Ahead of the release of Cheap Trick’s new album In Another World, guitarist Rick Nielsen reminisces about meeting John Lennon, his first performance with Robin Zander, and the first album he ever bought in this installment of Rolling Stone’s The First Time interview series.
Although Nielsen is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-inducted guitar god, he actually got his start by playing drums, as evidenced by the first album he ever purchased, Sandy Nelson’s Let There Be Drums.
Soon after, Nielsen moved over to the guitar, telling Rolling Stone what his first model was. “A Goya, a Swedish guitar with nylon strings,” Nielsen said, adding he still owned the guitar. “It’s in bad shape, but that’s what I used to write a lot of stuff on.”
While the Cheap Trick trio of Nielsen, bassist Tom Petersson, and drummer Bun E. Carlos first started performing together in the late Sixties, they wouldn’t meet singer Robin Zander until 1973, five years and one vocalist later.
“We actually rehearsed in my parents’ garage,” Nielsen said. “I didn’t know it exactly right then, but he was the singer I was always looking for. Someone that had a real voice that could sing… I had other guys that I worked with, but Robin was the one.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Nielsen talks about meeting John Lennon and lending him a guitar just four months before his 1980 death, the first song that ever made Nielsen cry, and playing the band’s legendary Budokan shows in Japan.
Almost 50 years after Cheap Trick formed, the Rock Hall outfit will release their 20th studio album In Another World on April 9th.