Cheap Trick

The Flame

Composed by Nick Graham / Bob Mitchell

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
Billboard Top Hits: 1988 1988
Various Artists
Rhino 4:47
Lap of Luxury 1988 Epic 5:37
No Image 1990 Sony Music Distribution
The Greatest Hits 1991 Epic 5:36
No Image 1992 Castle Music Ltd.
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
18 Rock Classics 1994
Various Artists
Rhino / Essex 3:44
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.
Soft Metal 1995
Various Artists
Griffin 4:25
No Image 1996
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 4:41
Sex, America, Cheap Trick 1996 Epic / Legacy 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 4:39
Rock & Roll Relix: 1980-1989 1998
Various Artists
Eclipse Music Group 4:47
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
Hits of Cheap Trick 1998 Sony Music Distribution 5:38
Kuschelrock, Vol. 2 1998
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 4:40
The Greatest Hits of the 80s 1999
Various Artists
Platinum Disc 5:37
The Greatest Hits of the 80s [Box Set #2] 1999
Various Artists
Platinum Disc 5:37
Authorized Greatest Hits 2000 Legacy / Epic 6:48
No Image 2001
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 4:39
Then: 1988-1989 2002
Various Artists
BCI-Eclipse Distribution 4:47
The Essential Cheap Trick 2004 Legacy / Epic 5:38
80s U.S. Playlist
Various Artists
Crimson 4:47