The Weird, Eternal Truth of "Surrender"
Some people think the band Cheap Trick is just an unhappy reminder of a misspent decade listening to bad music.
Some people think that Cheap Trick is nothing more than a Midwestern bar band that slipped through the cracks while no one was watching and somehow found their way to the top ten Billboard charts.
Some people think that Cheap Trick is a band that gets by only on theatrics and wild behavior.
Some people are wrong.
Cheap Trick was formed in Rockford, IL in the mid 1970’s. Robin Zander, Bun E. Carlos, Rick Nielsen and Tom Petersson initially had a hard time breaking through in the United States, but somehow, they became huge in Japan. With a fervor reminiscent of Beatlemania, Cheap Trick toured Japan in 1978, and that fan frenzy can clearly be heard on their live recording Cheap Trick at Budokan, which became a huge success in the United States.
This passion and fervor for Cheap Trick can clearly be heard on “Surrender,” a pristine, shining example of 1970’s power pop. Three verses. Chorus repeated twice. Just perfect.
“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.”
So, OK…I guess most great rock songs don’t have anything to do with parental sex advice, but in this song, as the chorus reminds us, “Mommy’s alright, daddy’s alright.” The song begins with brightly, droning guitars backed by an arpeggiated synthesizer. We can hear the bass gliding up and down the scales before Bun E. Carlos’ thundering snare drum rolls brings the song into focus.
The first verse evokes “Shop Around” by The Miracles, but with a little more color and risque messaging. The chorus demands we sing along in agreement and support.
“Mommy’s alright, daddy’s alright, they just seem a little weird.
But don’t give yourself away.”
We then learn that Mommy and Daddy met during World War II. Mommy was a nurse serving in the Philippines, and all the nurses couldn’t have been “old maids” otherwise Daddy would have never fallen in love.
“Father says, “your mother’s right, she’s really up on things.”
“before we married, mommy served in the wacs in the Philippines.”
Now, I had heard the WAC’s recruited old maids for the war.
But mommy isn’t one of those, I’ve known her all these years.”
The singer is the teenager that mom and dad once were. They were passionate. They were in love. Dad fell in love with mom during the war. The lessons dad learned so many years ago are now being learned by the son.
The key of the music changes. The passion and energy builds. All that the teenager wants. Everything the teenager wants to become. Everything he wants to do he is seeing before his own two eyes.
“Whatever happened to all this season’s losers of the year?
Every time I got to thinking, where’d they disappear?
When I woke up, mom and dad are rolling on the couch.
Rolling numbers, rock and rolling, got my kiss records out.”
This is a great rock and roll song. It’s got passion, intensity and great vocals. It’s about youth, sex, parenting and rock and roll. It’s energetic, it’s fun, and applies to everyone. At some point, in everyone’s life, we all need to admit to ourselves the eternal truth. “Mommy’s alright. Daddy’s alright. They just seem a little weird.” Amen, brother. Amen.
Written by Rick Nielsen
Performed by Cheap Trick
Released June, 1978