Carnival Game (song)

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"Carnival Game"
Cheap Trick Carnival Game Japanese Promo 1997 Single Snap Pack.jpeg
Single by Cheap Trick
from the album Cheap Trick
B-side "You Let a Lotta People Down"
Released 1997
Format CD
Genre Rock, power pop
Length 3:50
Label Victor
Songwriter(s) Jerry Dale McFadden, Rick Nielsen, Robert Reynolds, Robin Zander, Tom Petersson
Producer(s) Cheap Trick, Ian Taylor
Cheap Trick singles chronology
"Baby Talk"
"Carnival Game"
"That '70s Song"
"Baby Talk"
"Carnival Game"
"That '70s Song"
Alternative Cover
One track CD issue cover of "Carnival Game"
One track CD issue cover of "Carnival Game"

"Carnival Game" is a single by American rock band Cheap Trick, released as the third and final single from their 1997 album Cheap Trick. It was written by Jerry Dale McFadden, Rick Nielsen, Robert Reynolds, Robin Zander and Tom Petersson. The song was produced by Cheap Trick and Ian Taylor.[1]


The song was released as the third and final single from the album, following the release of the non-album single "Baby Talk".[2]

Both co-writers McFadden and Reynolds would also co-write the Cheap Trick album track "It All Comes Back to You" in addition to "Carnival Game".[1]

The song was recorded at Pie Studios, Glen Cove, New York, along with the entire Cheap Trick album. It was mixed at Cove City Sound Studios, Glen Cove, New York.[3]

Following the song's original release as a single and on the Cheap Trick album, a live version of the track was included on the 2004 live DVD/CD set From Tokyo to You: Live in Japan.[4]


The song was released in Japan only as a promotional single, via Victor.[5] The b-side used for the single was "You Let a Lotta People Down" which was an album track from Cheap Trick, written by Nielsen, Zander and Petersson, whilst being produced by the band and Taylor.

The main release was issued in a 3" DJ promo CD with a snap-pack picture sleeve with lyrics.[6] The artwork used featured photographs of each band member with a black background.[7] In addition to this, a scarce one track promotional-only CD was also produced to promote the release of the single. This release featured a custom photocopied picture insert with all text in Japanese.[8] The artwork featured a photograph of the band.[9]


The song has been performed live by the band.

During 1997, whilst promoting the album, the band performed the song live on the American TV show Hard Rock Live.[10] The band also performed the single "Say Goodbye" and the 1979 hit "I Want You to Want Me" on the show.[10][11] Since being officially uploaded onto YouTube in early 2009, the video of the performance has gained approximately 18,000 views.[10] Additionally, an unofficial upload of the same performance on YouTube has gained approximately 50,000 views since April 2006.[12]

Track listing[edit]

CD Single (VIDP-30002 - promo)
  1. "Carnival Game" - 3:50
  2. "You Let a Lotta People Down" - 4:27
CD Single (CDS-463 - promo)
  1. "Carnival Game" - 3:49

Critical reception[edit]

Entertainment Weekly reviewed the album upon release on May 9, 1997, with author Steven Mirkin stating "Mixing the Beatles, the Move, and the Who, Cheap Trick try to re-create the hard-driving, baroque pop sound of their heyday in Cheap Trick. But this tentative, power-pop-by-the-numbers effort lacks the smarts and energy that gave Surrender and I Want You to Want Me its indelible charm. Only Say Goodbye (the album's first single) and Carnival Game approach the earlier material's heady rush."[13]

Chicago Sun-Times reviewed the album on April 10, 1997, where writer Jae-Ha Kim stated "The wah-wah guitars in "Carnival Game" punched up the driving number, while the shimmery chorus in "Say Goodbye" was reminiscent of classic Cheap Trick tunes."[14] Chicago Sun-Times also reviewed the album on April 27, 1997, with Jae-Ha-Kim stating "Rick Nielsen's nimble lead guitar work in "Carnival Game" and the shimmery chorus of "Say Goodbye" herald their strengths."[15]

A later concert review by writer Bob Kurson for Chicago Sun-Times on July 7, 1997, stated "Already the best turned out by Cheap Trick in years, songs like "Carnival Game" and "Say Goodbye" had space to unravel even nastier textures and pivoting chord changes, capturing much of the raw energy and posture that made the band irresistible."[16]

Manila Standard, in the June 9, 1997, issue highlighted the song, stating "Cheap Trick, the 20th anniversary album of Cheap Trick, marks a fresh start for the band who are the favorite of millions worldwide over the past two decades. As the band continue to write musical headlines on a global scale, Cheap Trick manage to put their message across through their own kind of music on the new self-titled album: The lovely ballad "Shelter" and the carrier single "Say Goodbye", the punkish "Baby No More", the roaring rock V roll "Hard to Tell", "Carnival Game" and "Anytime."[17]

Austin American-Statesman spoke of the song in a concert review on August 21, 1997, stating "...delightfully poppy ditties a la "Oh, Candy" such as "Carnival Game."[18] Arizona Daily Star of March 21, 1997 reviewed a Cheap Trick concert, stating "And new songs such as "Anytime," "Carnival Game," "You Let a Lotta People Down" and the sweet semi-acoustic ballad "Shelter" proved that Cheap Trick's latest album is one to recommend."[19]

