RANDY BACHMAN INTERVIEW

by Chris McKay/concertshots.com

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   Randy called me from his home in Canada on August 1, 2001 to discuss his history, personal views, gallbladders, broken shoelaces and current reunion with The Guess Who as the band prepared to do its first American tour with Bachman since 1970. Unfortunately, my tape recorder wasn’t quite as ready as he was. My first two-word question elicited a full five-minute response from the clearly excited and enthusiastic guitarist. The question was “Why now?” The immediate answer was even shorter. He replied, “Fate” before going into the details of how he and vocalist Burton Cummings wound up back together. The first reunion was at the personal request of the premier of Manitoba to play the closing ceremonies of the Pan Am games in 1999. Initially, Bachman refused, citing the bad blood between the two former band mates. Upon further consideration, he decided that a quarter of a million dollars for four songs would be enough to salve any reopened wounds and agreed to do the one time show. The performance was done in a driving rain before a combined live and TV audience of a million people. Afterwards, he and Burton both acknowledged to each other their mixed feelings about the event. They also acknowledged the “magic” of their work together. Adopting an “I’m in if you’re in” attitude, the two decided to take the show across Canada. Every show sold out instantaneously. The resulting live album has already reached multi-platinum status without even being released in the USA. My tape recorder decided to join the game halfway through the answer to my two-syllable question as Randy described the feelings that he and his band mates were experiencing on that initial tour through Canada.

 

RANDY BACHMAN: Wow! This is the dream. I am awake. This is real. (At) every gig last year across Canada people were saying we were looking so happy. I mean, we were smiling in disbelief because to walk on stage in Canada, I don’t know what it’s going to be like in the States, but (in Canada we were getting) standing ovations for walking out on stage. People said it wasn’t a tour. It wasn’t a rock band tour. It was a celebration of Canadian music and something to celebrate that suddenly Canada had a band like The Eagles or Aerosmith that they could actually say “Wow, here’s three decades of great music, these guys are still alive, they look great, they sound great, they rocked, we’re having a great time.” Because of Lenny Kravitz (covering “American Woman”) our crowd was 10 and 12-year olds up to like 65-year olds. Burton and I would go out and hang around after the show ‘cause sometimes you’re having dinner or you’ve got relatives to meet or there’s a radio station schmooze and when it’s all died down and it’s an hour or two later and the crew is still packing up and putting up the stage and we’re hanging around ‘cause there’s nothing else to do, there’d be a couple of girls backstage or young guys and (they’d say) “Could you sign this?” We’d sign it and say, “Did you come with your father?” “No.” “Did you come with your older brother?” “No.” “Well, how’d you get here?” “We came ourselves.” “Why, to see Widemouth Mason?” ‘cause that was our opening act in Canada. They’re a really young 3-piece band, kind of like ZZ Top and a very cool band. And they said “No, no we came to see you. You guys are like the phantoms.” We’d say, “What do you mean?” (They’d say) “Well, we’ve heard about you all of our lives. Your songs are on radio and movies and commercials and we never ever saw you guys.” When I thought back about it, yeah. My own children hadn’t seen me. So this has been a great thing for me to play on stage. My kids know, obviously, “These Eyes” and “American Woman” and “No Time” and all those songs, but to actually come and see me go to work…do you know what I mean? (It’s a) take your kids to work kind of thing so they see what you do. And for them to come see the show and then maybe bring their kids who are like my grandkids, some of them are three or four. It’s kind of like…maybe…(laughing)…they think I’m like William Shatner, you know what I mean? It’s an unbelievable thing, like “Gee, my grandfather leads like the Starship Enterprise,” you know what I mean? “My grandfather goes on stage and everybody screams and goes crazy. Why?” They don’t understand it ‘cause they don’t understand the link (the audience has with) the music, ‘cause it’s just way older than them. For me it’s a thrill for them to be able to see it and capture these moments with video. We did a two-hour live television show of our Winnipeg concert at our Canada Day concert last year and it’s won all kinds of awards in Canada for television…whatever…production. And it’s now being played in the States on PBS as one of their fund-raiser weekends. (We) have that documented on film and have the live double album that’s now double platinum in Canada and will be released in the States to coincide with this tour. Everything’s just falling into place somewhat stunningly…wonderfully. I don’t know how else to put it, but everything’s just falling in.

 

CHRIS McKAY: When was the last time that you actually toured in America?

