashed. Rick had just graduated from high school. Gary, the original singer, had been drafted.

My ma went to buy me a snare drum at Nielsen’s music store in 1964 and the salesman sold her a set of drums. I didn’t know at the time that I was about to be a third-generation drummer. I got out of high school and got in a band with Robin — the Phrenz, we did Beatles and Stones and Who and Bee-Gees stuff — while Rick and Tom were still in Fuse.

When Sick Man came to town and needed a singer I recommended Robin, but he wasn’t available. I know this guy who sounds a lot like him, his name is Randy — that was Xeno. The only bass player we knew worked in a hardware store, this guy Rick Saluga, so we got him. He played bass until Tom came back to town about six months later.

Cheap Trick were Anglophiles. We weren’t Aerosmith fans. Around here, Head East was the only thing going. Yeuch. We didn’t have a lot of homegrown stuff going on around here. One Eyed Jacks had just turned into REO Speedwagon. No one had heard of Styx. There was the Legends. Guys from the Midwest joined bands on the coast. We came back here because we couldn’t make any money out East. We could work six nights a week in bars here. In Philly, we had to fight for $100 gigs. Rick and Tom worked in a bar. I was working one day a week as a DJ. We were kids.

It was DIY with us. We had to scour the country to find black T-shirts in 1975. The guy who designed the [Cheap Trick] logo for us was a fan from Milwaukee whose dad owned an ad agency. He became Chris Crowe, a big producer for Paramount; he does the Watcher TV series and Twilight Zone remakes…

We signed with Jack Douglas first; he came out in May ’75 and saw three sets. He agreed to produce the band. We got offers from Mercury and Capitol. We signed with Jack, and then ICM before anything. We sat down with Epic and worked out a ten-album deal.

We played Japan in April ’78 and we’d been doing these songs for a year and a half. When we got back, we rearranged all the material. We put an Alex Harvey thing into ‟Goodnight Now,” we cut verses out of ‟Big Eyes” and others so we could do new material. All summer long we did these new arrangements, then Budokan came out and we had to [re]learn the old versions. We had stopped doing ‟I Want You to Want Me” because it had come out as a single from In Color.

That stopped all forward progress. It stopped everything for about a year. And having Dream Police sit around for nine months… But when ten-thousand people scream when you play your number-one song that makes it kind of nice to play it, too. We didn’t know what to do next. We didn’t really know what made [us] famous in the first place. We didn’t know why people liked the live versions and not the studio versions.

‟I Want You to Want Me” live was the hit single. It had been a studio single off In Color. Then they put out ‟Southern Girls.” With Heaven Tonight, they put out ‟Surrender.” It did good all over America over three or four months — but never at the same time. Then they put out ‟California Man” with a live ‟I Want You to Want Me” as the B-side. Same version — and it didn’t do anything.

‟Fan Club” was written by Rick in 1975. A slow ballad about our fans — it’s about people we knew. One guy wanted an 8×10 of us before we had 8x10s, and we got him one. He got it framed, but when we went to his house for dinner, we found it on a shelf in the closet. ‟Pretty pictures of the kings and queens” and ‟the queens themselves” — we had a lot of gay fans in Milwaukee. A lot of the bars up there fired us because we had too many gay fans. At the end of the song, we start thanking people — they’re real people.

Tom started singing ‟Heroin” because Robin didn’t know it — Xeno used to sing it. [I have] a board tape from the Silver Dollar in Lansing, MI December 1974. Robin had joined the band about two months earlier.

The cassette of publishing demos that I have?

Done in January 1980 in the Record Plant in LA. We did ’em in one afternoon. Robin went back and redid some of the vocals. Jack Douglas mixed some of them; we’re using ‟I Need Love.” ‟Ain’t Got You” is a Sick Man of Europe song that never got used. Linda Ronstadt was looking for a tune, we wanted her to do ‟Oh Boy.” That was the idea of the demo. The songs are all from ’75 and ’76, [songs] which didn’t make the cut on the first three or four albums.

‟Downed”: Rick wanted to move to Australia after Fuse broke up, but he found out he’d have to put his dog in quarantine.

Cheap Trick

We cut about 17 or 18 complete songs for the first album, another five or ten basic tracks [on top of] that.

‟I Want You to Want Me,” as done for the first album, is more like the live version. I don’t know why it never got used. Even before the first album, people were picking that song as the single. Mercury wanted to sign us on the strength of that song. We considered it our pop song. Jack didn’t change a thing from the way we had been doing it live except that I added brushes over the top of the drum set. Otherwise it’s live in the studio.

