Randy Bachman: Still 'Takin' Care of Business'

New live release from iconic artist tells tales of a life in music
By Peter Lindblad

Randy Bachman - Every Song Tells
A Story 2014
What a life Bachman-Turner Overdrive's "Takin' Care of Business" has lived.

Before it was released in 1973 and included on BTO's Bachman-Turner Overdrive II album, it had lived an orphan's existence, unable to find a permanent home.

Eventually, though, it did, and it became one of the biggest hits of Randy Bachman's career. The story of how "Takin' Care of Business" came to be is one of the highlights of a new CD/DVD set titled "Every Song Tells a Story," which finds Bachman mining his past for tales from a musical life and playing a number of favorites from The Guess Who and BTO.

"My favorite story of all, which even amazes me, is the entire story of 'Takin’ Care of Business,' how I started it in the late ‘60s, and it was called 'White Collar Worker,' how it transformed to become what it became about five years later through an accident at a BTO show when Fred Turner lost his voice and I had to sing, to the pizza guy who came in [to the studio] and brought the pizza and played piano on it ... no writer in Hollywood could have written a better story, but it happened and I tell the story and it’s pretty amazing," said Bachman.

That's right. A pizza delivery guy named Norman Durkee played piano on the recorded version, adding his part at Kaye-Smith Studios in Seattle, Wash. This song that had started out as a story of a recording engineer who took "the 8:15 into the city," going by train, and was originally called "White Collar Worker" when Bachman wrote it while with The Guess Who got a new name when Bachman heard the phrase "takin' care of business" on the radio while heading to a gig in Vancouver, British Columbia, where Turner's voice gave out that night. Bachman had to take over on vocals and started singing "White Collar Worker," only with a new chorus, "Takin' Care of Business."

"Every Song Tells a Story" is a CD/DVD live set that captures Bachman's "Storyteller"-type performance from Spring 2013 in his hometown of Winnipeg at the Pantages Playhouse Theatre. Here's a teaser clip of the show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rqJ8pG0Ir0&feature=youtu.be

Ray Davies of The Kinks is the one who persuaded Bachman to do this. Bachman saw him do something similar in London.

"Well, I’m a fan of Ray Davies, as most people are," said Bachman. "He tells the story of The Kinks, and I go backstage and I say, 'That was amazing.' And he looks at me and he says, 'Well, you could do it better or more amazing than this.' I said, 'Well, what do you mean?' He says, 'Well, you’ve got two bands. You could tell the stories behind the songs. You’ve got more hits than me.' And I went back to Vancouver after that, this little bit in London, and got asked to do a show for the Canadian Cancer Society – a fundraising dinner, $5,000 a plate, black-tie dinner at a big golf country club, everybody’s dressed up and a silent auction is auctioning Harley Davidsons and stuff; this is to raise many hundreds of thousands of dollars for the cancer society, and the people voted that they wanted me as the entertainment."

When asked, Bachman was a bit apprehensive. They were persuasive.

"They said, 'Could you come and play for these people?'" recalls Bachman. "I said, 'But they’re having dinner. I don't want you to blow the plates off the table.' They said, 'Can you kind of do an acoustic show?' And I said, 'My music doesn’t really translate acoustically, at least the BTO stuff doesn’t. But how about if I sit on a stool and tell stories about how I wrote the songs, and I’ll play a little bit of the songs, and it won’t be a night of blasting it in their faces, because they can kind of talk as they’re having their dinner?' So I go there and I do the night and nobody talks when I’m telling my stories. They’re all listening. And I’m kind of frightened at this – that they’re listening to me. And then we play the songs, and when the evening is over, they came and said, 'You know if you would put this on a CD or a DVD, we would buy a dozen copies and send it to our relatives all over the world. This is just the most wonderful insight into all these songs we all grew up with. It’s the soundtrack to our lives – our teenage lives, our married lives, our working life and everything.'"

Thinking that was the end of that, Bachman was asked again to "do that storytelling thing again," and it became “'Every Song Tells a Story,'” he said, "and I put it chronologically so it’s from the early Guess Who right up to the present. And I did a run last spring, about 38 dates, and near the end was Winnipeg. And my manager said, 'Well, if you’re going to be in your hometown, where all these songs originated and you’re talking about Neil Young and the Guess Who and BTO and Portage and Main, and things like that, which is the main intersection in Winnipeg there, let’s DVD it.' So we did it and they put together a montage to show behind me, a visual of where we were – the haircuts, the clothes, the cars, the guitars at the time. So it’s kind of a history lesson of biographical significance if you grew up in Canada and into the States, too – you know these songs."

The reviews, so far, have been glowing.

"Some of the greatest critiques I’ve had is that it’s the most wonderful history lesson of Canadian music, especially out of Winnipeg, that anybody could have, because that’s the music that rocked the world – the Guess Who and BTO and Neil Young were the music that came out Winnipeg that’s still going and still being played on radio to this day," said Bachman. "It wasn’t a big plan. No big producer came and said, 'Let’s do this.' It kind of evolved from me just following my passion and getting that idea from Ray Davies and developing the idea, putting visuals behind it, incorporating both bands, taking it on the road, and doing a DVD of it and now this DVD that we put out a little while ago has now gone triple platinum in Canada. It’s triggered now releases in the States, in the U.K., in Germany, in Denmark, and Australia. I’m kind of stunned at the reviews. My manager just sent me 40 or 50 great reviews that are just … I’ve never had reviews like this in my life. I don’t know what I’m doing, but it must be something good (laughs). I don’t know what I’m going to do next, but it’s funny, it’s funny."

"Every Song Tells A Story" is out on the Independent Label Services Group.

We'll have more from our interview with Bachman in the coming days.

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