 

RB: (Long pause, deep breath) Ooh, well as The Guess Who with me was 1970. With BTO it was about ’76. I’ve done tours every summer with just The Randy Bachman Band where we go out and play, you know, my BTO hits, “Takin’ Care Of Business” and stuff like that and a couple of Guess Who songs and I play Sturgis and all the biker festivals with all the regulars. You know, Blue Oyster Cult and Molly Hatchett and ZZ Top and all these old buddies of mine…Peter Frampton, The Doobie Brothers, Steve Miller…guys that I’ve known from the ‘70s. Suddenly we’re playing together and drawing more crowds than we did in the ‘70s, selling more records than we did in the ‘70s and making more money than we did in the ‘70s. And we’re a bit smarter. There’s less percentage off the top of our income than there was in the ‘70s (laughs).

 

CM: You mentioned a lot of those other bands. Do you ever feel as if your bands are under appreciated compared to some of those artists in America?

 

RB: Um, yes in one instance, (but) it’s not the fans. It’s basically the recognition factor of the industry and I honestly have to say that there’s a huge disappointment within the band, within Canada and on the internet that we have never been considered for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. I don’t begrudge bands that are in there, because they obviously paid their dues, but some of them have had two or three hits and The Guess Who have had…two dozen hits and BTO have had a dozen hits and sold forty or fifty million albums with the two groups together. And you look at other British bands that have had two or three hit singles and then vanished. There’s just some overlooked thing there.

 

CM: Well, do you think it could possibly be because you didn’t have some huge image? You know how image conscious America can be.

RB: Well, we didn’t have image and we also didn’t have the management. You know when you’re starting out and you’re in a little town like Winnipeg and you go to the big city. Be it New York or LA or whatever to deal with the labels and the agents and everything…you just can’t find a manager. Um, so you get somebody you trust, you know, your uncle, your cousin. He handles money. He collects it every week. He’s a paperboy. Let’s have him collect our gig money. Then when he goes to deal with the sharks in the jungle of New York he kind of gets taken advantage of and you kind of retreat. So we never really had a big image. We never did videos. We never had a big press organization getting us in Tiger Beat or Teen Beat or even in Rolling Stone. We were pretty much neglected by Rolling Stone. Luckily we had a guy like Lester Bangs from Creem Magazine…championing the band and what he said in Almost Famous, you know that we were one of the greatest punk rock bands or some kind of thing like that. I’ve just released an album independently if you could just mention my website which is just randybachman.com. It’s an album from ’67-’68 of The Guess Who. We went to England in ’67 and recorded four songs, one of them which was Neil Young’s “Flying On The Ground Is Wrong,” and then came back to Canada broke ‘cause we ran into some bad business guys in London and we were lucky enough to score to be the house band on a television show for two years. And we had to play the top forty. So these tapes were given to me just two years ago. It’s The Guess Who doing like “Light My Fire” the way Feliciano did it and then the way The Doors did it. Then doing “White Room” and then doing “Sunshine Of Your Love,” “Summertime Blues,” “I’m In The Mood For Love,” and the first version of “These Eyes” which we did during the television show with the Winnipeg symphony before we recorded it in New York with the string section from the New York symphony.

 

CM: This is just going to be available on the web site?

 

RB: Yeah, I’m looking for American distribution right now, but you can just get it at my web site. My website’s kind of the unofficial Guess Who website ‘cause a guy in England got the name The Guess Who. It lapsed for two days when we were on the road and he got it. So randybachman.com is where they go and find the tour listing and all kind of albums and CD’s and stuff for sale.

 

CM: So what was the reason that you originally left The Guess Who?

 

RB: I had a gall bladder problem. This is before the great hamburgers of McDonald’s. In the old days there was no standard hamburger. So after a gig, you know, you went to a truck stop. That was all that was open at one or two in the morning and you were at the mercy of their cook and their grease. And after years after years after years of this and whatever else plus I had tensions ‘cause there was growing…apartness in the band where some guys were getting into the late ‘60s drug culture and I wasn’t. So that separates most families, football teams, baseball teams…it messes up most gatherings of people when some get into drugs and some don’t.

 

CM: I had always just assumed that you left the band.

