Canadian Classic Rock
A true icon in every sense of the word, Randy Bachman's music roots go back to the mid fifties. Along with school friend Chad Allen, he formed the Silvertones, then the Reflections, then the Expressions and cut their teeth early playing dances, all the while quietly becoming one of Winnipeg's best-kept secrets. Because Canadian content regulations hadn't been implemented yet, The Expressions found it tough going trying to expand outside of the local scene and released "Shakin All Over" to the local radio stations without telling them who they were. The anonymous group was dubbed 'The Guess Who' and Canada's first supergroup had been born.
Bachman stayed with the group during their most illustrious period, penning such classics as "New Mother Nature", "Laughing", "Undun", "American Woman" and 1969's "These Eyes", the first Canadian single to reach #1 on Billboard. Personnel problems caused Bachman to take a break from the group and released AXE, his first solo record in 1970. Saying it didn't light the critics' typewriters on fire is an understatement, but still he officially announced his departure from the Guess Who that same year.
He reunited with Allen in '71 and recruited his brother Robbie and to form Brave Belt, and released two records, BRAVE BELT I, which features C.F. Turner on the jacket despite joining the group literally only days before the record's release, and BRAVE BELT II over the next three years. Critics expected basically a generic version of The Guess Who. So Brave Belt's heavier sound was initially unaccepted and the band was fledgling at best until Allen was replaced by Randy and Robbie's brother Tim. Now under the guise of Bachman Turner Overdrive, a new bona fide Canadian supergroup was in the making. Though staying true to the path set forth by Brave Belt, BTO quickly found radio play with the hits "Give Me Your Money Please" and "Blue Collar" from their self-titled debut in '73. Countless awards and praises followed as they lit up the charts time and time again with such classics as "Takin' Care of Business", "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet", "Four Wheel Drive" and "Let It Ride".
Disputes over where the band was headed spelled the end of the road for Bachman and he left in '76, re-emerging with his second solo record, SURVIVOR that same year. Again the critics shunned the solo effort, suggesting he had to have a strong supporting cast to make it. He formed Ironhorse the next year with Turner and guitarist Tom Sparks and drummer Chris Leighton. A heavy, thunderous sound but nothing that's really stood the test of time was the result on both the group's records on Scotti Brothers Records, the self-titled debut in '79 and EVERYTHING IS GREY, released the next year and featuring ex-Trooper keyboardist Frank Ludwig replacing Sparks. Despite a total of four singles being released from the two records, sales were slightly better than dismal and the group called it quits in '81.
Bachman re-emerged on Portrait Records later that same year with his new outfit, Union. Funny thing is though, it was the same supporting cast on Brave Belt's second lp. Though ON STRIKE produced two singles, neither were hits. Sales were less than hoped for and Portrait released the band from any further commitments.
Bachman displayed his "before its time" trend-setting in '83 when he re--united with Burton Cummings, Jim Kale and Gary Peterson for a Guess Who reunion. What initially was meant to be a few outdoor concerts blossomed into a re-birth of one of the rock world's greatest groups. Three singles were let loose on the airwaves to celebrate their reunion "C'mon and Dance", "Let's Watch The Sun Go Down" and "Creepin Peepin Baby Blues" as well as the album, appropriately entitled REUNION. Little known fact is just prior to their reunion that same year, Bachman briefly reunited with brother Robbie and CF Turner to re-form BTO. But because Robbie wanted Blair Thornton to fill out the quartet and Randy wanted brother Tim, dissension caused Robbie to walk away from the drums early on during the reunion. He was replaced by Peterson briefly before he and Bachman hooked up with Cummings and Kale again.
Again BTO would form and would stay together this time for the better part of three years until '88, when Bachman bailed out of the fledgling attempt to recapture the fire of the seventies.
Bachman would go into seclusion for the next five years, concentrating on running his own label and helping develop other budding stars. He resurfaced in 1996 with ANY ROAD, on BMG Records. Noteable is it had two versions of the same song, "Prarie Town". As the lead off track, the heavy version featured Neil Young and sounded as if you'd turned the hands of the clock back twenty years, complete with searing guitar solos. The melodic version rounds out the album and features Margo Timmins of Cowboy Junkies and further cemented the return of one of Canada's rock and roll forefathers. Fittingly, both copies epitomize Bachman, rough on one side but smooth on the other side, both digging deep into Bachman's earliest roots. Also on the record were the title- track, "Why Am I Lonely?", penned by his son Talmage, and his daughter Callianne providing backup vocals on "Overworked and Underpaid", three more bare to the bone rockers. Bachman's sassier, jazzier side also shone through on "I Wanna Shelter You" and "15 Minutes of Fame", an insider's rather cynical view of the record industry.
Bachman kept himself busy in '96 by recording a 10 minute epic with Neil Young called "Made In Canada". As you might guess from the title, it was an ode to the great white north that had a 4 minute version hit the airwaves right around Canada Day. He also contributed to a charity album called JETS FOR KIDS, a collection of tracks which in part mourned the loss of the Winnipeg Jets (now the Phoenix Coyotes for those who don't know). The new lyrics to "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet" were "That's One Hot Russian", a tribute to forward Alexei Zhamnov. Later that same year saw the release of BACHMAN. Though not a bad record overall, it didn't contain the energy of ANY ROAD. This, coupled with no real effort to promote it from BMG and Bachman's outside interests spelled lacklustre sales and he found himself without a contract early the next year.
Bachman went back into the background for a few years, preferring to work as producer and engineer, allowing him to spend more time with family and whatever else it is rock and roll gods do in their spare time.
He reimmerged in the Summer of '99 of for a "one-time" reunion with the original members of The Guess Who playing 4 tunes at the closing ceremonies of the Pan-Am Games in Winnipeg. This led to the incredibly successful "Running Back Thru Canada" tour in the summer of 2000.
On his 57th birthday (September 27th, 2000) Randy released his new biography, co-written by John Einarson, titled "Takin Care Of Business".
There is no question Randy Bachman helped shape today's Canadian music scene and rock and roll in general. Forty some odd years of hits don't lie. Always proud of his roots and home, he is beyond a shadow of a doubt one of Canada's greatest treasures.
Just A Kid