If you’re looking for a classic band that represents so much of the 70s and 80s pop-rock, Cheap Trick could be up there near the top of your list. This American band from Illinois started in 1973 but found big success in 1979 in, of all places, Japan.
When they returned to America to release a live album they recorded there; they ended up on the charts with some big hits. And they’re still rocking, even today.
So, what are the best Cheap Trick songs of all time? You might have your top two or three favorites, but here’s my list of the top 37 songs this band rocked their hearts out on.
- 37 Best Cheap Trick Songs of All Time
- 1 Can’t Stop Fallin’ Into Love
- 2 Southern Girls
- 3 If You Want My Love
- 4 Ain’t That a Shame
- 5 Out in the Street
- 6 Heaven Tonight
- 7 Don’t Be Cruel
- 8 The Flame
- 9 Surrender
- 10 I Want You to Want Me
- 11 Voices
- 12 Tonight It’s You
- 13 Dream Police
- 14 Way of the World
- 15 She’s Tight
- 16 California Man
- 17 Need Your Love
- 18 Everything Works If You Let It
- 19 Stop This Game
- 20 I Can’t Take It
- 21 You’re All Talk
- 22 High Roller
- 23 Clock Strikes Ten
- 24 Mandocello
- 25 Rock ‘n’ Roll Tonight
- 26 On Top of the World
- 27 Mighty Wings
- 28 World’s Greatest Lover
- 29 She’s Got Motion
- 30 Love Comes
- 31 Baby Loves to Rock
- 32 Never Had a Lot to Lose
- 33 O Claire
- 34 Rock All Night
- 35 Ghost Town
- 36 Daddy Should Have Stayed in High School
- 37 Goodnight Now
- Who Is Cheap Trick?
- Looking for Incredible Songs?
- The 37 Best Cheap Trick Songs of All Time
37 Best Cheap Trick Songs of All Time
Can’t Stop Fallin’ Into Love
If you wanted to encapsulate the year 1990 in a single sound, it would be the song “Can’t Stop Fallin’ Into Love.” Although we’re starting with this song, it was Cheap Trick’s last song to hit the Top 40 in the US to date.
This song was written by the band and was offered to Rod Steward. But, Epic Records wanted Cheap Trick to record their version. So, this song was added to the 1990 album, Busted and also released as a single. It hit #12 and is one of Cheap Trick’s most memorable songs.
The song is a big-hair-power-ballad, with strong rock drums, swirling drums, and soppy lyrics. This is Cheap Trick at their hair-rockingest.
Before they got big, Cheap Trick still recorded some great songs, and one of the best is “Southern Girls.” This song came out on 1977’s In Color and although it failed to chart back then, is still a fan favorite.
This blues-inspired, swinging rock song has a driving beat that gets shaken up halfway through. The guitar swells and piano work help to drive this song along while also dating it as a late 70s rocker.
This peppy song may be a favorite down in the Southern States, but there’s a surprise twist here. Cheap Trick came from Illinois, and the “southern girls” they’re talking about were from southern Canada. I guess they had some interesting cross-border interactions.
If You Want My Love
The year was 1982, and Cheap Trick was still enjoying a huge level of success. When the band released One On One, they were still looking to their original 70s rock style for inspiration, but also attempting to do something new.
“If You Want My Love” is faster and harder than a power ballad, although it does lean a bit in that direction. Luckily, Nielsen’s guitar work and Zander’s vocals come in hard and dirty enough to keep this song from getting cheesy.
Instead, this is a great sing-along anthem-style song that has a lot of energy and a great hook. Just look at this chorus:
“If you want my love you got it/When you need my love you got it/I won’t hide it/I won’t throw your love away, ooh”
Ain’t That a Shame
I hate to say it, but some of the greatest Cheap Trick songs are their covers. That’s not to say their own songwriting wasn’t great. It’s just that they managed to capitalize on well-known songs by bringing them back into the market and making them their own.
“Ain’t That a Shame” is a blues classic from Dave Bartholomew and the legendary Fats Domino. Cheap Trick paid homage to this version with a live recording on their history-making 1979 record At Budokan.
Making it their own…
It begins with a drum-heavy, energetic build-up before switching into a straight-time version of the previously swinging classic. This song is full of electricity, and the interplay between Bun E. Carlos’ hard-hitting drumming and Rick Neilsen’s guitar wizardry makes their version successful.
