Bachman-Turner Overdrive

ARTICLE ABOUT Bachman Turner Overdrive FROM SOUNDS, May 17, 1975

Well, my dear friends of this musical blog – what has been happening since my last post? Well, on monday the blog almost didn`t have room for everyone coming here. It just EXPLODED with hits, and a lot of them were reading about Ian Hunter. My guess is that someone posted a link to my blog on a forum for Hunter-fans on Facebook. To whoever that did it – it went really well, you have showed me the power of the Hunters. And He saw that they were good and powerful. So I can never skip any articles with Hunter in the future – I must transcribe everything from here on. 😉
In the meantime, on Twitter, the REAL Mick Ralphs have been making friends with me – and I am deeply humbled by that act of kindness from such an important musical figure. He is following in the footsteps of other musicians of greatness, like Roger Fisher (Ex-Heart), Punky Meadows (Angel) and Lita Ford (if they haven`t unfriended me since the last time I checked). While it is a great honour to be friends with these legends of rock`n`roll, I am also just as grateful to those of you readers, while not so famous but equally talented in other ways, that visit this blog and gives me the motivation to keep going on. Thank you – now enjoy this next article – this time about those sturdy Canadians in BTO!


`eard the one about the Randy Mormon?

Peter Makowski face to face with Bachman Turner Overdrive

There seems to be an inexplicable, invisible but understandable line of hypocrisy running between Randy Bachman the musician and Randy Bachman the person. Inexplicable because it doesn`t relate to or affect the band`s music which relies on sheer sympathetic energy between musicians devoid of any contrivance; understandable because after being in the business for so long barriers of cynicism are expected to appear.
With Bachman it`s not cynicism, it`s a thorough logistic assessment of how the music business should be run, which in his verbal dialogue might sound a little cold and precise but on paper couldn`t be truer.
Talking to Bachman is like talking to a manager who is willing to give you the facts. And I think it`s from this hard-earned experience that this little, unknown Canadian band have become big business in such a short space of time.
Bachman sat in contemplative pose, looking like a lumberjack guru, when I spoke to him in his hotel prior to BTO`s performance at the Glasgow Apollo.


Saying that Bachman is Mormon, doesn`t drink, doesn`t smoke, doesn`t pull chicks on the road and is a rock and roll star is almost a contradiction in itself. But maybe that could at the same time account for his clear headedness. Although externally his appearance is burly and aggressive all in all he seems to be quite a composed, laid back character.
The band have recently recorded a new album titled appropriately enough `Four Wheel Drive`. “It`s a progression for us,” Bachman reported happily, “nothing like heavy jazz rock like Yes who I think are a very progressive group. It`s a progression for us because we`re playing different kinds of rock and roll songs. Rock and roll songs go on for ever, we`re just exploring.
“We`ve had different, slight changes, but I find the people like basic rock and we`re selling to basic rock audiences. I could play really heavy guitar if I wanted to, classical or country `cause I grew up learning all that stuff. I could do it and I could probably expand our audience by another 10 per cent, but I`d lose 10 per cent who are buying what we`ve got now, so it`s a losing battle trying to please new people.
“I don`t believe in pleasing critics because they get their albums free and all they do is tear them apart, all I want to do is please the people who are buying our stuff.”
Has the recent recession in America (the band`s biggest money spinner) affected them at all?
“We were lucky,” Bachman replied, almost sounding grateful, “the recession doesn`t affect top products of any country. By the top products I don`t mean the best, I mean what the people want. There`s just been a recession in the States yeah, but nobody`s stopped buying beer, nobody`s stopped going out to concerts.
“All the three group shows, where we headlined, became two group shows, we were still on the top, we still got our money, we were still sellouts.”

As I mentioned before a lot of BTO`s success is derived from Bachman`s experiences and observation. In fact before BTO, when he played with the once top Canadian band Guess Who, Bachman spent a lot of time researching commercial records to see if it would help him come up with the right ingredients for a hit record, which it did.
“When I was in the Guess Who,” recalled Bachman, “we used to study obviously Lennon and McCartney, Brian Wilson and Georgie Fame. We used to study composers and very commercial groups `cause in those days there were no underground selling groups. You either had a single or you were gone.
“In Brave Belt, which eventually became BTO, we listened to other types of commercial group and that was the type of group who had wide appeal albums and singles – the Who, Creedence, Rolling Stones, Cream – simple groups who, if they were commercial, were not selling out.
“There are commercial bands like Paper Lace, Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods who get together and write commercial songs, we don`t do that. We put together good album music, throw the album out on the market and usually a radio station picks up on a single and I`ll edit it.