It didn’t make the first album, and [Tom] Werman thought it was a hit. We wanted a bigger production than Werman was getting for us, so we got a session guy to play honkytonk piano.

About three bars of ‟Lovin’ Money” wound up in ‟Saturday at Midnight.” We did two versions for the first album, and Jack Douglas got out a razor blade and took half the first version and half the second. It’s about lovin’ and money — you never seem to get enough of either.

‟You’re All Talk” was done for the first album. The ‟Oh Candy” single mix has some handclaps up front and a little different vocal in the first verse. The 1979 single mix of ‟Elo Kiddies” — it was the B-side of something — doesn’t have the bass going into ‟Daddy Should Have Stayed in High School” and the background effects are a little louder on the third verse. It took me three times to hear the differences. It’s essentially the same version. That ringing sound at the front used to make everyone think their phone was ringing. It happens again in the middle of the song. That was our one joke that worked. There’s about six little jokes on the album like that: in the middle of ‟Daddy” there’s two notes of a Hammond organ right out of the blue. At the end of ‟Hot Love,” in the fade, Rick screams something about the guys in Aerosmith into his guitar pickup.

‟TV Violence” was called ‟The Ballad of Richard Speck” until the legal department at CBS said when the families of the victims sue you guys for all the royalties for this song because of the Son of Sam law, we won’t back you. You have to change the title. The lyrics are about Richard Speck — the lighter side of Cheap Trick.

‟Mandocello”: Sick Man used to do it; the LP version is the best of a bunch of versions. It’s the only song on the first album we never did live. We did it for the fan fest last summer acoustic — it was the first time Cheap Trick ever played it. [Rick] uses a mandocello on Heaven Tonight.

‟Oh Candy”: Marshall Mintz was an industrial photographer who lived in Rockford. Tom’s dad said we should try this guy; we went over and did a sitting with the guy — and got this great shot we used on posters. We went back and had another batch done and the guy was off his feed, weird. We left and a week later he committed suicide. All the photos look real evil. We really appreciated the guy and Candy — MM were his initials. The song was our first single.

The photo on the first LP cover — Rick with an accordion and Tom standing back there was photographed at Nielsen Music store. It’s the last photo of Rick without a hat.

People thought ‟Hot Love” was the start of the album because it had side 1 and side A. ‟Elo Kiddies” is actually the start of the album: the CD screwed it up. The first album — real hard to pick tunes.

For four guys that love England as much as we do, we never achieved much success over there. It was always a struggle over there. They wouldn’t put out the first album because it sounded too English. Then they didn’t want to put out the second album because it sounded too American. Jake Riviera wanted to put out the first album there and they wouldn’t let him. We never got started correctly. It still burns me 20 years later.

In Color

We walked out of Cherokee [Studios] and finished the album at Kendun.

Between basics and lead vocals we went to the Whisky and did two nights there as a little break. Two shows a night. On the first album, we went to Max’s Kansas City and did it.

When we went to shoot the cover, they didn’t bring color film. They sent someone out to get color film. Our idea was to put the good-looking guys on the front cover and the zany looking guys on the back cover.

‟So Good to See You” was a Sick Man song. That goes way back. It came out on that Nazz bootleg, which isn’t Nazz. It was originally called ‟I’m a Surprise.”

‟Southern Girls”: the single mix fades out on the refrain and the harmonies are up a little bit.

‟Hello There” is a good soundcheck song — when you play third on the bill, you don’t get a soundcheck. The guitar comes in, then snare drum, then vocals, then bass comes in, so it’s a good way for the soundman to mix the band before the audience knows what’s going on.

‟Oh Boy” was recorded for the second album; Tom Werman cut three-quarters of the bridge out, so we never put vocals on. We cut it again in ’79. The lyrics are about a guy that made love for the first time. Some guy that’s still got a flush on his face. We liked having it be a non-LP B-side.

We put ‟You’re All Talk” on because it rocks more than the studio version. We tried to get Jeff Beck to play lead on it, but he wasn’t interested. ‟Down on the Bay” we were doing live; when the first album was out, we closed concerts with it because we didn’t have anything on the first LP that was a headbanger rock’n’roll song.

‟Mrs Henry” was on Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. Dylan did it as a country song; Manfred Mann made it a rock song. We learned three songs off that album. We tried ‟Mrs. Henry” for In Color, but it didn’t cut the mustard.

