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Randy Bachman Interview: ‘Every Song Tells A Story’-The Musical Chronicles of a Rock Hero
August 27, 2014
By Ray Shasho
-Interviewed August 14th 2014
Guitar rock hero Randy Bachmanhas influenced both musicians and music enthusiasts alike since beginning his legendary journey with The Guess Who and throughout a monumental musical career with Bachman-Turner Overdrive.
The legendary guitarist, singer, songwriter, and producer, continues to ‘take care of business’ with ingenious plans for the near future … A new fourteen-track CD/DVD set entitled …‘Every Song Tells A Story', officially released on August 19th, filmed and recorded April 2013 at Pantages Playhouse Theatre in Winnipeg, Manitoba during the Vinyl Tap Tour … More Bachman & Turner touring … A rock & blues power trio featuring proficient female musicians alongside Randy on guitar and vocals … A new ‘British Blues’ album forthcoming with very special guest artists … Touring with Peter Frampton and Buddy Guy ... And a regular deejay gig called ‘Vinyl Tap’ his radio show on CBC Radio One/ Sirius Satellite Radio - Channel 169.
Purchase Randy Bachman’s brand new CD/DVD … Vinyl Tap Tour: Every Song Tells A Story -a fourteen-track CD/DVD set officially released on August 19th via the Independent Label Services Group (ILS) and available now at amazon.com. It was filmed and recorded April 2013 at Pantages Playhouse Theatre in Winnipeg, Manitoba during the Vinyl Tap Tour. ‘Every Song Tells A Story, features Bachman in a rare and intimate setting, weaving together the transcendent and iconic hits of the Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive with the often-humorous stories that originally brought the songs to life. Inspired by his award-winning radio program ‘Vinyl Tap,’ Bachman takes his master storytelling and voluminous musical knowledge on the road and leads fans on a guided journey that encapsulates the last 30 years of popular music presented by one of the greatest rock legends of our time.
THE GUESS WHO: Randy Bachman co-founded Al and The Silvertones in the early 60’s. The band changed their name to Chad Allan & the Reflections, Chad Allan and The Expressions, and eventually became The Guess Who.
By 1965, Winnipeg, Manitoba native Randy Bachman enjoyed commercial success with The Guess Who cover tune of the Johnny Kidd (Johnny Kidd & the Pirates) penned classic “Shakin’ All Over.” The Guess Who version reached #1 in Canada and landed in the Top 40 in the U.S.
After lead singer Chad Allan left the band, Burton Cummings took over frontman duties for The Guess Who. Randy Bachman became extremely important to the band’s sound, lyrical content, and its success. By 1969, the songwriting team of Bachman and Cummings began an incredible string of the band’s biggest hits … “These Eyes” (#6 U.S. Hit -1969), “Laughing” (#10 U.S. Hit -1969), “Undun” (#22 U.S Hit -1969, written solely by Bachman) “No Time,” (#5 U.S. Hit-1970) “American Woman” (#1 U.S. Hit-1970 written by Bachman/Cummings with Peterson and Kale ) and “No Sugar Tonight”(#1 U.S. Hit-1970 written solely by Bachman).
BRAVE BELT: Bachman left The Guess Who in 1970. He formed ‘Brave Belt’ after releasing his solo album entitled Axe for RCA Records. Brave Belt featured ex Guess Who singer Chad Allan, Fred Turner (Suggested by Neil Young), and Randy’s Brothers Robbie and Tim Bachman. The group had several hits on the Canadian Top 40 charts and released two albums (Brave Belt I, Brave Belt II). In 1972, Chad Allan departed and the group was eventually renamed … Bachman-Turner Overdrive.
