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"Can you honestly tell me you've forgotten? Forgotten the charisma of Rick Nielson, the magnetism of Robin Zander?"-- Damone from Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Cheap Trick (pictured right), the pride of Rockford, Ill., has had more comebacks than Cher over the past quarter of a century. In some form or another, the band has been going since the mid-'70s. Nielson and bassist Tom Peterson go back to '67 with the Grim Reapers, not to mention Sick Man of Europe, with Nielson, Peterson and Brad Carlson, a.k.a. Bun E. Carlos, or Fuse, who released an album in '69. Plunged into the spotlight when Cheap Trick at Budokan exploded back in '79, the band have weathered both personal problems (Peterson left the band for a while in the '80s) and the fickle tastes of the masses. Somehow, they've never lost it, whether they were playing arenas or doing the club circuit.

With tour staples like "Surrender" and "Dream Police" part of mainstream consciousness, the band has some famous fans. When Guided by Voices opened a string of dates for Cheap Trick, Robert Pollard was so excited that he'd blow his voice out singing along. He even mounted the stage to perform "Surrender" with Zander, much to the concern of Cheap Trick's stage crew. "I was thinking, 'When am I ever going to have a chance to do this again?'" Pollard said in a recent interview.

Like the Ramones, Big Star or other influential bands, Cheap Trick are icons. And while the Ramones are retired and Chilton seems stuck doing his Memphis R&B cover schtick, Cheap Trick are pure, undiluted: Nielson's insidiously catchy hooks still cut and Carlos still makes the cigarette-butt-off the-cymbal trick seem easy. These days, Peterson has got a Heartbreaker's look going on (New York City in '79) but Robin Zander is timeless--when he screams the "we're all alright" at the end of "Surrender," time stands still. If you're not a believer, check out Cheap Trick this Monday, Jan. 22 at the Cat's Cradle. 967-9053. --Angie Carlson

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