An early shot of Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen.
Long before he helped Cheap Trick take over the world by way of Budokan, guitarist Rick Nielsen recorded a record with another Rockford, Illinois band called Fuse. Originally going by the name The Grim Reapers, Nielson was instrumental in convincing another Rockford band Toast and Jam to join forces and Fuse were born from that rock and roll union sometime in 1968.
According to Nielson, he had already secured a record contract at the time Fuse was coming together and they recorded a couple of singles on Smack Records in 1969, “Hound Dog” and “Cruisin for Burgers.” Fuse drummer Chip Greenman recalls that their manager at the time, Ken Adamany, had been pitching the band to different labels hoping to land them a record deal. Later that year—and again according to Greenman—Fuse scored the opening slot for a Fleetwood Mac gig in Chicago. Luckily Mort Hoffman, who was doing A&R for Epic Records was in the audience and told the band that he had to sign them. As all of the members of Fuse had yet to turn 21, their first record contract was signed by their fathers in July of 1969. Awww. Here’s more from Nielson on the early days of Fuse—whose name came about at the insistence of Epic as a requirement in order to finalize their record deal:
The guys we were with were all superior musicians—they’re probably in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame now. Tom and I had the stick-to-it-iveness and positive thinking to know what we wanted to do, so we split the band and went off to hang out in England. That Fuse stuff was my finest work. We stand by it and wished Cheap Trick played that well!
Fuse would record their only self-titled album in 1970 and it is full of loud, raucous psychedelically tinged rock with Nielson’s ever present guitar squalls raining down throughout its eight tracks. With influences from The Yardbirds and Cream, there isn’t a single jam on the record that isn’t rock solid. If you are at all a fan of psychedelic rock and don’t already own this gem, I’d highly suggest seeking it out, which may prove to be a bit of a challenge even though it received a long overdue reissue by Sony/Rewind in 2001. Toward the end of their run Greenman was replaced by long-time Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos (who at the time was still going by his actual name, Brad Carlson) and Fuse would begin their metamorphosis into one of the greatest rock and roll bands of all time, Cheap Trick, after gigging for a few years under the curious name Sick Man of Europe. I’ve included a number of selections from Fuse’s only LP as well as the Clapton-esque B-side “Cruisin for Burgers” below.
The cover of Fuse’s self-titled 1970 album.
The back cover of Fuse’s debut. Rick Nielson (with LONG HAIR) is pictured at the far left.
Fuse, “Cruisin for Burgers” 1969.
“Show Me” 1970.
“Mystery Ship” 1970.
“Permanent Resident” 1970.