BACHMAN-TURNER OVERDRIVE (BTO): The newly renamed rock group released their debut self-titled album in 1973. The band began their journey to legendary rock status and commercial success with the release of their second album … Bachman-Turner Overdrive II (1973). The album spawned “Let It Ride” (#23 Hit on Billboard’s Hot 100/1974, written by Bachman/Turner and sung by Fred Turner), and “Takin’Care of Business” (#12 Hit on Billboard’s Hot 100 /1974, written and sung by Randy Bachman).Tim Bachman left the band and was replaced by Blair Thornton. BTO’S third release Not Fragile generating further commercial success with the hit “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” (#1 on the U.S. charts/1974 written by Bachman) and “Roll On Down the Highway”(#14 U.S. Hit /1975).
BTO became an enormous concert draw and selling out arenas worldwide. Randy Bachman and his band continued its rock and roll savvy with the release of Four Wheel Drive (The album reached #5 on the U.S. charts in 1975, the single “Hey You” reached #21 on the U.S. charts) and Head On (1975/ the single “Take It Like A Man” reached #33 on the U.S. charts).
BTO’S seventh studio release… Freeways (1977) would be Randy Bachman’s last before the Bachman-Turner Overdrive (1984 album) seven years later. Randy Bachman was replaced by bassist Jim Clench (April Wine) while Turner moved over to rhythm guitar. Blair Thornton became the lead guitarist.
Randy returned to BTO in 1984 for the Bachman-Turner Overdrive (1984 album) Garry Peterson (The Guess Who) replaced Robbie Bachman on drums.
Bachman-Turner Overdrive has sold over 40-million records worldwide.
Randy Bachman rejoined Burton Cummings and other members of The Guess Who for reunions in 1983 and 1999. He played on several tours with The Guess Who until 2003. Bachman also formed a band with Burton Cummings called the ‘Bachman-Cummings Band.’
Bachman also performed with the second Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band in 1992.
On March 29th 2014, the classic BTO lineup of … Randy Bachman (guitar, vocals), Robbie Bachman (percussions, drums), Blair Thornton (guitar, vocals) and C. F. Turner (bass, vocals) reunited for the first time since 1991 to accept the Juno Award for Bachman-Turner Overdrive.
I had the great pleasure of chatting with Randy Bachman recently about … The origin behind ‘Every Song Tells A Story’ … Playing the violin … The state of the music industry… New tours … Bachman’s rebirth which includes a new album and a rock &blues power trio… Randy Bachman the radio deejay… And much-much more!
Here’s my interview with legendary guitar hero/singer/songwriter/producer …of The Guess Who/ BTO/ Bachman & Turner/ and ‘Vinyl Tap’ CBC radio deejay …RANDY BACHMAN.
Ray Shasho: Hi Randy, thank you for being on the call this morning.
Randy Bachman: “Hi Ray nice to hear from you.”
Ray Shasho: Randy, your new DVD …‘Every Song Tells A Story,’ is a fourteen-track CD/DVD set officially released on August 19th via the Independent Label Services Group (ILS). It was filmed and recorded at the Playhouse Theatre in Winnipeg, Manitoba during the Vinyl Tap Tour and was actually inspired by The Kinks, Ray Davies. I’m a big fan of the DVD … just awesome!
Randy Bachman: “I’m a big fan as well …you hear a song that means so much to you and then you hear the songwriter tell the story and why he wrote it and you go, what … are you kidding, the songs about that? I saw Ray Davies do this many years ago, twelve or thirteen years ago in London, and it was called ‘The Storyteller.’ He was onstage with an acoustic guitar and a backup guitar and told all The Kinks stories. I was sitting next to Rupert Perry who at the time was with Capitol Records in Toronto. I knew him obviously and he was now the head of EMI in Europe and the UK. So we started to talk and after the show I said that was just amazing. So he said do you want to meet Ray? I said are you kidding? I go backstage, shake his hand and he looks at me and says you can do that. I said what do you mean? He said you’ve got more hits than me, I’m sure you’ve told the stories… I said yea, every deejay asks a different story … How did you write “American Woman?”… How did you write “Undun?”… How did you write “Takin’ Care of Business?” I’d tell the deejay that story and he’d say just put them altogether and you’ve got an evening. So I did that many years ago for a money raising benefit in Vancouver at a big exclusive Golf Club where people were paying three grand a plate for dinner and then there’s a silent auction … I gave that whole spiel and they all came to me and said if you recorded this, we would buy a dozen copies and send them to our relatives all over the world who are fans of yours. I thought well, I guess I can do that, I just wasn’t in the mode of doing it.”
