Cheap Trick

The Flame

Composed by Bob Mitchell / Nick Graham

Song Review by

After a succession of increasingly weak albums through the 1980s, the once-brilliant hard rock/power pop band Cheap Trick turned to professional songwriters in the hopes of launching a full-fledged comeback in 1988. The result was Lap of Luxury, one of only two or three strong albums the band recorded during the decade; while the record lacked the subtly bizarre humor of their early work, it was a fine mainstream hard rock record and it produced the band's first and only number one single, a lush power ballad titled "The Flame." "The Flame" was penned by two British songwriters, Bob Mitchell and Nick Graham; when Lap of Luxury producer Richie Zito brought the song to the band, they despised it. Persuaded to record it anyway, the band made it their own with Robin Zander's sobbing vocal dramatics and the haunting tones of Rick Nielsen's mandocello chiming behind the guitar and keyboard backing. The lyrics, almost always an afterthought in romantic power ballads, often hint at the Police/"Every Breath You Take"'s school of disguising unhealthy obsession as sentimentality; the singer, unable to let go of his first love, makes declarations like, "Wherever you go/I'll be with you" and "You were the first/You'll be the last," which can be taken either as a scorned lover trying to see his failed romance as somehow cosmically ordained anyway, or as a vaguely disturbing intimation of stalking. It's more likely that the latter interpretation was completely unintentional, though, since the band's straight-ahead reading plays up the heartstring-tugging bombast. It was a perfect fit for the late-'80s' power ballad/happy pop radio, and it was much better crafted than many similar offerings from the same period (most of which were by bands who had been influenced, indirectly or otherwise, by Cheap Trick themselves). While it isn't the most inventive song the band ever recorded, "The Flame" is an undeniable part of their legacy, and a well-deserved, better-late-than-never, chart-topping popular success.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Lap of Luxury 1988 Epic 5:40
Die Neue Kuschelrock 1989
Various Artists
CBS Records 4:40
No Image 1990 Cherry Red
The  Greatest Hits 1991 BMG / Epic / Legacy / Sony Music Entertainment 5:36
No Image 1992 Castle Music Ltd.
Schmuse Songs, Vol. 2 1992
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution
80's Greatest Rock Hits, Vol. 5: From the Heart 1992
Various Artists
Priority Records 4:44
Keep on Loving You [Madacy] 1993
Various Artists
Madacy 4:43
Rock Me Slowly 1994
Various Artists
MCI 4:46
Read the Hits/Best of the 80's 1994
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 5:37
Billboard Top Hits: 1985-1989 1995
Various Artists
Rhino 4:47
The Greatest Hits of the '80s, Vol. 5 1995
Various Artists
Platinum Disc 5:39
Heart of America: 19 Soft Rock Ballads 1995
Various Artists
Castle Music Ltd.
No Image 1995
Various Artists
Columbia / Sony Music Distribution 5:35
No Image 1996
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 4:41
Sex, America, Cheap Trick 1996 Sony Music Distribution 5:38
Feel Like Makin' Love: Romantic Power Ballads 1997
Various Artists
Rhino 5:38
Heart of Rock [Coyote] 1997
Various Artists
Coyote Records 5:39
80's #1 Pop Hits 1997
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 4:42
Live in Australia 1997 Rhino/Warner Bros.
Rock & Roll Relix: 1988-1989 1998
Various Artists
BCI-Eclipse Distribution / Eclipse Music Group 4:47
Chart Toppers: Romantic Hits of the 80s 1998
Various Artists
Priority Records 5:37
Kuschelrock, Vol. 2 1998
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 4:40
The Greatest Hits of the 80s [Box Set #2] 1999
Various Artists
Platinum Disc 5:37
Authorized Greatest Hits 2000 Legacy 6:48
48 Nr. 1 Hits 2000
Various Artists
Sony Music
Silver 2001 Big 3 6:32
No Image 2001
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 4:39
Silver [Video] 2001 Cheap Trick Unlimited 6:31
Then: 1988-1989 2002
Various Artists
BCI-Eclipse Distribution 4:47
No Image 2003
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 5:38
80's Top Ten Hits 2003
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution
The Essential Cheap Trick 2004 Columbia
Power Ballads [EMI] 2004
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution
80's Navi 2005
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution
Even More Than a Feeling 2005
Various Artists
Sony BMG 5:37
Monster Ballads: Platinum Edition Disc 1 2005
Various Artists
Razor & Tie
80's #1 Hits [Madacy] 2006
Various Artists
Madacy 4:43
No Image 2006
Various Artists
Barking Mad
All #1 Hits '80s 2006
Various Artists
Madacy 4:43
Classic Soft Rock: More Than a Feeling 2006
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 4:46
Mullets Rock! Too! 2007
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 4:44
No Image 2007
Various Artists
Politur 5:40
Forever Love [Columbia] 2007
Various Artists
Columbia / Sony BMG
Bigger, Better Power Ballads, Vol. 2 2007
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution
No Image 2007
Various Artists
Dock Rock, Vol. 5: After Dark 2007
Various Artists
Sony BMG 4:41
Super Hits 2007 Sony Music Distribution / Sbme Special Mkts. 4:39
No Image 2007
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 4:46
The Ultimate Rock Ballads Collection [Time Life] 2007
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 4:49
Discover Cheap Trick 2007 Legacy 5:39
Top Hits of the 80s [Collectables] 2008
Various Artists
Collectables 4:40
101 Power Ballads 2008
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 5:39
No Image 2008
Various Artists
Sony BMG 5:39
Now That's What I Call Power Ballads [1] 2009
Various Artists
Universal Distribution / Now Power Ballads 4:35
No Image 2009
Various Artists
Commercial Canada 5:39
Essential 3.0 2010 Epic / Legacy / Sony Legacy 5:38
The  Music of Cheap Trick 2010 Epic / Legacy 5:39
Lap of Luxury/Dream Police 2010 Epic / Legacy 5:40
Setlist: The Very Best of Cheap Trick Live 2010 Epic / Legacy 6:49
Original Album Classics, Vol. 2 2012 Epic / Sony Music
Pure... Guitar Legends 2012
Various Artists
Sony Music 4:40
American Anthems: All Time Classics 2012
Various Artists
Sony Music 5:37
The Power of Love [Sony 2013] 2013
Various Artists
Sony Music 5:30
Latest & Greatest: Soft Rock Ballads 2013
Various Artists
USM Media 4:44
Pure... Rock Ballads 2013
Various Artists
Sony Music 4:39
The Box Set Series 2014 Legacy / Sony Music 5:39
Original Album Classics, Vol. 3 2014 Epic / Legacy / Sony Legacy 5:40
Decades of #1's: 80's 2016
Various Artists
Sony Music 5:35
In the Joint 2016 Smokin' 6:15
80s U.S. Playlist
Various Artists
Crimson
Heat 8 Hours Beat 80's
Various Artists
CBS Records
Latest & Greatest Rock Ballads
Various Artists
USM Media
No Image
Various Artists
Allegro / Allegro Corporation / Rolling Stone
Simply Power Ballads
Various Artists
Simply
Super Rock Ballads
Various Artists
Columbia
The Power of Love [Time Life]
Various Artists
Time/Life Music
blue highlight denotes editor's pick