This song has a long and intriguing history. It was written by Cheap Trick's guitarist Rick Nielsen and recorded for their 1977 self-titled debut album, but it didn't make the cut. The song was included on their second album, In Color, which was released later in 1977. This version had a medium tempo with a country feel and a honky tonk piano throughout the song.
By 1978, the band had dropped it from their setlist, but restored it when they toured Japan that year, since Japanese audiences loved the song. They played it on April 28 and 30 at their famous concerts that took place at the Budokan temple in Tokyo, which was a big deal because many Japanese citizens felt the temple was sacred and not appropriate for rock concerts. The concerts were released as the Live At Budokan album, which captured Cheap Trick's live energy and turned their fortunes around in America, where the album was released in February 1979 and sold over 3 million copies. The extracted "I Want You To Want Me" became their first hit, charting at #7.
According to Rick Nielsen, the band considered this "sort of hokey pop" when they first recorded it, and the arrangement matched that sentiment, with finger snaps and a plaintive country feel. Robin Zander played up the schmaltz in the vocal, sounding like a woebegone cornpoke. This studio version fell flat, but when they played it as an earnest rocker, it worked.
The famous At Budokan version of this song was inspired by a French cover version ("J'attends Toutes les Nuits") by by a fairly obscure French synthpop artist named Niko Flynn, who sped up the tempo and put a beat to the song.
Many early Cheap Trick songs written by Rick Nielsen are from the perspective of characters who are a little unhinged (see: "Dream Police
"), and the band played that up with their eccentric fashions and accessories. The guy in this song is a bit desperate and delusional, figuring a shoe shine and a new shirt will make the girl love him.
This is one of the few rock songs that starts with the chorus.
In 1978, this appeared as the B-side of Cheap Trick's single "California Man."
In 1997, the group recorded a new version of the In Color album (complete with this song), with producer Steve Albini, but it was never released.