 

RB: Well, I did. I left and they threw me out at the same time. What caused me to leave was probably a succession of two or three weeks of gall bladder attacks every single night where my road manager Jim Martin would take me to the local hospital and you know, you’re hot, you’re cold, you’re vomiting blood, you’re shaking, you’re trembling, you’re in this incredible pain, you’re kind of stoned in a way on your body’s adrenaline ‘cause the pain is so bad. To counteract this, you go into this weird shock. And he would take me to emergency and they would say, “Oh, this guy’s just coming down from a drug overdose.” (Jim would say) “This guy’s straight, he doesn’t drink or smoke, he doesn’t even drink tea or coffee. This guy’s totally straight, but what’s wrong with him? He’s throwing up blood and everything.” And they’d say, “He’s having a bad trip. Take him home, lay him down, stay with him all night and make sure he doesn’t hurt himself.” This went on for two weeks every single night. I said to Jim, “You know, I’ve got to go home ‘cause there’s one doctor who will believe me. The guy who birthed me.” (laughing) You know, he borned me into the world in Winnipeg. I called the band together and said, “I’ve got to got home. I think I’m dying.” I didn’t know what it was. Nobody could tell me what was wrong with me. (It was just that) every night in the middle of my chest it would be like somebody putting a knife in and turning it and turning it and turning it and then eventually led to intense white heat pain. I don’t know how else to describe it. My daughters have had babies and they’ve said a baby is a picnic compared to gall bladder…especially every night. It was like having a baby every night. You know, two or three hours of incredible pain and discomfort. So, like, I was out…and kind of glad to be out. You know, it was really painful, but a really great reason to get out of the situation.

 

CM: So did you ever regret leaving when you were struggling to get things back together again?

 

RB: Yeah, I did. I did, but you know I’ve grown to enjoy the struggle. There are certain guys who enjoy the struggle like Neil Young keeps changing jackets and coats. By that I mean changing his music. There’s a certain struggle in getting that off the ground. It’s like going hunting or going fishing where there’s no fish in the lake. Suddenly you catch a fish. You know, there’s only one in here and I got it. It’s that kind of thing. So there’s something about the struggle that’s a lot better than riding at the top. You really find your true friends when you’re in the struggle. When you’re on top, everybody’s your friend. You know? When you’re number one there’s nowhere else to go but down. You hit number one and you’re on the way down so you’ve got to be nice to the people on the way up ‘cause you meet the same people on the way down, you know?

 

CM: Were there any songs after you left that you’d wished you’d been a part of or thought you could’ve added something special to?

 

RB: Yeah, I felt a real part of like “Share The Land” ‘cause that was kind of written when I was in the band, but you know after a year of being out of the hospital and having recuperated from that, my wife just said to me “You’ve got to start another band,” ‘cause I was just restless every night. Having played almost every year in a band for like ten years, at ten or eleven every night something would kick in. Like if you play a football game or if you exercise or run every morning, you can take a morning off but after a whole week, your body’s like wanting to do this exertion that it really likes. So she said “Start another band.” So I went, (but) nobody would play with me after I left The Guess Who. So I had to go and get my younger brothers. I had three younger brothers. I said “You be the manager, you be the drummer, you be this and we started another band and it became BTO and we hit number one album and single in 1975 with “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet” and the Not Fragile album so I was able to pull it off again.

 

CM: How was it different for you being in Bachman-Turner Overdrive than it was with The Guess Who?

 

RB: Well, The Guess Who was more of like a nine-year struggle for what we got for that last year. It was like a band struggle. And it was kind of not focused, like “Let’s make enough money to buy you new strings and a new pick and a new shirt and eat.” With BTO I was determined to make it and show everybody in the music business who pretty much put me down in the press that I would never make it in this business being straight and not being a druggie. And so I had that. And there was a lot of things said when I left The Guess Who that I wouldn’t make it.

 

CM: Within the band?

 

RB: Yeah…well, it was said in the press. If you look at Rolling Stone from about 1970 in July or August in big things on the band there’s some pretty heavy duty things said about me in there. So I was just determined to show everybody that I was a pretty good guy, was not a bad guitar player, was a good songwriter. I knew some people in the music business. I could do it again. It was kind of na´ve but it was total head down, running into the wind, tunnel vision, aimed at a target and nothing could stop me. It was really tough. I took my brothers with me and Fred Turner and we just went on the road. We did 300 days a year on the road.

 

CM: And within a couple of years, in America at least, you were probably bigger than The Guess Who?