‟Violins” is a pun on ‟violence,” of course. When we wrote it, it was about some guy who ran into some place and blew some people away. You ain’t seen nothing till you’ve seen some nut coming with a gun. ‟You remind me a little of Hitler / You even resemble his sister.” It’s about a nut with a gun. Growing up in the Midwest, that was a popular subject.

We were big Move fans. We’d read about them in the ’60s magazines, and I had gotten some of their singles as reject/discards from the radio station in town. Rick and Craig were always into the Move, and Tom’s brother Jim had the first Move import album. I taped it off him. We were all into the Move and when we started the band we needed some songs, so ‟California Man” and ‟Down on the Bay” were some of the first ones. We did ‟Turkish Tram Conductor Blues” right before Cheap Trick — Rick and I were in a band with Stewkey and Craig (Rick played bass) for one summer — we did ‟Hello Susie” with Joe Sundberg when he was singing with us before Cheap Trick. We tried to learn ‟Don’t Make My Baby Blue.” When we played club dates, we’d learn unknown cover songs when we didn’t have originals. Move, Patto, Family. They were good songs, they were hits in Europe — they just weren’t hits in America.

We took ‟California Man” from a live version by Wizzo or Wizzard. We used their arrangement. The guitar solo on ‟California Man” is from ‟Down on the Bay” and the ‟Brontosaurus” riff at the end. We changed it for the record a little.

Tom Werman mixed five songs from the Whisky for radio to use while we were on the KISS tour, but they were never serviced. In Color was coming out in seven weeks.

In Color got a lead review in the ‟Elvis is dead” issue [of Rolling Stone]. It sold about a quarter-million copies. Heaven Tonight got close to gold. After Budokan, it went gold and platinum. I don’t know if In Color ever went past gold. [It did, receiving a platinum plaque in 2001.]

Heaven Tonight

No usable outtakes. We were going to do a European tour with Kansas, so we were under the gun to get the record finished. It was partly recorded with Bobby Colomby’s drums from Blood Sweat and Tears. There’s strings on the record. We wanted to have a rock’n’roll orchestra. There’s cellos on ‟Auf Wiedersehen.” We didn’t have a title for the album, so we decided to name it after a song that was unlikely to be a single — if the single bombs, the album is a bomb. The song is our first great anti-drug song. You’ve taken too many drugs and gone to heaven. No one got it at all.

This mix of ‟High Roller” has a clave on it, otherwise it’s the exact same track. ‟High Roller” is the fans’ favorite song that we never play live. It was the first song that Tom, Robin and Rick sat down and wrote together, along with ‟Cry Cry,” in 1975.

‟Auf Wiedersehen.” From 1975, the original batch. That’s about a guy you hate so much you wish he’d kill himself, and you suggest it to him in many different languages. Harry Carey is an announcer for the Cubs; hara-kiri is a way of killing yourself. It was the B-side of ‟Surrender.” They figured AM radio would never play it.

‟Surrender.” The original lyrics were a bit raunchier. We had to change some of the words. WACS were either old ‟maids, dykes or whores” — those were the original lyrics. The third verse had the parents on the couch barking like hound dogs or something — instead of rolling numbers, they were doing the deed.

Dream Police

We did a song called ‟Dream Police” live in 1976. But other than the chords and the words ‟Dream Police,” it’s a completely different song. It got rewritten two or three times. It had a middle part that we used to do in Sick Man, with Rick and Tom both on bass, we also did it in Cheap Trick for a year when we started. It was ‟The Third Man Theme” sped up. Rick wrote a middle for it called ‟Ultramental.” We put that in the middle of ‟Dream Police” for a nightmare sequence.

The single of ‟Voices” was released six months ahead of the album on a European single, but the album version is the best. There’s strings on ‟Dream Police” and ‟Voices.” Rick wrote the charts. We originally cut ‟Voices” faster, with Tom and Robin singing. We finally did it live in the studio with Jai Winding on piano, Rick and Steve Lukather on acoustic guitars, Tom on bass sitting on a chair and Robin in a vocal booth.

‟Gonna Raise Hell” is another anti-drug song. We put strings on the end. We got the orchestra jones out of our blood. We had to smack boards together to try and get more crack on the snare. The disco mix by John Luongo was so bad.

‟Way of the World” was called ‟See Me Now,” before that it was ‟Man Alive.” We finished it, wiped the vocals off and redid ’em, wiped the vocals off and redid ’em. The lyrics kept getting rewritten. We did it live for about a week in ’85. It’s hard to do live.