“So I started doing that, the performance you saw was done last December in Winnipeg my home town and the home town of Neil Young, The Guess Who, BTO, Burton Cummings, Fred Turner … and all those guys. We were really on that night, a special night, and at the end of a tour. So everything was rolling really nicely, and honestly I haven’t even seen the video yet, only bits and pieces, so I really don’t even know. (All laughing)”
Ray Shasho: I was fortunate to interview Darryl Way and Jean-Luc Ponty, two prodigious and legendary violinists … and you actually began playing the violin and later learned to play guitar because of playing the violin?
Randy Bachman: “The violin is a lead instrument. You’re either playing lead or harmony from lead, if you are in a little string quartet; you’re either playing the top line or the third underneath it which is The Everly Brothers or Beatles harmony, so it’s very melodic. When I play a guitar solo it is quite melodic. You can pretty much play my solo … like “American Woman” or even with BTO’s “Roll On Down the Highway,” and you can sing that solo, or play it on a violin, cello, or a horn, because the notes are melodic. It’s not me showing off scales and how fast I can play because frankly I don’t know any scales. If I can sing it in my head and play it, then I think other people can hear it and sing it in their heads and remember it, and then they’ll buy it. That’s been my whole theory of playing lead guitar.”
“I started playing violin when I was five and a half and had a wonderful teacher who made a mistake every week … she played the song for me first. She put up this whole big thing by Chopin or Beethoven and she would play it first, and then she’d say okay now you try to play it, and I would play it perfectly. Then she would say you’ve got to practice this for a week, and I’d say I already know it can you give me another song. So I’d boringly have to play it for one more week until I got back the next Saturday morning and play it for her again. And I was so good that she said I want you to join the Winnipeg School of Symphony. So I go over to Kelvin High which is where Neil Young went to school, and on Saturday morning, I’m to be second violin and there are about seventy five kids there. We start to play and suddenly there’s a tap, tap, tap and everybody stops playing. The conductor says …second violin, bar thirty four, it’s an E natural not an E- flat. So we take it from the top and get to bar thirty four and I play the same note … tap, tap, tap… second violin, what do you not understand about E- flat or E natural in bar thirty four? I had no idea what the conductor was talking about. So in tears, I put my violin in my case, walked out the door crying, get on the bus and go home.”
“That night I see Elvis Presley on TV and I said, what is that? They say it’s a guitar and its rock and roll. I said …that’s it! I got a guitar from my cousin then finally saved up enough money to buy my own. I started playing guitar and wanted to play like Elvis or Scotty Moore who played behind him, and that led to discovering Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Rick Nelson, James Burton, and all these singers … Gene Vincent had incredible guitar players backing him up, and so I learned to play by ear, and found out that I had a phonographic memory. If I hear it played on a phonograph I remember it instantly, I just figure it out on guitar and play it. I can’t read a note on guitar, so since that time when I was fourteen or fifteen years old, I never picked up a violin again.”
Ray Shasho: I’ve always found it fascinating how many legendary musicians really don’t read music.
Randy Bachman: “It’s either in you or not in you. By the time you get to middle-aged, which I am, you’ve had occasions to visit a few shrinks because you’re going through a breakup, depressed, someone passes away in your family, or you’re going through a divorce … so you go and visit a shrink. So you are in a room with a shrink and they always say to me … How are you feeling? What do you feel right now… because you’re in a conflict with someone? And I’d say I don’t want to talk about it. Then they’d say what’s in your head right now? I’d say nothing. What’s in your head right now? I’d say besides the music, I’m feeling anger …and that was a big thing for me.”
