Bun E.'s Basement Bootlegs, Vol. 3: Covers '74-'00

Bun E.’s Basement Bootlegs were CD’s sold through Cheap Trick’s official website and fan club. They contained previously unreleased Cheap Trick recordings from the band’s archives, compiled by drummer Bun E. Carlos. There were four separate volumes issued between the years 2000 and 2002. Each one was limited to 1,000 copies. Each CD was packaged in a plain white cardboard sleeve with a stamped illustration of the drummer’s face and his hand-autographed initials. The discs were numbered using black marker. Each disc had a different theme to classify the types of tracks included on it.

The theme of the third volume, issued in 2001, was “Covers”, and it contained recordings (mostly live) of Cheap Trick covering various songs both classic and obscure. These tracks were recorded at various times during the years between 1974 (when Cheap Trick was just beginning) and 2000. Also, this volume featured a bonus disc, documenting early live performances from the band from 1975.

The Covers disc has nary a dull moment, with the song selection serving as a window into the band’s musical loves and influences. There are plenty of British Invasion songs covered here, including faithful renditions of the Kinks’ “A Well Respected Man” and the Small Faces’ “Whatcha Gonna Do About It”. Two lesser-known Rolling Stones songs made the cut: “Parachute Woman” and “Heart of Stone”, both of which sound like short but efficient rehearsal takes. It’s no secret that Cheap Trick love the Beatles, but this collection shows a partiality towards John Lennon’s solo work, containing a studio recording of “Cold Turkey” (less polished than the one on the 1995 Lennon tribute album Working Class Hero) and a live performance of “It’s So Hard”. Their rocking cover of Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” is clearly based on Lennon’s version. Ironically, their grandiose rendition of Barrett Strong’s “Money (That’s What I Want)” almost bypasses the Beatles and acknowledges the song’s R&B roots, as it features ornate horns and female backing vocals; it was originally released on the 1988 soundtrack to Caddyshack II. The “Medley” on track 13 is an instrumental mixture of three Yardbirds classics: “Shapes of Things”, “Heart Full of Soul”, and “For Your Love”.

The band also pays homage to some early rock and roll classics, performing Elvis’ “All Shook Up” (which they presumably named their 1980 album after) with an odd but entertaining bagpipes arrangement. They don’t mess around with Johnny Kidd’s “Shakin’ All Over”; they just give it the straight-ahead Who-like rock and roll treatment it deserves. They also do Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Ramblin’ Rose”, but it’s totally based on the anarchic pre-punk version by the MC5. Guitarist Rick Nielsen takes the lead vocal, clownishly mimicking the falsetto of the MC5 rendition.

Also, the band covers Harry Nilsson’s wild “Jump Into The Fire”, and they pull it off very well – better than lead singer Robin Zander did on his self-titled 1993 solo album. The live version of “Speak Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace”, the Terry Reid song that Trick covered on their 1977 debut album, features a five-minute instrumental intro that will delight their fans. A major standout track is their rendition of the Velvet Underground’s “Waiting For The Man”, sung by bassist Tom Petersson. It has sparser instrumentation than the similar version on the box set Sex America Cheap Trick. It has an effective small-club blues-rock feel, and inserts a verse from “Heroin” at just the right moment.

Although the Covers disc has the type of loosely-assembled presentation that one would expect from an official boot, it has more value than many covers albums that other artists have released commercially.

This volume came with a bonus disc that actually has even greater value. Beertown ’75 contains 14 live tracks recorded two years before the release of Cheap Trick’s 1977 debut album. The band was still in its infancy at the time of these performances, during a twilight year when glitter-rock was about to fade and punk rock was waiting to explode. Four of these songs turned up on the first two albums (“Richard Speck” was renamed “The Ballad of TV Violence” on the debut), “You Talk Too Much” eventually turned up on the 1983 album Next Position Please, and “(We’re Gonna) Rock n Roll Tonight” is the same Roy Wood song that the band did in the studio for Busted 15 years later. It’s certainly interesting to hear the early performances of those songs, but the revelations on this disc are the songs that never made it onto a Cheap Trick album. Most (if not all) of them are of the same quality as the songs on the first three albums, from the band’s essential period, and are similar in tone to the songs on the superb debut. Robin Zander’s youthful voice is a marvel; the energetic instrumentation is particularly impressive on the extended jams of the six-minute “Tom’s Blues” and the eight-minute “Dealer”. The opening track “Pain Pain” follows its soft, lilting stanzas with hard, punchy choruses, a practice which was probably unusual in 1975. Oh, if only there were studio versions of all of these songs!

2/13/2024 Update: As of 2023, there is now an official Bun E.'s Basement Bootlegs channel on YouTube, on which more of the archived material has thankfully been made available for listening. Two of the uploaded videos contain the content of the two discs in this Volume. Those videos are embedded below for your pleasure. Enjoy!

Bun E.'s Basement Bootlegs “Covers '74 to '00” (no label, CT004ENHANCE) 2001

Track Listing:

1. All Shook Up
2. Cold Turkey
3. Parachute Woman
4. Jump Into The Fire
5. A Well Respected Man
6. It’s So Hard
7. Whatcha Gonna Do About It
8. Waiting For The Man
9. Heart Of Stone
10. Shakin' All Over
11. Stand By Me
12. Ramblin' Rose
13. Medley – (instrumental medley of the Yardbirds songs “Shapes of Things”, “Heart Full of Soul”, and “For Your Love”)
14. Speak Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace
15. Money (That's What I Want)

Bun E.’s BONUS Basement Bootleg “Beertown '75” (no label, CT 003 01) 2001

Track Listing:

1. Pain Pain
2. Punch Ya / Talk Too Much
3. Blow Me Away
4. Richard Speck (aka "The Ballad of TV Violence")
5. I Was A Fool
6. I Want You To Want Me
7. Rock n Roll Tonight
8. Not Fade Away
9. I Know
10. Southern Girls
11. Tom's Blues
12. Dealer
13. He's A Whore
14. Need A Little Girl

Volume 1

Volume 2

Volume 4

Rarebird’s Cheap Trick Reviews