The only outtake is ‟Must Be Love,” which Rick Derringer covered.


CBS Sony and Epic Sony in Japan were splitting into two companies, and they thought to inaugurate it with live albums by visiting artists. They shot one of the shows on video. The place holds about 12 or 14,000.

Recorded at three shows — two nights in Tokyo Budokan and one in Osaka. There’s a couple of songs on the LP from Osaka. We ended up patching [overdubbing] the bass — it had three channels, one was unplugged, one the mic was facing the wrong way all three nights.

‟I Want You to Want Me” is from Tokyo. On that song, the crowd would drown us out with ‟Cryin Cryin Cryin!” The first night we almost dropped our gear. We didn’t know it was coming; it freaked us out. We couldn’t leave our hotel rooms or even look out the windows.

It was getting imported so much that we put it out. It was never supposed to come out in America — [they told us] ‟Don’t worry about the cover.” We found studio chatter from Dream Police, Tom and Robin are saying we look like a bunch of sheep on the cover. Who cares? It ain’t coming out. We left for Europe, they put it out and didn’t expect it to sell more than a few hundred thousand copies. Then Dream Police would come out…

We met with our accountants at the beginning of 1979. They told us we were doing pretty good, that we would each make about $35,000 that year. Even though we were in debt about a half-million dollars, we can keep the salaries up this year. Two months later, it was ‟Quick, buy something so you can write it off.” The band bought some apartment buildings.

We cut ‟I Want You to Want Me” for In Color, and Niko Flynn covered it in France. He’s got the coolest pop version. He’s got a couple of changes in the chorus that we didn’t have, that we actually use on the line ‟Cryin’” — the chord steps up. We got that from his version. He did that and we stole it from him. It’s on our live version.

How did you feel about the Beastie Boys sample? [Check Your Head includes a spoken snippet from Budokan]?

We considered it a compliment.

All Shook Up

The record company expected us to use Werman. We’d flown George Martin in to talk to him and asked him to make a record with us; there was nothing the people from the label could do. We wanted better sounds than on Dream Police, we wanted the record to sound richer. George Martin. Geoff Emerick. Tom wanted the ‟Rain” sound for the bass on ‟Stop This Game.”

‟Everything Works” was done for a soundtrack during the same sessions. We were in LA and went to see the credits/intro to Roadie and they wanted to use ‟On Top of the World.” Rick went to his room to re­write the lyrics and ended up rewriting the whole song. The chords in the verse of ‟On Top of the World” are a cousin to the chords of ‟Everything Works If You Let It.” They took that. We also did some acoustic bits for an intro.

Rick was working on ‟World’s Greatest Lover” as far back as ’76 or ’77. Then he showed up with it in 1980. Rick and George [Martin] played piano on it. Then we added bass and guitar and drums after that. Rick had done a guide vocal, and they put a Leslie effect on it because he didn’t want to hear his regular voice. I found a cassette of it, and we thought it was neat.

Tom wanted songs on the record that he’d written. He wanted to do a solo record. He wanted to sing lead. All Shook Up was a good title. Tom was in Montserrat for two and a half weeks and he went home. He finished his parts and flew back to Hollywood. He didn’t show up for pre-production on the record; one of our roadies filled in. The first half of the LP was done, the rest we did what we could.

‟Baby Loves to Rock”: Rick plays bass on it; Tom had already left to go home. That was all the bass work that needed to be done.

‟Just Got Back” was one of the first drum choir songs. ‟Let’s do 24 tracks of drums before the band even shows up.” I played a piano seat with a pair of drums, a box. George and Geoff love to build tracks like this.

Found All the Parts

We lost [Tom] for All Shook Up and Found All the Parts. We went to New York to do ‟Daytripper,” which is fake live. We [initially] recorded it in Chicago in June 1979 for a radio show. The tapes were no good, so we rented some gear and me, Rick and Robin ran through the song twice. Rick put the bass on; we used the applause from the Chicago show. Jack sat down with a knife and cut about 30 or 40 seconds out of the song. We found the unedited version.

The idea for Found All the Parts was one song each from ’76 – ’77 – ’78 – ’79. What’s on there is three songs from 1980 and one from 1978. ‟Take Me I’m Yours” and ‟Good Girl” are from January 1980 — the same session as ‟I Need Love” — and ‟Can’t Hold On” is a Budokan outtake. ‟I Need Love” was a ballad from ’75 – ’77. We did it for about a year. When we went in the studio, we pretty much remembered it.