 

RB: Oh yes. There was no videos in those days so for everyone to see you, you had to go to every town. And a couple of radio stations like KSHE in St. Louis and one in Chicago and one in LA really liked the band and the first BTO album. And they would have us in the summer to play these freebie shows that they’d have in the park or something. And that’s where we built up friendships with bands just like us starting, REO Speedwagon, Aerosmith, ZZ Top, Peter Frampton, The Doobie Brothers. We were all kind of starting ’72-ish, the end of Creedence Clearwater and we just latched onto that and suddenly, bam, “Let It Ride” came out and it was a hit. Then came “Takin’ Care Of Business” and bang, bang, bang, bang. You’re kind of reeling with “Gee, I wanted this to happen, but it’s happening too fast.” But there’s no such thing as too fast ‘cause you’ve wanted it for so long. You kind of get caught up in it and you go for the ride.

 

CM: Speaking of the ride and being back with The Guess Who, is this a new beginning or is it just a full-circle closure type of thing to heal some of those old wounds?

 

RB: Well, there’s a wonderful feeling of closure, a wonderful feeling of forgiving and being forgiven for whatever.  For whatever you’re carrying…whatever I’m carrying against you, I’m dropping it. You know, this baggage is gone just to be rid of the baggage and be friends again. These are like…we are each others’ oldest friends. I mean, how often do you see a guy that you played hockey with when you were nine or ten? You might see him on the street or at a high school reunion, but to actually spend months and months together on a bus, which is what we’re doing starting next week. And the conversation will be “Hey, do you remember that time in Paris? Remember the time in Australia? Remember the time back home?” Yeah, and everybody kicks in a story and it’s like the most wonderful family or class reunion that goes on and on and on and on and nobody argues or fights. You know, usually there are all of these fights ‘cause they dredge up old stuff. We decided to leave the old stuff buried and, you know, if you can’t say nothing nice…just don’t say anything. Everything’s kind of like very positive and we’re all really grateful to be there and we’re all kind of somewhat amazed at the response. We did two shows in the States last year in the middle of our Canadian tour. One of them was in September in Portland and we played with Steve Miller Band for the big radio station in Portland and it was like Woodstock. They expected 15 to 18 thousand people and and I think we had 28 or 30 (thousand). It almost doubled what they thought. And just before Christmas we played with The Doobie Brothers in Minneapolis on, I think, December 16…same response. The crowds were going crazy so we are kind of…amazed at these Guess Who fans. They’re like Grateful Dead fans. It’s like they never forgot what we did and they’ll come out en masse. And no matter what set list we put together, which is sometimes 30 or 40 songs, somebody shows up and says, “Oh, are you going to do this? We drove 800 miles to hear this.” And you go, “Wow, we left it out, you know?” We just can’t put it all in.

 

CM: As you said, (before my tape recorder caught up) before classic rock radio people knew the songs, but in some cases didn’t put it together with the artist.

 

RB: That’s true, ‘cause people will say, “Which band are you with?” And no matter which band I say, Bachman-Turner Overdrive or The Guess Who, they go “Oh, what’s a song?” And if I say, “These Eyes,” “Undun,” “No Time,” “American Woman,” “Rain Dance,” “Share The Land,” “Let It Ride,” “Takin’ Care Of Business,” “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet,” “Four Wheel Drive,” they’re like “Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah, oh that song?” And so there is a song recognition. Now I think it’s all put together.

 

CM: You’re right, that’s probably from classic rock radio continually playing those tunes over and over. I think that explains that.

 

RB: I love the guy who did that format!

 

CM: I guess you do. (laughing)

 

RB: Because before that, in a three hour cycle in radio, it was like one “golden oldie” or “moldy oldie” or “classic gem” or whatever they called it, “blast from the past” and suddenly to make that a format was quite ingenious for guys like me. Like, this last weekend, we played with Joan Jett, Billy Squier, Pat Benatar, Blue Oyster Cult, I mean this is a whole genre that has sprung up that’s very respectable and it’s the classic rock genre. Previous to that it was the blues, right? Except blues were first of all only played by old, blown-out, down trodden, “woke up this morning and life wasn’t good” kind of guys…the old black guys. And then with Stevie Ray Vaughn and the Kenny Wayne Sheppards making it, kind of whitening the music again, the whole blues thing became a very respected genre. And people really go out to see two or three blues acts together like B.B. King, you know, Buddy Guy and stuff like that. And the same thing’s happened with classic rock. It’s not like all these guys are doing money grab things. It’s “Wow, here’s a bunch of great songs, there’s three or four great bands, let’s go see this and let’s be twenty-five again.” That’s what I said to Burton when I got offstage, I felt like I was thirty again and the audience feels that way, too. It’s just “Let’s cheat time for a couple of hours and let’s boogie.”