San Francisco Weekly reviewed the album on May 28, 1997, where Curtis Bonney stated "Exactly 20 years after the first Cheap Trick Cheap Trick, here it is, the heavily hyped, re-self-titled re-debut. Breathe easy. It's neither "critically important" nor Bryan Adams-abhorrent. Indeed, it's vintage Cheap Trick (as the ads tell us), and since their confection has always been a product more than a process, the complainers can just go ahead and leave the arena. And unlike Dream Police - or any album thereafter - the standout tracks are fairly plentiful (bearing in mind all the relativity): The sugary Beatles-John Lennon - uh - stylings on "Carnival Game," "Yeah, Yeah," and "You Let a Lot of People Down." Nice chord progressions, nice hooks; you've heard them all, but you haven't, really. You're smiling, and you're right. You've heard this entire album before, even if you haven't. You've been dreaming it, for better or worse, since the age of 12."[20]

The San Diego Union Tribune reviewed the album on May 8, 1997, where the reviewer stated "Speaking of "The Flame," the dippy "Carnival Game" is almost as bad, and " Shelter" is actually worse."[21]

Reviewer George Starostin reviewed the album for his site, where he spoke of the song, stating "Who woulda thunk it? Cheap Trick deliver a good album! It's been over a decade and a half since they did that! It's not hard to guess why: after years of toiling on the majors and trying to suck up a hit, Cheap Trick find themselves on an independent label with no commercial expectations, and can finally make the album they want to make, the way they want to make it. The festivities start off fine with the Nirvana-ish "Anytime", with Zander proving that he can still rip his throat with the best of'em. The next song is the album's highlight, "Hard To Tell", a delightful pop number with a great chorus. And right after that comes "Carnival Game" - more great pop, only more Beatlesque this time."[22]

Wilkes Barre Times Leader reviewed a Cheap Trick concert on June 24, 1997, stating "After opening the set with 1979's "I Want You to Want Me," the band soon followed with the Beatle-esque "Carnival Game."[23] For the same concert, Toronto Sun writer Jane Stevenson wrote a review in Jam! Showbiz, on June 14, 1997, stating "New material like Anytime, Say Goodbye and Carnival Game sounded fresh, boding well for the band who are celebrating their 20th anniversary this year."[24] Boston Herald writer Robin Vaughan reviewed a concert of the band on June 19, 1997, where he stated "The band's selections from their impressive new eponymously titled album, included the standout "Carnival Game."[25]


  • Robin Zander - lead vocals, rhythm guitar, producer
  • Rick Nielsen - lead guitar, backing vocals, producer
  • Tom Petersson - 12 string bass guitar, backing vocals, producer
  • Bun E. Carlos - drums, percussion, producer

Additional personnel[edit]

  • Ian Taylor - producer, engineer, mixing
  • Glenn Preston - assistant engineer
  • George Fullan, Rob Polhemus - 2nd engineer
  • Bob Ludwig - mastering
  • Peter F. Baynes - guitar technician
  • Donna Brainard, Larry Mazer - management
  • Angela K. Herl, Mike Herl - business management


  1. ^ a b "Cheap Trick - Cheap Trick (CD, Album) at Discogs". Retrieved 2013-04-29. 
  2. ^ "Cheap Trick - Baby Talk (Vinyl) at Discogs". Retrieved 2013-04-29. 
  3. ^ "Cheap Trick - Cheap Trick (CD, Album) at Discogs". Retrieved 2013-04-29. 
  4. ^ Prato, Greg (2004-06-15). "From Tokyo to You: Live in Japan - Cheap Trick : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-04-29. 
  5. ^ "Cheap Trick - Carnival Game at Discogs". Retrieved 2013-04-29. 
  6. ^ "Cheap Trick - Carnival Game (CD) at Discogs". Retrieved 2013-04-29. 
  7. ^ "Images for Cheap Trick - Carnival Game". Retrieved 2013-04-29. 
  8. ^ "Cheap Trick - Carnival Game (CD) at Discogs". Retrieved 2013-04-29. 
  9. ^ "Images for Cheap Trick - Carnival Game". Retrieved 2013-04-29. 
  10. ^ a b c YouTube (2009-01-23). "Cheap Trick - Carnival Game - from Hard Rock Live". YouTube. Retrieved 2013-04-29. 
  11. ^ YouTube (2009-01-23). "Cheap Trick - I Want You To Want Me - Hard Rock Live". YouTube. Retrieved 2013-04-29. 
  12. ^ YouTube (2006-04-04). "Cheap Trick-Carnival Game". YouTube. Retrieved 2013-04-29. 
  13. ^ Steven Mirkin (1997-05-09). "Cheap Trick Review | Music Reviews and News". Retrieved 2013-04-29. 
  14. ^
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  17. ^,931599&dq=cheap+trick+carnival+game&hl=en
  18. ^ "NewsBank for Statesman |". Retrieved 2013-04-29. 
  19. ^ "Newspaper Archive". 1997-03-21. Retrieved 2013-04-29. 
  20. ^ Michael Batty (1997-05-28). "Recordings - Page 1 - Music - San Francisco". SF Weekly. Retrieved 2013-04-29. 
  21. ^ "ProQuest Archiver: Titles". Retrieved 2013-04-29. 
  22. ^ "Cheap Trick Reviews". Retrieved 2013-04-29. 
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  24. ^ "CANOE - JAM! Music - Artists - ZZ Top - Concert Review: Molson Amphitheatre, Toronto - June 14, 1997". 1997-06-14. Retrieved 2013-04-29. 
  25. ^ "MUSIC: Concert shows ZZ still on top, their act is no Cheap Trick". 1997-06-19. Retrieved 2013-04-29.