Since 1965, Randy Bachman has been making his living off of songs. Whether it was his very first hit with the Guess Who, a cover of Johnny Kidd's "Shakin' All Over" or the classics that would follow him throughout his career with Bachman–Turner Overdrive and as a solo artist, the song "is why I'm here," he says.
Appropriately enough, Bachman's Vinyl Tap: Every Song Tells a Story tour, which kicks off in Ottawa on Feb. 28, has him celebrating 15 of his biggest songs and telling the stories behind everything from "Takin' Care of Business" to "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet."
"I've written hundreds of songs, but I’ve written about 15 that when I mention the title, you get a ka-ching, and that’s what this Vinyl Tap tour is about," he says. "It's 15 songs that changed my life, a soundtrack to my life. I'll tell you a story that relates to it, play the song with a band just like on the record, as well as have a visual backdrop with images and video from the '60, '70s and '80s, showing my haircuts, the clothes, the cars I was driving — everything from when I was writing these songs."
We asked Bachman to share the story behind the Guess Who's biggest hit song, and the one that first exposed them to audiences all over the world: "American Woman."
The setting: a curling rink in Kitchener, Ont., 1970.
I’m onstage with the Guess Who and I break a string on my '59 Les Paul. I don’t have a tech or a spare guitar, I don’t even have a tuner. We are the broke Guess Who playing a curling rink with plywood on the ice.
Burton Cummings says we have to take a break, so I kneel in front of his piano — I don’t want to stand up because everyone is looking at the stage — and I play a couple keys in order to tune my two lowest strings. Then I start to do this riff, and begin to think, oh, this is pretty good. And the audience, who was all talking at that point, their heads just snapped around when I started to play that riff, so the last thing I want is to forget it.
Still playing, with my head I motion to our drummer, Garry Peterson, to get back to the stage, then I get our bass guitarist, Jim Kale, and Burton is the last guy to get to the stage. By that point we’re playing this riff for a couple minutes, so I yell out to Burton to sing something. He doesn't know what to sing so he plays a solo on the piano, then I tell him again to sing something, because I know if you put any lyrics to a song you’ll remember the riff. So Burton sings "American woman, stay away from me," and we write that song onstage in about four or five minutes.
We played it every night, recorded it two weeks later and it went on to become a number one album and rock the world. When it’s played on the radio today, either from us or the Lenny Kravitz version, people still turn it up.
There is no drug like this. When I play this song and the audience recognizes what it is, I get that same zap I got back then. It’s a drug you can't buy, you have to earn it. I've earned it, so now I'm here to share.
Randy Bachman's Vinyl Tap tour Canadian dates:
Feb. 28: Ottawa, Ont., Algonquin Theatre
March 1: Kingston, Ont., Grand Theatre
March 2: Brampton, Ont., Rose Theatre (sold out)
March 3: Chatham, Ont., St. Clair College Capitol Theatre
March 5: Kitchener, Ont., Centre in the Square
March 6: North Bay, Ont., Capitol Theatre
March 7: Peterborough, Ont., Showplace Performance Centre
March 8: St. Catharines, Ont., Brock Centre for the Arts (sold out)
March 9: Oakville, Ont., Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts (no pre-sale)
March 13: Fredericton, N.B., the Playhouse
March 14: Moncton, N.B., Moncton Casino, the Centre
March 15: Halifax, N.S., Casino Nova Scotia
March 16: Charlottetown, P.E.I., Homburg Theatre
March 19: Montreal, Que., Corona Theatre
March 20: Pembroke, Ont., Festival Hall
March 21: Huntsville, Ont., Algonquin Theatre (in person only: 37 Main St. E., Huntsville Ont.)
March 22: Parry Sound, Ont., Stockey Centre (on sale Nov. 16)
April 3: Winnipeg, Man., Pantages Playhouse
April 4: Saskatoon, Sask., TCU Place
April 7: Calgary, Alta., Epcor Centre’s Jack Singer Concert Hall
April 8: Lloydminster, Alta., Vic Juba Theatre (no pre-sale)
April 9: Edmonton, Alta., Francis Winspear Centre for Music
April 10: Medicine Hat, Alta., Esplanade Arts & Heritage Centre (no pre-sale)
April 11: Banff, Alta., the Banff Centre (on sale Nov. 28)
April 13: Vancouver, B.C., Commodore Ballroom
April 15: Duncan, B.C., Cowichan Theatre
April 16: Powell River, B.C., Evergreen Theatre (in person only: Powell River Recreation Complex, 5001 Joyce St., Powell River, B.C., 604-485-2891)
April 17: Victoria, B.C., McPherson Theatre
April 20: Kelowna, B.C., Kelowna Community Theatre
April 21: Kamloops, B.C., Sagebrush Theatre
Follow Jesse Kinos-Goodin on Twitter: @JesseKG
Randy Bachman's official website
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on Feb 28, 2013