 

CM: So it is basically like time-traveling almost.

 

RB: It is because many times onstage in the middle of a song, I look up and I see a twenty-year old Burton Cummings at the piano. And when I see him at twenty, I feel twenty-five (laughs) ‘cause there’s five years of difference. It’s just very weird, ‘cause you’re closing your eyes or there’s sweat in your eyes and you close your eyes and suddenly you have this…”How many times have I played this song? Where am I? Am I in Thunder Bay?” And you open your eyes and suddenly you know “I’m in Atlanta or New York and there’s Burton and boy he looks twenty, but he’s really fifty, you know what I mean? It’s a very incredible thing. It’s very weird.

 

CM: How did Joe Cocker wind up on this bill?

 

RB: Well, we talked about several acts. One was Steve Miller, but he’s basically retired. He did that gig with us in Portland and sold everything and moved to his island, ‘cause he’d been back on the road for a long time. Then we discussed The Doobie Brothers, but they just want to work two weeks on and two weeks off and we need a continuity of a tour so all the advertising’s all the same. We just threw around a bunch of names. Who do you think would be great? I said, “Well, Heart, let’s get Heart.” Well, Heart’s in a not together phase right now. I think Ann Wilson just adopted a baby or Nancy Wilson had a baby or something or whatever. So we tossed around ideas and then when we played the Gray Cup which is our big Super Bowl here, The Guess Who played the Gray Cup last November in Calgary, Alberta. While I was there, I read the newspaper and it said last night, which I missed ‘cause we had just flown in that day, Tina Turner played and her opening act was Joe Cocker and it was an evening of…memories and vibes and slick music and great songs, great musicianship and it was a night to remember. So I don’t know if I mentioned it or somebody else said “Joe Cocker” and I said, “Yeah.” He’s the same vintage as us. It’s like Woodstock, ’68, ’69, he’s had ups and downs, ups and downs, ups and downs, he always comes back, he’s of our vintage, he’s had dozens of hit songs. It’s just going to be a continuum of when he starts to when we finish. It’s going to be a four-hour blast for people going “Wow, isn’t he cool.” I mean, I can’t wait ‘til the first night to go in and tell Joe Cocker what a treasure I think he is and what a cool guy he is. He just keeps coming back. And his voice is absolutely priceless, there’s nothing like it. I mean it’s like a one of a kind thrill that we’re going to be playing with this guy. It’s like doing a tour with Frank Sinatra. He’s a character, a personality…or Louis Armstrong, it’s just a great, great thing, you know?

 

CM: So are there any acts that are inspiring you right now?

 

RB: Yeah, there are new modern acts and I also get great inspiration from Aerosmith. I mean they were BTO’s opening act in the ‘70s. And to have them come back and to have them all straighten out and come back bigger than they ever were and to really go out rocking (is inspiring). (It’s) the same thing with The Rolling Stones and Eagles that just shows me, yeah you’re never too old to rock, just be true to yourself and go out there and your fans will be there with you. The fans are just like you. You’ve gotten older. Guess what, so have they, but they still like to rock and it’s amazing when you look out in the audience and you see a guy who looks like your old high school principal. He’s 65 or 68 and he’s bald with glasses, he’s overweight, he’s struggling with his medication (laughs) and he’s suddenly standing on a chair rocking out. And you go, “This is insane. This guy looks like a college professor or an old accountant.” But at that moment, he’s twenty years old and he’s boogieing to the song as he did when he was twenty. It’s just a really incredible feeling. I don’t know of any other business where this can happen in. You can’t get athletes together, the team, forty years later to play the Rose Bowl game and win. It’s very hard to get actors together to redo a movie. Do you know what I mean, and create something. But in music, there’s some incredible phenomena that when you stay in it, you get better. We all play better now than we did obviously twenty years ago. We all write better songs. We all sing better. It’s like you being a writer. You’re going to get better and better and better. Instead of you needing an editor, you go to being a self-editor and then you start to edit other people ‘cause you know exactly what to write. You leave out all the excess, you only put in the facts, you have a great story line. You’ve got a great caption to get people reading. It’s not too long, it’s not too short and that’s the way it is with us with everything. You just know what to do.

 

CM: You say you’re better at everything now. Do you have any new material that you’re going to do?

