Wednesday Weeper of the Week: “Ghost Town” by Cheap TrickPosted: October 22, 2014
In 1988, Cheap Trick were up against it with their record company following the commercial failure of their previous album and were forced to use outside songwriters. The resulting album, The Flame, was a big hit with a pair of Top 10 smashes, so sometimes the suits are right; as strained as the title track may have sounded, it went to #1 and revived the band’s career.
Perhaps the most surprising of the songwriting contributions came from Diane Warren, she of the endless Michael Bolton and Celine Dion ballads and a ridiculous streak of Best Song Oscar contenders in the early 90’s. While rock purists might not be able to stomach her helping out these power-pop legends on principle, “Ghost Town,” the song that she wrote with Cheap Trick’s chief songsmith Rick Nielsen, turned out to be quite the affecting heart-tugger.
My guess is that Warren penned the lyrics here, which are workmanlike but do find a relatively novel way to depict a broken heart in the refrain of “It’s like a ghost town without your love.” Nielsen’s sighing melody has all the right peaks and valleys for lead singer Robin Zander to give an appropriately tortured performance, sounding like a man about to break down in a heap at any given moment. Nielsen also chips in some stinging lead guitar to up the angst well into the red.
I heard this song recently on the 80’s channel on Sirius/XM advertised as a lost hit, which suggests that a lot of folks might not know it. I was 16 at the time of its release and really vibed with Zander’s dramatic delivery and the song’s woebegone sentiments, so I knew it well. What surprised me hearing it again was how well it holds up, how timeless it sounds despite being released in an era that tended to put its unerasable stamp on songs.
So if it’s new to you, prepare to be enjoy the soothing sorrow. And if it takes you back to that time when everything meant everything and only the most passionately rendered sentiments rung true, maybe I’ll see you there.
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