Rock and Rule

We started those in the fall of ’80 in LA with the engineer Jack was using on the Lennon sessions, then went to NY and finished them with Jack. The movie was a Canadian animation film called Drats. Blondie, Iggy, Lou Reed, Robin, myself and Rick, with characters based on each. Robin sang with Blondie on a track. ‟Born to Raise Hell” was used on The Watcher TV show last year. No soundtrack got released. They put the movie out for a week. Rick plays bass on all of it. Pete was in the band, but we didn’t like the way he played it.

‟Ohm Sweet Ohm” — that’s Jack Small on piano, who played on the John Lennon sessions. ‟I’m the Man” was a Sick Man song called ‟I’m Deranged.”

One on One

Pete Comita was in the band from August 1980, right before Japan when Tom called in sick, we toured for a year, cut the Rock and Rule and Heavy Metal soundtracks. We started doing tracks for One on One in October or November 1981, and Pete left. All he did was imitate Tom’s parts. He played a 12-string bass and got carpal tunnel from it. Tom is the master of the 12-string bass.

We did a week’s worth of demos with Pete [Comita]. It wasn’t really happening. We decided to get another bass player. Just before we went to tell him he called up and said I can’t handle this anymore. It was amicable. Rick and me and Robin cut most of the album. Rick’s on bass on eight or nine songs. Jon [Brant]’s on bass on the first two or three of Side Two. ‟Saturday at Midnight” — Jon could play that, Rick wasn’t too hot on it.

We recut a lot of the songs. ‟She’s Tight” is our tribute to Eddie Cochran. The [box set] version of ‟If You Want My Love” is a rough mix, before the keyboards went on, and it’s got an extra bridge. Rick came in with that song finished. All we did is imitate it. Rick used to demo just with guitar.

‟All I Really Want to Do”: Rick and I played it on bass and drums once one night and the next day came in and finished it. It was the B-side to ‟She’s Tight.” Robin sings it.

‟Ghost Town”: The demo version before we rewrote it with Diane Warren. It was written for One on One and wound up on Lap of Luxury. She rewrote the verses and added a bridge.

‟Love’s Got a Hold of Me” goes back to the bar days.

Next Position Please

Epic said we didn’t have a hit single. They picked two songs, ‟Twisted Heart” and a rocker called ‟Hit Me With Love,” and took them off. We weren’t happy about either of those. They asked us to re-record an outtake from One on One called ‟You Say Jump” — which is ‟I Want You to Want Me” Junior. We did it at Todd’s studio; it’s a piece of dreck. The One on One version has some balls. And they told us to do [the Motors’] ‟Dancing the Night Away.” We did it at Pierce Arrow and tried to make it sound like a Cheap Trick song.

The version of ‟Twisted Heart” for One on One was okay, but we did a better version for Next Position Please.

‟Don’t Make Our Love a Crime” and ‟You Talk Too Much” were the cassette bonus tracks. Either one is better than the stuff they made us put on there.

We went up to Woodstock to do the record. We worked noon to 6:30. We did a version of ‟I Can’t Take It” for One on One but it wasn’t quite together. We used to play songs live before we recorded them, but around then we couldn’t do that, so there was no place to warm them up. That started with Heaven Tonight; we’d learn songs in a rehearsal room and go in the studio the next week and cut it.

‟Y O Y O Y” is a ballad we never did live. That was going to be the title of the album. Next Position Please, which ended up the title song, was a leftover from Dream Police. Originally each one of us had a verse, Rick wrote about each of us.

Standing on the Edge

The band and Epic were suing each other over money, contracts etc. We weren’t even speaking to anyone at the company at this point.

We got together with Jack Douglas just at the time Yoko was suing him over royalties. He was under siege. We wanted something that sounded like the first album. We were happy with Todd, but the record company wasn’t. We did the album in Lake Geneva. We finished up, and Rick and Jack went to New York to mix it. After three or four weeks we only had about four songs mixed. It got out of hand, so we took the record away from him. Different people tried to mix ‟Tonight It’s You.” Finally, Tony Platt did a mix of it. He engineered Patto’s third album. The studios listed are where it was mixed.

Platt salvaged Standing on the Edge. Before he was involved, we demoed stuff at Pierce Arrow, that’s where ‟Funk #9” comes from. That’s live in the studio, with Rick sitting in a chair playing guitar and piano. It’s an instrumental version of ‟The Doctor.”

‟A Place in France” (‟Mama Won’t Let You”) got left off.