“Then the next week they’d say, okay what’s in your head right now? I’d say besides the music, I’m feeling not as angry as I was last week. Then after the third week, the shrink said to me, what music do you hear? I said ever since I was born I hear music in my head. It’s like a little soundtrack playing, just like when you go to the movies and there’s music in the background, and I play it. The shrink said, I don’t hear any music in my head, and I told him I feel so sorry for you. At that point the guy’s face looked so deflated. I realized that there are people out there who do not have music in their heads. Every time I’ve told that story, when I’m in a songwriting circle and explaining how we write our songs, I look at everybody in the circle, even if I barely met them … like Emmylou Harris or Sammy Hagar, somebody like that who are explaining how they wrote their songs, and I think I can speak for everyone … We were born with and still have music in our heads.”
Ray Shasho: I’ve heard a song in my head and then it’s immediately played on the radio … or right before an interview, a song is played by the artist I’m actually interviewing. There was a study done somewhere on hearing airwaves…even when the radio wasn’t turned on … and I believe it. When I was a deejay in radio, I heard all kind of things.
Randy Bachman: “How about this … you’re in a car or a room with somebody and they start to hum or sing a song that’s in your head and you both got the same waves and you go…what the f**k, that’s in my head too, and then you turn on the radio and it comes on in the next minute … and you look at each other and (Randy humming the Twilight Zone theme) … it’s amazing and wonderful when that happens.”
Ray Shasho: BTO was such a huge commercial success on mainstream radio … then in a blurred instance those legendary rock heroes that we were so accustomed to hearing every time we turned on our radio’s had mysteriously vanished from the mainstream. The blues, jazz, and rock and roll are America’s contribution to the arts, so why are we not fighting to preserve our own musical legacy and culture?
Randy Bachman: “Well unfortunately at that time Disco came in and all the bands that I was buddies with and who I was touring with like… The Doobie Brothers, The Allman Brothers Band, Peter Frampton, ZZ Top, Aerosmith… all those Boogie Southern Rock Bands, and even though we were from Canada we were also called a Boogie Southern Rock Band … suddenly we all couldn’t get any gigs. We had to team up and all started playing together and then as we had hits we headlined and invited a band to open. Suddenly Disco came in and the club owner or promoter could hire a single singer while paying them a hundred bucks to dance and sing to the record instead of paying a band five thousand. So each guy in the band would get a couple of hundred bucks to pay the roadies and pay the rent. He only had to put out a hundred bucks a night or five hundred bucks for five nights of entertainment, where as he would be paying five thousand dollars a night for a band, so it became a matter of economics. Then radio was taken over by Disco and they weren’t playing rock and roll anymore.”
“As a deejay you’ll know this … every three hours you’d play a moldy oldie, a groove-yard great … something from the past, because all of us like to hear …“ I Heard it Through the Grapevine,” “Proud Mary,” “Johnny B. Goode … and we wanted to hear all that at once. Then out came the classic rock format and everyone bought all their favorite music again on CD’s because there were no record players anywhere. So the music took a shift, all us guys from the 70’s, made a huge ton of money again in the 90’s.Then some idiot out there invents Napster and gives it to everybody for free and then suddenly everyone can steal our music legally because we can’t patrol millions upon millions of people downloading our songs and playing it, while our source of income vanishes. It’s like saying to everybody, gee, you don’t need to pay a bus driver because he doesn’t have a gun and can’t make you pay, and he can’t get up and throw you off the bus … why don’t we all ride the bus for free. So he can’t get paid a salary or put gas in the bus, and the whole transit system runs down. That’s what happened to the music industry, they stopped paying. So what’s happened, it’s gone back to the 60’s and 70’s, where you now go and play live, and I’m very fortunate, healthy, and happy to be playing live.”
