Cheap History

Almost 29 years ago (1/2/80), Cheap Trick played to a sold-out crowd at the Sports Arena. Exactly one year earlier (1/2/79), the band’s Civic Theatre concert attracted around 1000 patrons (this was before the release of their breakthrough live At Budokan album).

The set list included their recent hit single “Dream Police” and requisites such as “Surrender,” “Big Eyes,” and “I Want You to Want Me.” According to concert reviewer Thomas K. Arnold, singer Robin Zander was “clutching the microphone and acting as though he was lusting after the young girls in the audience as much as they were lusting after him.”

Rick Nielsen acted “zany” and “ridiculous,” according to Arnold, who said the guitarist “pranced around like an idiot, making grotesquely silly faces at the crowd and acting like an outpatient from a mental hospital whose release was a horrible mistake.”

Soon after the concert, a controversy over the tickets arose after it was determined that promoter Marc Berman sold choice seats to Trip Tickets, a resale agency — scalpers. The city attorney’s office investigated Berman, who admitted to the San Diego Union that he had sold between 200 and 300 seats to Trip Tickets.

“I don’t know what would be illegal about it,” Berman told the reporter.

Berman was absolved of any wrongdoing, though laws regarding ticket resale were later altered to preclude such arrangements between primary and secondary ticket sellers. A few years later, Berman — who’d been a San Diego concert promoter since the mid-’70s — took a job in L.A. as operations director for a resort entertainment company.

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Marc Berman was for years the city's MVP concert promoter. He battled both the City and the Sports Arena to bring rock shows to Jack Murphy Stadium, as well as overseeing the concert incarnation of PB's Roxy Theater that brought acts like the Police and Iggy Pop to that much-missed venue. My concert stubs from my favorite local shows circa 1978 to the mid-80s almost always read "Marc Berman Presents" ---

In early 1980, when the City Attorney’s office announced their Consumer Protection Unit was investigating Berman, the allegation that he sold between 200 and 300 seats to Trip Tickets mainly concerned Sports Arena shows by Cheap Trick, Kiss, and Rod Stewart. There wasn't space above to include more of Berman's response, but worth noting are his ongoing battles with Arena management, not the least of which included a lawsuit the Arena filed to keep Berman from promoting "competing" concerts elsewhere, citing city government agreements regarding the Arena that had nothing to do with Berman.

Berman was, IMO, a concert fan's best friend during that whole era - he was passionate about bringing a world of music to a sleepy burgh that hadn't yet become a popular tour destination. He actually battled ticket scalpers - he was quoted in Kicks (2-80) saying “It actually hurts my concert business, because people are spending two or three times the ticket prices when they could be going to two or three of my other shows.”

I saw Cheap Trick at the Warfield Theaer in San Francisco around 80/81, and they put on on of the best shows i have ever seen.

The Warfield was a beautiful theater on market street in downtown SF's financial district.

The drummer for Cheap Trick was Bun E Carlos as I recall and he was the best drummer I have ever seen to this day.

I also saw another show down the street that year at the SF Civic Center-The J Giles band, who were also awesome, and their opening act was also vey impressive even though they only had one hit at that time and this was their first US tour-their name was U2, and their hit was New Years Day.

Bun is a great drummer. How can anyone do a drum solo (or cool intro for Ain't That a Shame), with a cigarette dangling out of his mouth the entire time?

When they played 4th & B a year ago (which Jay will probably write about in 20 years)...the funniest thing after the show.

Some young kid was waiting in the parking lot for autographs, and he said his dad went to school with Bun E. Carlos. Security didn't seem to believe it, but passed the message to Bun. Apparently it was true, as he was then given a backstage pass and went to meet Carlos!

Yep-Bun E Carlos was chain smoking when I saw him in 81 and every now and then the cig would go flying and the sparks from the head would flow all over the area by the drums-that guy could pound those drums with authority!

One hell of a great drummer..................He is the one I vividly remember from Cheap Trick.

thanks to Jay Allen Sanford for another fun trip down memory lane.

I was at the 1979 Cheap Trick show, which was broadcast on KGB a day or two later. I taped the radio broadcast on my mom's reel-to-reel deck and listened to it a zillion times. I wish I had a good copy today, as that tape is long gone and it was a great performance. If memory serves, the opening act was Nick Gilder, who was riding high on "Hot Child in the City" at the time. Well, riding as high as Nick Gilder ever rode.

Ha ha, "As high as Nick Gilder ever rode"! He also opened for the Babys at the Sports Arena, and a lot of people were booing him (they should have saved some boos for the Babys, who were dreadful that night). The poster for this Cheap Trick show is a great comic-style full-color drawing of the band cruising the streets of San Diego in a Tricked-out hot rod ---- I'll try to scan and post the upload url ASAP, it's one of the all-time coolest local concert posters. I think bootleg album cover artist William Stout drew it, but I'll have to check to be sure -------

A lengthy article about 50 more of the most historic local concerts ever can be found here:

I too was at the Civic Theater back in '79. I was in high school and a group of us had some good seats. I have Nick Gilder on my IPod only because it was a blast to see him do that song in person. When I break out my Cheap Trick records (yes vinyl) I remember what a fun show it was. Keep rocking!

I went to see Cheap Trick every time they passed through San Diego starting in Aug. 19, 1977 when they opened for Kiss. These are the gigs I saw (still have the ticket stubs): -Aug. 19, 1977 (opening for Kiss, Sports Arena) -Dec. 28, 1977 (opening for Kansas, Sports Arena) -July 20, 1978 (headline w/Pat Travers, California Theater) -Jan. 2, 1979 (headline w/Nick Gilder, Civic Theater) -Aug. 5, 1979 (big blowout at Jack Murphy Stadium with Blue Oyster Cult, UFO, Pat Travers and Shakin' Street, with CT at "prime time" before BOC) -Jan. 2, 1980 (headline w/Moon Martin - he wrote "Bad Case of Lovin' You" and "Cadillac Walk," Sports Arena) -Dec. 31, 1980 (headline w/The Tremblers, Sports Arena) -next time I think I saw CT was at the Del Mar Fair in '83 (Next Position Please was their latest effort) - talk about a quick rise and fall!

Best seats I ever had for a CT show was third row for their New Year's Eve gig at the Sports Aroma, Dec. 31, 1980. I was a student at SMU in Dallas at the time, flying home for the holidays, and I bought my tickets from Trip. Back in those pre-internet, pre-phone sales days it was the only way for someone from out of town to get tickets. I also remember buying tickets from Trip to see one of Pink Floyd's Wall concerts in L.A. the day of the show for a really cheap price - great seats too.

Nick Gilder was a pretty common opening act in 1979. He also opened for the Cars when they played the Sports Arena in September that year.

Thanks, FallbrookCG, for the memories. I, too, went to the Cheap Trick shows at the California Theater, Civic Theater, Jack Murphy and Sports Arena (with Moon Martin, not the earlier ones). Great times.

I never actually bought tickets from Trip West, but I tried once. When The Knack came to town the first time, I put down a $5 deposit for tickets at their Balboa location (next to the Fedmart, which is now a Target), but they ended up not being able to get enough tickets to meet the deposits, so I got my money back.

Funny you mention Nick Gilder opening for The Cars at the sports arena. I saw The Cars open for Styx at the same venue in 1978.

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