How Cheap Trick’s ‘I Want You to Want Me’ Almost Didn’t Get a Second Chance
"I Want You to Want Me" became Cheap Trick's breakout hit in 1979, thanks to a live version recorded at Tokyo's Nippon Budokan a year earlier. But according to singer Robin Zander, the song wasn't even supposed to be in the band's set that night.
As he told the St. Pete Catalyst in 2020, the song hadn't been too well-received by audiences in the period leading up to the April 1978 Budokan dates. “'I Want You to Want Me' was recorded on In Color and, honestly, we had played that song over the first couple of years live, in clubs and stuff, and it got kind of an 'Ehhh, okay ... ' response," Zander recalled. "We didn’t do it every night or anything."
The singer said when Cheap Trick arrived at the Tokyo venue, "I Want You to Want Me" "wasn’t even in the set that we were gonna do. About 15 minutes before we were going to go on, our manager came up to us and said the Japanese production guy said we needed another song, because our set’s not long enough. He suggested putting 'I Want You to Want Me' in the set, so we did, and that became the big hit off the album. Who knew?"
At the time, the band had released three records that failed to deliver a hit in the U.S., but they all sold extremely well in Japan; the Budokan dates were originally meant solely for their Japanese fans. Zander remembered the "fear" of that first taste of massive fame when they performed those soon-to-be-career-changing shows.
Listen to Cheap Trick's Live 'I Want You to Want Me'
"Going to Budokan and being treated like John Lennon was a little frightening, when you can’t go out of your room," he noted. "They blackened out the windows in your hotel room and put security guards out in front of your room. And to get anywhere, you’d have to get into a postal vehicle with the windows blacked out. They would take you down the street, and there’d be 15 or 20 taxicabs following you everywhere you go."
Cheap Trick at Budokan came out in Japan in October 1978. Import copies began selling in the U.S., so Epic Records decided to officially release it in the States four months later. "I Want You to Want Me" reached No. 7, their biggest U.S. The huge success of the single and album pushed back the release date of Cheap Trick's fourth studio album, Dream Police, which was all ready to go when Budokan hit.