This is one of the band’s tracks that propelled them into rock stardom. While it only hit #35 on the American charts, it was a popular cover and one they continued to play for years.
Out in the Street
While this song is called “Out in the Street,” it’s probably best known as the theme song to the “turn-of-the-century” (can I say that?) TV show, “That ‘70s Show”. This song was written and recorded by Big Star in the early 70s but didn’t get a whole lot of recognition.
However, when “That ’70s Show” adopted it as its theme song, it became instantly recognizable. Cheap Trick recorded the version that was used from the 2nd season of the show onward, so it was on TV for years.
The Cheap Trick version is cleanly produced but retains a pretty hard edge. The drums boom, the guitar shreds, and Zander’s vocals are full of energy. This is also a song that was perfect to add to their book and sounds like an original Cheap Trick song.
This was released as the title track of Cheap Trick’s third album in 1978. It never became a big hit, but I think it is still one of the band’s most artistic and creative songs. It’s also a bit of an epic at over five minutes long.
This song features some weird sounds like cello, harpsichord, and mandocello that help to create an eerie, ethereal atmosphere. Combined with the minor key, hypnotic lyrics, and Zander’s voice with lots of effects on it, this made for a truly different sound for the band.
And that’s what they wanted…
This is a song about overdosing on drugs (“You can never come down”) and was intended as an anti-drug song. This was in response to the prevalence of drugs in the 1970s music scene. I think this is one song that shows Cheap Trick’s versatility and artistry as a band.
Don’t Be Cruel
In the mid to late 80s, Cheap Trick wasn’t doing well in the music market. They had recorded The Doctor in ’86, which was a commercial flop, and they also went looking for a new label. But, with the album, Lap Of Luxury, they came back with a splash.
One of the hit singles that hailed the band’s return to the limelight was “Don’t Be Cruel.” This song was written in 1956 by bluesman and songwriter Otis Blackwell. It was recorded and made hugely famous by Elvis Presley in the same year.
Back on top…
So, when Cheap Trick covered the song, they had to give it a modern edge. They used Bun E. Carlos’ booming 80s-sounding rock drums, and some distorted guitar sounds to make the song their own. Robin Zander also sings a lot higher than Elvis in this version.
They also combined it with a very memorable music video that got some heavy rotation. It featured the band in a black and white checkerboard patterned room complete with doo-wop girls. The familiar but re-worked song shot up to #4 in the charts and helped to put the band back on the map.
By the late 80s, Cheap Trick was pretty much out of the mainstream, but they weren’t done yet. Likewise, their 1988 album, Lap Of Luxury, is considered Cheap Trick’s comeback album after a slow decline in popularity throughout the 80s.
The boys still had some tricks up their sleeves… (oh, come on, I had to!)
“The Flame” is one of those 80s power ballads that drips with romanticism and big hair. This was the first time that Cheap Trick worked with outside songwriters. But, they were pressured to do so by their label. The result was a mushy love song with poetic lyrics like:
“I’m going crazy, I’m losing sleep/I’m in too far, I’m in way too deep over you/You’ll always be the one/You were the first, you’ll be the last”
Pretty interchangeable with any other power ballad, right?
But, it seems it was the right move for the band. This song was their first and only #1 US Top 100 hit, also reaching #1 in Australia and Canada.
After that, Cheap Trick had two more big singles from this album, and it sparked a whole new interest in the band. For that reason, it is one of the best Cheap Trick songs of all time.
This is one of the most popular Cheap Trick songs, and it was one of their first hits. “Surrender” is a 70s rock anthem. When it first came out, it was released on the 1978 album Heaven Tonight. It was the band’s first song to reach the Billboard Top 100 and climbed to a modest #62 there.
However, this was a massive hit in Japan. It helped to lead to the 1979 concert and live album Cheap Trick at Budokan. This album boosted the band’s popularity in a big way, both at home and abroad.
An 80s anthem…
This song also gave Cheap Trick a huge boost when it was featured on the soundtrack for “Fast Times At Ridgemont High.” This was one of those quintessential 80s movies that helped to define a whole generation, and this song helped express it.
“Surrender” was written by lead guitarist Rick Nielsen and features a supremely catchy verse, a great hooky chorus, and a sing-along chant of “We’re all alright!” at the end. This song was all about the weirdness of family, making it one of the best teen anthems of all time.