“This is usually the case except for our new single called `Hey You`. We anticipated it being a single almost from the start, it just had a certain element that `Ain`t Seen Nothing Yet` had. And I don`t feel bad in doing that, trying to follow the success of a commercial single, because we`ve had all the album success and by having one we don`t seem to lost the other.”
It seems in America (and almost everywhere else come to think of it) that rock sensations come and go before you can say tricky Dicky Nixon, they`re in and out of the charts with a bullet. I asked Bachman to explain their sustaining their success.
“I think if you look at the bands that have come and gone you can pinpoint the exact moment they`ve gone. When they decide to do something heavy, something drastic. You get a simple rock group like us, if we try to do something like King Arthur and his magical knights of the round table, you know Houdini`s magic show, we`d just lose our fans. If we keep doing what comes naturally then we`ll be okay.

“You look at a group who have been obliterated. It could be managerial problems. I agree a lot of rock and roll bands go under pressure and strains but we don`t have any of them. We make the basic decisions deciding what we`re going to do, how long we`re going out for. Our manager comes with us on the road and when we`re tired of being on the road, then he`s just as tired.
“We don`t have a fat New York manager in a Cadillac with his briefcase and cigar saying `give me my percentage, stay out another month, you`re doing great`. I`ve gone through this with Guess Who.
“We don`t have any of those problems because our manager is like a part of the group, he travels with us, he thinks how we think because we have very open discussions. When it`s down to making a decision he basically knows what we want to do, how long we want to work, how much money we want to make, once you make enough money there`s no point in going crazy and have ten million dollars compared to two million.


“When you can buy anything you want it doesn`t matter how much excess money you have. That`s not really why we`re happy. We`re happy because we have a very good schedule, we enjoy the music we`re playing and we enjoy relating to the people that are buying our product.
“A good case of managerial problems is Buffalo Springfield, they were one of America`s greats and one of my favourite bands. When they found that they were one of the biggest underground bands and heading to being one of THE big groups they all looked around and said `you know we`re broke, we don`t have enough to pay our rent or buy guitar strings`.
“They ended it because they didn`t like their management. That`s one reason why a group doesn`t last and the other is some drastic artistic change, and we`ll never drastically change, if we evolve it`ll be something natural.”
As Bachman indicated earlier, he seems to have varied amounts of musical influences and the last time I interviewed him he was promising a solo album. I asked him when this project would crystalise.
“I probably won`t do it for a while. I don`t want to do it while I`m on the road and we`re in the process of building our own studio, we have to decide which country it`s going to be in because there`s quite a few implications with Canadian and American recordings and I`m not going to start on a solo album until I`ve done a BTO album in the studio.
“If I do a solo album, it`ll be something drastic,” Bachman concluded…not that drastic because I want it to sell.”

The debut of what became a very big band - Journey!

The debut of what became a very big band – Journey!

I have personally transcribed this from the original paper and you are free to use it as you like. If you use it on your own webpages – please credit me or put up a link to my blog.

This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Roxy Music, Steve Hillage, Bobby Bland, Maria Muldaur, Barry White, Allen Toussaint, Nils Lofgren, Bay City Rollers, Neil Young, Dave Greenslade, Status Quo, Yes, Link Wray, Ladies in rock, Hedgehog Pie, Van Der Graaf Generator.

This edition is sold.



Since last time I`ve had a massive response to the article about Yes. I am surely going to print more articles from that band when I find them. BUT, that doesn`t mean I`ll go “commercial” and print only what I think will get more views on the blog. Not at all – and in line with that philosophy, here is an article with an “unfashionable” band – Bachman-Turner Overdrive. I recommend to check them out – they have some nice songs in their catalog.


Loud rhythmic noises

– And that`s not all. Bachman-Turner Overdrive also have teen-appeal and an incredibly complicated history…which Andrew Weiner struggles to unravel…

Bachman-Turner Overdrive are currently Canada`s most successful rock band. At least they`re the most successful still living and working there – because The Band, who are 80% Canadian, fled from the land of folk-wimps and Mounties a good while ago.
B.T.O. have had three consecutive U.S. Top 20 albums – two still in the charts and certified gold – something no gang of axe-wielding Canucks has achieved before.
They also boast a U.S. singles hit. So, for that matter, do The Guess Who – lots of them – but they don`t sell albums like BTO.
Actually, to make it Really Big in the (admittedly improving) Canadian rock wilderness, a performer has to make it in the States first: witness N. Young and J. Mitchell, who wanted to be Yanks and so moved to where the action was – or at least appeared to be.
BTO fall into line with this trend, making out in the U.S. of A. where nationality is irrelevant as long as the music sounds American – or more precisely, North American. Which it does.

Bachman-Turner Overdrive are a rock band. Their hit albums are much more important than their hit singles (though “Let It Ride” was a good hamburger-bar hit at the very least).
Their live gigs are much more important to them than TV. BTO have a certain audience and they know exactly who that audience is and what they like and how to reach them. They have the late highschool/early college rock audience, the Grand Funk generation, kids who were maybe 11 or 12 at the height of the halcyon youthcult days.
Yet BTO spring directly from The Guess Who.
Founder and lead guitarist Randy Bachman was one of the founders of the original Guess Who and for a long time their lead guitarist and co-composer of many of their hits.
All that goes back a long way, all the way back to Winnipeg in 1959, to a band called Al and the Silvertones led by a singer called Chad Allen.