“I’m doing a massive tour next summer, and doing two tours inside each other, and the money now is at the box office because your music is pretty much given away free. I’ve got a new album coming out next year, I’m going on tour with Fred Turner in a week, and we’re playing like Anchorage, Portland, Regina, and Calgary. In between I got invited to play ‘Frampton’s Guitar Circus’ so in between our days off, I’m flying to LA to play the Hollywood Bowl with Peter Frampton and Buddy Guy and then I go back and play with Turner, and then go back to California again, so on everybody else’s day off, I’m travelling from ‘Gig A to Gig B’ and playing a double tour. So I’m feeling great about this and can’t wait to do it.”
“I have a blues album coming out next year, I reinvented myself, and I’ve got a girl band, a girl bass player and drummer who play like Keith Moon and John Entwistle, and I suddenly get to be Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton in Cream, or Jimmy Page in Zeppelin. The whole album is 1968-69 British Blues, power trio, I wrote all the songs, Kevin Shirley is a great rock producer and he produced it for me. I’ve got guest artists on it … Joe Bonamassa, Billy Gibbons, Peter Frampton, Jeff Healey, Scott Holiday from the Rival Sons, and Neil Young are all doing solo blues things on it. It’s coming out next March and for me it’s a rebirth. Even though I know it’s not going to sell and I’m not going to get paid for it, maybe it will get played on radio. But I’m already getting offers from blues, jazz, and alternate festivals all over the world. So it’s still out there if you can deliver the goods and I can. I’m finding out that people are hungry for this. I can give the people what they expect from me like … “Takin’ Care of Business” and then perform a new blues song. I can’t wait to get on the road with this new band.”
Ray Shasho: Randy, you’re also quite the jazz player; I really enjoy “Lookin’ Out for Number One.”
Randy Bachman: “That’s kind of in me and one of my hidden fetishes is jazz. I jammed with Frampton in January and we were both inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum, so we were all onstage there and basically in a blues solo … he delves into Django Reinhardt and I dove into Lenny Breau who was my mentor while I was a teenager who played a lot of Barney Kessel and Howard Roberts. We both have this jazz thing we get into that maybe wows a couple of twenty year old guitar players in the front row and goes over the heads of everybody else because we’re not playing the normal blues scale, we’re going into some weird jazz thing that Django, Howard Roberts or Barney Kessel did. Then we’d go right back into our blues thing, just once in awhile there’s this little hot pepper that’s in the salsa, and then you go back to the main dish again, and I love doing that.”
Ray Shasho: Randy, here’s a question that I ask everyone that I interview. If you had a ‘Field of Dreams’ wish like the movie, to play, perform, or collaborate with anyone from the past or present, who would that be?
Randy Bachman: “It would probably be Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton … two of the greatest. I met Jimi Hendrix when he was Jimmy James in the Village Gate and was playing with a band while wearing a sparkly lime green suit and playing an old Harmony guitar. He went on to England after that and became Jimi Hendrix. I never had the opportunity to meet Clapton but they were both a huge influence on me. I met Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck and I loved them …these were the four greatest guys in the world. So that would be it … to hang with Hendrix and Clapton.”
Ray Shasho: Randy anything else you’d like to promote?
Randy Bachman: “No, I’m really thrilled to talk with you; I’m kind of amazed about the reception to the DVD because for me it’s a total surprise. It’s gone platinum or double-platinum in Canada and has made it on the want list in the U.S.A., Australia, U.K., and the E.U. If you can’t sell records anymore sell DVD’s. Google Randy’s Vinyl Tap on CBC Radio. I tell my story behind the music I play … about when I met Jimmy Page, and when I met Brian Wilson, and how I wrote a song with Carl Wilson. I’ll play music like classic rock but tell my own stories that nobody knows. So I’ve become a deejay and the show has gone into its ninth year now. I play everything from the 50’s up to Lady Gaga. In one show I’ll play the original “Crossroads” by Robert Johnson, then play Clapton and Cream, and then John Mayer. I’ve had young kids come up to me and say thank you for your radio show, it’s our music lesson every Saturday night because we can’t buy Robert Johnson anywhere, we’ve only heard of him. So I’m known as the music teacher. I get 9-10 million people listening to the show every week, so I get a lot of email.”