I Want You to Want Me
I think it’s indisputable that “I Want You to Want Me” is Cheap Trick’s best song ever. Of course, I know this is a bold statement, but come on – this song!
It’s got that great up-tempo, swinging beat. It’s got a verse that’s so catchy it’s only beaten out by the chorus in sing-along-ability.
The guitar chugs along, and the bass plugs away through the whole song, giving it an energetic drive and power that sets your toes to tapping immediately. Throw in some screaming guitar solos, and you’ve got one of the best power-pop songs of all time.
Second time around…
It’s a huge surprise that this song didn’t chart at all when it came out on 1977’s In Color. Maybe that was just the wrong time and place, or maybe it didn’t just get enough exposure.
Perhaps it was too slow, too jangly with the piano in the mix, or too cheesy with its finger snaps. But, after it came out as a faster, more powerful version on the Budokan live album, this song finally got its due.
Also, it’s been covered several times, most notably by Letters to Cleo for the soundtrack to the movie “10 Things I Hate About You” and by the Canadian punk band Propagandhi. I don’t know about you, but when I think about the best Cheap Trick songs of all time, I think, “I Want You to Want Me.”
Tonight It’s You
Way of the World
Need Your Love
Everything Works If You Let It
Stop This Game
I Can’t Take It
You’re All Talk
Clock Strikes Ten
Rock ‘n’ Roll Tonight
On Top of the World
World’s Greatest Lover
She’s Got Motion
Baby Loves to Rock
Never Had a Lot to Lose
Rock All Night
Daddy Should Have Stayed in High School
Who Is Cheap Trick?
Cheap Trick is an American rock band that started in Illinois in 1973 and is still rocking today. Their classic line-up included guitarist Rick Nielsen, singer Robin Zander, bassist Tom Peterssen, and drummer Bun E. Carlos.
They’re best known for a particular brand of pop rock that started in the 70s and managed to survive through big changes in the music industry in the 80s and 90s.
An adaptable band…
Bun E. Carlos was known for his hard-hitting style. He either left or was ousted from the band in 2010, however. Since then, Rick Nielsen’s son Daxx Neilsen has been drumming with the band.
Tom Peterssen was a founding member of the band. Together with Carlos, his bass work gave the band a steady, hard-driving sound. And, in the band’s heyday, he filled up the low-end by playing a custom 12-string bass that he basically invented.
Like a hydra…
Rick Nielsen is known for his skilled guitar work just about as much as his odd fashion sense. Known for wearing a suit, bow tie, and ball cap on stage, Nielsen is instantly recognizable. He’s also well-known for coming up with the 5-necked guitar he developed in collaboration with Hamar.
This was a beast that combined various guitar sounds (fretless, 12-string, etc.) on one massive body so that he could transition between guitars during his long solos.
Finally, Robin Zander replaced original singer Randy Hogan as the vocalist and rhythm guitarist of Cheap Trick. His vocal range and energetic singing give the band a unique sound. And Zander was also something of a heartthrob who made the fans scream.
Looking for Incredible Songs?
We can help you with that. So, take a look at our informative articles on the Best The Guess Who Songs of All Time, the Best Breaking Benjamin Songs of All Time, the Best Fleetwood Mac Songs, and the Best Alanis Morissette Songs of All Time for more great song selections.
And you’ll need to hear all that music at its best. So, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best True Wireless Earbuds, the Best Sound Quality Earbuds, the Best Bass Earbuds, and the Best Noise Isolating Earbuds you can buy in 2023.
Also, you may like our comprehensive reviews of the Best Headphones For Rock & Metal Music, the Best Headphones Under $200, the Most Comfortable Headphones, and the Best Wireless Bluetooth Headphones currently on the market.
The 37 Best Cheap Trick Songs of All Time
Cheap Trick is a band that has become a legend. They’ve been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and even have their own day, Cheap Trick Day, in their native Illinois (April 1st, of course!).
Now that you’ve seen my list of the best Cheap Trick songs, how does it compare to yours? There’s always going to be controversy, but I don’t think I missed anything from the top 37.
Whether or not you agree that “I Want You to Want Me” is their best song ever, I’m sure you can’t deny that it deserves a place either at or very near the top.
Until next time, happy listening.