To describe Randy Bachman as anything less than an icon would be disingenuous. This self-described quiet kid from Winnipeg, Manitoba helped to lay the foundation of what has come to be known as ‘classic rock’.
Bachman is, of course, a founding member of two legendary rock bands; The Guess Who and Bachman Turner Overdrive (BTO). However, he is also a member of the Order of Canada, a recipient of Governor General Performing Arts Award, the host of a beloved radio program and a writer of bestselling books. As well, Bachman holds an honorary doctorate of music, has written and performed huge hit songs, has written more than one guitar part that nearly every person over the age of 35 in North America can sing from memory, has performed to millions of people and has even been drawn as a character on the television show, The Simpsons.
Bachman brings his ongoing Every Song Tells a Story tour to the Rose Theatre March 9.
“The whole front of the show is Every Song Tells a Story,” says Bachman. “It’s like my radio show. It’s me telling the stories behind my Guess Who and BTO hits.”
This time around though, the show will take a decidedly different twist.
“The encore is going to be about a 40-minute second set really,” explains Bachman, “I come back and we celebrate George Harrison’s 75th birthday by singing 5, 6 or 7 of his songs.”
This month, Bachman, at age 74, has a brand new album out called By George.
“When we were all jukebox bands playing high school dances, every band played Beatles songs’” says Bachman. “The lead singer would take the Lennon and McCartney songs, the drummer got to sing a Ringo song and, as a lead guitar player, I was designated to sing the George Harrison songs.”
As the years went on and Bachman found himself in The Guess Who, he identified with Harrison even more.
“He was the quiet guy in the Beatles, I was the quiet guy in the Guess Who,” Bachman laughs. “Burton (Cummings) was born to be wild and I was born to be mild.”
The story of how he would come to record a collection of Harrison’s music, however, Bachman explains in two anecdotes.
“A couple of years ago, I was invited to Liverpool for John Lennon’s 75th birthday party. While I was there, I did the whole tour; The Casbah, The Cavern and the barber shop on Penny Lane. John Lennon’s sister made everyone cake and gave us a pair of John Lennon glasses at the party and as a Beatles fan, I was wetting my pants. It was incredible.”
Bachman’s re-connection to his love of the Beatles roughly coincided with him being inducted in the Nashville Musician’s Hall of Fame. It was there he ran into old friend, Neil Young.
“I turned to Neil and said, ‘I just got offered a record deal … at my age, can you believe it?’ And he said flatly, ‘Don’t do that same old Bachman shit’.”
Bachman wasn’t insulted at all.
“I’ve always admired what I call the ‘endurables’. I mean the Neil Youngs and the Madonnas; who reinvent themselves every couple of years,” he said.
It was while looking for a way to reinvent himself that he realized this year would have been George Harrison’s 75th birthday. An idea began to formulate.
“I was trying to think about what it was like for George to be in the Beatles with these two towering singer-songwriters. He was stuck between two mountains. So I wrote this song called Two Mountains.”
Bachman uses this new song to bookend a collection of re-imagined versions of some Harrison’s biggest hits in By George. What remains is a fascinating tribute by Bachman; less of a fan letter and more of a note from one colleague to another. While My Guitar Gently Weeps and Handle With Care are standout tracks.
“Here Comes the Sun is one of the gems on there too, I think,” says Bachman. “We made it a minor reggae and you just go, ‘Wow!’ Every song is like a surprise.”
The additional material in the show has made an additional band member necessary this time around. Bachman asked his son, Tal, to come along. Bachman’s son had a top 20 hit with She’s So High in 1999.
“Tal’s like a Swiss army knife musician; doing piano parts and harmonies too,” beams Bachman, as proud father. “And I talked him into doing She’s So High in the show to go with the story of meeting my first wife and having a family.”
With half a century of career behind him, Bachman still looks forward to more new projects too.
“We’ve been talking,” he said. “Tal and I are probably going to do an album in the fall called Bachman and Bachman. Me and him writing and playing guitar with a drummer and a bass player.”
At 74, his answer for where he finds the energy is both simple and wise.
“I’m still jazzed about music. It’s such a thrill.”
Randy Bachman Performs at the Rose Theatre on March 9. Tickets are available by calling 905-874-2800 or online at www.rosetheatre.ca.