Ray Shasho: My latest book project entitled… “Saving Rock And Roll” will address many of the topics we discussed today … you’ll be included in the book along with over 100 of the greatest music legends of our time.
Randy Bachman: “I can tell you right now what will save rock and roll … radio! If radio would smarten up, and I told this to every classic rock guy I’ve ever talked to …Play back to back songs by the same artist in a then and now format …Here’s Aerosmith then and here’s Aerosmith now … Here’s Heart then and here’s Heart now… Here’s Peter Frampton then and here’s Peter Frampton now … Here’s Bachman then and here’s Bachman now. All of us have new CD’S that we can’t get any airplay from these f**king guys who are playing our old hits, if they’d only play two together it would revitalize rock and roll.”
“There are no record stores anymore, but say you hear a new song by Heart, Aerosmith, or Randy Bachman, all you have to do is go to our official websites and download it or go to iTunes. It’s all up to radio just like it was in the beginning when radio began to play rock and roll and stopped playing Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, and The Andrew Sisters and started playing Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, and Elvis Presley. If radio would do that now it would revitalize the whole industry. We don’t need the record stores or record labels, and we all have our own studios we’re putting up on our websites, it would regenerate the money … what do musicians do they spend money, we hire two dozen people and go on the road, eat at restaurants and stay at hotels all over the world … so it’s all up to radio.”
Ray Shasho:Randy, thank you for being on the call today but more importantly for all the incredible music with The Guess Who/BTO/Bachman & Turner/ and the awesome music still yet to come.
Randy Bachman: “Thanks Ray!”
Purchase Randy Bachman’s brand new CD/DVD …Vinyl Tap Tour: Every Song Tells A Story, -a fourteen-track CD/DVD set officially released on August 19th via the Independent Label Services Group (ILS) -available NOW at amazon.com. It was filmed and recorded April 2013 at Pantages Playhouse Theatre in Winnipeg, Manitoba during the Vinyl Tap Tour. ‘Every Song Tells A Story, features Bachman in a rare and intimate setting, weaving together the transcendent and iconic hits of the Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive with the often-humorous stories that originally brought the songs to life. Inspired by his award-winning radio program ‘Vinyl Tap,’ Bachman takes his master storytelling and voluminous musical knowledge on the road and leads fans on a guided journey that encapsulates the last 30 years of popular music presented by one of the greatest rock legends of our time.
‘EVERY SONG TELLS A STORY’ Track Listing: 1. “Prairie Town” 2. “Shakin’ All Over” 3. “These Eyes” 4. “Laughing” 5. “No Sugar Tonight” 6. “No Time” 7. “American Woman” 8. “Roll On Down The Highway” 9. “Let It Ride” 10. “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet” 11. “Takin’ Care Of Business” 12. “Hey You” 13. “Undun”14. “Lookin’ Out For 1”
Listen to Randy Bachman’s ‘Vinyl Tap’ on CBC Radio One/ Sirius Satellite Radio- Channel 169 or go [HERE] to listen online (Now entering its ninth year)
COMING UP NEXT … Keyboard extraordinaire Patrick Moraz (YES/The Moody Blues)… Al Kooper (The Blues Project, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Bob Dylan, and responsible for the success of Lynyrd Skynyrd… Legendary keyboardist Keith Emerson (The Nice, Emerson, Lake & Palmer) … Don Wilson guitarist, pioneer, and co-founder of ‘The Ventures.’ … Country Music’s shining new star -19 year old Mary Sarah … And Folk/Rock singer & songwriter Jonathan Edwards (“Sunshine”).
Contact music journalist Ray Shasho at email@example.com
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Ray’s exciting new book project entitled ‘SAVING ROCK AND ROLL’