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Cheap Trick keeps to its own pace in its fourth decade

@graffonmusic, Facebook.com/Gary Graff on Music

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Cheap Trick has been around long enough (40 years) to enjoy a regular stream of significant anniversaries.

This year's is the 25th anniversary of "Lap of Luxury," the quartet's last platinum album and the home of its only No. 1 hit, "The Flame" -- a rare case of Cheap Trick recording something by outside writers, which made for a somewhat ambivalent attitude towards the track.

"It was our record company and our management and our producer telling us, 'Here's what you need! Here's what you need!" recalls guitarist Rick Nielsen, 64. "('The Flame') was the 10th 'Here's what you need,' and by the time we got to that we had rejected nine other things that were the greatest thing on earth. So we took it just out of frustration.

"But, y'know, it's a Cheap Trick song. I did a good solo on it. Robin (Zander) sings it great. It's got a lot of emotion. But at the time we did it, we felt a whole backlash against the management and record company and producer and everybody else."

These days, meanwhile, Cheap Trick is keeping to its own course. The group's own label, Cheap Trick Unlimited, has released its last three studio albums, including 2009's "The Latest," and the group has made inroads in other media -- particularly TV, where its cover of Big Star's "In the Street" was used for "That 70s Show" and the group wrote the "Baby Mumbles" theme song for "The Colbert Report."

And Nielsen says he's confident there will be more where that came from in the future.

"We've always got enough stuff to make a record, but nobody's, like, dying to get a new Cheap Trick record," the guitarist says. "We put out (new) records and everyone still goes back and plays the older stuff. We're never going to be the next new big thing, so it's difficult.

"That's why we rely a lot on playing live and surprising people occasionally with new opportunities, like the TV stuff. And that keeps it interesting for us, too."

Cheap Trick performs at 8 p.m. Thursday, May 16, at SoundBoard in the Motor City Casino and Hotel, 2901 Grand River Ave., Detroit. Tickets are $35-$48. Call 1-866-782-9622 or visit www.motorcitycasino.com.

Web Site: www.motorcitycasino.com

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