Mark Radice, who played keyboards with Aerosmith, came to Rockford for two months, living in Robin’s basement. He co-wrote most of the songs with Rick. The record company told us we weren’t strong enough to write our own songs. He expedited stuff. It was a big deal for Rick.

The Doctor

‟Fortune Cookie” is an unreleased song, recorded as a demo while on the road in Birmingham, Alabama.

‟Money Is the Route of All Fun”: When they took the album to England to mix they got Roy Wood to sing on it.

‟Take Me to the Top”: I think it’s real Beatle-y.

They spent so long mixing the album in Europe that me and Brant did some gigs as the Bun E. Carlos Experience. Rick and Tony [Platt] were in a farmhouse somewhere in England, but we had fun that summer. We learned a bunch of Big Chill-type songs and went out and played.

They threw ‟Kiss Me Red” at us and said you have to do this song. I played the lamest drums I could without going off beat. That’s the only time I’ve ever done that on record. ‟Kiss Me Red” came out and died the death. It took the album down with it.

Lap of Luxury

We met Tom at Radio City at a John Waite show. [Epic executive] Don Grierson wanted us to do some­thing with Tom. We thought we’d do a law firm band — C N Z & P — and give Cheap Trick a rest. We did one demo and it felt so much better than it did with Jon [Brant] or Pete [Comita], so let’s get Tom back in the band and call it Cheap Trick.

[Producer] Richie Zito had played with Elton John. He produced You Can Leave Your Hat On. In 1987, he and Don Grierson came to Rockford, and we played them a bunch of our stuff, like ‟You Want It,” ‟Through the Night,” ‟Never Had a Lot to Lose” and ‟Ghost Town.” Don had a list of 15 or so songs for us to try, and we demoed a bunch of stuff. ‟Space” was OK; we didn’t know Charlie Sexton had done it on a record. ‟No Mercy” was written for the movie and not used. Rick did some writing with Todd Cerney. Usually the record company would suggest people. We were so discouraged that we listened to their suggestions. About half the time they were right and half the time they were wrong. We wasted a lot of time doing demos.

Grierson brought us ‟The Flame,” written by two Englishmen: Nick Graham and Bob Mitchell. We put a keyboard down first; Rick listened to it, walked out. I put drums on it, Robin put vocals on. A couple of days later, Rick listened to it again and said, ‟OK, I’ll play on it.” He didn’t like the song. When we played the Hammersmith in London with Living Colour it was number-90. England was the only country in the world where we couldn’t give it away. It went up to 88 and then dropped off the charts.

Our original songs for the album — like ‟You Want It,” ‟Through the Night” and ‟Stop That Thief” — wound up as B-sides or soundtrack songs. ‟Stop That Thief” was used in Another Way, a Japanese spy movie with Robert Vaughan. We did the song with Giorgio Moroder. There’s a Japanese soundtrack album. It’s Rick’s song.

‟You Want It” wound up on the Say Anything soundtrack. It was an album leftover. ‟Through the Night” ended up on a UK B-side. ‟I Know What I Want Live” is a Spring Break ’88 indoor show. It’s the B-side version.

Richie [Zito] was pretty picky. A lot of the personality got left off. I did a 4/4 bass drum part on ‟Through the Night” and Richie didn’t like it. When he mixed it he went through and erased every other bass drum hit.

‟Bite It” is a Screamin’ Jay Hawkins song.


The [label] record company insisted we use Zito again. ‟You Drive I’ll Steer” was originally titled ‟Lap of Luxury.” The photo is at the Wiltern Theater in LA. We did it at A&M, blew tons of money. We were flush,
and they were buying.

They were convinced the Diane Warren song, ‟When You Need Someone,” the son of ‟The Flame,” was going to be number-one. That ‟Back ‘n’ Blue” fake Stones thing got shoved on us. ‟Rock’n’Roll Tonight” is from Wizzard’s Introducing Eddy and the Falcons. Bruce Hornsby played piano on the session but we couldn’t use him. Mick Jones [the Foreigner one] helped on ‟If You Need Me;” Rick had written it for Standing on the Edge and Mick helped rewrite. It came out real good.

Rod Stewart was trying to get ‟Can’t Stop Fallin’ Into Love” from us. We cut a demo with Harvey Scales from Milwaukee singing it. Rod heard his demo and wanted to do it. We were torn. We thought it was a hit, so we kept the song for our record. It did good as a single. Then they released ‟Wherever Would I Be” and yanked it.

Bun E Carlos and Ira Robbins, 2016

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