The Great Songs: Cheap Trick – Surrender

by Eric Melin on August 11, 2010

in Columns,The Great Songs

If you are looking for big-guitar rock n’ roll teen anthems, it doesn’t get any better than the opening track of off Cheap Trick‘s 1978 album “Heaven Tonight.” (My unrepentant love for Cheap Trick will be on full display this Saturday, as J.D. Warnock and I perform with Nick Colby and Peter Buxton as Heaven Tonight – A Tribute to Cheap Trick, the hardest-working band in the U.S.)

“Surrender” is my favorite anthem ever, hands down–which is weird, considering it has some of the most bizarre lyrics ever heard in a mainstream rock hit. Check it:

surrender Cheap Trick single“Mother told me, yes, she told me I’d meet girls like you.
She also told me, “Stay away, you’ll never know what you’ll catch.”
Just the other day I heard a soldier falling off some Indonesian junk that’s going ’round.”

Supposedly, the song is from the POV of a baby boomer singing about his G.I. generation parents (which explains the bit about the “WACs in the Philippines” in the second verse). For me, it’s all about how your parents were freaks once too. It kinda creates this common bond that makes your own confusion OK. And judging by what his parents are doing in the third verse, they still are freaks:

“When I woke up, Mom and Dad are rolling on the couch.
Rolling numbers, rock and rolling, got my Kiss records out.”

It’s all a lead-up to the biggest, best shout-along ending ever put on record. As Rick Neilsen’s guitar rings out huge-ass chords and Bun E. Carlos shreds the snare drum, Robin Zander sings:

cheap-trick surrender single live“Mommy’s alright, Daddy’s alright, they just seem a little weird.
Surrender, surrender, but don’t give yourself away … ayyy … ayyy-ayyy. Awaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!”

By the time “Mommy’s alright, Daddy’s alright” turns into “We’re all alright, we’re all alright, ” I can hear the crowd chanting along like I’m there. All of a sudden, “Surrender” is all inclusive. We’re all in this crazy-ass life together and at this moment, singing along with Cheap Trick, everything is OK. It’s a fleeting moment, but it never fails to get me off my feet every time. (The bit is such a classic one that the Trick added a couple “We’re all alright”s to the tail end of their theme for “That 70s Show”–which itself is a cover of a classic Big Star song!)

Of course, there are two versions of “Surrender.” There’s the studio version from “Heaven Tonight,” which peaked at #62 on the Billboard chart and paved the way for the success of “Cheap Trick at Budokan.”

Then there is the live version form that famous record, which is famously sampled at the beginning of “Jimmy James” by The Beastie Boys from their “Check Your Head” record: “This is the first song on our new album!” (Sadly, I must admit I know a lot of people who have no idea that’s the intro to “Surrender.” Always good to give them a heads up, though, and spread the Trick gospel.)

“Surrender” is ranked #465 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, but I think it should be in the Top 10. Easy. It’s a classic song by a criminally underrated band who continue to perform live and sound great today.

The Great Songs series so far:

The Great Songs: Big Star – Thirteen

The Great Songs: The Kinks – Waterloo Sunset

The Great Songs: The Jayhawks – Blue

The Great Songs: Pavement – Summer Babe

The Great Songs: The Zombies – Care of Cell 44

The Great Songs: The O’Jays – Back Stabbers

The Great Songs: Queen & David Bowie – Under Pressure

The Great Songs: George Jones – He Stopped Loving Her Today

The Great Songs: Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart

The Great Songs: KISS – Deuce

The Great Songs: The Flying Burrito Brothers – Hot Burrito #1

The Great Songs: The Flaming Lips – Do You Realize??

The Great Songs: Pink Floyd – Astronomy Domine

The Great Songs: The Beach Boys – Surf’s Up

The Great Songs: Marvin Gaye – Let’s Get it On

The Great Songs: Slayer – Angel of Death

The Great Songs: Elvis Costello & The Attractions – Beyond Belief

The Great Songs: The Replacements – Unsatisfied

Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of Scene-Stealers and regular critic for KCTV5. He’s a member of the BFCA, VP of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls and Ultimate Fakebook. He is also the current 2013 Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

Facebook Twitter Google+ YouTube 

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Reed August 11, 2010 at 6:40 am

A superb choice, Eric. I’ve always wanted to karaoke this one, but still haven’t had the chance. One day it will happen. But perhaps it’s for the best because I clearly misunderstood the lyrics. I always thought it was “They just need a little biiiiit (of) Surrender…” Of course, that never really made sense.

Further Jimmy James trivia: the baseline from that song is taken from a rare Jimi Hendrix track called “Happy Birthday.” Jimmy James was Hendrix’s original stage name.

Reply

2 Eric Melin August 11, 2010 at 7:38 am

Nice Beastie/Hendrix trivia!

So which version of ‘Surrender’ do you prefer? i embedded both above so people could listen to both. When I first heard the song, it was the studio version I liked better, but now the live version is the one I keep coming back to. It’s sloppier, more rocking, and the ending is more raucous.

Reply

3 Bill Heinen August 11, 2010 at 8:59 am

YES!!! Still my favorite song of all time. I ove that Cameron and Many Moods of Dad played this song as the finale track at my wedding, I don’t know of too many grooms who sang Cheap Trick to their new bride. This is pretty much the only song I sing at Karaoke, and it’s fun to see how many different kinds of people, from all ages and walks of life, light up when they hear this song blaring. Rock the fuck on!!

Reply

4 Karl Koelle August 11, 2010 at 9:09 am

Surrender = awesome. KISS reference, great chorus, terrific singalong song. My friends all wanted to play “I Want You…” over and over, I made them leave the tape (yes, cassette!) running and played Surrender.
Also love “Tonight It’s You” by the Trick.

Reply

5 chris August 11, 2010 at 10:06 am

and don’t forget the version on “Music for Hangovers” not my favorite, but it’s cool to see that after all the years, they still attack it like it’s new, albeit with a few new tricks.

Plus I was at that show, so I got that going for me.

Reply

6 Eric Melin August 11, 2010 at 1:53 pm

Bill- Singing that song at your wedding to your bride makes you cool for life.

Karl- You should come to the RecordBar Saturday night. We’ll be playing all three of those songs and 19 more!

Chris- I love that live album because it includes a lot of the other songs that weren’t included on Budokan. Must’ve been a great show to see live!

Reply

Leave a Comment

 

Previous post:

Next post: