Suddenly it’s cool to be in a cover band — but not just any cover band. Your basic Top 40 wedding outfit in velvety blue tuxedoes? Sadly, they’re still nerdy. [Editor’s note: We foresee an avalanche of mail inspired by those last two sentences. Go ahead. Let ’er rip!] But to be truly cool, a cover band requires a hook, kind of like the winning formula that Judy Cocuzza and her bandmates contrived when they formed their all-woman Cheap Trick cover band named … what else? … Cheap Chick.
Not satisfied to merely play note-perfect renditions of classic Cheap Trick songs like “I Want You To Want Me” and “Surrender,” the four members adopt the onstage personas of their respective male counterparts. Thus former Betty Blowtorch drummer Cocuzza transforms into Bunni Carlos, right down to the oversized glasses, screaming polyester tie, and smoldering cig dangling from her lips.
It was an idea whose time had clearly come. In short order the Los Angeles-based band crammed its calendar with dates up and down the West Coast, often sharing the stage with other all-women cover bands such as The Iron Maidens, Mistress Of Reality (a Black Sabbath tribute), and AC/DShe. They’ve garnered praise in The National Enquirer and Creem, enjoyed coveted endorsement deals from musical equipment companies, and even found studly groupies hovering around the backstage door. Groupies, I’m telling ya!
Then there’s reality. Playing in a tribute band also involves tedious hours spent dropping the needle endlessly on the same two bars just to nail that one elusive lick buried behind a wall of guitars. Can you relate? You’re not alone. Most drummers who have been in that situation have fantasized how it would be so much easier if only they could just talk to the original drummer for a few minutes, pick their brains, and get some tips. That’s exactly what we decided to do when we hooked up Bunni Carlos to Bun E. Carlos and let the tape recorder roll. Here’s what they had to say.
Bunni: How does it feel to know there are bands like Cheap Chick playing your material?
Bun E: It’s the highest form of praise. It’s cool.
Bunni: What’s your favorite Cheap Trick song?
Bun E: [laughs] All of them! That’s a tough one because they are like your children, you know? It’s hard to choose just one. I like “Goodnight” now because I can really let loose and go crazy and do whatever I want on that one. Plus it’s the end of the set, so you can just let go and know you don’t have to play a whole set after that. “Elo Kiddies” was always a favorite, and also the hits, you know, the crowd favorites. It’s nice to play a song and feel the crowd reaction — that is always a good feeling.
Bunni: My favorites change too, sometimes from month-to-month or depending on the type of crowd we have. When we get the hardcore Cheap Trick fans out, playing some of the older songs like “He’s A Whore” or “Oh Caroline” are so great, because you see them getting into it and singing along. I hear you make the set lists. What are your favorite songs to open and close a set?
Bun E: I used to make the set lists, but now it’s a collaborative effort. I felt that the drummer has a better perspective of the whole picture. You know, they’re sitting back there taking it all in — the show, the crowd — while the guitar player and singer are running around and doing their thing. But these days we have a group effort. We used to start with “Hello There,” “Come On, Come On,” “Elo Kiddies,” but now we mix it up. I like to start off slow or with a song that builds to give the sound guy a chance to get his levels straight and dial stuff in. We like to build the set, too. It gives us a chance to warm up and then play a hit on the third song and go from there.
Bunni: We get a lot of fans that talk about when you guys did the first three albums each in its entirety three nights in a row out here [in L.A.] a while back. Cheap Chick did the whole Budokan album from start to finish, and the crowd response was great. Are you planning anything like that again?