Al and the Silvertones became Chad Allen and the Expressions, and broke through to brief US success in the early `60s with a passable cover version of Johnny Kidd`s “Shaking All Over”. They went out on a Dick Clark one-hit-wonder package tour and quickly slipped back into obscurity.
Around 1965 they became known as The Guess Who. They smashed up their equipment to cash in on the notoriety of The Who…Chad Allen quit – he wanted to go to university…Burton Cummings stepped in as lead singer.
And they broke through, first of all with “These Eyes”, which was supposed to be “wheatfield soul”, and then with a whole string of hits, latching on to any flicker of teen culture that they could.
Burton Cummings developed a pretty fair Jim Morrison pose, Randy Bachman borrowed a lot of Hendrix riffs, Spirit riffs, Stones riffs, any riffs he could find lying around. The Guess Who rode with the tide.

Randy Bachman quit in 1970. He was sick, he needed a rest, he had to go into hospital. He hadn`t been getting on well with the rest of the band. A converted Mormon (no alcohol, dope, tea, coffee, immorality) he wanted no part of all the partyings and the dope and the groupies that came with success.
The parting was amicable at first, but became less so with the passage of time. Burton Cummings now says unpleasant things to magazines about Bachman, and Bachman in turn suggests that The Guess Who must need the publicity.
“I saw them on TV a while back,” he told Creem magazine. “And they looked like they`d just stepped off a garbage truck.” BTO themselves are doing well enough now, but the bad press hurt in the beginning, when Bachman was struggling to get his first band, Brave Belt, off the ground.


Brave Belt were formed initially to back Chad Allen on record in his attempted comeback. Bachman brought in his brothers Rob (on drums) and Tim (on rhythm guitar). They became a band and they made two albums, neither of which sold particularly well. The band lost their contract.
They wanted to go out on the road and tour, all of them but Chad Allen – who quit because he couldn`t face going through all that again.
So the Brothers Bachman brought in C.F. Turner and Bachman-Turner Overdrive were born.
Based in Winnipeg, they recorded a first album in Toronto, acquiring a contract with Mercury. The album, “Bachman-Turner Overdrive One”, came out and BTO went on the road to sell it, playing the music the kids wanted to hear: much heavier music than that of Brave Belt or The Guess Who.
They played long and for little reward…and then the radio stations picked up on the album.
The band issued a second LP, “BTO Two”.
A single from it “Let It Ride”, hit big and helped push the first two albums into the Top 20. Tim Bachman quit to take up producing. A new co-lead guitarist, Blair Thornton, stepped in. The band relocated in Vancouver. They made a third album, “Not Fragile”, which recently followed its predecessors up the chart.

A classic success story, perhaps, BTO went out and worked, really worked, for their success. They didn`t go for the cheap gimmick – the bubble gum hit…they left all that to The Guess Who.
If BTO have any image at all, it`s an image that exactly corresponds to their reality: as a fat, happy, supremely ordinary bunch of guys playing in a supremely ordinary but extremely hard-working high-pressure boogie band.
American kids like hard-working bands. They liked Grand Funk, who also worked monumentally hard.
It`s still hard to describe BTO`s music.
It`s nothing new. It`s all been done before, but never in quite this combination.
On record the two guitarists play model solos which seem to be a superior pastiche of the best of Hendrix and Spirit and the Stones.
The songs are by no means memorable, but they hold your attention. They have a lot of variation and they have a lot of density. Bachman is an excellent producer.

Mostly, they boogie. Most of their words are about boogieing on and on. The title cut of “Not Fragile” is a lot of bragging about how heavy they are – and they mostly are, too. Heavy, and yet with a fluidity…about their music which bands like Sabbath or Grand Funk never approach. Very dexterously-played and skilfully-arranged heavy boogie music, with dynamics, like mid-period Led Zep.
Bachman-Turner Overdrive are the most proficient Canadian rock band I`ve ever heard.
Technically, they`re way ahead of their competition, clearly much more committed to their music than The Guess Who, who seem to stumble nearer and nearer to disintegration.
And yet…I`d have to say that my favourite Canadian band are The Guess Who, and by a very long way.


Never knew anything about this band, but now I know about them – and so do you! 😉

I have personally transcribed this from the original paper and you are free to use it as you like. If you use it on your own webpages – please credit me or put up a link to my blog.

This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Elton John, The Crystals, Yes, John Sebastian, Fanny, Rod Stewart, Johnny Winter, Frank Zappa, Magna Carta, Ray Shulman (Gentle Giant).

The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!

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