RB: Well, we’re not doing any new material now. We’re concentrating on the tour. We just played the R and R Convention in LA about a month ago and many of the radio guys came to us and said, “You know, you’re so smart to not try to do a new album.” We said “Really, ‘cause most people are saying “Where’s the new album?” They said “Yeah, there are a couple of other bands which I won’t name them for you, but you might figure them out. (And) when they got together last year or the year before, they said, “Let’s do a new studio album.” So all of there focus and energy goes into the new studio album and then when they start their tour, guess what, they want to play the new songs for the people and the tours stiff. I don’t want to go see my buddy Neil Young and hear twelve new songs. I want to hear “Cinnamon Girl,” “Down By The River,” “Old Man,” and I’ve got this list that I want to hear. I count them off in my head. I mean, I’m sitting there at a concert with someone next to me like my wife or my daughter or Burton Cummings saying, “They haven’t played this yet.”  I know people are doing that. So what we’re doing is concentrating on putting all of our energy into this…celebrating our body of work and polishing up the name ‘cause it’s been tarnished by a clone band that’s been out there. We’re showing everybody through this PBS show…who we are. We’re all legitimate members of The Guess Who spanning its 16-year lifetime with Burton Cummings and Garry Peterson on everything and me on everything up ‘til “American Woman” and Donnie McDougall on the stuff after “American Woman.” So we’re like a legitimate alumnus band of The Guess Who and we’re doing really great songs.

 

CM: Did you ever think about taking Tal (Bachman, Randy’s son who had a hit recently with “She’s So High”) on the road with you?

 

RB: We talked about him being an opening act in Canada, but he’s busy right now. He’s in LA right now writing with a guy from Lifehouse and doing some new material. He’s coming right back here to my home studio after I’m done mixing tomorrow and he’s in here next week starting his…well, he’s got fifty songs done. He’s got a bunch of new songs done with this guy in LA who’s really a great collaborator. And he’s coming here to do his new album. There’s a time when Tal has new albums out and we come back to the States next year…that Tal might be in there as the opening act. Lorne Safer who manages The Guess Who right now is an old friend from Winnipeg. I was on the road with The Guess Who in Toronto when Tally was born. It was Lorne Safer who drove my wife to the hospital. He was the first guy to hold my son and he’s managing the band so there’s this weird cyclical thing that’s happening. When I say, “Lorne, how ‘bout Tally?” (laughs),  he says, “Well, you know, I know Tally. Remember I held him before you. I drove Lorraine to the hospital.” So we all go back a long ways. The whole crew and band are all from Winnipeg. We’ve just been old friends since the mid ‘60s when we were all kids in high school there. Lorne Safer managed Neil Young who was like his first band. Then Lorne Safer managed another band called The Mongrels that I wrote and produced in the late ‘60s just before The Guess Who explosion. So to come full circle now, not just with the guys in the band but to be working with Lorne who works out of LA and managed Rod Stewart and Prince and went there with a couple of record labels. He’s like the local Winnipeg Jewish kid who left and went to LA and made it good, made it big and ran labels. You know, he started Portrait Records and signed Heart and Burton Cummings and Ringo Starr for Portrait. Then he moved on into management. So to be working together with all these guys is just really fabulous. It’s like a quite incredible…I don’t know. We all fell together, but I couldn’t have hand picked a better bunch of guys. Burton Cummings said if he were to hand pick everyone who was in The Guess Who…this is the line up that he would pick. So through all of this happenstance and circumstance we just all fell together and it’s just so incredibly right. To have the extra member, the fifth guy just to add that extra harmony, that extra guitar (is great). ‘Cause a lot of that stuff was done where I played rhythm guitar and lead guitar on a record and something was kind of missing as it is with any three-piece band. There’s usually a guy who plays rhythm through the song first and his lead’s on top. (We) have the five of us there singing the full tilt harmony and the full guitar arsenal of one on left and one on the right of the stage. Sometimes Burton Cummings plays guitar in the middle of the set and the band takes on a whole different sound ‘cause suddenly we become Buffalo Springfield. For “No Time,” which was our Buffalo Springfield song, Burton’s on rhythm and me and Donnie are on electric guitars and it’s suddenly a whole ambience change because the keyboard’s not there and the harmonies sound even sweeter with the keyboards not there. The keyboards cover a lot of frequencies. There are times when Burton doesn’t do anything except sing. He’ll do a flute solo in the middle of “She’s Come Undone” and the band kind of expands and shrinks onstage as far as whatever Burton’s playing. Sometimes it’s nothing or just a cowbell like in “American Woman” and sometimes piano, sometimes flute, sometimes harmonica and sometimes I’m singing. Then we do a little acoustic set in the middle and it’s just a very varied and interesting show to listen to.

 

CM: So after this, do you have any plans for your solo band or a BTO reunion? What’s up next for you?

 

RB: This tour will run until about November and then Burton and I were planning to write for another album, but we’re basically waiting for someone to dangle a carrot in front of us. (We’re waiting) for Mo Ostin or Clive Davis to come and say “Saw your show in New York, rocked, great, here’s some money, here’s a contract. You got any ideas for a producer or co-producer? Yeah or no, well try Joseph Puig or whatever and let’s just go into the studio and rock.” But to go and do it now would be like us kind of burning energy when there’s no place for it to go. So we’re putting it all into literally running or riding. I just finished an hour on my bike, you know. (I’m) getting in shape mentally, physically and playing every single day. We start to rehearse this weekend for sound and light and lasers and screens with the whole crew doing that. Then we start next Tuesday in Vancouver on the seventh.

 

CM: Wow, you’re doing a whole big rock and roll production show with lasers and other craziness?

 

RB: I think we have nine cameras, three huge screens, lasers, the old fashioned Fillmore light show with those Amoebas that move like from the acid (days), you know, those trips kind of movies? That whole thing is there. We’ve got a new digital sound system that sounds great. There is a lot. I mean, a lot of money was spent on the stage and production…huge. No one can leave. We didn’t have one bad word said in Canada, not one negative word from a fan. Well, never from a fan, but normally The Guess Who and me would get slam dunked by some critic somewhere finding something wrong to say about something like somebody wore a broken shoelace. Instead, actually in Canada last year everybody said it was really a special experience and really great. So nobody said one negative comment about anything.

 

CM: So the critics are even embracing you now?

 

RB: Yes, (but) I think the critics, in a way, have to jump on the bandwagon or they’ll look real stupid and now a lot of the critics are fans. There’s nothing worse than saying to you “We want you to go tomorrow and review Cleo Laine and John Dankworth.” You go, “What, I hate her, I don’t like jazz and cocktail stuff. My parents like that.” And they say, “No, you’ve got to go and sit through this and, by the way, she’s playing with a symphony who are doing Tchaikovsky’s greatest hits.” So you give her a bad review and a lot of times that happens with us. They get some person who’s like eighty who’s a classical reviewer to review The Guess Who. Well, they don’t want to be there. You know what I mean, they show up for two minutes and they do a whole review after staying for two songs and they leave. Now it seems like critics are calling and saying, “We want to get in. We’re fans. We’ve got to review this show and we just wanted to be part of it,” and when that happens, it’s wonderful. You can’t buy that kind of press.

 

CM: Well, I was a bit surprised when I was speaking to your publicist and she mentioned that you were coming to Georgia. Being in America, I didn’t even know you were back together or about your tour of Canada. So I myself am excited about the chance to hear all of those great pop songs live and that I get a chance to talk to you.

 

RB: Well, thank you for your enthusiasm and for talking to me. It’s a thrill for me. Wow, guy, I can talk to Atlanta? Or, wow, a guy in Chicago? It’s amazing.

 

CM: Well, just for the record, here’s my Randy Bachman experience. You’re partly responsible for me doing this. When I was a kid my father owned a club down in South Carolina in the deep American south. So I grew up hearing Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty and Hee-Haw music. There was a juke box in the club and I went in one Sunday morning to help him clean up and I put on the juke box and by some coincidence, “Four Wheel Drive” came on and it was loud. That was the first time I’d ever heard real rock and roll with distortion and pounding drums.

 

RB: Really? (sounding genuinely surprised)

 

CM: Yeah, and there was a drum kit set up in the corner and the snare started rattling from the volume and it freaked me out. I thought there was a ghost behind the kit or something. (laughs) That made a massive impact on me and planted a seed that’s still growing. I’m a pseudo musician who also writes.

 

RB: Well, that’s great!

 

CM: Yeah, so basically, I’ve been starving ever since. (laughs)

 

RB: (laughs) But you’re doing what you want to do. And then when you start making money, you say “What could be better than this?” Whatever you do that’s your heart’s desire takes many years of starving to make sure that’s what you really want to do.

 

 

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